Counter Terrorism Training and Anti Terrorism Training: a Blended Approach is Key

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) recently held a briefing with top counter terrorism and Middle East policy researchers and experts on the future of Iraq and the Obama administration. Many of these experts agreed that the U.S. troop withdrawal plan over the next few years must rely upon both continued Iraqi security force training to improve regional stability as well as the development and reconstruction of Iraqi civil society. One could call the military-based approach an exercise in counter terrorism training for Iraqi security forces, whereas the development based approach includes anti terrorism training for Iraqis. The Iraqi government, security services, and greater population will require both counter terrorism training and anti terrorism training, which brings one to question what exactly is the difference between anti terrorism and counter terrorism and how can U.S. policy best incorporate both types into an effective strategy in other countries as well as its own terrorism prevention policy.

Counter terrorism operations are a tactical approach used by governments, militaries, local law enforcement, and other parties towards dealing with terrorists. Counter terrorism includes applying intelligence and using force to eliminate terrorists, and is essentially a strategy of repression or suppression. The U.S. military defines counter terrorism as “operations that include the offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, preempt, and respond to terrorism.” (Joint Publication 1-02 Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; U.S. Department of Defense ; 12 July 2007) The short term goal of counter terrorism policy is not to eliminate root causes of terrorism, but to bring the current crisis under control. Continued counter terrorism training of Iraqi security forces is an integral component for a timely withdrawal of U.S. troops, as Iraqi security officers need to prepare to deal tactically with Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other subversive forces on the ground. Experts from the USIP briefing suggested key steps related to counter terrorism policy for the new administration should include the continued training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, among other efforts. (USIP briefing; “Iraq in the Obama Administration,” December 2008) Continued Iraqi security and reconstruction, however, is also dependent upon anti terrorism training.

While similar and often incorrectly interchanged with the term “counter terrorism,” anti terrorism is a strategic, long- term effort towards reducing and altogether halting terrorism by focusing on root causes and seeking to change the environment which fosters terrorism. “Anti terrorism tactics consist of gathering information and disseminating it broadly, promoting public discourse, lobbying policy makers to encourage violence reduction policies and legislation, conducting civil litigation against terrorist actors, and organizing social institutions to accomplish these functions. Anti terrorism is a strategy of expanding democracy to eliminate the causes and resources enabling terrorism.”(Paul de Armond; “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Counter Terrorism, Anti Terrorism, and Terrorism,” Public Good Occasion Paper #6, 1997) Experts suggest that the U.S. government must continue to lobby for a settlement between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government, develop a strategy for national elections, and support peaceful power transitions – all efforts that can be categorized as anti terrorism training. (USIP briefing, December 2008)

The suggestions made by terrorism and Middle East experts for a successful and timely withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq illustrate the importance of a blended approach towards dealing with terrorism in Iraq, across the globe, and within the U.S. Anti terrorism and counter terrorism strategies are jointly important for the United States’ continued success in preventing and eliminating the terrorist threat in the present and in the future. This blended approach highlights the importance of developing policies under the rubric of strategic security, which is the multi disciplinary, global view of past, present, and future security issues that permits the timely accumulation of accurate, objective knowledge. Strategic security thinking is vital for the continued safety and protection of the U.S., as well as states around the globe.

Lauren Harrison – Henley-Putnam University Staff

A leading educational institution in the field of Strategic Security, Henley-Putnam University offers accredited online Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees in Intelligence Management, Terrorism and Counterterrorism Studies, and Management of Protection Management, and a Doctoral Degree Program in Strategic Security. Henley-Putnam prepares professionals in law enforcement, the military, intelligence, and private industry with skills and insights to advance their careers and protect the future. Committed to building a student/alumni network that serves its community, Henley-Putnam is an accredited member of DETC ( and offers 125+ courses taught by faculty from the CIA, FBI and other agencies – many of whom are experts in anti terrorism training and counter terrorism training. For more information on Henley-Putnam University, call 888-852-8746.