Më shumë se 100 profesionistë të lartë të antiterrorizmit nga qeveria, ushtria, zbatimi i ligjit, të
inteligjencës, organizatave ndërkombëtare, shoqërisë civile, akademisë dhe sektorit privat adresuan fenomenet e Luftëtarëve të Terrorizmit të Huaj (FTF) në Ballkanin Perëndimor. Republika Maqedonisë në bashkëpunim me Organizatën për Siguri dhe Bashkëpunim në Evropë (OSBE) dhe Ambasadën e SHBA në Maqedoni priti Konsorciumin e Partneritetit për Paqe (PfPC) në eventin e njw grupi pune mbi parandalimin e Terrorizmit (CTWG). Pjesëmarrës në konferencë përfshihen
Komiteti i ri kombëtar i CT / CVE i Maqedonisë, duke përfshirë koordinatorin kombëtar CT / CVE, si
si dhe koordinatorët kombëtarë të CVE nga Shqipëria dhe Kosova, duke siguruar themelin për rritjen e bashkëpunimit rajonal në sfida të vështira, duke përfshirë FTF dhe rehabilitimin e të burgosurve dhe çështjet e riintegrimit. Fjalimet kryesore u mbajtën nga zyrtarë e lartë të Maqedonisë, si dhe nga anëtarë të lartë të diplomacisë dhe antirterrorizmit (CT)
Folësit kryesor H.E. Zoran Zaev, kryeministër i Republikës së Maqedonisë, H.E. Jess Baily, Ambasadori i SHBA në Maqedoni, H.E.Nina Suomalainen, Shef i Misionit të OSBE-së në Shkup, Borçe Petrevski, CT / CVE kombëtareKoordinator, Republika e Maqedonisë dhe Z. Richard Prosen, Departamenti Amerikan i Shtetit dheBashkëkryesuesi i CTWG ka adresuar çështjet përkatëse të CT / CVE në kuadër të kërcënimeve në zhvillim të FTF dhe sfidat.
Dr. Arben Ramkaj, Kryetar i Këshillit Ndërfetar, Elbasan, diskutoi historinë e Këshillit, i cili ka lindur nga tensionet fetare brenda komunitetit dhe theksoi suksesin në pajtimin e një konflikti te lindur prej vendosjes të një kryqi ne nje vend të shquar, rruge kryesore ne Shqiperi. Z. Ramkaj argumentoi rëndësinë e dialogut të vazhdueshëm mes të gjithë anëtarëve të grupimeve fetare pasi kjo rritje zemërimi në mesin e të rinjve lidhen drejtpërdrejt me mungesën e nje dialogu të tillë . Për të trajtuar këto çështje, Këshilli Ndërfetar krijoi një njësi specifike për gratë dhe të rinjtë, e cila është thelbësore për përpjekjet e CVE. Ai theksoi nevojën për trajnim më të madh të udhëheqësve fetarë, duke folur për rolin e tyre në shoqëri dhe promovimin e praktikave të shëndosha fetare.
Ai më tej argumentoi se Ballkani Perëndimor do të duhej të punonte vazhdimisht me liderët fetarë
për të ndërtuar besimin brenda dhe jashtë komuniteteve. Z. Ramkaj përfundoi sugjerimet e tij duke theksuar diversitetin kulturor të Shqiperise dhe Maqedonisë, duke thënë se “është pasuri dhe shendeti ynë, duke na mundësuar të shohim shoqërinë në një mënyrë tjetër “.
Konferenca paraqiti këndvështrime të shumë palëve …
Opening the event, Mr. Richard Prosen, U.S. Department of State, Senior Advisor, Transnational
Threat Issues and CTWG Co-Chair, recounted recent successes in significantly weakening
ISIS/Daesh. However, despite such gains, the terrorist threat continues to evolve and adapt,
creating havoc through home-grown attacks directed at soft targets. Mr. Prosen argued that
countermeasures need to include improved border security, enhanced information-sharing
measures, strengthened terrorism criminal laws, and expanded messaging through local networks,
while confronting home-grown violent extremism and the driving factors behind it. Mr. Prosen
emphasized the need to meet the emerging challenges by remaining vigilant against an everadaptive
ISIS, its affiliates, and a resurgent Al-Qaeda. Mr. Prosen saluted the commitment and
expertise of participants and noted that their contributions during the event’s proceedings would
be critical in helping identify solutions to the diverse and vexing security challenges faced by all.
Mr. Borche Petrevski, the Republic of Macedonia National CT and CVE Coordinator stated that
Macedonia maintained a complex social context with many challenges. He emphasized the need
for early intervention and eliminating radical ideas through the use of soft prevention measures.
