Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens (Update to 7120 Report)
Terrorist Safe Havens (Update to 7120 Report)
Terrorist safe havens described in this report include ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed physical areas where terrorists are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, transit, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both.
As defined by section 2656f(d) of Title 22 of the U.S. Code, the term “terrorist sanctuary” or “sanctuary” excludes the territory of a country the government of which is subject to a determination under section 2405(j)(1)(A) of the Appendix to Title 50; section 2371(a) of Title 22; or section 2780(d) of Title 22– the state sponsors of terrorism. Accordingly, information regarding Iran, Sudan, and Syria can be found in Chapter 3, State Sponsors of Terrorism.
TERRORIST SAFE HAVENS
Somalia. In 2015, terrorists used many primarily rural sections of south-central Somalia as safe havens. Terrorists continued to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate with relative ease in these areas due to inadequate security, justice, and governance capacity at all levels.
Al-Shabaab’s capacity to rebound from counterterrorism operations is due in large part to its ability to maintain control of large swaths of rural areas and routes in parts of Somalia. In 2015, al-Shabaab lost a number of safe havens in south-central Somalia, many of which provided access to funds and other resources the group extorted from local communities. Despite the success of coordinated African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) operations that drove al-Shabaab from former strongholds in Baardheere and Dinsoor, the terrorist organization managed to establish new safe havens from where it planned and launched attacks against government officials, AMISOM bases, and soft targets in Kenya and other parts of the region. The Federal Government of Somalia and its regional administrations lacked the capacity and resources to fill security voids left in the wake of AMISOM’s operations with civilian law enforcement. These gaps allowed al-Shabaab to retain the freedom of movement necessary to establish new safe havens and re-infiltrate areas that AMISOM cleared but could not hold.
As seen in previous years, al-Shabaab used smaller towns in the Jubba River Valley such as Jilib and Saakow as bases for its operations. These areas allowed the group’s operatives to continue exploiting the porous border regions between Kenya and Somalia and launch deadly cross-border attacks. Kenya suffered one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history when in April, al-Shabaab operatives assaulted the Garissa University College using light arms and suicide vests and killed more than 145 Kenyans, most of whom were students. Al-Shabaab also used villages along major coastal routes in southern Somalia, namely Kunyo Barow and Tortoroow, to facilitate access to areas just outside of major population centers in Mogadishu and Kismaayo. These and other routes throughout southern Somalia serve as lifelines for al-Shabaab as low-level fighters established illegal checkpoints to collect taxes and tolls from locals. Although the group continued to generate funds from the illicit trade of charcoal and other commodities, al-Shabaab leveraged tax collection to compensate for declining revenues after losing access to the port in Baraawe in 2014.
The Federal Government of Somalia remained committed to regional counterterrorism efforts that aim to eliminate al-Shabaab’s access to safe haven in Somalia. Though progress on this front was uneven in 2015, these efforts provided the Somali government with enough space and time to focus on the federalism process and advance its political objectives.
According to independent sources and NGOs engaged in demining activities on the ground, there was little cause for concern for the presence of WMD in Somalia.
The Trans-Sahara. There are ungoverned, under-governed, and ill-governed areas of Mali that terrorist groups have used to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in relative security, despite Malian authorities willingness and responsiveness as counterterrorism partners, a UN peacekeeping mission, and French forces in the region. The Malian government has reestablished its political presence in the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, with some local government officials returning to their posts in 2015. The military, in conjunction with the French and UN forces, worked to eliminate terrorist safe havens in Mali.
The Malian government does not support or facilitate the flow of foreign terrorist fighters through its territory, but the lack of government control across large portions of its territory and porous borders makes preventing the flow very difficult.
The Malian government does not support or facilitate the proliferation or trafficking of WMD in and through its territory.
The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral. The number of islands in the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu Archipelago make it a difficult region to secure. Cooperation by all states bordering this region remained strong with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Although Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have improved efforts to control their shared maritime boundaries – including through U.S.-funded efforts to enhance domain awareness in the waters south and southwest of Mindanao – the expanse remained difficult to control. Surveillance improved but remained partial at best, and traditional smuggling and piracy groups have provided an effective cover for terrorist activities, including the movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. Kidnappings for ransom remained an ongoing threat.
