Nearly 20 years have elapsed since the terrorist attacks of September 11. While U.S. counterterrorism policy has succeeded during that time in preventing attacks on the homeland, the threat posed by violent extremism has grown and evolved such that quashing it requires an entirely new approach. The willingness of global allies—including partners in the Middle East—to work with the U.S. to stem violent extremism means that, for the first time, a truly comprehensive, multilateral approach is in view.

Congress charged the United States Institute of Peace, an independent, bipartisan leader in reducing and preventing conflict, with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. The bipartisan initiative recommended a new approach for U.S. policy that harnesses existing U.S. programs and international partnerships to target the underlying causes of extremism and limit the ability of extremist groups to exploit fragile states.

The Task Force was led by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and former Representative Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission. The Task Force included thirteen leading former policymakers, legislators and other experts whose unique experience and insights will shape the Task Force’s policy recommendations.

Final Report

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Preventing Extremism in Fragile States: A New Approach

Despite our success protecting America’s homeland, extremism is spreading. Since 9/11, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide per year has increased fivefold. As long as this continues, the United States will remain vulnerable to terrorism while extremism contributes to chaos, conflict, and coercion that drains U.S. resources, weakens our allies, and provides openings for our competitors.

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Three recommendations for a new approach to preventing extremism in fragile states

Despite our success protecting America’s homeland, extremism is spreading. Since 9/11, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide per year has increased fivefold. As long as this continues, the United States will remain vulnerable to terrorism while extremism contributes to chaos, conflict, and coercion that drains U.S. resources, weakens our allies, and provides openings for our competitors.

Task Force Events

A New Approach to Preventing Extremism in Fragile States

On April 23rd, members of the Task Force and more experts joined USIP for a discussion the challenge of supporting fragile states to build resiliency, sustain progress and prevent future threats and instability.

Podcasts and a webcast of the full event are available here.

Read the event coverage

February 26, 2019 Report Release Press Conference

 

Participants included:

  • Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow for the Future of Diplomacy Project, Harvard University; former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
  • Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative, Stanford University; former U. S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
  • Mr. Farooq Kathwari, CEO and President, Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.
  • The Honorable Nancy Lindborg, President, United States Institute of Peace
  • The Honorable Stephen Hadley, Chair of the Board of Directors, United States Institute of Peace; former U.S. National Security Advisor
  • Governor Thomas Kean, co-chair, former Governor of New Jersey, former 9/11 Commission Chair
  • Representaitve Eliot Engel (D-NY)
  • Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX)
  • Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Ambassador Paula Dobriansky; Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; Mr. Farooq Kathwari; The Honorable Nancy Lindborg; The Honorable Stephen Hadley; Governor Thomas Kean (co-chair); Representaitve Eliot Engel (D-NY); Senator Chris Coons (D-DE); Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX); Senator Lindsey Graham (R-DC)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
Governor Thomas Kean (co-chair)
Governor Thomas Kean (co-chair)

Featured Blogs

Protesters chant slogans against the political party of ousted President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on Jan. 21, 2011. (Moises Saman/The New York Times)

We Need a New Approach to Prevent Violent Extremism

Our principal recommendation is both simple and daunting: we need a high-level political commitment to prevention. Our goal should not be to topple governments or install new ones, but to work with local actors to strengthen vulnerable states and societies so that they can better defend themselves. 

A police officer mans a checkpoint in Raqqa, Syria, on June 13, 2018. Despite the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS, the group remains a potent threat. (Ivor Prickett/The New York Times)

The Complex Threat of Extremism—And a Pathway to Quashing it for Good

The recent territorial victories against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are a significant achievement. However, terrorist groups like ISIS are not traditional enemies, and their strength cannot be assessed on traditional metrics. Thousands of fighters remain, and ISIS is intent on regrouping.

Raqqa’s main cemetery, after Islamic State members desecrated the graveyard, in Syria, June 13, 2018. (Ivor Prickett/The New York Times)

Down But Not Out: Extremists’ Evolving Strategy

The U.S. State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism recently released its annual report on terrorism. The report concludes that despite the success of efforts to dismantle ISIS, “the terrorist landscape grew more complex.” Extremist groups such as ISIS, al-Qaida, and their affiliates are proving resilient and adjusting to heightened counterterrorism pressure with new attempts to destabilize, seize, and govern territory in fragile states. 

