Counter-Terrorism versus Anti-Terrorism

This article will show you some basic differences between Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism. What is Counter-Terrorism and what is Anti-Terrorism?

Counter-Terrorism (CT) is classified as:

  • Offensive measures taken to prevent, deny, and respond to terrorism. Counter Terrorism is the offensive understanding, pursuit, prosecution and negation of terrorist activity, sometimes by physical force.
  • Counter-Terrorism is a proactive set of techniques for denying an opponent the use of terrorism-based tactics.
  • Counter-Terrorism is the frontline; it is usually preemptive, long-term and strategic.
  • An example might be the use of laws to prosecute those in possession of terrorist manuals or linked to cooperative activities such as drug manufacturing or money laundering. These laws are usually made when a link is evident and clear between terrorism and those of which positively influence it.
  • Another example would be a raid on a known and potential terrorist to offensively deny actions to be taken on their initiative – of course, after the appropriate evidence collection, legal procedure of gaining warrant, and on-site surveillance.
  • Offensive actions are taken against the recognizable enemy at the initiative of governmental departments.


Above: President Obama, fellow politicians, and White House staff, observe the Bin Laden raid in Pakistan via helmet camera – an act of Counter-Terrorism.


Above: Tactical Assault Group East (TAG-E) takedown a suspect in a simulated active terrorist attack and active shooter scenario.

Whereas Anti-Terrorism (AT) is classified as:

  • Defensive measures taken to reduce vulnerability to and effect of terrorist acts.
  • Anti-Terrorism is usually a reactive response to an opponent’s use of terroristic actions.
  • Anti Terrorism is a defensive approach to reduce the chance of an attack using terrorist tactics at specific points, or to reduce the vulnerability of possible targets to such tactics – reactive to events, preventative for the most part, which is usually short-term and operational.
  • Anti-Terrorism may be used to deter and delay terrorist activities, e.g. ‘hardening’ a target.
  • An example might be a site survey of known terrorist targets such as embassies which allows anti-terrorism forces to react to an attack in a more efficient manner, knowing the layout of the building and developing techniques around fighting within it. This is especially prominent when Very Important Peoples are visiting such sites.
  • Another example might be responding to a recent event with increased security, such as more police on patrol in neighbourhoods of interest, and more armed police ready to respond.
  • Defensive does not mean passive but it may tend to lean away from the use of force unless pressured to.


Above: British Armed Police patrol London in defensive posture, ready to respond to threats to public safety.


Above: New South Wales (Australia) Special Police arrest terrorist suspects in flash raids over Sydney, before the terrorists have a chance to act on their plans.

Both have some crossover, they:

  • Both look at defeating terrorism. One can be just as effective as the other given the right circumstances.
  • Both are capable of responding to terrorism but in different formats: defensive versus offensive activities.
  • Both seek to understand and limit terrorist activities domestically.
  • They both have some amount of crossover in regards to tactics, techniques, and procedures, especially regarding armed resolution of conflicts.
  • At times, they are hard to distinguish, but both have specific goals, training, and structures required to defeat terrorism. They work hand-in-hand.

In short, Anti-Terrorism (AT) is waiting for terrorism to happen, taking measures to defend oneself, and countering it as it happens, and, Counter-Terrorism (CT) is gathering intelligence to pursue terrorists, and stopping terrorist attacks before they happen. Both are vital to national security and the associated structure apparatus. Both often work hand-in-hand to stop terrorism, and both often crossover in media, academic, tactics, and other areas.


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