Posted by Rhonda Shore (US Dept of State)

Keeping America safe from terrorism begins abroad. In the race to protect the United States and stay “one step ahead,” we must develop innovative strategies, creative diplomacy, and even stronger partnerships. How do we do it all? Here are ten things you should know about the new Bureau of Counterterrorism.

1. We build foreign counterterrorism capacity. We build international partner counterterrorism capacity in the civilian sector and contribute to efforts in the military and defense sectors. We develop and support implementation of antiterrorism assistance in the law enforcement, rule-of-law and counterterrorism finance sectors, on topics ranging from cyber-security to money laundering prevention to crisis response to prison de-radicalization.

2. We stood up and co-chair a new multilateral counterterrorism body. In 2011, we established the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). With 30 founding members (29 countries and the EU), the GCTF is a major initiative within the Obama Administration’s broader effort to build an international architecture for dealing with 21st century terrorist threats. Two major deliverables announced at the September launch demonstrate the GCTF’s action-oriented nature. The first was approximately $100 million, contributed by several members, to develop rule of law institutions. The United Arab Emirates announced the second: its intention to host the first ever international center of excellence on countering violent extremism, slated to open in Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2012. The forum is co-chaired by Turkey and the United States.

3. We counter violent extremism. To defeat terrorists, we must undermine their ability to recruit. We work to delegitimize the violent extremist narrative, to develop positive alternatives for populations vulnerable to recruitment, and to build partner government and civil society capacity to counter violent extremism themselves.

4. We engage with foreign governments. We hold regular bilateral, regional, and multilateral dialogues on shared counterterrorism issues and consult with foreign governments on urgent and emerging threats. Through bilateral and multilateral engagement we work with our more capable partners to enhance the abilities of countries around the world to counter terrorism and to cooperate more effectively together. We exchange intelligence, information, and best practices and procedures to ensure that we all are in the best possible position to thwart terrorist plots and take and keep terrorists off the streets. We help draft foreign counterterrorism laws. We routinely advise foreign governments on best practices for counterterrorism crisis management, and maintain cooperative research and development agreements with partner nations.

5. We respond to crises. We lead an interagency crisis response team, known as the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST). Established in 1985, the FEST is ready to travel at four hours notice to the scene of an overseas emergency and provide round the clock advice and assistance to Ambassadors and foreign governments facing crises. The FEST’s interagency team has responded to real-world bombings, kidnappings, and other crises around the globe, and also supports and participates in training exercises for such incidents. FEST training and response activities have occurred in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe. We have deployed a FEST 31 times since 1989.

6. We strategize. We work closely with the National Security Staff and other agencies to develop, refine and implement U.S. counterterrorism strategy and operations to disrupt and defeat the networks that support terrorism.

7. We designate. We prepare designations that carry legal sanctions of State Sponsors of Terrorism, foreign terrorist organizations, entities and individuals, and countries not fully cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts for consideration by the Secretary of State.

8. We support research and development. We co-chair (with the Department of Defense) the interagency Technical Support Working Group (TSWG). TSWG conducts the National Interagency Combating Terrorism Research and Development Program whose purpose is to enhance the counterterrorism technology and equipment capabilities of U.S. government agencies involved in counterterrorism activities.

9. We support the safe recovery of hostages. The Hostage Policy Subgroup refines and implements official U.S. government policy toward Americans taken captive abroad. We work closely with interagency partners to shape and guide implementation of hostage policy in a way that accomplishes the safe recovery of hostages, bringing of hostage-takers to justice, and the prevention of future incidents.

10. We strengthen homeland security. We work in partnership with DHS, as well as other agencies and bureaus, to strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of homeland security issues, including transportation security, the interdiction of terrorist travel, and critical infrastructure protection.