Mr. Petreveski further stressed that Macedonia had a social and collective responsibility to engage
society through religious, local, media, and educational avenues to counter violent extremism. He
argued that a contemporary approach was needed to tackle the threat to break the taboo of terrorism
by enhancing national security and stability through increased regional cooperation with
counterparts in Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most notably, Mr. Petrevski said
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that while violent extremism and terrorism represent a growing threat, the conference was the
foundation for a collective opportunity to exchange ideas to mitigate it. In closing, he thanked the
international community for their selfless support in assisting Macedonia with the construction of
a modern approach to CVE.
H.E. Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, opened his remarks with an
emphasis on Macedonia’s commitment to democracy, rule of law, respect of all human rights, and
equality of all nations. Addressing the unique contributions and perspectives needed to confront
violent extremism in the Balkans, Prime Minister Zaev commented on the Balkans exposure to the
threats and risks emanating from terrorism, exacerbated by FTFs joining thousands of fighters in
the self-proclaimed Islamic State. He argued that this phenomenon was the top priority of the
country and that the nation was increasing its response to this threat as a result. Prime Minister
Zaev also discussed Macedonia’s “Plan 369,” which was launched in the summer of 2017 and
seeks to increase the institutional capacity of fighting security challenges. This strategy would be
combined with the sociological methods of soft measures. Prime Minister Zaev further stated that
the PfPC-CTWG event will provide the most effective venue to develop methods for tackling
terrorism, arguing that terrorism knows no nationality or religion.
Ambassador Jess Baily, U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, discussed Macedonia’s 25 year-long
strategic partnership with the United States. He invoked comments made by U.S. Vice President
Mike Pence, stating “we will drive the cancer of terrorism from the face of the Earth and we will
do it together.” Ambassador Baily commented on the benefit of Macedonia’s relatively small size
and its ability to mobilize its resources at the ground level, responding to known threats within
each community. He stated that although the flow of FTFs had slowed greatly, the problem
remains and has instead evolved, leaving the Western Balkans highly vulnerable to home-grown
violent extremism. Ambassador Baily applauded regional cooperation between Macedonia,
Albania, and Kosovo, which foiled a terrorist attack in December 2016, and stressed the
importance of dealing with the threat of terrorism at local levels. He ended his remarks
highlighting the value of the exercise, stating, “I hope that we all will leave here with a list of
actions that identify existing gaps and ways to strengthen capabilities. It is in this way we will rise
to the challenge of terrorism and confront it.”
Ambassador Nina Suomalainen, Head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) Mission to Skopje, stressed that FTFs, cybersecurity breaches, and migrant flows
all remained high on the OSCE agenda. She argued that incidences of violence, whereby innocent
people were injured as a result, had become far too familiar. Ms. Suomalanien emphasized the
importance of being both prepared and resilient at the local, national, and international level,
underlining the collective role in preventing violent extremism. She argued this would only be
achieved through early warning and disengagement, with education and counter-messaging
crucial to preventing the escalation to violent extremism.
Professor Frosina Remenski of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security of the
Republic of Macedonia opened the panel discussion stressing the need for a different approach to
understanding the concept of terrorism. She stated that without clearly established indicators it is
an almost impossible task to draft an approach against radicalization and political violence. She
considered the theoretical explanations for the motivations of extremists including developmental
– 3 –
theory, the theory of ethnic competence, and ethno-cultural theories to explore the drivers and
factors behind second and third generation immigrants and their tendency to stray from cultural
traditions and modern identities, adopting instead identities centered on social injustice and
inequality. She concluded with the need for the international community to commit to ending the
conflicts in the Middle East to obstruct the inspiration of FTFs.
Mr. Arben Ramkaj, President of the Interreligious Council, Elbasan, discussed the history of the
Council, which was born out of religious tensions within the community and highlighted its
success in reconciling the controversial construction of a prominent cross as a turning point within
Macedonia. Mr. Ramkaj argued the importance of constant dialogue between all members of
religious groups and directly correlated the absence of such dialogue with a rise in anger among
youth. To address these issues, the Interreligious Council established a unit specifically for women
and youth, which is fundamental to CVE efforts. He emphasized the need for greater training of
religious leaders, speaking to their role in society and the promotion of healthy religious practices.
He further argued that the Western Balkans would need to continuously work with religious
leaders to build trust within and across communities. Mr. Ramkaj concluded his remarks by
highlighting Macedonia’s cultural diversity, stating “it is our richness and our wealth, enabling us
to see society in a different manner.”