Fighters, who joined a militia to help liberate the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, wait at their base near the Mosul Dam near Karaj, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2016. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)

Seventeen Years After 9/11: Re-examining the Terrorist Threat

Seventeen years ago today, we experienced the gravest attack on our nation since World War II. Everything we thought we knew about protecting the safety of American citizens and security of our shores changed overnight. Americans came face-to-face with an unfamiliar enemy: violent extremists.

A family works to rebuild a home that was destroyed in the fight to defeat the Islamic State group in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq. (Ivor Prickett/The New York Times)

Fragile States Fail Their Citizens and Threaten Global Security

Under congressional mandate, USIP has convened the bipartisan Task Force for Extremism in Fragile States to design a comprehensive new strategy for addressing the underlying causes of violent extremism in fragile states. But what is a fragile state? And how does state fragility in the Middle East, Horn of Africa and the Sahel threaten American interests? In this excerpt from the Task Force’s forthcoming report, we dive into the conditions of fragility and how they seed the ground for extremism to take root.

A sign points the way to a centuries-old church in Mosul that the Islamic State turned into a religious police headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, Sept. 9, 2017. (Ivor Prickett/The New York Times)

How Extremists Exploit Fragile States

Extremists have attempted to achieve their ideological objectives in different ways. Islamist militants in Algeria and Egypt waged bloody but unsuccessful insurgencies during the 1990s to overthrow those countries' regimes. Osama bin Laden blamed their failure on Western support for secular Middle Eastern states. He created al-Qaida to attack the United States and force it to withdraw from the region.

Interim Report

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Beyond the Homeland: Protecting America from Extremism in Fragile States

Today, on the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Task Force is releasing its first report, which warns that the United States urgently needs a new approach to stem the spread of violent extremism and previews a comprehensive preventative strategy that focuses on strengthening resilience against extremism in fragile states.

Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States one pager cover

Key Takeaways from the Interim Report

Beyond the Homeland: Protecting America from Extremism in Fragile States

Since the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, extremist groups have expanded in fragile states across the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Against this backdrop, the congressionally mandated, bipartisan Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States has released a report that calls for a new strategy to mitigate the conditions that enable extremist groups to take root, spread, and thrive in fragile states. 

Podcasts

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Nancy Lindborg on Addressing Extremism in Fragile States

Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks, Nancy Lindborg details the findings of an interim report from the congressionally mandated Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Convened by USIP, the Task Force will devise a comprehensive new strategy for addressing the underlying causes of extremism in fragile states, says Lindborg, a member of the Task Force.

Foreign Podicy Logo

Foreign Podicy: Extremism and Fragile States

Today, on the 17th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in America's history, U.S. Institute for Peace has released a new report on "protecting America from extremism in fragile states." To discuss its analysis and recommendations, FDD president and Foreign Podicy host Clifford D. May is joined by Stephen J. Hadley, former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, and now the chair of the U.S. Institute for Peace—a congressionally founded and funded policy institute; Nancy Lindborg, president of USIP; and Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at FDD and a former Middle East specialist in the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

Related Publications

The Global Fragility Act: A New U.S. Approach

The Global Fragility Act: A New U.S. Approach

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

By: USIP Staff

After several years of efforts by a bipartisan group of members of Congress and outside groups, Congress last month took legislative aim at a threat behind many of the world’s most pressing problems: fragile states. On December 20, as part of an appropriations package, President Donald Trump signed into law the Global Fragility Act, marking a new—if largely unnoticed— U.S. approach to conflict-prone states that can be vectors of violent extremism, uncontrolled migration, and extreme poverty.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Violent Extremism

From How to Who: Reforming the Civilian Workforce for Prevention

From How to Who: Reforming the Civilian Workforce for Prevention

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

By: Blaise Misztal; Eric Brown

It seems obvious that a U.S. foreign service or development officer would need a unique set of skills for dealing with the varied challenges they face in fragile countries. Delivering humanitarian assistance effectively in the wake of a natural disaster requires a mentality and approach that is different from advising a government in a fragile state facing mass unrest. But, the civilian workforce of the U.S government isn’t always equipped to perform the roles that policymakers require of them. Similarly, preventing conflict or extremism in countries where the United States has diplomatic missions requires a different way of operating—it may even require a different workforce altogether.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