Southeast Asia is vulnerable to exploitation by illicit traffickers and proliferators given the high volume of global trade transiting the region as well as the existence of smuggling and proliferation networks. Weak strategic trade controls, legal and regulatory frameworks, inadequate maritime law enforcement and security capabilities, and emerging and re-emerging infectious disease and burgeoning bioscience capacity, make Southeast Asia an area of concern for WMD proliferation and transit. Other than Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, strategic trade control laws that include controls over dual-use and end-use or “catch-all” controls are lacking in Southeast Asia. Assisting these countries to develop strong laws that meet international standards and effective targeting and risk management systems are major goals of the Export Control and Related Border Security program over the next few years.
The Southern Philippines. The geographical composition of the Philippines, spread out over 7,100 islands, makes it difficult for the central government to maintain a presence in all areas. Counterterrorism operations, however, have been successful at isolating the geographic influence and constraining the activities of transnational terrorist groups. Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other militant groups were present in areas on Mindanao, and especially across the islands of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. The New People’s Army (NPA) maintained a presence across the Philippines, particularly in rural and mountainous areas. Continued pressure from Philippine security forces made it difficult, however, for terrorists to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate outside their base locations.
The Philippines and the United States have strong counterterrorism cooperation. In 2015, the United States continued to work with the Government of the Philippines to monitor and investigate groups engaged in or supporting terrorist activities in the Philippines. The Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, under Operation Enduring Freedom, was concluded in June 2015 after more than a decade. The government launched numerous operations, particularly in the Southern Philippines, against organizations like the ASG, JI, BIFF, and NPA, and prosecuted terrorist suspects and organizations. In 2015, the Philippines also continued coordinating with U.S. law enforcement authorities, especially regarding wanted U.S. fugitives and suspected terrorists.
In November, the Philippines passed the Strategic Trade Management Act (STMA), which allows it to control the import and export of dual-use items. At year’s end, the Philippines was working to implement the provisions of the STMA, including setting up a licensing office within the Department of Trade and Industry that will issue licenses required to import and export controlled dual-use commodities and technology. Early implementation progress has been slow, however, due to a number of factors, including a lack of funding, and risks missing the deadlines set by the STMA.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Egypt. Portions of Egypt’s Sinai region were a safe haven for terrorist organizations in 2015. The Government of Egypt views terrorism as one of the country’s greatest threats and has dedicated significant military resources to combat indigenous and transnational terrorist groups. The Egyptian government continued its extensive security campaign focused on Northern Sinai against ISIL Sinai Province (ISIL-SP), launching Operation Right of the Martyr in September. The Northern Sinai was closed off to tourists, journalists, U.S. government officials, and NGOs in 2015.
ISIL-SP has claimed responsibility for increasingly frequent and sophisticated terrorist attacks against Egyptian forces, such as the simultaneous attack on multiple police and security installations in Sinai’s Sheikh Zuewid on July 1; and high profile targets, for example downing a Metrojet airliner, killing all 200 passengers and seven crew members on October 31.
Through its Export Control and Related Border Security Program, the United States is working with the Government of Egypt to enhance Egypt’s border security capabilities through the provision of land, air, and maritime border enforcement and targeting and risk management training for Egyptian Customs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Transportation, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials. In addition, since 2009, the Department of State’s Nonproliferation & Disarmament Fund has assisted Egypt with the provision of passenger and cargo vehicle x-ray detection equipment with the capability to inspect vehicular and truck traffic at fixed transportation checkpoints for WMD-related materials, conventional weapons, and other illicit items.
Iraq. Portions of Iraq remained under the control of ISIL during 2015, including the city of Mosul. However, after ISIL took control of large swaths of Iraqi territory in 2014, the Government of Iraq made steady, significant progress in retaking terrain from ISIL throughout 2015. Supported by the 66-member Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, the Government of Iraq retook more than 40 percent of Iraqi territory once controlled by ISIL by the end of 2015, including several key cities. In April, an Iraqi-led military effort retook the city of Tikrit, and by the end of the year 80 percent of internally displaced persons had returned to the city. In November, Peshmerga forces retook the town of Sinjar, a city that came to the world’s attention in the summer of 2014 when ISIL committed atrocities against the Yezidi community.
At the end of 2015, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), accompanied by local Sunni fighters and police, liberated large parts of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province and a strategically important hub.
ISIL used the territory under its control in 2015 to produce sulfur mustard and IEDs filled with chlorine. The United States has been proactively working with our allies to dismantle this chemical weapons capability, as well as deny ISIL access to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) materials and expertise through interdictions and strengthening the ability of regional governments to detect, disrupt, and respond effectively to suspected CBRN activity.