Mr. Filip Stojkovski, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Macedonia,
explained that FTFs were not a new phenomenon in the region and that over several decades, small
numbers of Macedonians fought in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He
highlighted the lack of isolation in the current form of terrorism, reiterating many cases of
interconnectivity, not just between individuals within Balkan nations but also among families and
groups themselves. He attributed the community’s hesitancy toward participating in CVE
initiatives as a result of historical tendencies to politicize such efforts, and the general
misperception of CVE as an attack against religion or ethnicity. Mr. Stojkovski appealed for
change, emphasizing that Macedonia can no longer rely on law enforcement to handle the brunt of
the work. He called for a holistic approach with greater engagement among civil society
representatives in preventative measures to confront the issue of violent extremism, not merely
react to its consequences.
Dr. Edit Schlaffer, founder of Women Without Borders, emphasized that prevention was not a
quick fix, but a journey over decades. Dr. Schlaffer highlighted the need to build greater dialogue
among the civil society and the law enforcement communities, using the Mothers School Model
as an exemplar. She posited that CVE and CT efforts should not be seen as conflicting, but rather
complementary to each other. She discussed the importance of mothers, describing them as
security allies with both the competence and confidence to affect change, when provided the proper
tools. Dr. Schlaffer explained how the Mothers School Model, a research and evidence-based
initiative, advanced trust among community members, as trust is a fundamental tenant in
overcoming the stigma and taboo of terrorism. She highlighted that many mothers were quite
reluctant to join initially due to the tenuous subject and the implications of being associated with
violent extremism; however, those that completed the program gained a great sense of pride in
their accomplishment and built a strong sense of comradery. She concluded that the Mothers
School Model hopes to move beyond the pilot year in Macedonia and to change the notion that
reaching out to community police will not mean betrayal, but rather seen as an example of trust.
– 4 –
Dr. Peter Forster, CTWG Co-Chair, and Professor at The Pennsylvania State University
moderated a panel discussion. In his closing remarks, Dr. Forster stated the process to violent
radicalization is mystifying, lacking clearly defined parameters by which to assess each individual;
however, he noted several patterns among the collective, one being that approximately 75 percent
of people traveling to Iraq and Syria had family and friends that were great influencers. Dr. Forster
argued for the need for greater balance between hard and soft approaches to mitigation, and the
creation of strong partnerships between government and civil society. He also reinforced the need
to base CT and CVE decisions, actions and policies on research, stating “it’s fine to speculate, but
ultimately we cannot make effective decisions at a community and national level without hard data
to support it.” He concluded the panel discussion with an overview of common themes identified
throughout the discussion, including the acute need for more frequent dialogue and a whole-ofsociety
approach, creating opportunities for positive engagement, and in so doing, building trust
and resilience to confront the threat of violent extremism.
TTX Summary & Results
The CTWG has developed and delivered a series of institution-building TTXs that feature
interactive scenarios to foster robust discussions related to CT/CVE issues. Our unique model
employs methodologies to encourage participants to devise effective strategies, formulate policy
recommendations, and develop programmatic responses for both public and private sector
leadership. Participants in the Macedonia TTX included representatives from the diplomatic,
military, civil society, academic, religious, youth, intelligence, and law enforcement communities
to bridge interagency, generational, regional, and local gaps. Participants were divided into two
task forces and asked to role play various government and civil society leadership positions
responding to a three-part hypothetical scenario, inspired by a real-world case involving a young
man being radicalized and mobilized to carry out an attack. The scenario explored regional security
challenges related to FTF phenomena, so that effective policy responses could be developed by
Macedonia and its regional allies to prevent, intervene against, and mitigate potential threats, while
identifying areas for further collaboration.
Concepts explored included broadened regional partnerships efforts, enhanced informationsharing,
strengthened defence and border security, and multi-ethnic collaboration and
understanding. The TTX proposed a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to develop
capacities at local, national, and international levels, and will feed into the development of
Macedonia’s new National CT/CVE Strategy and Action Plan. The exercise also kicked off the
first of a series of capacity building initiatives for the CT/CVE committee members. TTX
participants identified the following as critical current gaps that should be addressed:
lack of standardization across regional data sharing platforms, including data processing;
insufficient training and support for religious communities to counter online radicalization;
lack of trust and collaboration among government security services and religious leaders;
insufficient level of sharing of regional financial and terrorism-related intelligence;
lack of training in identifying early signs of violent radicalization, including among prison and
other professional staff;
insufficient means and measures to counter the volume of misinformation that exposes
polarizing narratives among vulnerable audiences; and
lack of community programs to encourage societal cohesion that prevents violent extremism.
