Sewall on Next Steps in CVE

Dec 6, 2016

While military success against violent extremists is essential to security, it isn't enough to ensure that the terrorist threat will not just regroup, reconstitute, and resurface in the future.

"At the heart of [Countering Violent Extremism]," said U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall, "is the recognition that military defeat of today's terrorists is not sufficient to kill the ideology or address the broader factors needed to prevent new terrorists from emerging. In essence, CVE seeks to prevent the next generation of threats by helping the most vulnerable people and places resist terrorist recruitment and expansion."

One aspect of this approach is to promote good governance and halt state policies that fan radicalization to violence.When governments fail to protect their citizens and respect human rights, they breed anger and resentments that violent extremists exploit. Examples abound: Boko Haram gained traction after Nigerian security forces suppressed peaceful protests and executed the group's founder, Mohammed Yusuf, without trial. Al-Shabaab exploits heavy-handed tactics by Kenyan security forces to win over new recruits. And in Afghanistan, the Taliban rails against government corruption to replenish fighters each year. How governments treat their citizens has a profound impact on the scope of terrorist threats.

A second critical component of CVE is to build the resilience of vulnerable communities in which local leaders, parents, and peers know how to spot and address signs of terrorist radicalization; in which mentors or institutions can offer powerful counter-arguments or provide alternative paths for those at risk; where communities build such resilience, terrorists groups will struggle to find new followers and safe havens.

The U.S. supports networks of women and girls around the world, including in South Asia to act when they see signs of terrorist radicalization in their neighborhoods. The United States helped establish the Strong Cities Network to connect mayors and local leaders across the globe to exchange what works – and what doesn't – in stifling terrorist recruitment.

Even as Daesh is losing ground and fighters on the battlefield, it is critical to remember that preventing the next generation of terrorists is every bit as important as defeating the current threat.