Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin today discussed the United States strategy for counterterrorism.
In his statement at the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, Mr. Benjamin said tha Al-Qaida and its affiliates and adherents pose the most direct and significant threat to the United States.
“Rather than trying to combat directly every single terrorist organization regardless of whether they have the intent or capability to ever attack the U.S. or our citizens, President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy-and the focus of our CT efforts since President Obama took office-is AQ and its affiliates and adherents.” -Mr. Benjamin
Mr. Benjamin explained that bin Ladin’s demise is a victory for all human beings who seek to live in peace, security, and dignity. He pointed out that while the death of bin Ladin is the most significant blow yet to al-Qa’ida’s leadership, much of its activity has devolved to its affiliates and adherents. He added that many individuals are still receptive to its ideology, and much more work remains to be done.
“While the AQ core has weakened operationally, particular with bin Ladin now gone, the broader AQ threat has become more geographically and ethnically diversified.” -Mr. Benjamin
He clarified that although AQ core in Pakistan is clearly weaker, it does retain the capability to conduct regional and transnational attacks. In addition, he highlighted that AQ has forged closer ties with some of the other militant groups in the region-for example Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network-and this has provided the group with additional capabilities to draw on.
“At the top of the affiliates’ list is al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It continues to demonstrate its growing ambitions and strong desire to carry out attacks outside of its region. Moving to Northwest Africa, no group has made a bigger name for itself in the kidnapping for ransom business than al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).” -Mr. Benjamin
Mr. Benjamin noted that kidnapping for ransom has become one of the foremost sources of revenue for AQ-related groups everywhere.
He strongly encouraged the committee to focus more attention on this aspect of the terrorist threat, which extends beyond AQIM.
“We will continue to adopt a “whole-of-government” approach to addressing these challenges and strengthen the tools that may, depending on the circumstances, be appropriate to address them, be they diplomatic, law enforcement, development, intelligence, or military. However, rather than pursuing a one-size fits-all approach, we recognize that different threats in different places demand different tools.” -Mr. Benjamin
Mr. Benjamin underscored that there is a the need to confront al-Qa’ida’s violent ideology and its resonance by identifying and responding to specific, localized conditions and factors that al-Qa’ida exploits as drivers to recruitment, radicalization, and mobilization to violence.