State Dept. establishes Counterterrorism Bureau

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The State Department announced Jan. 4 creation of a Counterterrorism Bureau, although its new head, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, says it will mostly engage in tasks the department already performs.

In a press briefing, Benjamin characterized the new bureau's purpose as taking the lead in supporting counterterrorism diplomacy, countering violent extremism and building "the capacity of partner nations to deal effectively with terrorism."

The bureau is an outgrowth of the department's office of the coordinator for counterterrorism. Elevation of the office to a full bureau was a policy recommendation of the first State Department quadrennial review, released in fall 2010. The now-defunct office's duties have in recent years moved "well beyond coordination," Benjamin added.  

"The fundamental tasks remain the same, but what we have now is an infrastructure to continue doing them more effectively," Benjamin told reporters. Counterterrorist activities include training foreign police forces, countering al Qaeda narratives, bilateral diplomacy and funding other agencies to conduct programs, such as anti-money laundering, border security and strengthening the rule of law efforts, Benjamin said during the briefing.

According to a State fact sheet,  the bureau will act as the primary link between the State and Homeland Security departments over matters of counterterrorism strategy and operations, and will coordinate with the National Security Council and other government agencies.

For more:
- read a transcript of Benjamin's Jan. 4 press briefing
- go to the State Dept. fact sheet on the new Counterterrorism Bureau

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