The Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) works to strengthen partnerships, civilian capacity, and information sharing around the world to counter evolving terrorist threats and prevent the spread of violent extremism. CT designs, manages, and oversees foreign assistance to build the civilian capabilities of foreign government partners to counter terrorism and violent extremism in an effective and sustainable fashion. CT seeks to build law enforcement and judicial capabilities to mitigate attacks, disrupt terrorist transit, and arrest, investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate terrorists in accordance with the rule of law. To bolster these efforts, CT seeks to promote the leadership of other countries to build capacity in third countries in their regions. CT also seeks to strengthen partnerships and initiatives involving government and non-governmental actors to counter sources of violent extremist messaging, narratives, and recruitment.
PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES
its creation in 1983, the Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program has served as the primary provider of U.S. government antiterrorism training and equipment to law-enforcement agencies of partner nations throughout the world, and has delivered counterterrorism training to more than 90,000 law enforcement personnel from 154 countries.
From prevention of terrorist attacks to responding to and mitigating terrorist attacks, ATA helps partner nations build critical capabilities across a wide spectrum of counterterrorism skills. ATA will continue to provide training courses, consultations, mentorships, seminars, and equipment relevant to investigations, border security, protection of critical targets, leadership and management, regional coordination and cooperation, critical incident response and management, and cyber security. As terrorist networks continue to adjust their tactics and strategies, ATA will continue to adapt and refine its counterterrorism training initiatives to meet evolving threats.
All ATA courses emphasize the importance of the rule of law and respect for human rights.
The ATA program’s policy formulation, strategic guidance, and oversight are managed by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, while implementation and program administration are the responsibility of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS).
Countering violent extremism (CVE) is a pillar of the Administration’s strategic approach to counterterrorism, and is an increasingly critical component of a comprehensive and sustainable counterterrorism strategy that seeks to address the entire life cycle of radicalization to violent extremism. The United States is working with governments and non-governmental partners to address the spread of violent extremism and the conditions that make communities susceptible to violent extremism, including – but not limited to – ISIL/Da’esh’s potent brand of terrorism.
The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February 2015, and follow-on process, has mobilized international support for a multi-stakeholder action agenda to address the drivers of violent extremism. This action agenda includes partnerships with international organizations, national and local governments, civil society, religious leaders, the private sector and affected communities. Building on this momentum, Secretary Kerry has committed to elevate CVE as a priority within the Department of State and to use the Bureau of Counterterrorism as a central locus for enhancing the Department’s CVE efforts. In this regard, the Bureau works very closely with a range of Department stakeholders, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other interagency partners.
Through diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance programs, the State Department seeks to advance the following five strategic objectives to counter violent extremism:
1. Expand international political will, partnerships, and expertise to better understand the drivers of violent extremism and mobilize effective interventions.
2. Encourage and assist partner governments to adopt more effective policies and approaches to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism, including changing unhelpful practices where necessary.
3. Employ foreign assistance tools and approaches, including development, to reduce specific political or social and economic factors that contribute to community support for violent extremism in identifiable areas or put particular segments of a population at high risk of violent extremist radicalization and recruitment to violence.
4. Empower and amplify locally credible voices that can change the perception of violent extremist groups and their ideology among key demographic segments.
5. Strengthen the capabilities of government and non-governmental actors to isolate, intervene with, and promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals caught in the cycle of radicalization to violence.
Key areas of CVE programming include:
The Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) uses a range of tools and programs to isolate and weaken terrorist groups and their support networks. CT leads Department of State efforts to designate terrorist organizations and individuals, including freezing their financial assets, blocking their financial transactions, and preventing others from providing them with material or financial support. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, impose serious sanctions on them, and enable coordinated action across the U.S. government and with our international partners to disrupt the activities of terrorists, including by denying them access to the U.S. financial system and enabling U.S. law enforcement actions.
