U.S. Interagency Cooperation Against Terrorism

Thesis statement

Interagency cooperation is necessary to win a war against terrorism. The United States has implemented this approach towards fighting terrorism. This study will answer the question of whether the U.S. interagency Cooperation has improved to effectively combat terrorist organizations and terrorism in general. There have been efforts applied by the United States government in combating terrorism which has been listed as one of the major threats to U.S security and the world in general. The current analysis looks at interagency cooperation in combating terrorism, models of interagency, and related issues. This paper will seek to review the existing trend, variables, and models to answer the thesis statement.

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General research question

Has the United States interagency cooperation improved to effectively combat terrorist organizations?

Specific research questions

What are interagency cooperation in the field of terrorism and the security of people, countries, or regions?

What are the existing models of interagency cooperation, their effectiveness, and how can they be implemented or are being implemented in the US case. How have they been effectively applied in combating terrorism? How best can they be improved with the future in mind?

What are the past, present, and future possible results of applying interagency cooperation in combating terrorism? Do people feel comfortable with the current trends or not? Are there those who hold different views, and what are their views?


Although there have been several measures put in place by the United States government to combat terrorism and its network, there is a potential for terrorism to continue evolving in new forms and advance its operation in the future. Some of the measures put in place to combat terrorism have been effective in reducing terrorism and other related crimes like drug trafficking, but they are not adequate and all-inclusive enough to counteract all forms of terrorism. Since terrorism is an event that could continue for long, measures to end it need to be put in place. In addition, terrorists may develop new trends and continue to pose more threats not only to the United States but the world as a whole.

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Counteracting terrorism requires that those leading the fight against it be at the forefront in terms of involving effective and updated methods, processes involved, technology, and information. There is a need to continue improving the current trends or develop better ones. There have been measures put in place to combat terrorism and its network in and out of the United States but there is a need for improvement to take care of the future needs.

Although there is data evidence to prove that terrorism has been contained to some level, according to Flynn (2004), the war on terrorism has already been aggressively launched but Americans are more prone today to future attacks. According to the author, the possible targets of terrorists including trade and logistic networks among others are not protected.

Data collection methods

This research will involve previously collected, analyzed, and presented data in the secondary sources of information for example articles and data from institutions like the FBI. These include reports by agencies involved in combating terrorism such as the FBI and its reports on terrorism, CENTCOM-involved in the formulation of strategy, ideas and decisions on combating terrorism and interagency bodies, information from the department of homeland security, and any other material relevant to the topic from researchers and authors.

Literature Review

An increase in transnational threats and criminal activities have spurred the cooperation of different states and countries into sharing intelligence security services across the globe. Although the trend may not have been more emphasized before in the field of security, it is now, as a result of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. However, international cooperation in security, trade, and other sectors has existed before. In addition, terrorists have become operational in a transnational manner and this calls for an emphasis on methods and processes that respond to such needs. Interagency cooperation in countering terrorism involves coordination and joint operation between the military and the political structure or leadership in the country involved, or between two or more countries.

Just like trade and other types of cooperation amongst states and countries have had problems and misunderstandings, it would be obvious to note that interagency cooperation has led to disagreement and different points of view over the outlined principles or the ideas in question. Some countries have rejected the idea of interagency cooperation because it does not address the specific needs of the locals, while others have embraced it because it addresses not only security issues but also other needs. The United States has played a major part in the developments in interagency cooperation and it is probably the most endangered country to terrorism than any other.

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To make the United States’ stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) operations more systematic, different ideas on interagency cooperation have emerged after the United States’ S&R operations in various countries like Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Somalia. These ideas have resulted in models of interagency cooperation which can be grouped as follows according to Neyla, Barry & Oakley (2005); field-level tactical cooperation, combatant command-level, and Washington-level strategic cooperation.

To determine the best model of interagency cooperation to be applied, several questions may need to be addressed. Neyla, Barry & Oakley notes that to achieve the S&R agenda effectively, other skills apart from the interagency skills need to be engaged. This is because interagency cooperation is affected by other factors and forces such as political interests, business, religious and social interests among others. There is the necessity to carefully determine how interagency cooperation will be organized, a decision on who will be the organizer-whether a separate entity from the military, its source of funding, protection, staffing, and deciding on the person to be responsible for policy execution. These issues have also been identified in cases of the United State’s recent combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example.

