The Bureau of Counterterrorism leads the Department of State in the whole-of-government effort to counter terrorism abroad and to secure the United States against foreign terrorist threats.

The predecessor organization to the Bureau of Counterterrorism was the Office for Combating Terrorism, created in 1972 upon the recommendation of a special committee appointed by President Richard Nixon following the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics. The committee determined that an office was needed within the Department of State to provide day-to-day counterterrorism coordination and to develop policy initiatives and responses for the U.S. government. The Office for Combating Terrorism became the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in 1985, and the Bureau of Counterterrorism in 2012.

In 1994, Congress officially mandated the Bureau of Counterterrorism in Public Law 103-236 [H.R. 2333]. In 1998, Congress further defined the role of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism in Public Law 105-277 [H.R. 4328]:

“There is within the office of the Secretary of State a Coordinator for Counterterrorism…who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate…. The principal duty of the coordinator shall be the overall supervision (including policy oversight of resources) of international counterterrorism activities. The Coordinator shall be the principal adviser to the Secretary of State on international counterterrorism matters. The coordinator shall be the principal counterterrorism official within the senior management of the Department of State and shall report directly to the Secretary of State…The Coordinator shall have the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.”

The Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS

On September 10, 2014, the U.S. announced the formation of a broad international coalition to defeat The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The ISIS Threat: A Global Challenge

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has dramatically undermined stability in Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East and poses a threat to international peace and security. ISIS continues to commit gross, systematic abuses of human rights and violations of international law, including indiscriminate killing and deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions and extrajudicial killings, persecution of individuals and entire communities on the basis of their identity, kidnapping of civilians, forced displacement of Shia communities and minority groups, killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence, along with numerous other atrocities. ISIS presents a global terrorist threat which has recruited thousands of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria from across the globe and leveraged technology to spread its violent extremist ideology and to incite terrorist acts. As noted in UN Security Council Resolution 2170, “terrorism can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all States… which is why our first priority is to encourage others to join in this important endeavor.”

The Five Lines of Effort

Five mutually reinforcing lines of effort to degrade and defeat ISIS were put forth at an early September 2014 meeting with NATO counterparts.

These lines of effort include:

  1. Providing military support to our partners;
  2. Impeding the flow of foreign fighters;
  3. Stopping financing and funding;
  4. Addressing humanitarian crises in the region; and
  5. Exposing true nature.

The U.S. emphasizes that there is a role for every country to play in degrading and defeating ISIS. Some partners are contributing to the military effort, by providing arms, equipment, training, or advice. These partners include countries in Europe and in the Middle East region that are contributing to the air campaign against ISIS targets. International contributions, however, are not solely or even primarily military contributions. The effort to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS will require reinforcing multiple lines of effort, including preventing the flow of funds and fighters to ISIS, and exposing its true nature.

Humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict is equally important to meeting urgent needs and maintaining regional stability, and contributions to humanitarian assistance, including a critical contribution of $500 million by Saudi Arabia to the humanitarian response in Iraq, have been essential. With the needs of vulnerable civilians continuing to grow, additional contributions from the international community are necessary in order to address the greatest needs—including shelter, food and water, medicine and education.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future