CT also helps build the capacity of foreign partners to detect illicit funds – especially those from terrorist organizations emanating from, transiting through, or entering their countries – by helping them identify deficiencies in their national anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) regimes and building knowledge and skills to address those deficiencies. CT helps partner countries build their AML/CFT legal frameworks to meet the international standards established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the UN, including establishing and implementing sound financial regulatory systems covering both the formal and informal sectors; developing effective financial intelligence units that can identify illicit financing, analyze suspicious transactions, and disseminate information; and equipping law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and judges to investigate and develop evidence to prosecute and adjudicate AML/CFT cases.
CT works with federal agencies such as the Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training and Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network;, the Internal Revenue Service;, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations; to implement and achieve these objectives, along with non-governmental organizations and the private sector. We also address specific CFT challenges relating to foreign terrorist fighters and kidnapping for ransom.
In his May 2014 speech at West Point, President Obama called for the United States to develop more effective partnerships in countries and regions where terrorist networks seek to establish a foothold. During his speech, the President announced the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) to provide significant, flexible resources to build a “network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel.” The Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) manages this funding and seeks to leverage it to strengthen civilian counterterrorism partnerships in key countries around the world. In coordination with the Department of Defense’s CTPF efforts, CT seeks to use State’s funding to build the capacity of criminal justice sector actors who can respond to, arrest, investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate terrorist suspects, recruiters, and financiers in accordance with due process and the rule of law. CT also seeks to use CTPF funding to expand partnerships with non-security and non-governmental actors to counter radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism, especially in regions threatened by ISIL/Da’esh.
The FEST is the U.S. government’s only interagency, on-call, short-notice team poised to rapidly respond to terrorist incidents worldwide. At the request of, and on the behalf of the U.S. Chief of Mission, the FEST deploys overseas to advise, assist, assess, and coordinate U.S. government crisis response activities. The Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) leads the FEST that includes representatives from the Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other agencies, as circumstances warrant. FEST composition is flexible and tailored to the specific incident and the needs of the U.S. Embassy and host nation. The FEST has deployed over thirty times since its inception in 1986, and can augment existing U.S. Mission and host nation capabilities with specialized crisis response expertise such as:
The Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) is a multilateral body that seeks to promote civilian cooperation and good practices to counter terrorism. The GCTF is composed of 30 countries and the EU. It consists of a strategic-level Coordinating Committee and five thematic and regional expert-driven working groups focusing on the criminal justice sector and rule of law; countering violent extremism; and capacity building in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. The GCTF aims to strengthen the international architecture for addressing 21st century terrorism and promotes a strategic, long-term approach to dealing with the threat.
Since its launch in September 2011, the GCTF has mobilized over US $200 million to strengthen counterterrorism-related rule of law institutions, in particular, for countries transitioning away from emergency law.
Other accomplishments since the launch include the adoption of various sets of good practices that are intended to both provide practical guidance for countries as they seek to enhance their counterterrorism capacity and bring greater strategic coherence to global counterterrorism capacity building efforts.
In addition, the GCTF served as impetus for the development of three “inspired” institutions in order to address the Forum’s areas of strategic priority: countering violent extremism (CVE) and strengthening the rule of law. These institutions provide a vehicle for the operationalization, promotion, and implementation of some of the GCTF good practices surrounding CVE and rule of law. These three institutions include:
The UN is a close partner of and participant in the GCTF and its activities. The GCTF serves as a mechanism for furthering the implementation of the universally-agreed UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and, more broadly, to complement and reinforce existing multilateral counterterrorism efforts, starting with those of the UN.
The International Security Events Group (ISEG) coordinates U.S. government interagency efforts ensuring the highest level of safety and security for our citizens overseas at significant international events, such as the Olympic Games, World Cup, Presidential visits and Global Summits. The Bureau of Counterterrorism works closely with the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security within ISEG Counterterrorism Crisis Response and Exercise Planning Sub-Committees to evaluate major international events with an emphasis on planning and preparation for the possible deployment of the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) or other U.S. government response to emerging terrorist crises. The Exercise Planning Subcommittee develops and conducts counterterrorism capacity building crisis response activities to enhance U.S. mission and host nation preparations for major international events.