A good model would also require representation from other non-governmental organizations, local government, and private institutions among other sectors. One key strategy that any model would have to adopt is to ensure that there is a cooperation between the people controlling the operation. These may include the President’s Special Representative, senior military commander, and the subordinate staff on the field. According to the aforementioned authors, experience for the United States like in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq has proven a need for these to have good personal relationships. They add that experience has proved it hard for any of these people to operate as subordinate to the other, and this would call for cooperation amongst them.

To determine which model to apply, it would be necessary to understand the leadership at each level of cooperation, and the NSC leadership role made clear. In addition, it would be necessary to develop existing models by drawing from experience and other types of models according to these authors. Likely, a model that incorporates ideas of other models would be suitable because every other model is inclined to solving specific issues at a particular level of specialization or expertise. The following is a discussion of the grouping of some of the existing models of interagency cooperation (Neyla, Barry, Oakley, 2005).

Field Cooperation (Tactical)

The United State and the Afghan governments had collaboration between the Coalition Military and the Afghan government which sought to enhance security, facilitate reconstruction and strengthen assess of the Afghan’s central government in Afghanistan, an association facilitated by the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRTs) arrangement which allows cooperation in a non-permissive foreign environment at the tactic level. The duties carried out by the civil-military cooperation included the DDR-Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration, security concerns, providing election support among others. Interagency cooperation and coordination have been improved through the contact and coordination among the Combined Forces Commander, the Afghan government, U.N Special Representative, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)/NATO Commander, and the U.S ambassador (Neyla, Barry, & Oakley).

COCOM-Level Cooperation (Operational)

Failure to have efficient cooperation between the Commander of U.S Central Command (CENTCOM) with General Garner because ORHA- Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs had a quasi-subordinate role in the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC). Thus the coordination and synchronization of these three were affected negatively. To counter terrorism, there was the formation of the “Limited capability” JIACG by the NSC- National Security Council in 2002 based on the then operational U.S Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) which was working on improving interagency planning and coordination at the operational level. These “Limited capability” JIACG conducted split-based different operations from the CENTCOM headquarters.

Another model that was put forward contained the idea of establishing a truly interagency contingency planning process and strengthen the coordination of interagency is the CSIS model. In addition, there would be efforts to avoid future crises and threats. Others include the Marine Forces Pacific Crisis Management Group (CMG) Model and the Super POLAND model.

Washington-level cooperation (Strategic)

Two of the models available in this group are the National Security Planning Directive (NSPD) where there would be the development of decisions to improve existing trends based on an assessment of the intelligence reports by the Contingency Planning Policy Coordination Committee (PCC). Coordination of all the interagency planning activities would be the duty of the Contingency Planning PCC in collaboration with the National Security Advisor (NSA). The PCC would work together with a regional PCC and together make recommendations to the DC which in turn works together with the principals to oversee the development of strategy and implementation of the actions.

The second model which involves the coordination of the ExCom (Executive Committee) formed by the DC and D.C. is known as Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 56 the latter would ensure the development of a political-military plan.

In Iraq, the S&R planning and execution was the mandate of the Office of Secretary of Defense and its post-conflict phase director W. Garner. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) was concerned with the provision of humanitarian assistance and facilitating operations on the reconstruction of Iraq.

There was the proposed model that would strengthen mechanisms of interagency integration at all levels, known as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In this model, the interagency planning process involves the participation of the planning officers while the development of the integrated interagency plans for contingency operations is led by the NSC Senior Director and office for Complex Contingency Planning. Another model which was put forward is the Defense Science Board (DSB) Model in which the president or NSC would decide on launching aggressive interagency planning and actions.

The DOD focused primarily on winning the war more than the post-war issues and the insular planning within it failed to make necessary sealing of holes in the S&R requirements (Neyla, Barry & Oakley, 2005).

