Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Obama Administration Reshuffles Counterterrorism Strategies

Helle Dale,

image (not from article) from

Tuesday’s terrorist attack during Brussels’ morning rush hour was horrific proof again that Islamist terrorists are waging war on Europe and the United States.
Islamic State (ISIS) Twitter accounts are now flush with celebrations of the attacks. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama was on a friendship tour with one of the world’s few remaining Communist dictators.
Lest it be said that the U.S. government is doing nothing to revamp its counterterrorism strategy, the president signed a new executive order on March 14: “Developing a Global Engagement Center to Support Government-wide Counterterrorism Communication Activities Directed Abroad and Revoking Executive Order 13854.”
The new order redefines the government’s strategy toward the propaganda and radicalization campaigns on the Internet launched with such effectiveness by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups.

There is good news and bad news here. The president has directed government departments to work together more effectively to fight terrorist messaging capacity—an important goal that has eluded the U.S. government since before the terror attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Yet, at the same time, the directive removes the federal government’s direct imprint from counterterrorism communication by abolishing the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication (CSCC) at the State Department, dating back to 2011, and one of the administration’s best efforts to challenge the online assault of the terrorists.
As we have seen before, the Obama administration has again pulled back from confronting Islamic terrorism and its sympathizers directly, preferring a more circumspect approach.
The responsibilities of the new Global Engagement Center (a more innocuous sounding name) are to include:
  • Coordinating the activities across the U.S. government to counter the messaging and influence of violent extremists abroad.
  • Reaching out to private-sector and non-government actors, including academia and media, to develop counterterrorist messages and narratives.
  • Establishing a steering committee to coordinate the work of the Departments of Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, and Defense; the National Counterterrorism Center; the CIA and Broadcasting Board of Governors; and USAID.
It is sometimes argued that the U.S. government has no credibility in reaching out to young Muslims and turning them away from terrorist recruiters. Yet the Obama administration’s politically correct ambivalence toward radical Islam is equally a problem.

Portrait of Helle Dale
Helle C. Dale is the Heritage Foundation's senior fellow in public diplomacy. Her work focuses on the U.S. government’s institutions and programs for strategic outreach to the public of foreign countries, as well as more traditional diplomacy. Read her research.

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