– 5 –
TTX participants also emphasized the need to: 1) encourage and promote youth engagement; 2)
build capacity and train religious leaders to ensure they play a larger role in addressing counternarratives;
3) enhance communication between communities, civil society organisations, and the
government; 4) help prisoners de-radicalize and reintegrate when released; 5) assess risks relative
to prisoners convicted under terrorism laws throughout incarceration and reintegration periods; and
6) develop a regional terrorist watch-list that is readily shareable. Furthermore, it was recognized
that ethnic divisions need to be addressed to promote societal cohesion and challenge the threat of
violent radicalization in local communities. Community leaders also need access to resources to
raise awareness of the threat, and media and technology companies must play a larger role in
combating online violent radicalization and implement programs to mitigate potential impacts by
promoting societal resilience. Furthermore, regular monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of CT/CVE
policies and programs was stressed to ensure that lessons learned are governed by human rights
compliant standards. Detailed discussions of CT/CVE programming highlighted the need to
develop an M&E framework that addressed three key factors: resilience, inclusiveness, and
sustainability. Resilience is promoted by overcoming gaps, delivering results, and adapting to a
rapidly changing context; inclusiveness addresses human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the
rule of law while promoting tolerance, dignity, mutual respect, and diversity; and sustainability
requires sufficient resources, local ownership, and effective public-private partnerships.
More than 100 international and regional counterterrorism and security experts, as well as
government ministers, from over 30 countries, gathered by invitation of the PfPC-CTWG in
Skopje, Macedonia November 7-9, 2017. The TTX developed robust analytical and practical
insights into efforts that addressed national, regional and international security threats related to
CT/CVE. The conference disseminated international best practices in an effort to promote highquality
professional defense education and training. A detailed summary of the event’s
recommendations (Annex A) and a PfPC-CTWG Policy Paper “The Challenges of Foreign
Terrorist Fighters: A Regional Perspective” (Annex B) are attached. In July 2018, the CTWG
plans to hold a Central Asia-themed TTX at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security
Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, with a focus on regional FTF flows and challenges.
Kosovo has requested a CTWG TTX and the group plans to fulfill this training request at the
earliest available opportunity. Meanwhile, the CTWG will continue partner nation follow-up,
making itself available upon request from the Government of the Republic of Macedonia for
additional capacity-building initiatives, potentially holding another TTX in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, and continuing to monitor and evaluate Albania’s progress on recommended
CT/CVE initiatives following the Durres TTX (September 2016). Finally, the CTWG is currently
developing an operational, CT-focused TTX with NATO Partners as the primary audience, in
addition to the ongoing development of a NATO Combating Terrorism Reference Curriculum for
use by NATO Allies and Partners defense education institutions.
Points of Contact
Richard Prosen, CTWG Co-Chair, U.S. Department of State, ProsenRL@state.gov
Peter Forster, CTWG Co-Chair, Pennsylvania State University, email@example.com
Sajjan Gohel, CTWG Senior Advisor, Asia-Pacific Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyler Zurisko, CTWG Deputy Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of State, ZuriskoTJ@state.gov
John Kane, PfPC Operations Staff, email@example.com
– 6 –
Annex A: TTX Action-Oriented Response Recommendations
Create a regional CT/CVE strategy to facilitate regional partnerships and cooperation: With
a regional CT/CVE strategy, communication between regional partners is strengthened. Partners
will be able to work together to respond efficiently and swiftly to any crisis or attack if they also
develop contingency action plans.
Coordinate international community technical assistance conditions: The international
community should hold countries to the highest standards of safeguarding human rights and
fundamental freedoms. They should call for upholding the rule of law, and ensure aid and
assistance is provided to countries abiding by these conditions.
International community should partner with multi-ethnic civil society: To ensure that the
international community serves all members of society, it is important to take a multi-ethnic
approach in delivering services.
Empower civil society organizations: The local community is better equipped to address and
help prevent radicalization to violence. Communities experience first-hand vulnerable
individuals’ paths to radicalization. The government must ensure funds and support is in place to
better address potential problems. The government and civil society must foster and encourage
grassroots cooperation and delivery.
Better integrate political Islam studies: Violent extremism and ideology do not and must not
relate solely to any religion. It must be considered as multi-dimensional involving religious,
economic, social, political, and psychological mechanics and factors. Vetting and training of
individuals authorized to teach these courses is vital.
Invest in counselling: Counselling and support for vulnerable individuals and families are
essential to prevent and disrupt violent radicalization. It is imperative that funding increases, and
is accessible, to support and address the psychological impact that violent ideology and
radicalization can have on families and individuals. Moreover, it is imperative to empower and
train religious institutions and society groups in dealing with potential psychological impacts.
Macedonian Ministry of Education should draft and implement vulnerability awareness
policies: Educational reform must be considered to ensure there is no segregation in the
educational system. Segregation further perpetuates feelings of “otherness” and creates societal
schisms. Kindergarten ministerial oversight should be moved and included under the Ministry of
Develop communication policies between government and civil society/NGOs: By fostering
an avenue of communication between government and civil society, trusted relationships can be
built upon existing relations. An effective communication pathway between government and
communities within the country enables pre-emptive strategic communications. Leaders and
representatives of local communities should serve as points of contact for government officials.
