More than 10,000 European women and children affiliated with Islamic State fighters remain in local custody in northeastern Syria. So far, European governments have been reluctant to take large-scale action.
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What will happen to the foreign fighters who traveled to Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State?
Editor’s Note: Mozambique has a small terrorism problem, but the government’s response threatens to make it a big one. Hilary Matfess of Yale University and Alexander Noyes of RAND Corp. contend that Mozambique is overreacting to the danger with a heavy-handed crackdown that is inflaming tension while doing little to disrupt the most radical elements there. Indeed, they argue that Mozambique risks following the path of Nigeria, where a ham-fisted government response to a radical sect led to a surge in support for the group that became Boko Haram.
Editor’s Note: The Islamic State’s crimes against women are well known, but it has also managed to appeal to women to join the fight directly or otherwise support the group. Too often, however, governments fail to recognize this risk. Kiriloi Ingram of the University of Queensland draws on her fieldwork in the Philippines to argue that governments and civil society groups need to do a far better job of recognizing the dangers women can pose while also empowering them to help counter violent extremism.
Editor’s Note: In recent years, so-called homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) have eclipsed returned foreign fighters and other sources of terrorism. National Defense University’s Kim Cragin assesses the HVE threat and finds that, contrary to popular opinion, Western security agencies are disrupting many HVE plots and otherwise doing well against this potentially dangerous threat.
In recent years, counterterrorism policy has focused on making social media platforms hostile environments for terrorists and their sympathizers. From the German NetzDG law to the U.K.’s Online Harms White Paper, governments are making it clear that such content will not be tolerated. Platforms—and maybe even specific individuals—will be held accountable using a variety of carrot-and-stick approaches.
Over the past two decades, extremists have successfully exploited both intrastate politics and interstate relations to further their own state-building projects. In particular, they have targeted marginalized, peripheral regions of fragile states, where citizens are politically and economically excluded by their governments. Stopping the spread of extremism will require a broader strategy to address the often counterproductive role played by government actors, instead of focusing narrowly on potentially radicalizing individuals.
Editor’s Note: What to do with captured foreign volunteers for terrorist organizations is one of the toughest issues facing Western governments today. (See my views on a current U.S. case here.) Human rights organizations are particularly critical of governments that revoke citizenship or otherwise try to prevent their citizens from returning. Robin Simcox of the Heritage Foundation believes this opposition is simplistic.
Fitna, a Failed Coup and a Squandered Opportunity to Undermine the Islamic State’s ‘Intangible Power’
Editor’s Note: The Islamic State seeks to project an image of strength, and that image has attracted many followers. In the past few years, the above-ground caliphate has collapsed and infighting is growing, but the group still stresses its prowess and leadership in its propaganda. Michael Smith II, a terrorism analyst who specializes in jihadist influence operations, calls for the United States to exploit the Islamic State’s internal dissent in its own counter-propaganda, playing up these divisions to further weaken the group.