The loss of government control in countries such as Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Nigeria's northeast, is one of the factors leading to the emergence of radical and extremist terrorist groups, namely al-Qaida affiliates and ISIL. The United States, said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Tina Kaidanow, has stressed the need to diversify its approach to counterterrorism and to partner with other countries.
One of the most serious aspects of the terrorist threat is the new phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to conflict zones, most prominently Iraq and Syria. Another aspect to the threat is the potential for “lone offender” attacks by those who have been radicalized but remain in their home countries. Since the conflict in Syria and Iraq began, more than 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 100 countries have traveled to that region. There are reportedly over 250 Americans who have traveled or attempted to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIL and al-Qa’ida since 2012.
While the numbers are troubling, the global community has mobilized to address the threat more effectively.
The U.S. now has information-sharing agreements with over 40 international partners to identify and track the travel of suspected terrorists and is working on others. The U.S. is also encouraging its partners to increase security at their borders to better identify, restrict, and report travel of suspected foreign terrorist fighters.
Ultimately, however, said Ambassasor Kaidanow, "we need to do more than identify and stop foreign terrorist fighters from arriving at their destination – we have to prevent them from getting into these pipelines in the first place." To address this, the U.S. is working with partners both inside and outside of the government to increase outreach to youth, women, and victims, in order to address the conditions that make communities susceptible to violent extremism.
The best way to ultimately defeat terrorist organizations like ISIL is by expanding partnerships, building bilateral and regional capabilities, and promoting rule of law-based approaches to counter terrorism and violent extremism.