The State Department’s new multifaceted approach to combating violent extremism takes the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups off the battlefield and into communities where the risk of radicalization is highest.
Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced the revitalized plan at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, the day before the anniversary of the White House’s first summit on countering violent extremism.
Blinken, who also served as an assistant and national security expert in the Clinton and Obama administrations, said an improved strategy is needed in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. Both deadly incidents brought attention to new recruitment and organizational tactics used by radical groups to relay their message to people far removed from the battlefield.
“The danger of violent extremism has slipped past the war’s frontlines and into the computers and onto the phones of every citizen in every corner of the world,” Blinken said. “If we’re going to actually win… the fight against violent extremism, it will not be through combat alone.”
A joint strategy, led by the State Department’s renamed Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, and USAID, aims to use non-military tactics to counter violent extremism at its root. The goal is to lessen its appeal to those who are most susceptible to extremist propaganda before it has the chance to radicalize them.
While acknowledging that the nature of extremism varies, Blinken mentioned some commonalities that can breed or accelerate the spread of radical ideology, including feelings of alienation, exposure to violent propaganda, experiences with state-sanctioned violence, heavy-handed security force tactics, and the systematic denial of opportunity.