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.

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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

Fragility & ResilienceViolent 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

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

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

Fragility & ResilienceViolent Extremism

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Latest Publications

For Peace in Sahel, African and U.S. Experts Urge Focused Partnership

For Peace in Sahel, African and U.S. Experts Urge Focused Partnership

Thursday, February 22, 2024

By: Katia Cavigelli;  James Rupert

The past month has sharpened a decade-old question for U.S. and international policymakers: How best, in 2024, to help stabilize what is now the world’s largest single zone of military rule and violent conflicts — Africa’s Sahel region? After three military-ruled Sahel states withdrew from the West African regional community in January, those juntas last week proclaimed an alliance aimed at resisting international pressures, including those for their return to elected civilian rule. Former U.S. and African officials yesterday urged what they called vital changes in U.S. and allied policies to prevent a dangerous spread of the Sahel’s crises.

Type: Analysis

Fragility & Resilience

The Limitations of India and Russia’s Transactional Relationship

The Limitations of India and Russia’s Transactional Relationship

Thursday, February 22, 2024

By: Dr. Jagannath Panda

Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it might seem as though ties between India and Russia have strengthened. While much of the West isolated Russia, India-Russia energy trade spiked, and India made efforts to accommodate Russia on the world stage. The two countries have also had visible public exchanges, such as a mid-January phone call between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s trip to Moscow at the end of 2023.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

How Might Prabowo Navigate Conflict, Competition as Indonesia’s President?

How Might Prabowo Navigate Conflict, Competition as Indonesia’s President?

Thursday, February 22, 2024

By: Brian Harding;  Meghan Sullivan

Indonesia’s defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, is set to become the next president of the world’s fourth-largest country and third-largest democracy. Prabowo will take the reins of power at a tense moment for regional and global security and as president will have to contend with a persistent, low-grade conflict in West Papua. Continuity will likely hold sway as prevailing winds in Indonesia’s foreign policy chart a well-worn course for navigating geopolitical competition and global conflicts, this time with what appears to be a willing captain at the helm.

Type: Analysis

Global Elections & ConflictGlobal Policy

As Fragile Kashmir Cease-Fire Turns Three, Here’s How to Keep it Alive

As Fragile Kashmir Cease-Fire Turns Three, Here’s How to Keep it Alive

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

By: Christopher Clary

At midnight on the night of February 24-25, 2021, India and Pakistan reinstated a cease-fire that covered their security forces operating “along the Line of Control (LOC) and all other sectors” in Kashmir, the disputed territory that has been at the center of the India-Pakistan conflict since 1947. While the third anniversary of that agreement is a notable landmark in the history of India-Pakistan cease-fires, the 2021 cease-fire is fragile and needs bolstering to be maintained.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

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