The Obama Administration’s focused and integrated counterterrorism strategy has proven a stronger and more effective approach for confronting threats at home and around the world. By investing in new capabilities and bringing all of our national security tools to bear in a collaborative and strategic effort that, as the President asserted, draws strength from our values and advances a“positive vision of American leadership around the world,” the Administration has made the American homeland more secure and also made significant progress in our mission to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and affiliated terrorists operating around the world.[1]


In its first ten months, the Obama Administration has:



Maintaining Vigilance in Defending America at Home Has Made Us Safer


Perhaps the best illustration of the Administration’s proactive and aggressive counterterrorism approach at home is the case of Najibullah Zazi, the 24-year-old Afghan immigrant who was arrested on September 10th in Denver on charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction inside the United States. According to officials, Zazi had received weapons training during a trip to Pakistan’s tribal regions last summer and was “entering the execution phase” of a plot to make a bomb and possibly detonate it in New York City on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.[2]


The Administration was able to thwart the Zazi plot – described by officials as the most serious terrorist case in years – with a focused and coordinated interagency approach, in the President’s words, based on“aggressive intelligence collection and skillful analysis” and “effective and efficient coordination between federal government and our state and local partners.” After Mr. Zazi was identified as a potential threat by law enforcement and intelligence officials in late August, the President reportedly was notified of the case within 24 hours, and remained deeply involved in monitoring developments over the course of the following weeks.


While local and federal officials tracked the movement, email and phone communications of Mr. Zazi, the President and his national security team at the White House received updates as part of their daily intelligence briefing and, at the height of the investigation, received three to four briefings each day from John Brennan, the President’s homeland security and counterterrorism advisor. In recent testimony, Mike Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center cited this case as “an example of the strong teamwork needed between local police departments and federal departments and agencies that is critical to protecting our country from potential terrorist attacks.”[3]


Using this same approach, the Administration has effectively disrupted several other terrorist threats to the U.S. homeland, including:





A Comprehensive, Integrated Counterterrorism Strategy Has Significantly Disrupted al Qaeda’s Operation and Diminished the Terrorist Threat


Success in targeting top al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Somalia, and around the world.

The Obama Administration has stepped up the use of targeted strikes and raids against key Taliban, al Qaeda, and affiliated terrorist leaders, as part of its larger, comprehensive counterterrorism strategy. As the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center recently underscored, these leadership losses have inflicted considerable damage on al Qaeda’s operational capacity, “interrupting training and plotting, potentially disrupting plots that are under way, and leaving leadership vacuums that are increasingly difficult to fill.”[7]





Working with Pakistan’s leaders to take aggressive action against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other extremist elements within their borders. As part of a comprehensive civilian and military policy toward Pakistan, the Obama Administration has placed heightened pressure on the country’s leaders to address internal insurgent and terrorist threats. While reaching out to Pakistan’s civilian government with new support and an unprecedented commitment to civilian and development assistance, the Administration also has helped prod Pakistan to lead a more aggressive and expansive counterinsurgency campaign. The United States has reportedly deployed Special Forces teams to accelerate the training of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps; established the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund to help train and equip their military forces; and stepped up intelligence and information sharing to assist Pakistani forces in their fight against Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents in the border regions. Following months of sustained pressure, Pakistan is showing new resolve in going after domestic extremists. It is currently leading an offensive against al Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan, seeking to regain and hold key tribal areas, capture militants, and disrupt terrorist activities along the border with Afghanistan.[11]


Greater international assistance in disrupting the operations and undermining the capacity of al Qaeda and affiliated terrorists. Officials have reported an increase in cooperation from other governments and intelligence services on counterterrorism initiatives under the Obama Administration due to the new image it has put forth to the global community, particularly its renewed commitment to diplomacy and international law, efforts to reach out to the world’s Muslims, as well as its revamped detainee policies, ban on enhanced interrogation techniques, and pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.[12]


Responsibly drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq is allowing us to focus on terrorist threats in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and around the world.As President Obama underscored when he announced his decision to deploy an additional 21,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan this February, “The fact that we are going to responsibly drawdown our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan.”[13]


National security officials and terrorism experts report that al Qaeda is at its lowest capacity since the 9/11 attacks.








[1]Remarks by the President at the National Counterterrorism Center, 10/6/09.

[2]Remarks by the President at the National Counterterrorism Center, 10/6/09; Washington Post, 10/6/09.

[3] Washington Post, 10/6/09; New York Times, 9/24/09; Mike Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 9/30/09.

[4]CNN, 9/25/09.

[5] New York Times, 9/28/09.

[6] Washington Post, 10/28/09; New York Times, 10/27/09.

[7]Mike Leiter, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 9/30/09.

[8] New York Times, 10/6/09; CNN, 10/29/09; The Long War Journal, 10/1/09;Associated Press, 8/26/09.

[9] Time,9/15/09.

[10]New York Times, 9/18/09.

[11]National Security Network, 6/1/09; Wall Street Journal, 5/16/09; New York Times, 10/17/09.

[12]Washington Post, 9/30/09.

[13]President Obama, 2/17/09.

[14]Remarks by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, 8/6/09.

[15]Wall Street Journal, 9/17/09.

[16]Remarks by David S. Cohen, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, 10/12/09.