The U.S Agenda on Terrorism

The FBI had made publications over the US terrorism but it had limited scope, and a series of publications was begun to improve this situation. The Attorney General’s Guidelines towards investigating terrorism by the US government have been provided. The FBI uses these guidelines stipulating the prediction threshold and limits for the investigation of US citizens. In addition, the guidelines also set the prediction level and limits for investigating the international terrorism activities for the U.S and non-U.S citizens with a security interest in the U.S government on behalf of a foreign power. The FBI through investigation has interdicted many terrorism activities. During the period 2002-2005, the FBI recorded a total of 24 terrorist incidents where 23 were perpetrated by domestic terrorists. Eight of the prevented 14 incidences according to the FBI report series of Terrorism involved individuals linked to the anti-abortion movements, tax-protestor, constitutionalist, and white supremacist. Only three of the stopped incidences involved individuals aiming to provide material support to foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qa’ida, the report says. The international perpetrators of terrorist activities during this period were the regional jihad’s movements in the primarily Muslim countries including activities by the Al-Qa’ida and the Jemaah Islamiya. During this period, some individuals were sentenced as a measure to fight terrorism including Colvin Reid for attempting to bomb a transnational flight, the members of the Lackawanna Six terror group, and others. According to this series, the FBI had made a focus on reducing terrorism through collaboration between them and the state, federal and local partners through sharing of terrorism-related information, timely analysis of gathered information and its dissemination, and advancing intelligence and law enforcement partnerships. A Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force was also established among other initiatives (FBI, n.d.).

There were proposals of need to develop a comprehensive plan to enable attainment of the U.S security goals in FATA after the 9/11 incidence by the 9/11 commission, an idea that was mandated by the Congressional legislation. This plan was to involve all elements of power. The NCTC was also established through the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 to develop a comprehensive plan to combat terrorism.

In a report to Congressional Requesters last year, the Accountability Office noted that United State had failed to close the Safe Haven in Pakistan, which the terrorists had used to cross over to the United States from Afghan as it had prioritized before. It was found in this analysis that there was no comprehensive plan developed to meet the U.S national security goal in FATA-Federally Administered Tribal Areas. It has been reported that although Defense, State, and USAID have held interagency meetings in support of the strategy by the United States to address its interests in FATA through focusing on issues such as public diplomacy and development, no developmental plans had resulted. The scrutiny found a lack of a corporation-driven comprehensive plan developed involving coordination of USAID, State and Defense, and others as had been proposed by the Congress, the 9/11 committee, and the 2003 national security strategy.


Although there have been substantial efforts to apply the existing models of interagency cooperation in the United States combat of terrorism, there have been shortcomings that hampered results in general. In addition, the existing trend is indicative of the United States’ failure to diversify the operations and planning for the combating of terrorism through the inclusion of the American Society. Efforts to combat terrorism have yielded partially satisfactory results even where interagency cooperation skills were implemented or indicated so. Thus it is asserted here that the present interagency cooperation is not fully prepared to combat the terrorist activities although it has not been futile.

The Future

The discussed models above should be carefully put into consideration to access their current achievements. This study has stated that the models were not fully effective in the scenarios applied although the general conception by those championing their application seems to support their achievements. The whole process of combating terrorism activity in places like Iraq has caused a public outcry and a negative attitude towards the administration. These models, although they applied the principles of interagency cooperation, in some or most cases they lacked integration of the public consensus and the majority opinion. It is necessary therefore to make necessary adjustments to ensure proper results are achieved.

The possibility that the enemy may change tactics to attack from the weaker or unfocussed infrastructure may need to be taken care of in developing new models of interagency cooperation in the future. Kohlmann (2006) criticized the US government for failing to combat cyberterrorism and predicted a situation where it would wreak havoc on the internet. He blamed the government for concentrating on the West without realizing that the terrorists were using the internet to organize, recruit and fundraise. He cites an incident where Lashkar-e-Taiba hacked the Indian army’s website in 2000 although the attacks were ineffectual. Although the author agrees that the attacks may have been conceived to some level, he notes that their immediate execution has been hampered. He claims that groups such as the Al-Qa’ida plans terrorist activities, convey instructions, recruits, and facilitates donations over the internet.