Terrorist groups often take advantage of porous borders and ungoverned areas between countries. The Bureau of Counterterrorism’s (CT’s) RSI program enables flexible civilian responses to transregional threats and builds the partner capacity and cooperation necessary to promote regional responses to terrorism. Current RSI efforts focus on regional cooperation to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria and Iraq, counter terrorist safe havens, and counter Lebanese Hizballah’s global activities, among other counterterrorism priorities. RSI has supported a wide variety of projects focused on regional law enforcement cooperation and effectiveness against transnational threats. Examples include the counterterrorism rapid response project, which allows CT to quickly deploy advisors and experts to provide immediate assistance to partner nations in various technical areas. Other RSI projects have aimed to assist in the implementation of the Global Counterterrorism Forum good practices, including the The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon (Hague-Marrakech Memorandum).
The Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) is an interagency forum that coordinates U.S. government-wide technology prototyping under the National Combating Terrorism Research and Development (R&D) Program. The mission of the TSWG is to identify, prioritize, and coordinate interagency and international R&D requirements and to rapidly develop technologies and equipment to meet the high-priority needs of the combating terrorism community. The TSWG also addresses joint international operational requirements through cooperative R&D with select NATO members, major non-NATO allies, and other friendly foreign nations. The Bureau of Counterterrorism co-chairs the TSWG in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (OASD SO/LIC). By leveraging common technical requirements and initiatives, the TSWG develops new products and capabilities for those on the front lines of the counterterrorism effort. The TSWG incorporates expertise from a variety of U.S. and international sources to deliver operational support to first responders, military forces, and to other federal, state, and local government security officials.
More information about the TSWG, participating departments and agencies, and the National Combating Terrorism Research and Development Program is available at the TSWG website.
TSI programs disrupt terrorist networks through initiatives that enhance U.S. and our foreign partners’ ability to detect terrorists and secure borders. Bilateral terrorism screening information sharing agreements, negotiated pursuant to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 (HSPD-6), strengthen our screening capabilities, while the Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP)/Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) provides partner countries border security assistance to identify, disrupt, and deter terrorist travel.
Established in 2005, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is a multifaceted, multi-year strategy implemented jointly by the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense to assist partners in West and North Africa increase their immediate and long-term capabilities to address terrorist threats and prevent the spread of violent extremism.
Areas of support include:
1. Enabling and enhancing the capacity of North and West African militaries and law enforcement to conduct counterterrorism operations;
2. Integrating the ability of North and West African militaries and law enforcement, and other supporting partners, to operate regionally and collaboratively on counterterrorism efforts;
3. Enhancing border security capacity to monitor, restrain, and interdict terrorist movements;
4. Strengthening the rule of law, including access to justice, and law enforcement’s ability to detect, disrupt, respond to, investigate, and prosecute terrorist activity;
5. Monitoring and countering the financing of terrorism (such as that related to kidnapping for ransom); and
6. Reducing the limited sympathy and support among communities for violent extremism.
TSCTP partners include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.
In addition to training and equipping security forces to more effectively combat terrorist threats, TSCTP targets groups in isolated or neglected regions who are most vulnerable to extremist ideologies by supporting youth employment, strengthening local governance capacity to provide development infrastructure, and improving health and educational services.
First established in 2009, the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT), is a U.S.-funded and implemented multi-year, multi-faceted program designed to build the capacity and cooperation of military, law enforcement, and civilian actors across East Africa to counter terrorism in a comprehensive fashion. It uses law enforcement, military, and development resources to achieve its strategic objectives, including:
1. Reducing the operational capacity of terrorist networks;
2. Developing a rule of law framework for countering terrorism in partner nations;
3. Enhancing border security;
4. Countering the financing of terrorism; and
5. Reducing the appeal of radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism.
Active PREACT partners include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Burundi, Comoros, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, and Sudan are also members of PREACT.