U.S. braces for ‘new’ terror threats
Evolving terror threats will remain an immense challenge well into the 21st century, according to U.S. government officials.
State Department documents indicate that combating far-flung, well connected “new terrorist threats will require innovative strategies, creative diplomacy and stronger partnerships.”
The department’s answer is the newly minted Bureau of Counterterrorism, formerly known as the Office of Combating Terrorism. It is designed to utilize a strong hybrid of diplomatic, intelligence, investigative and protective tools to neutralize some of the exotic blends of terror threats that may be coming.
The unveiling of the bureau comes at a pivotal time in the war against violent extremism.
“We’re very concerned about indigenous groups like Boko Haram [a Nigerian group] hooking up with al-Qaida affiliates, learning greater tradecraft for bombings and other types of attacks,” said Daniel Benjamin, ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism.
Almost two months after killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the White House released its national strategy for counterterrorism. Among the top goals was “degrading links between al-Qaida, its affiliates and adherents.”
“For all the very impressive blows that have been dealt to that group, it still remains capable and eager to carry out attacks against the United States,” Benjamin said.
Much of that capability rests with al-Qaida’s ability to influence others.
“There’s no question that as al-Qaida’s senior leadership has found it harder to operate. They’ve tried to step up their own ability to influence,” Benjamin said.
Once al-Qaida successfully attracted the attention of groups such as Boko Haram, it has a full range of terrorism services it can provide to franchisees.
Benjamin says those services include “tips on how to do their messaging more effectively, their recruitment, their finances and so forth. We really don’t want al-Qaida affiliates to fund and support groups farther afield, and we’re very concerned about the spread about this kind of terrorism.”
The prevailing wisdom in U.S. diplomatic circles is that upgrading the Office for Combating Terrorism to its current form puts more teeth into the effort to defeat terrorism.
But experts ask a key question: Why now?