This means that for the United States to effectively combat terrorism, interagency cooperation will need to expand the scope to the electronic field of terrorism and stop the activities of terrorism. Since we are already in the informational era, terrorists may advance their attack agendas through the website and lead to problems in most of the systems that largely rely on the website for faster and efficient operations. The activities of the terrorists must be monitored online and their total combat facilitated by the involvement of other agencies in other places.

The previous U.S administration was accused by Flynn (2004) of exposing the U.S citizens to attacks while aggressively fighting terrorists abroad. The U.S, according to this author should ensure that the threat of catastrophic acts of terrorists at home is taken care of. The previous president said at one time that the U.S would engage the enemies in the Afghan and Iraq countries. According to the author, reports on global terrorism by the U.S Department of State showed that the terrorist incidents increased in 2003 despite the U.S launching attack in the two countries and that Al-Qa’ida was present in the United States soils and planning attacks there. The homeland security department recognizes that one of the major threats to the United States’ homeland security are the terrorist groups especially the Al-Qa’ida and therefore should move fast in sealing possible dangerous holes. This means that in the future, the United States must concentrate on ensuring that the terrorist is attacked from all corners, even in the homeland. Coupled with the fact that the U.S had not succeeded in closing the Safe Avenue in Pakistan, through which terrorists from Afghan found their way into American soil, this calls for more attention. Future interagency cooperation must be ensured at providing security to the U.S citizens by preventing the advancement of terrorist activities such as the already mentioned instances of bombings by individuals linked to the terrorist organizations.

While aggressively launching attacks outside the United States into the home of terrorists may degrade the respected values of the country, focus on improving the security of the infrastructure at home would improve the values by providing a boost to other accompanying activities such as improving health and protecting human. In addition, efficient policies that take care of the United States’ interest can be best developed by the cooperation of the private and the public sector at home. Since it has been discussed here that interagency operations must not only involve specialists in the field alone to succeed but must include the society at large and experts in another field, it would be necessary to launch an aggressive procedure that seeks to incorporate the homeland society in developing the appropriate expertise ideas and opinions involving interagency cooperation between the U.S and other nations. Therefore the strength to win the war against terrorism by the United States would involve the incorporation of the citizens in the theoretical and practical implementation of the interagency operations to ensure that the United States achieves the best and expertise interest from the cooperation. This expertise would be achieved through the incorporation of the U.S citizens in the economic, political, and social sectors, but even building a consensus on these matters would be necessary other than picking a few individuals in the committees or groups to give recommendations. Achieving consensus in all matters would be necessary to ensure that there is political will within the whole government and the society in general to role out combat operations which are in the interest of many or all. This is important to ensure that the country does not keep on changing plans on the war on terrorism after a change of leadership whereas it has already spent a lot of money in combating the vice. This is because new leaders would perceive that the past administration did not apply the best mechanisms to combating terrorism by only judging the views of the majority and not necessarily the quality of the mechanism. To appeal to the supporters, new leaders may need to apply the change in the way the United States approaches the fight against terrorism. It can be seen here that the initial problems would have occurred as a result of not building consensus while waging war against terrorism-something that would have been ensured through the incorporation of other experts and society in general in devising the necessary plans to win a war against terrorism. Flynn proposes the formation of the FSSR- Federal Security Reserve System comprising of 10 regional Homeland security Districts and 92 Metropolitan Anti-terrorism Committees to mobilize the American society to protect the critical foundations of the U.S from disruption as a result of terrorist activities.

Many countries especially those allied to the countries falling victim to targeted attacks against terrorism by the United States do not show cooperation and this may hinder the future of American’s approach towards winning the war on terrorism. There is a need to provide the necessary environment for interagency cooperation with these countries. This is because America cannot win the war against terrorism through enmity with some countries and being friendly to others. The current status of the attitude held against American’s approach towards terrorism activities must be considered in plans to ensure the country’s safety. The status must be changed first if America wishes to win more interagency cooperation with the countries which hold a negative perception towards its terrorism agenda. This is because interagency cooperation is one great step towards achieving America’s terrorism agenda and indeed winning the war against terrorism. Although changing the whole system and achieving the desired results may take time, the efforts must be started now for a better future.

