The spread of violent extremism and terrorism pose signi cant challenges for U.S. national security. Vio- lent extremists speaking a variety of languages, born of many races and ethnic groups, and belonging to diverse religions continue to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize people — especially young people — to en- gage in terrorist acts. Their actions not only increase threats against the United States and our allies, but also undermine our e orts to prevent and resolve con- icts, foster sustainable development, protect human rights, promote the rule of law and expand prosperity.
While the drivers of violent extremism vary across individuals, communities, and regions, there is com- monality in the ideology and narratives employed by terrorist groups. Of particular concern, over the past two years, Da’esh has attracted tens of thousands of individuals from around the world to travel to Syria and Iraq to join their ght; while some have died or become disillusioned, others have become hardened in their commitment to violence. Terrorist groups such as al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram have also propagated violent extremism amidst regional con icts and state collapse. Mean- while, individuals have been inspired by violent ex- tremist messages and ideology to establish a liated cells and plot violent acts within their home countries.
The United States National Security Strategy (2015) calls for a sustainable approach to combat the persis- tent threat of terrorism. The United States will con- tinue to take measures and engage in collective action with responsible partners to disrupt threats against the United States and our allies. At the same time, e ectively addressing these threats requires simul- taneous and complementary e orts to counter and prevent the spread of violent extremism. This includes e orts to address the speci c societal dynamics and drivers of radicalization to violence and counter the ideology, messaging, and recruitment methods that extremist groups and propagandists employ to at- tract new recruits and foment violence. It also requires proactive e orts to prevent support for violent ex- tremism in areas where the threat is more nascent.
In February 2015, President Obama hosted a summit of government and non-governmental leaders from over 60 countries to mobilize a global e ort to counter and prevent the spread of violent extremism; it is an approach involving governments (national and lo- cal), multilateral bodies (international and regional), and non-government partners (civil society and the private sector). The White House Summit on Coun- tering Violent Extremism (CVE) and the subsequent process, which included a series of regional CVE sum- mits, generated a broad-based, multi-stakeholder CVE action agenda and new initiatives that were presented at the September 2015 Leaders’ Summit to Counter Da’esh and Violent Extremism. Subsequently, the Sec- retary General of the United Nations presented his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism to the UN General Assembly in January 2016, which reaf- rmed and expanded upon the CVE Summit’s agenda.
DEFINING AND UNDERSTANDING CVE
For the purposes of this strategy, CVE refers to proactive actions to counter e orts by violent extremists to radi- calize, recruit, and mobilize followers to violence and to address speci c factors that facilitate violent extremist recruitment and radicalization to violence. This includes both disrupting the tactics used by violent extremists to attract new recruits to violence and building speci c alternatives, narratives, capabilities, and resiliencies in targeted communities and populations to reduce the risk of radicalization and recruitment to violence. CVE can be a targeted component of larger e orts to pro- mote good governance and the rule of law, respect for human rights, and sustainable, inclusive development.
Violent extremism is not necessarily tied to a particular religion, ideology, or set of political beliefs, although there is consistency in the extreme ideology propagated and exploited by various terrorist organizations includ- ing Da’esh over recent years to justify their violence. In line with the U.S. National Strategy on Counterterror- ism (2011), this strategy is principally concerned with countering strands of violent extremism that fuel over- seas threats against U.S. persons, allies, and interests.
To be e ective, CVE e orts must be guided by ongoing research and analysis of the context, drivers, and most e ective interventions against violent extremism. The nature and range of possible drivers of violent extrem- ism can vary signi cantly from individual psychological factors to community and sectarian divisions and con- icts. Actions by states can serve as drivers of violent extremism, including state-sanctioned violence and heavy-handed tactics by security actors, corruption, systematic denial of fair trial guarantees, discriminatory governance practices, state propagation of religious and/or ethnic intolerance. State repression of cultural and religious expression, especially when seen as target- ing a speci c religion or sect, or when perceived as so entrenched that only extreme responses could make change a real possibility, can also serve as a driver of violent extremism. As evidenced in Libya, Iraq, and else- where, violent con icts and the breakdown of the rule of law can fuel and enable the spread of violent extremism.
In many environments where the risk of violent extrem- ism is high, development has failed to take root, gover- nance is weak, access to education and training is limited, economic opportunities are few, and unemployment is high. USAID will partner with State to bring to bear its development knowledge, the analytic tools to diagnose state fragility and economic vulnerability, and insights borne of over 55 years of work in the developing world.
Undermining our common humanity, violent ex- tremism is inherently global. It is driven by a mix- ture of personal, societal, and ideational factors whose manifestations vary from one individual to the next. Violent extremism has a ected di er- ent societies during di erent eras and in di erent regions of the world. The present plan of action does not provide a single solution to this chal- lenge — there is no one tool or approach that will put it to rest forever. Instead, we need to broaden the way we think about this threat and take mea- sures to prevent it from proliferating.”
A comprehensive approach to address the drivers of violent extremism is critical to advancing the United States’ national security and overall foreign policy goals. Re ecting this realization, the 2015 QDDR states that the Department of State (State) and U.S. Agency for In- ternational Development (USAID) will work to enhance, re ne, and elevate ongoing CVE e orts, particularly those focused on prevention. State and USAID have dif- ferent tools, approaches, and expertise to contribute to these e orts. USAID’s policy, The Development Response to Violent Extremism and Insurgency, will continue to provide a broad framework for using development tools to prevent violent extremism. This strategy, which is consistent with USAID’s policy, provides a more explicit guide for how State and USAID will work jointly and will leverage the range of available diplomatic and development resources to have a demonstrable impact to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism.
Read Full Strategy State Department and USAID Srategy for Countering Violent Extremism