Why Security Sector Governance Matters in Fragile States

Why Security Sector Governance Matters in Fragile States

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

By: Nathaniel Allen; Rachel Kleinfeld

Editor’s Note: Congress charged the U.S. Institute of Peace with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Following the public launch of the Task Force’s final report, four groups of experts came together to discuss how to implement the report’s recommendations. This four-part series will discuss the findings from these strategy sessions. Part two summarizes expert discussion on the report’s recommendations on security cooperation and assistance and practical steps that could be taken to better align security cooperation and assistance with prevention.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

How Civil Society Can Help Prevent Violence and Extremism

How Civil Society Can Help Prevent Violence and Extremism

Thursday, June 6, 2019

By: Leanne Erdberg Steadman; Bridget Moix

Editor’s Note: Congress charged the U.S. Institute of Peace with convening the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Following the public launch of the Task Force’s final report, four groups of experts came together to discuss how to implement the report’s recommendations. This four-part series will discuss the findings from these strategy sessions. Part one summarizes expert discussion on how civil society actors are preventing violent extremism and building resilience in their communities and practical ways the U.S. and other international actors can more effectively interact with civil society to bolster its role in prevention.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Violent Extremism

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Latest Publications

Where Is Iraq a Year After Prime Minister Kadhimi Took Office?

Where Is Iraq a Year After Prime Minister Kadhimi Took Office?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Sarhang Hamasaeed

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power a year ago today after a protest movement toppled the previous government and successive attempts to establish a new one failed. Inheriting a country deep in the midst of political and economic crises, Kadhimi has spent the last year trying to put Iraq back on the path toward stability all while navigating U.S.-Iran tensions playing out on Iraqi soil. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Sarhang Hamasaeed look at what Kadhimi has done to attempt to placate protesters, the importance of Iraq’s October national elections and how the prime minister has dealt with U.S.-Iran tensions.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Swahili)

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (Swahili)

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.; Danielle Robertson

Mwongozo wa Nadharia na Mfumo wa Kujumuisha Jinsia Zote (GIFT) ni njia rahisi na zana ya kina inayowezesha kujumuisha uchambuzi wa kijinsia katika uundaji wa mradi. Kwa sababu kazi ya kudumisha amani inategemea muktadha, GIFT inaweka mbele njia tatu za uchambuzi wa kijinsia-mtazamo wa Wanawake, Amani na Usalama; mtazamo wa Uume wenye Amani; na mtazamo wa Utambulisho Ingiliani-ambazo zote zinaangizia mabadiliko ya kijinsia katika mazingira fulani ili kutengeneza vyema miradi ya kudumisha amani.

Type: Tools for Peacebuilding

Gender

Border Clash Between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Risks Spinning Out of Control

Border Clash Between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Risks Spinning Out of Control

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

A dispute over irrigation water triggered a clash between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last week that quickly spread along the border, resulting in the death of more than 40 people and displacing 30,000 on the Kyrgyz side — the worst such incident in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union. While such flare-ups, albeit less deadly, are a regular occurrence in the region, this time the situation could get out of hand as the leaders of both countries are incentivized to stoke a crisis that distracts from the domestic unrest caused by their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Can India Escape its Devastating Second COVID Wave?

Can India Escape its Devastating Second COVID Wave?

Monday, May 3, 2021

By: Tamanna Salikuddin; Vikram J. Singh

India’s second wave of COVID has quickly turned into one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Since early March, official cases and deaths have skyrocketed, recently breaking world records on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile, Indian officials are warning the country’s health care system cannot keep up with the deluge of patients as supplies run thin, exposing India’s ailing health infrastructure. USIP’s Tamanna Salikuddin and Vikram Singh look at the origins of India’s second wave, its far-reaching consequences in the global fight against COVID and what the international community can and should do to help India weather the storm.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health

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