Due to security conditions in Iraq, the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program has had difficulty implementing outreach activities. EXBS priorities previously included working with the Government of Iraq to develop and implement regulations and procedures related to The Act of the Iraqi National Monitoring Authority on WMD Non-Proliferation No. 48 of 2012 (INMA Act), adopt and implement a control list, and to enhance Iraq’s border security capabilities related to the inspection and detection of WMD-related goods and technologies. However, these activities are largely on pause. Instead, the EXBS program is assessing equipment and training needs for security forces in the newly liberated regions, as they seek to consolidate gains and reclaim territory from ISIL.
The United States and Iraq strengthened their bilateral partnership to counter nuclear terrorism in September 2014 by concluding the “Joint Action Plan between the Government of the Republic of Iraq and the Government of the United States of America on Combating Nuclear and Radioactive Materials Smuggling.” The arrangement expresses the intention of the two governments to work together to enhance Iraq’s capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear smuggling incidents, and ultimately prevent terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear and radiological materials.
Lebanon. The Lebanese government does not control all regions of the country or its borders with Syria and Israel. Hizballah controls access to parts of the country, including restricting Lebanon’s security services, which allows Hizballah to operate with relative impunity. The government took no action in 2015 to disarm Hizballah, to eliminate its safe havens within Lebanese territory, or to prevent the flow of Hizballah members to Syria or Iraq. Ungoverned areas along the un-demarcated Lebanese-Syrian border also served as safe havens for Nusrah Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and other Sunni terrorist groups in 2015, which operate in mountainous, mostly uninhabited zones where the government has limited reach. The Government of Lebanon has made attempts to eradicate these safe havens, however, and is engaged in sustained military operations to rid Lebanon of these Sunni terrorist groups. Palestinian refugee camps were also used as safe havens by Palestinian and other armed groups to house weapons, shelter wanted criminals, and plan terrorist attacks.
The United States works closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces to combat terrorist threats along the Syrian border by providing counterterrorism training, military equipment, and weaponry.
Lebanon is not a source country for WMD components, but its porous borders make the country vulnerable for use as a transit and transshipment hub for proliferation-sensitive transfers, particularly with the conflict in Syria. The LAF Engineer Regiment partners with U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent proliferation and trafficking of WMD along the Syrian border.
The Export Control and Related Border Security program (EXBS) is providing robust commodity identification training for items that can be used in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons, in order to keep these items from transiting through Lebanon. EXBS was also launching a frontier border security interdiction training program, in partnership with the Department of Defense, to strengthen LAF and ISF border security and interdiction capabilities.
Libya. Libya’s porous borders, fragmented security forces, and vast ungoverned territory have made it a permissive environment for terrorist groups such as Ansar al-Shari’a Benghazi, Ansar al-Shari’a Darnah, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Due to the inability of the Libyan government to effectively administer its territory, terrorist organizations have found safe havens primarily in Sirte, Darnah, Benghazi, and Sabratha, although violent extremist groups operate with impunity throughout Libya. While the Libyan National Army launched a military operation in 2014 with the stated goal of removing violent extremists from Benghazi, it has not succeeded in fully liberating Benghazi from the control of terrorist groups. The government failed to eliminate terrorist safe havens in Libya in 2015, and has been unable to prevent flows of foreign terrorist fighters in and out of its territory. Terrorist training camps and facilitation networks exist throughout Libya; local tribes and minority groups frequently serve as facilitators, although this appears largely due to economic rather than ideological motivations. Libya serves as a major source and transit country for foreign fighters en route to Syria and Iraq. There are indications that foreign terrorist fighters are beginning to return to Libya or choosing to stay in Libya to fight there, increasing concerns that Libya has become a battlefield for violent extremist groups such as ISIL.
In 2013, the United States signed an agreement with the Libyan government to cooperate on destroying Libya’s stockpile of legacy chemical weapons in accordance with its obligations as an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) member state. Libya successfully completed operations for the disposal of its remaining mustard gas filled in artillery projectile and aerial bombs in January 2014. Libya also completed the disposal of its remaining bulk mustard in 2013. However, Libya retains a stockpile of natural uranium ore concentrate (yellowcake), stored in a former military facility near Sebha in Libya’s south. This material represents a limited risk of trafficking and proliferation due to the bulk and weight of the storage containers and the need for extensive additional processing before the material would be suitable for weapons purposes.