– 7 –
Define CT/CVE roles within government: Execute and implement defined roles and
responsibilities in government to cover all societal, political, and economic aspects of CT/CVE.
Having defined roles will ensure a national CT/CVE strategy is successfully implemented.
Develop national-level CT/CVE Task Forces: The task forces would be formed with publicprivate
partnerships to provide key policy recommendations, so that all relevant stakeholders are
considered as important CT/CVE policies are developed.
Reform public service sector: The public service sector should create a merit-based structure
that allows for the accurate reflection of society. An experience- and qualifications-based public
service sector will lead to the development of a public service sector that represents society
Reform criminal code: Current sentencing guidelines for terrorism and related offenses need to
be reassessed, and criminal codes should be adjusted such that sentences match the severity of the
Revamp prison systems and physical infrastructure of prisons: Prisons continue to be a source
of radicalization to violence and have been found to be incapable of adjusting to the modern issues
they face, such as housing violent extremists and returned FTFs in an attentive and preventative
manner. Prisons need to develop the physical, procedural, and systematic infrastructure to support
holding terrorists as inmates and ensuring prison recruitment risks are minimized.
Develop tailored risk assessment in prisons: A framework must be established to ensure
effective human rights compliant monitoring and risk assessments are in place within the prison
system. A baseline standard should be established for managing safety risks.
Vet religious material in prisons: Reading material in prisons is not always regulated and can
contain violent extremist propaganda, which can lead to violent radicalization within the prison
system. Religious scholars and leaders should be consulted and advise on appropriate material.
Strengthen legislation on hate crimes: There should be strong legal repercussions when/if hate
crimes are committed. There must be no tolerance for hate crimes, and strong, human rights
compliant hate crimes legislation should be developed and implemented.
Create a terrorist finance office to track regular suspicious transactions in line with the law:
Strengthen and reform current regulations to disrupt international criminal networks and resources,
create new legal measures, and build law enforcement capabilities to disrupt criminals and counter
terrorists. Countries should have unique and clearly defined combating terrorist finance entities
that monitor/disrupt illicit domestic and international monetary activities, transactions, and flows.
– 8 –
Create CT/CVE messaging structure: A standardized messaging commission should be
introduced to develop a comprehensive and actionable plan. Collaboration between community,
government, and civil society will assist in reducing the appeal of violent extremist ideology.
Move from victimhood to agency: When developing programs, it is critical to begin to label
those who have been victims of violent extremism as agents who can create change. By thinking
of those impacted by violent extremism as change agents, there is potential for greater positive
impact on the larger society. Goal is to shift individuals from hiding in the shadows to coming
forward and contributing to the larger CVE mission.
Safe spaces for youth/young adults and religious leaders to communicate: If youth do not
engage with religious leaders in the religious space itself, there should be another space (e.g.,sports
clubs or after-school programs) where religious leaders can create strong, affirming relationships,
offering opportunities for positive role models to have a constructive impact and ongoing presence
in a young person’s life.
Cultural festivals/exchanges in schools: These activities foster understanding of the various
cultural and religious practices of a group by having a shared multicultural experience at a festival
or exchange at school. Rather than keeping children separate in segregated school systems, which
further alienate cultures or ethnic groups from each other, shared cultural learning experiences
promote diversity, mutual understanding and tolerance, and common identity.
Voluntary youth mentorship programs: Youth mentorship programs allow for conversations
between vetted experts and young adults who may have questions regarding their faith. By
encouraging youth with questions to challenge and discuss issues with a vetted expert, it
discourages the same youth from having these conversations with unknown and unreliable sources.
Home visits: There should be reform in the manner that parents and teachers communicate about
their children and students. Teachers and parents are such significant actors in a child/student’s
life that there needs to be a platform for communication that is open, consistent, and constructive.
Dropout monitoring: This program would help to ensure that students are given every
opportunity to stay in school and that there is also a system in place to assess at-risk youth. Youth
are a vulnerable population as they develop and discover their identities. There should be extra
effort to ensure youth are given healthy environments as they progress toward their futures.
Develop useful training programs for prison staff (e.g., correction officers, chaplains, and
psychologists): Enhance awareness of signs of in-prison violent radicalization and recruitment.
Youth and law enforcement exchanges: Programs like these help to build and foster trust among
youth and law enforcement by forming an understanding of one another’s perspective and work.
Exchanges give an insider’s view on what it is like to be a law enforcement official and why certain
measures are taken, while youth gain a platform to communicate with law enforcement regarding
how certain actions taken may impact their lives or perceptions (whether positive or negative) of
law enforcement within their communities.
