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Jamestown: International Counterterrorism Policy in the Obama Administration

Speaker: Daniel Benjamin, Senior Fellow in the International Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies
December 9, 2009

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Ambassador Daniel Benjamin says that though President Obama has articulated a clear counterterrorism policy - to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and its allies - we need to confront the political, social, and economic conditions that our enemies exploit to win over the new recruits and those whose tacit support enables the militants to carry forward their plans.

Good morning. It is a great pleasure to be here. I've been a devoted reader of Jamestown publications since you first stepped up to the challenge of the radically changed post-9/11 security environment, with the introduction of the Terrorism Monitor. I can still recall being interviewed by Jamestown for the third issue of volume one of the Monitor, and I had the pleasure of having this same speaking slot two years ago in a somewhat less official capacity. As you can imagine, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you today about the Obama administration's counterterrorism policy.

If memory serves, when I spoke to you two years ago, my view was that the United States had developed great skills at what I called tactical counterterrorism-taking individual terrorists off the street, and disrupting cells and operations. On the strategic side, I thought we were losing ground. Now, I believe the administration is redressing that gap. In my roughly six months in office, my view of our tactical capabilities in the areas of intelligence, the military, and law enforcement have more than amply been confirmed. One of the great rewards of government service is the chance to work with colleagues in all of these areas, and I must say that their level of competence and professionalism is really extraordinary.

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