Yemen. Throughout 2015, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIL-Yemen exploited the political and security vacuum to strengthen their foothold and expand recruiting inside the country. The Yemeni government has operated in exile for much of 2015, greatly diminishing its ability to focus on counterterrorism efforts. AQAP and ISIL-Yemen have portrayed the unrest in Yemen as part of a broader Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict. By exploiting this sectarian divide, these groups have increased their support base in Sunni communities and enabled ISIL-Yemen, in particular, to gain a foothold in the country.
AQAP benefitted during 2015 from the conflict in Yemen by expanding its presence in the southern and eastern governorates. Establishing deeper tribal and familial relationships in these areas allowed AQAP to expand the territory it controlled during 2015 to Abyan, Taiz, and its largest safe haven in the port city of Mukalla. Access to the port enabled AQAP to increase its finances. AQ also maintains a presence in Aden.
While AQAP remains the predominant Sunni Islamist terrorist group in the country, there are seven known wilayat (province) pro-ISIL groups operating in 10 of Yemen’s provinces, including Sa’ada, Sana’a, al-Jawf, al-Bayda, Taiz, Ibb, Lahij, Aden, Shahwah, and Hadramawt. ISIL-Yemen’s “wilayat” are beginning to exert more influence by competing to obtain support from Sunni tribes and militias in the same areas. While the exact composition of the group is still unknown, its numbers are considerably smaller than AQAP’s despite it having likely drawn members from some of the same disillusioned Yemeni AQAP members who previously supported ISIL in Iraq and Syria. While ISIL-Yemen has demonstrated a violent operational pace, it has yet to occupy significant territory.
Yemen’s political instability continued to hinder efforts to enact or enforce strategic trade controls, leaving the country vulnerable as a transit point for WMD-related materials.
Afghanistan. The border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is an under-governed area that terrorists exploit to conduct attacks in both countries. Terrorist networks active in Afghanistan, such as al-Qa’ida (AQ), the Haqqani Network, and others, operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIL Khorasan (ISIL-K) is largely based in Afghanistan, but its support network also reaches into Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The Afghan government has struggled to assert control over this remote terrain where the population is largely detached from national institutions. Afghanistan cooperates with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Since taking office in September 2014, President Ghani has pursued cross-border security cooperation with the Pakistani government, including the prospect of joint operations to reduce safe havens on both sides of the border.
The potential for WMD trafficking and proliferation remains a concern in Afghanistan because of its porous borders and the presence of terrorist groups. The United States and Afghanistan continued to work to finalize a bilateral framework to facilitate closer cooperation to counter nuclear terrorism and enhance Afghanistan’s capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear smuggling incidents. The Afghanistan and U.S. governments also continued to work to implement comprehensive strategic trade controls and strengthen Afghanistan’s border security system.
The Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program contributes to strengthening Afghanistan’s border enforcement capacity by providing border interdiction trainings to Afghan Customs Department and the Afghan Border Police. EXBS also sponsors regional cross-border collaboration through trainings with its Central Asian neighbors through the OSCE and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – World Customs Organization’s Container Control Program. To increase the Government of Afghanistan’s strategic trade control awareness and capacity, EXBS sponsored training for an Afghan delegation, which included representatives from the Afghan Atomic Energy High Commission, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the University of Georgia, Center for International Trade Security.
The United States continued to assist the Afghan government in building capacity to secure potentially dangerous biological materials and infrastructure housed at Afghan facilities, promote surveillance capabilities to detect and identify possibly catastrophic biological events, and engage Afghan scientists and engineers that have WMD or WMD-applicable expertise.
Pakistan. In 2015, an assortment of terrorist groups, to include the Haqqani Network, attempted to hide in or operate from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, a mountainous region along Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan. The National Action Plan (NAP) calls upon the government to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” although claims about the NAP’s uneven implementation was a frequent feature in Pakistani media. As in 2014, Pakistan launched military operations to eradicate terrorist safe havens, although their impact on all terrorist groups was uneven. The government administered an Exit Control List (ECL) intended to prevent terrorists and criminal actors from traveling abroad. In August, September, and November, the government announced its intention to remove thousands of people from the ECL on grounds of their wrongful or unsubstantiated addition. Some UN-designated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) affiliates Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, were able to fundraise and hold rallies in Pakistan. LeT/JuD leader, Hafiz Saeed, who is also a UN-designated terrorist, was able to make frequent public appearances in support of the organization’s objectives, which were covered by the Pakistani media, for much of the year. In September, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Agency prohibited media coverage of LeT and affiliated groups, although the groups continued to recruit and operate around the country. Despite JuD and FiF’s proscription under UN sanctions regimes, the Pakistani government affirmed in December that neither organization was banned in Pakistan.
