Remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum Ministerial


Antony J. Blinken

Deputy Secretary of State

Roosevelt Hotel

New York City

September 21, 2016


Thank you, Minister, for your and Morocco’s leadership in this fight. Thank you, Foreign Minister Koenders very much as well for hosting us today at this unique and very valuable Forum.

Mister Minister, you may not know, but five years ago when we were just getting started, Adele was just getting started as well. As it happens, she is appearing this week in New York. The good news is that she continues to go higher and higher into the top ten. The even better news is that Daesh is falling out of it as a result of our efforts.

This past year has been a tumultuous one in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism, but by working together, we have made important progress on the ground countering Daesh, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, their imitators and affiliates.

The Global Counterterrorism Forum has been at the center of much of this progress. We have put pressure on terrorist financing and moved swiftly to curtail the movement of foreign terrorist fighters—galvanizing the international community to think collectively about this challenge and develop a set of good practices that have been instrumental in making it much more difficult for foreign terrorist fighters to reach Syria and Iraq.

We have been effectively combatting violent extremist narratives on social media, and exchanging information and coordinating law enforcement and counter terrorism resources. Sixty countries have updated laws to enable prosecution of foreign terrorist fighter activities; and more than fifty have used those laws to make arrests and bring cases against foreign terrorist fighters.

We all know that most visible part of our effort is on the battlefield, where we are destroying Daesh at its core in Iraq and Syria. We’ve eliminated tens of thousands of fighters and hundreds of senior leaders. We’ve destroyed thousands of pieces of equipment and weapons. We’ve deprived Daesh of 20 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and 50 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq.

This is so important because it takes away from Daesh its central narrative that it is building a “caliphate” that people can come to and that it is ten feet tall and moving forward. At the same time it is vitally important because most of the resources that Daesh generates are taken from the territory it controls. Taking that away is collapsing the foundation on which Daesh builds everyting

As the noose around Daesh tightens—and it is tightening as we move on Mosul, Dabiq, and Raqqa—we are seeing Daesh try to adapt by encouraging indiscriminate attacks in as many places as possible: a market in Baghdad, a nightclub in Orlando, a promenade in Nice, a café in Dhaka, a square in central Istanbul.

So we all need to be on notice that, as we collapse the foundation of the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, Daesh will continue—and indeed emphasize—these kinds of indiscriminate terror attacks in all of our countries as the foreign fighters who have traveled to Iraq and Syria will try to go home to perpetrate those attacks. That means the work we are doing, as Foreign Minister Koenders noted, in information sharing and collective action among our police and intelligence services is even more important than ever.

We also know that we cannot react to these attacks in ways that silence political dissent or censor speech in the name of countering violent extremism—online or offline. We stress this point not solely to defend the fundamental freedoms we all believe in, but also because terrorists are quick to exploit evidence of discrimination in trying to rationalize their actions and attract new members. Whatever the intent, repression tends to fuel terrorism, not stop it.

So even as we advance our efforts to defeat Daesh on the frontlines, we know that to be fully effective, we have to work to prevent the spread of violent extremism in the first place as my colleagues have noted—to stop the recruitment, radicalization, and mobilization of people, especially young people, to engage in terrorist activities.

We know from the work we have done that there is no single type of violent extremist; no single method of recruitment; no single source of motivation or support. There is no single story, no easy synonym for one region, religious tradition, or culture.

The nature and range of possible drivers of violent extremism can vary greatly—from individual psychological factors to community, sectarian, and religious divisions—and these persist across different ethnicities, cultures, and countries.

But while there is no single cause, we do see some common denominators—common factors that breed or help accelerate violent extremism, including feelings of alienation and exclusion, petty criminality, exposure to vile and rampant propaganda including online and in prisons, a lack of critical thinking skills, and experiences with state-sanctioned violence, heavy-handed tactics by security services, and the systematic denial of opportunity.

Of course, there is no grievance so bitter, no disadvantage so deep that it ever justifies murder, rape, and slavery.

But if we are going to actually win, in a sustained fashion, the fight against violent extremism, it will not be through combat alone.

It is a fight that will be determined by our ability to come together as leaders and as nations to reach those at risk before terrorist recruiters do. It will be determined—in other words—by a comprehensive approach that tackles this challenge from every angle, harnessing every tool at our disposal and mobilizing every community leader as our partner.

In recent years, we have developed innovative ways to make progress toward that goal, including the Strong Cities Network and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. As I announced yesterday, the United States is committed to supporting the Fund on an annual basis and will provide—contingent upon the notification and approval of our Congress—an additional $3 million in 2017.

The events of the last few days in the United States unfortunately only further underscore the importance, urgency, and difficulty of our shared work—and the need to continually innovate and evaluate our efforts.

This year, we are presenting two additional initiatives. The first, in partnership with Turkey, is aimed at developing a set of internationally recognized best practices for protecting restaurants, sports arenas, and other soft targets from terrorist attacks. The United States will provide a million dollars to help fund this research effort, which we believe could save many lives.

Our second initiative is a “Dialogue on Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Radicalization to Violence in Central Asia.” This idea grew out of discussions with all five governments in that region and reflects the high priority that both they—and members of this Forum—attach to the issue.

Finally, a year ago, here in New York, this group launched the Initiative to Address the Life Cycle of Radicalization to Violence—producing a set of valuable recommendations on timely issues, to include: the role of families in detecting and preventing their loved one’s radicalization to violence, efforts to counter terrorist recruiters and facilitators, and the question of whether, when, and how to process juvenile offenders through the criminal justice system.

Combined with the Forum’s substantial body of existing material in this area, the result is a comprehensive “toolkit” of good practices and practical recommendations that stakeholders can use to address a full range of challenges in their own communities. I’m pleased to announce that the United States will seek to provide $5 million to develop training material and capacity-building related to these tools.

I am now pleased to present a short video on the Life Cycle Initiative and the toolkit that will enhance its accessibility and impact.

Thank you very much.