– 9 –
Develop community outreach programs: This givesindividuals the opportunity to find common
activities (e.g., cooking, sports, art, religious festivals, etc.) within their community. Such
programs help increase the role of inter-ethnic commissions that encourage cultural immersion
and tolerance within societies.
Chaplaincy training for religious leaders: Offering training would allow for an increased
number of vetted religious leaders to have an impact on individuals who have been radicalized or
mobilized to violence or who may be on the path to violent extremism. This training would help
religious leaders work with individuals within the prison system and beyond.
Community policing: This program is designed to build trust, promote a zero-tolerance policy
for human rights abuses, decrease corruption throughout the police service, and gain senior level
buy-in to the community policing approach. Community policing programs provide specialized
training for front-line staff to engage with psychologically fragile people, and in the detection of
potential problems that support early and effective intervention.
Encourage international cooperation on standardized data sharing programs: Sharing
research and data has huge benefits to national, regional, and international security. Standardized
programs must be built so that data can be shared quickly and securely. Communication between
intelligence and other governmental agencies is essential to ensure real-time information is shared.
Develop a consolidated regional watch-list: Field and desk based research should feed into a
regional watch-list that is easily shareable. The watch-list serves as a vital information tool for
partners that may be used to foil or prevent potential terrorist attacks.
Ethics watchdog (commission) for government officials: Focusing on key positions, such as
judges, prosecutors, and elected officials, an ethics commission should be established to have an
internal mechanism for promoting an environment free of corruption within government.
Develop online diversion programs: Diversion programs make it difficult to access violent
extremist content online. The diversions should point to counter-narrative messaging and websites
that expose and highlight truths regarding violent extremism. Technology companies should be
consulted to address and prevent violent extremist material being hosted on their websites.
Conduct inclusive counter-radicalization programs in prisons: Programs must include
training and developing imams and counsellors’ access to prisoners. This will ensure that
vulnerable inmates are receiving the support required to help guide their rehabilitation.
Re-entry and rehabilitation programs: Programs should include assessments and evaluations
of inmates. Families should be involved in the rehabilitation process as individuals prepare for reentry
into society. Providing security for society must be at the forefront of these discussions.
Streamline de-radicalization programs based on case studies and risk assessment: Deradicalization
programs must consult true cases that assist in identifying the risks and challenges
of the process. Close collaboration, consultation, and communication among local authorities, law
enforcement, communities, and statutory partners ensure that best practices are deployed.
– 10 –
Establish an appropriate CVE messaging framework: An effective strategy to counter terrorist
narratives requires a comprehensive messaging and outreach architecture. A framework worth
consideration would include strategic, operational, and tactical-level components. The strategic
level involves national/international bodies and includes websites, hotlines, public campaigns, and
positive messaging. The operational level involves national-level ministries, such as education, law
enforcement, justice, social services, etc., highlighting their contributionsto national CT/CVE goals
and objectives. The tactical level involves community-level leadership by promoting civic,
religious, cultural, sports, and business engagement, and would provide a website for key points of
contact of leaders working community-level CT/CVE issues.
Develop appropriate terminology: Appropriate terminology is critical to ensuring the right
message is formulated and spread to and within public spheres. One must not stigmatize
communities by words used in association with the word terrorist.
Train and encourage credible voices: Peers, imams, and community organisations must be
trained, funded, and able to produce credible narratives that denounce violent extremism.
Governments, the media, and civil society must ensure that these narratives are targeted, effective,
heard, and projected. Training needs to be conducted on a regular basis to ensure best practices
and current dialogue are addressed.
Leverage youth leadership: Youth must be encouraged to interact and engage in extra-curricular
organizations, sports, and cultural events. NGO’s and community organizations should consult
youth to create appealing and creative programs as a provision for safe self-expression. Programs
should be established that facilitate mentoring by positive, strong role models.
Public awareness campaigns: Create campaigns that educate the public on CT/CVE issues to
empower communities to take action if they see someone radicalizing or mobilizing to violent
extremism. The government must ensure that civil society organizations are better positioned to
activate public campaigns.
Develop a Crisis Communication System: A communication system that is activated in a crisis
works to bring communities together, so that information is shared efficiently and effectively.
Create a hotline for bystanders: A hotline would support individuals coming forward and
reporting possible warning signs of violent radicalization. Many times, family members or friends
find it difficult to report loved ones to law enforcement due to fear of legal consequences. This
resource would encourage individuals to report suspicious or concerning behaviour to authorities
in a safe space.
Demystify the “hero”: The government must lead discussions, supported and published by the
media, on exposing the realities of FTFs. Travelling overseas to wage jihad must not be seen as
romantic or enticing and the reality and vices of war must be exposed.