There is evidence that the terrorist network was built when there was no knowledge of its activities or negligence to take necessary precautions. Laipson (2003) notes that the terrorists or some have developed out of failure to flourish, interact effectively, or futile attempts to interact with the West-leading to their recruitment in the Bin Laden’s group or terrorism in general. The review asserts that they do not carry the attacks out of ignorance and isolation. Some of the terrorists have lived in the West. The question we may need to address here is whether the United States must continue concentrating on the war against target sources of terrorist groups or must change its style to make sure that even the possibility of future danger is taken care of. The local authority’s mandate to fight terrorism can be expanded to cater to the present needs of combating terrorism in the homeland.

Waging war against the target countries may in part reduce America’s attention to possible future dangers like the formation of new terror groups other than the existing ones and which target the United States. Secondly, investing too much in fighting a known enemy may reduce resources that would have otherwise been directed in tracking, detecting, and reducing or eliminating the possibility of the formation of a new enemy group. The interagency cooperation must be geared towards developing a channel that makes sure that these avenues are sealed because new enemies may form and the existing ones may change tactics.

Limitations and Biases in your study

One of the limitations in the study was the fact that it was hard to establish the truth of the reported information sourced from the bodies such as the Contingency Planning Policy Coordination Committee (PCC) on the part they played in combat and other related operations because the information used is only reported and not first hand. The research would be improved in the future by considering first-hand information from the mentioned bodies and committees where issues related to interagency operations revolve.

Ethical Issues Raised by Study

This study analyzed information that could be considered personal. This information touches on individuals who participated in committees, the Commander of U.S Central Command (CENTCOM), the post-conflict phase director for the Office of Secretary of Defense, and agencies such as the FBI, and should not be handled as personal. Although negative effects of the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghan have been mentioned the study should not be interpreted to mean attack for these individuals on a personal level but as related to the execution of their duties as leaders and members of the groups and commissions mentioned.

Plan to Reduce Bias in the Study

If data used in this study were drawn from similar sources, there was the likelihood of bias, especially because the agencies discussed above would present biased data inclined on the positive side. On the other hand, the bias would have been introduced if no such data was considered. However, both situations have been taken care of by considering the available information from the government security department and FBI, and the opinions provided by authors such as those viewing that not enough work has been done in counteracting terrorism.

Particular Challenges the Study Presents

This study presents future challenges to researchers to determine the effect of the interagency models currently in operation and formulate new ones that are more relevant to current needs. It has already been determined in this analysis that the best model will be inclusive and consultative. The government and the Department of Home Security should identify the present needs for adjustments in the existing practice and implement them.


The United States has given more priority to combating terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. There is evidence that terrorism will continue to be a threat to the United States. The war on terrorism cannot be directed on the international arena while neglecting homeland security since terrorists have assessed the United States. The need for improvement in the performance of military operations has led to the evolution of models of interagency cooperation. The best model to apply would be one that incorporates ideas from others i.e. a modified model since each may carry advantages in certain specific areas different from others. The existing models of interagency cooperation have been partially effective but have not been all-inclusive and this can be proved by existing public perception and outcry against the procedures implemented to combat terrorism in some places like Iraq. The process should include other experts in the political, social, and economic fields among others, apart from the interagency military experts. The effectiveness of models of interagency cooperation should be improved. Political consensus would be necessary to achieve in determining the decisions on interagency cooperation to save the country from the effects such as wasted time and resources from failure to advancement of previous agendas that have been invested in. Future models must take into consideration the possibility of sealing new avenues of attacks and new threats. Areas to be covered in future systems in combating terrorism include the internet infrastructure. Interagency cooperation needs to be improved through improving the relationship the United States has with other countries and where negative perception and enmity exists, there is a need for change.


FBI. Terrorism 2002-2005. Web.

Flynn Stephen. The Neglected Home Front. 2004. Web.

Kohlmann E. The Real Online Terrorist Threat. 2009. Web.

Laipson Ellen. While America Slept: Understanding Terrorism and Counterterrorism. 2003. A review. Benjamin D. and Steven S. (2002). The Age of Sacred Terror. New York: Random House.

Neyla Arnas, Charles Barry, and Robert B. Oakley. Harnessing the Interagency for Complex Operations. Center for Technology and National Security Policy. 2005. Web.

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