This article analyses the merging of development and security in Western policies vis-à-vis ‘deficient’ states in the Global South, looking at the social life of anti-terror policies in Kenya. The attacks on 11 September 2001 renewed the interest in strong and stable states, leading many donors to focus on capacity building and security sector reform. In Kenya, the repressive use of these new powers by the Kibaki government has created significant resistance and the main external actors have taken the local opposition into account and have adapted their anti-terror agendas. They have complemented hard security assistance with soft interventions aimed at addressing local issues such as conflict prevention and development in communities perceived as being ‘at risk’ of harbouring terrorists. Representing a more general shift in security interventions in Africa, countering terrorism is now presented as part of a broader ‘peace and security’ agenda, but despite using new methods to engage with so-called crucial parts of the population, this repositioning is not a paradigm shift. Despite the different approaches and objectives, the various projects have ambiguous effects and donors have not abandoned the traditional rationality, which privileges homeland protection over civil rights in the recipient country.