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Defeating Terrorists, Not Terrorism

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Washington, D.C.– In the 16 years since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. counterterrorism efforts have succeeded in preventing another mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil. But despite that success at home, the terrorist threat continues to spread. Too often, U.S. counterterrorism efforts have focused on military operations against a specific group, while doing too little to prevent new generations from replenishing their ranks.

A new Bipartisan Policy Center task force led by former Gov. Tom Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who led the 9/11 Commission, is examining why the terrorist threat remains so potent and developing a long-term strategy to defeat jihadist ideology.

The Task Force on Terrorism and Ideology today issued its first paper, Defeating Terrorists, Not Terrorism: Assessing U.S. Counterterrorism Policy from 9/11 to ISIS, which offers an in-depth look at why, despite the many successes of U.S. actions against terrorism, new groups have continued to emerge.

“Even as the military defeat of the Islamic State appears imminent, American policymakers must avoid the temptation of confusing the defeat of one brutal terrorist organization with victory against terrorism,” Hamilton said. “As long as jihadists can replenish their ranks as fast as we can take them off the battlefield, the threat will persist.”

“The generational struggle against Islamist terrorism will come to an end only when the ambitions that motivate groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State no longer inspire new recruits to violence,” Kean said. “We can, and must, do better to defeat terrorists’ ideas.”

The task force of top national security, diplomatic, and intelligence experts will release recommendations in the future.

BPC is holding an event on Sept. 8 to discuss these issues. Speakers include key congressional and executive branch officials and notable experts.