Jul 23

Past Event

American Terrorists Abroad: Options for U.S. Policymakers

Event Materials



  • Anwar Awlaki Met the Criteria to be Targeted

    Benjamin Wittes: Since Anwar Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, he met the narrow criteria that President Obama used to target him -- he was an operational terrorist, his capture was not feasible, and his targeting was consistent with the laws of war.

    Benjamin Wittes

  • Fighting Terrorism in Pakistan Involves Tradeoffs

    Bruce Riedel: In taking out Osama bin Laden, the U.S. showed that it is willing to compromise its relationship with Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda.

    Bruce Riedel

  • Most American Jihadists Unskilled as Operators

    Daniel Byman: Most American jihadists are unskilled as operators since they don't have the ability to go abroad to train and fight wars for long periods of time, but we're starting to see exceptions in Somalia, Iraq and Syria.

    Daniel L. Byman


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A cornerstone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policy has been the dramatic increase in drone strikes against suspected militants overseas. That policy reached uncharted waters however, with the killing of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, on September 30, 2011. Awlaki’s killing raises a number of important questions related to the scope of the war on terror, as well as the complex constitutional and legal issues surrounding it. In addition, the attention to the killing obscured the wide range of other approaches the United States has used against suspected American terrorists operating abroad. How robust is the American counterterrorism arsenal against foreign-based U.S. citizens? What unique challenges are presented compared to the pursuit of foreign-born terrorists?

On July 23, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and Governance Studies at Brookings released "Tools and Tradeoffs: Confronting U.S. Citizen Terrorist Suspects Abroad," a new report examining the options available to policymakers. Panelists and co-authors of the report included Senior Fellow Daniel Byman, research director of the Saban Center, and Senior Fellow Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.


July 23, 2013

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT

Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.


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