U.S. Counterterrorism Chief Stepping Down


The director of the National Counterterrorism Center will step down next month, Biden administration officials said on Wednesday.

The director, Christine S. Abizaid, has served three years as the country’s top counterterrorism official. In recent years, a resurgent China and Russia, as well as the wars in Ukraine and in Gaza, have replaced counterterrorism as the country’s main national security priorities.

But speaking to a security conference in Doha, Qatar, last month, Ms. Abizaid warned that the Hamas attacks against Israel on Oct. 7, and the ensuing Gaza conflict, had energized an increasingly diverse set of worldwide terrorist threats.

The Islamic State no longer controls vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, but its fighters and groups aligned with Al Qaeda are on the march in Africa. The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS Khorasan, dramatically demonstrated its expanding reach earlier this year, conducting deadly attacks in Iran and Russia. In addition to supporting Hamas in Gaza, Iran backs extremist groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

“We are in an elevated global threat environment,” Ms. Abizaid said at the conference.

Ms. Abizaid, 45, had previously served as a senior counterterrorism official at the White House and as a senior Pentagon official for Southwest Asia policy before taking over the counterterrorism center in June 2021.

The counterterrorism center, created in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, integrates, analyzes and shares counterterrorism information to address threats.

“Christy Abizaid is an extraordinary leader who is not only incredibly effective but principled, courageous and kind,” Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement.

Ms. Abizaid started her government career as a counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, specializing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the Middle East, and including a tour as the agency’s senior representative in Iraq. She is the daughter of John P. Abizaid, a retired Army general who formerly led the Pentagon’s Central Command, overseeing military operations in the Middle East and parts of Asia.

“Christy has played an indispensable role in driving the counterterrorism enterprise for the U.S. government even as other high-priority national security challenges draw resources and attention,” said Nicholas J. Rasmussen, a former director of the counterterrorism center who is now at the Homeland Security Department.

Brett M. Holmgren, the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, will serve as the acting director of the counterterrorism center when Ms. Abizaid departs in mid-July, administration officials said.

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