State Dept. Ponders U.S. Role in Creating Terrorists as Part of its Annual Report on Terrorism

By Penny Starr | August 5, 2010 | 6:18 PM EDT

Daniel Benjamin, counterterrorism coordinator with the State Department, unveiled the Countries Report on Terrorism 2009 on Thursday. The report says that U.S. actions abroad could add to the number of terrorists around the world. ( Starr)

( – During the unveiling of the Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 at the U.S. Department of State on Thursday,  Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin said that the Obama administration’s strategy to fight terrorism around the world includes determining America’s own role in possibly increasing the number of terrorists.
In the foreword of the 289-page report examining links to terrorism in more than 130 countries and regions, the State Department says that “an effective counterterrorism policy must go beyond the law enforcement, intelligence, and military efforts that thwart those who seek to harm the United States and its citizens.”
That policy should include asking questions to “guide our approach,” including, “Are our actions going to result in the creation of more terrorists?”

When asked by to explain what actions by the United States might create terrorists and how these actions could be altered,  Benjamin did not answer directly but said that considering that question is an important part of the administration’s counterterrorism strategy.
“I do think that that is something that is very much at the center of our policy making and our deliberations,” Benjamin said. “It very much affects our thoughts regarding our presence in particular parts of the world where we may not be wanted as much as we might think or might like.”
“It will certainly condition how we view any use of force and kinetic action because I think we have a more precise understanding about the relationship – I won’t claim we’ve fully cracked the code on this but we have a better understanding of the relationship between the use of force and the radicalization of those watching it,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin said the strategy depends on the relationship the United States has with a particular country or government, and each entity’s ability to fight terrorism on its own or in partnership with the United States.
“There’s a wide range of different circumstances in which we find terrorists, but the question is, ‘What’s the appropriate way to deal with them?’” Benjamin said. “What threat do they pose to us, what are the long-term implications for our security, but also for our ability to work with countries in that region?”
Benjamin said actions taken by the United States could have an impact on whether more people are radicalized around the world.
“We really just have to ask the question, ‘What’s the best way forward and how do we minimize the likelihood that we’re going to see more terrorists down the road?’” Benjamin said.
The report states that the al-Qaida presence in Pakistan “remained the most formidable terrorist organization targeting the U.S. homeland,” but that the organization suffered setbacks in 2009.
The report also outlines the increasing radicalization of people in the United States, including U.S. citizens, and U.S. citizens abroad who are now actively planning and supporting terrorist attacks. Those include Anwar al-Aulaqi, who is linked to both Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people last year at Ft. Hood army base in Texas, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who tried to set off a bomb in a plane landing in Detroit, Mich., on Christmas Day.