Late in March, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon served as guest of honor to the Bangladesh Independence Day reception at the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington, DC. Ambassador Shannon stated that Bangladesh matters to the administration, and that the United States is willing to work with Bangladesh, especially in efforts to combat terrorism. The Bangladeshi leadership, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, emphasizes the secular values on which the country was founded and their intolerance for all forms of terrorism and violent extremism, values which fall in line with the current US administration’s foreign policy priorities.
Bangladesh is home to the 4th largest Muslim population in the world and is considered a key strategic South Asian partner of the US. To date, Bangladesh is not identified as major source of foreign terrorist fighters. Terrorist attacks by Bangladeshi extremists focus primarily in local areas; however, terrorist groups like the self-proclaimed Islamic State and al-Qaeda, which use Islam as an excuse to spread violent extremism, have staked a presence in the country. Since 2015, Bangladesh has seen a growing number of terrorist attacks against religious individuals, minorities, and government installations. As a result, the government of Bangladesh, which maintains a secular approach to governance, continues to work closely with the United States and the international community in intelligence sharing and capacity building to fight against violent extremism. As Dan Mozena — US Ambassador to Bangladesh from 2011-2014 — has pointed out: Bangladesh is a valued security partner as it could foster greater regional stability and sustain global peace. The United States remains supportive of Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism efforts. The Department of Defense has provided multiple packages of foreign assistance to counter terrorism from 2011 and 2013, and against transnational crime in 2015. The Department of State also provided assistance in stabilization operations and security sector reforms between 2013 and 2016. On March 28, the US Ambassador in Dhaka confirmed that the United States would provide an additional assistance program to provide equipment and train security forces for Bangladesh.
Anh Pham is a Research Intern at the East West Center in Washington, DC and Master's Candidate in International Affairs at the School of International Service, American University.