– 11 –
Utilize vetted former FTFs: To produce sound counter-narratives and expose the truths of violent
extremism, former FTFs should be utilized to de-radicalize vulnerable individuals by using their
experiences as a tool for prevention.
Engage inter-religious involvement: Religious institutions would bridge potential gaps and have
a constructive role in CT/CVE policy and programmatic development to help achieve a holistic
Improve ethnic media outreach: The government should work to recognize media no matter
what background or perspective they may represent, furthering inclusivity rather than favoritism.
Professional journalism training: Journalists must be trained to address sensitive issues in a
manner which does not sensationalize an event. Journalists should uphold the highest standards
of professional reporting so the public receives fact-based narratives.
Introduce web-based interfaith counselling services: This counselling would offer a service for
those who are questioning the tenants of their faith, or who are being drawn to extremist literature.
Counter violent extremist propaganda online: The government must engage with internet
companies to disrupt online violent radicalization. Counter-narratives must be accessible to
Misinformation must be addressed by technology companies and the media: The level of
misinformation that exposes polarizing narratives among vulnerable audiences is rapidly growing.
Governments must have open dialogue with companies and the media to address the problem.
– 12 –
Annex B: PfPC-CTWG Policy Paper
The Challenges of Foreign Terrorist Fighters: A Regional Perspective
By Sajjan Gohel & Vlado Azinovic
Overall, from the end of 2012 until the beginning of 2016 it is estimated that up to 1,000 individuals
from the Western Balkan countries have travelled to and stayed in Syria and Iraq, some with their
families. Some have joined Daesh whereas others aligned themselves with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.
These individuals come from Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, and Macedonia. Since
Daesh’s physical land mass has contracted, some of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) from
the Western Balkans have returned home, whereas others have died in battle.
The departures of Western Balkan citizens to Syria and Iraq continued throughout 2015, but at a
slower pace. The trend almost completely stopped by early 2016. Except for a few cases of
extradition from detention in Turkey, individuals returned from Syria and Iraq ceased almost
completely in 2015. Both departures and returns were probably reduced as a result of intensified
regional and international efforts aimed at the criminal prosecution of aspiring fighters and
returnees from Syria and Iraq. This reduction is also a result of the ensuing conflict to dismantle
Daesh, which has made it more difficult to enter and leave Syria and Iraq whilst being caught in
the middle of a combat zone. Compared to contingents from other countries, the Western Balkans
detachment in Syria and Iraq is older (on average men were 31, while women were 30 years of
age on the date of their entry to Syria) and include more women (27 percent to 36 percent, among
Kosovars and Bosniaks, respectively), which is almost double the European average.
Consequently, the non-combatants (women and children) make up far more (up to 55 percent) of
the Western Balkans contingent than is true of other foreign contingents in Syria and Iraq.
IDEOLOGY, STRATEGY & REGIONAL IMPLICATIONS
There is concern that the FTFs that manage to return to the Western Balkans will retain a
propensity to commit violence. It is important to remember that Daesh is a death cult. Their
warped logic illustrates that if their so-called caliphate will be dismantled, they intend to take as
many people down with them as possible. Behind the violence that Daesh perpetrates is an
ideological message that directs recruitment, strategy, and tactics. Daesh’s ideology and plan of
action is based on their propaganda media tools, especially Rumiyah magazine, which is the
ancient Arabic name for Rome. Through harnessing the power of new media platforms, Daesh
has conducted a campaign where its leaders issue messages that have been designed to elicit
psychological reactions and communicate direct political messages to a global audience. The end
goal is to inflict significant political, economic and social consequences.
Through Daesh’s “Just Terror” tactics, Daesh outlines a strategy to vex and exhaust the target
nations by inflicting savagery and chaos to force the society to suffer from the absence of security.
“Just Terror” tactics are designed to be low tech, low cost but high intensity. The two most frequent
tactics used by Daesh followers have entailed turning a vehicle into a lethal weapon by mowing
people down and multiple knife attacks. Sometimes both tactics have been used in a single attack.
These tactics are very hard to anticipate and pre-empt. The attack in lower Manhattan, New York,
being the latest example. Sadly, these “Just Terror” tactics have become the “new normal” in
Western Europe and North America.
– 13 –
Until recently, Daesh appears to have designated the Western Balkans as a “non-priority” region.
Presumably, the territory is viewed as suitable for the rest and recuperation or recruitment of new
fighters and their transfer to or from Western Europe, as well as for the acquisition of weapons,
ammunition, and explosives. Therefore, Daesh does not seem to be encouraging “Just Terror”
attacks in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) of an indiscriminate nature and against civilians, but
rather limited strikes against selected targets (such as police and military forces as symbols of the
secular state, as well as foreign embassies or diplomats). Current security threats to the region
emanate mostly from returned foreign fighters and from radicalized or ideologically inspired
individuals who have tried and failed to travel to Syria and Iraq.