To combat the trafficking of items that could contribute to WMDs and their delivery systems, Pakistan continued to work towards harmonizing its national control list with items controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, and Australia Group, as well as taking positive moves such as adding catch-all provisions to its export licensing procedures. Along with list development, Pakistan developed industry internal compliance guidelines and an industry outreach program for strategic technology sectors, which regularly shares information with these industries. The U.S. government seeks to partner more closely with Pakistan on a further enhanced outreach campaign for industry to fully understand and implement Pakistan’s export control requirements, as well as to begin a dialogue on controls on conventional weapons and related dual-use technologies. In addition to industry outreach, Pakistan also participated, developed, and delivered a series of technical trainings to responsible government licensing and enforcement officials for the proper identification of dual-use commodities that could be used to create WMDs and/or their delivery systems. Overall, Pakistan was a committed partner that undertook great efforts to build its export control capabilities.
Pakistan is a constructive and active participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and has worked to strengthen its strategic trade controls, including updating its national export control list. The Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program increased the Government of Pakistan’s enforcement capacity by sponsoring training for Pakistani Customs and Strategic Export Control Division officials on how to properly identify strategic commodities of concern. These commodity identification and advanced interdiction trainings were implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy. EXBS also sponsored regional collaboration through nonproliferation fellowships and cross-border coordination with Afghanistan through the UN Office and Drugs and Crime – World Customs Organization’s Container Control Program (CCP). Under the CCP, training was provided to enhance the targeting of skills of port control unit officials at the Torkham and Jalalabad border-crossings.
Colombia. Rough terrain and dense forest cover, coupled with low population densities and historically weak government presence have defined Colombia’s borders with Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil, and historically have allowed for safe havens for terrorist groups, particularly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The Government of Colombia has not only maintained pressure on these groups to deny safe haven, disrupt terrorism financing efforts, and degrade terrorist groups’ logistics infrastructure, but it also has continued to conduct operations to combat their ability to conduct terrorist attacks. Coupled with ongoing peace negotiations with the FARC and two FARC unilateral cease fire declarations, Colombia experienced an overall decline in the total number of terrorist incidents in 2015. Despite these successes, illegal armed groups, primarily known as “Bandas Criminales,” continued to use the porous border, remote mountain areas, and jungles to maneuver, train, cultivate and transport narcotics, operate illegal mines, “tax” the local populace, and engage in other illegal activities.
Improved relations with neighboring Ecuador have led to some increased cooperation on law enforcement issues. Colombia also continued to cooperate and share information with the Panamanian National Border Service. Additionally, Brazil began implementing its Integrated Border Monitoring System in an effort to monitor its entire border, and along with continued cooperation with the Government of Colombia, addressed potential safe haven areas along their shared borders.
Venezuela. Venezuela’s porous border with Colombia has made the country attractive to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, who use it to transit in and out of its territory. There were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups.
COUNTERING TERRORISM ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT
In 2015, the Department of State designated one new Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and amended two existing designations. In addition, the Department designated 37 organizations and individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, and amended two existing designations. The Department also revoked the designations of two organizations and two individuals.
The Department of the Treasury also designated organizations and individuals under E.O. 13224. For a full list of all U.S. designations, see the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control website at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Pages/default.aspx.
2015 Foreign Terrorism Organization/Executive Order 13224 group designations:
- On September 3, the Department of State revoked the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Revolutionary Organization 17 November.
- On September 29, the Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 designation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to include the alias Islamic State, and amended the FTO designation on September 30. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on ISIL).
- On September 29, the Department of State designated Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN) under E.O. 13224 and as an FTO. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on JRTN.)
- On September 29, the Department of State amended the FTO and E.O. 13224 designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to include the alias ISIL Sinai Province as its primary name. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on ISIL-Sinai Province.)
- On December 9, the Department of State revoked the FTO designation of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
2015 Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 designations:
- On January 14, the Department of State designated ‘Abdallah al-Ashqar. Al-Ashqar is a leadership figure and member of the military committee of the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC). Al-Ashqar is known to have purchased missiles and other materials to attack Israel.
- On February 9, the Department of State designated German national Denis Cuspert. Cuspert was a recruiter and propagandist for ISIL. He was allegedly killed in an airstrike near al-Raqqah, Syria, in October 2015.