MOTIVATIONS & RECRUITMENT TRENDS
While a unique profile of the typical Western Balkans foreign fighter remains elusive, there are
commonalities that can be understood as patterns, primarily: (1) links to diasporas in the EU
(particularly in Austria and Germany), and (2) pre-departure criminality. Germany has
experienced a plethora of small attacks and plots throughout 2016. Other common features include
poor education, unemployment, dysfunctional or broken families, and mental health issues.
Once centered in traditional Salafi strongholds in remote areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania, radicalization and recruitment for departures to Syria and Iraq
has gradually, but rather visibly, moved into new and less formal communities and congregations
that have mushroomed over the last couple of years in and around major cities. The trend is
especially apparent in BiH where many suburban areas around Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, Travnik
and Bihać are now harboring Salafi settlements. A whole network of small businesses, community
centers, and charities are facilitating this relocation effort from a financial standpoint, with a
number of “pop-up” mosques providing spiritual guidance.
The individual cases of radicalization and recruitment are occurring by and large within closed
circles of family and friends, during social gatherings that typically take place in the privacy of
people’s homes. These gatherings amount to “illegal” or “parallel” mosques, or “para-jamaats,”
as the official Islamic Communities in the region have labelled them, and are now considered by
many as hotbeds of radicalization and recruitment in BiH, as well as in Albania, Kosovo, and
Macedonia. In addition to the establishment of a parallel religious community, these groups are
gradually setting up parallel structures in other vital areas, such as in education, social services and
healthcare, thus filling the gaps left, in many instances, by the failing state and by public services
plagued by incompetence, corruption, and nepotism.
The radicalization process typically begins through an initiation with a “human touch,” meaning a
personal interaction with a figure of authority. It is then followed by peer-to-peer interaction, often
in congregation with like-minded individuals, where a very specific worldview is reinforced
through group dynamics. The role of social media and the internet in individual cases of
radicalization in the Western Balkans appears to be only tertiary in importance, serving as a force
– 14 –
Daesh’s greatest strength was its illusion of power, which, in being an illusion, also has now
served as its most vulnerable weakness especially as it continues to lose swathes of territory
by Kurdish and Iraqi forces. The terrorist group’s land mass has been steadily shrinking and
retracting. Daesh has also been hit by strained revenue, their fighters fleeing and infighting,
whilst a US-led coalition continues bombing their strategic positions.
However, in response to suffering a series of setbacks and seeing large swathes of their territory
coming under threat, Daesh will likely become more desperate and increase their levels of
brutality by attempting to plot more attacks in the West, which would be designed to show
their followers that their power is firmly intact as well as to promote fear. This was sadly
witnessed with the 2017 Ramadan attacks across the West and Islamic World.
As a concurrent rung to the U.S.-led coalition’s air strikes campaign against Daesh, there is a
need to formulate a plan to puncture and deflate ISIS’ “media halo” by identifying the ample
holes within its populist appeal. Understanding the agenda of Daesh’s propaganda for
recruitment and radicalization is essential to develop a successful counter-narrative.
Clever spin is not needed to portray Daesh as un-Islamic and expose its half-truths.
Articulating the truth is powerful enough. Yet the problem is that there are no sustained efforts
to show the truth of how the Daesh death cult is un-Islamic. It is an often-overlooked fact that
the primary victims of Daesh’s onslaught have been ordinary Iraqi and Syrian civilians. Many
potential Daesh followers are naïve that the group’s “savagery and chaos” does not make them
martyrs but instead murderers of innocent Muslims.
Whether there are attacks in the West or the Western Balkans, Daesh is not principally driven
by an adherence to theology. Rather, it is motivated by its hunger for total political power, by
which it flexes religion as both a tool of attraction for recruits and as a factor of legitimization
to divinely sanction its abhorrent acts of mass murder and mutilation.
Moderation, or middle path Islam, has for centuries been the cornerstone of the belief system,
identity, and way of life of Muslims in the Western Balkans. This tradition and secular states
that enable and safeguard it could also be further undermined and targeted by ISIS-inspired
groups and individuals.
Dr. Sajjan Gohel is the Senior Advisor to the multilateral Partnership for Peace Consortium’s
Combating Terrorism Working Group, International Security Director at the Asia-Pacific
Foundation, and a Visiting Teacher in the International History Department at the London School
Dr. Vlado Azinovic is an Associate Professor in the Department of Peace and Security Studies,
the School of Political Science, at the University of Sarajevo. He received his PhD in Political
Science from the American University of London (UK) and his M.A. in International Relations
from Norwich University (USA)