- On March 25, the Department of State designated Aliaskhab Kebekov, who was the leader of Russia-based terrorist group Caucasus Emirate, until his death during a battle with Russian Special Forces in April 2015.
- On April 14, the Department of State designated Syrian-based Tunisian national Ali Ouni Harzi. Harzi was also added to the UN 1267/1989 al-Qaida Sanctions List. Harzi joined Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) in 2011. He was a high-profile member known for recruiting volunteers, smuggling weapons and explosives into Tunisia, and facilitating the travel of AAS-T fighters to Syria. Harzi was killed in an air strike in June 2015.
- On April 21, the Department of State designated Ahmed Diriye and Mahad Karate. Diriye became the leader of al-Shabaab in September 2014, following the death of former leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. Prior to assuming leadership of the group, Diriye served as Godane’s assistant, the deputy governor of Lower Juba region and al-Shabaab’s governor of the Bay and Bakool regions. By 2013 he had become a senior advisor to Godane and oversaw the group’s domestic activities. Karate plays an important role in al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing, the Amniyat.
- On April 21, the Department of State designated Christodoulos Xiros and Nikolaos Maziotis. Xiros is a chief assassin of 17 November. He was most recently arrested in January 2015 by Greek police while planning to carry out armed assaults in Greece, possibly with the intent to free prisoners. It is believed that at the time of his arrest, Xiros was working with members of the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei. Maziotis is the leader of the Greece-based Revolutionary Struggle. Under his leadership, the group claimed responsibility for the April 2014 bombing in central Athens outside the offices of the Greek central bank.
- On April 28, the Department of State designated Meliad Farah, Hassan el-Hajj Hassan, and Hussein Atris. Farah and Hassan have been publicly identified as key suspects in a July 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, which targeted Israeli tourists and killed six people. The bombing has been attributed to Hizballah. Atris is a member of Hizballah’s overseas terrorism unit. In 2013, Atris was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by a Thai court for illegally possessing materials to manufacture explosives. He was released in September 2014 and is believed to reside in Lebanon.
- On August 25, the Department of State designated Abdul Aziz Haqqani. Aziz Haqqani is a senior member of the Haqqani Network (HQN) and brother to HQN leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. For several years, Aziz Haqqani has been involved in planning and carrying out IED attacks against Afghan government targets, and assumed responsibility for all major HQN attacks after the death of his brother, Badruddin Haqqani.
- On September 8, the Department of State designated Lebanese born Samir Kuntar. In April 1979, Kuntar participated in the attempted kidnapping of an Israeli family in Israel that resulted in the deaths of five Israelis, including two young children. Kuntar was convicted in an Israeli court for the murders; he was released from prison in 2008 as part of a prisoner exchange. Kuntar later emerged as one of the most visible spokesmen for Hizballah. With the assistance of Iran and Syria, Kuntar played an operational role in building Hizballah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights. He was killed on December 19, 2015 in Jaramana, Syria.
- On September 8, the Department of State designated Hamas operatives Muhammed Deif, Yahya Ibrahim Hassan Sinwar, and Rawhi Mushtaha. Sinwar and Mushtaha are known for their role in founding the Hamas military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade. Deif is a top commander of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade.
- On September 9, the Department of State designated Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, a senior leader of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. In an April 2013 video, al-Anabi called on violent extremists to initiate armed conflict against French interests worldwide, presumably in response to France’s intervention in Mali.
On September 29, the Department of State designated 10 individuals and five groups connected to foreign terrorist fighters in Algeria, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen:
- Rustam Aselderov is a former commander of the Caucasus Emirate, and the current leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Caucasus Province (ISIL-CP). Aselderov defected from Caucasus Emirate and swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in early December 2014. A spokesman for al-Baghdadi accepted this pledge of allegiance and appointed Aselderov as the “emir” of ISIL-CP.
- French citizen Peter Cherif is a foreign terrorist fighter and member of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In 2004, he was captured while fighting for al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) near Fallujah, Iraq. He was convicted in Baghdad in July 2006 for illegally crossing the border and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He escaped in March 2007 after an insurgent attack and prison break and traveled to Syria. He was later arrested in Syria, extradited, and served 18 months in jail in France. He was released pending trial and fled to Yemen. Cherif was sentenced to five years in prison, in absentia, for being a member of a terrorist organization.
- Tarkhan Ismailovich Gaziyev is a North Caucasian warlord, who has been involved in the Chechen insurgency since 2003. In 2007, Gaziyev became the Caucasus Emirate Commander of the Southwestern Front of the Province of Chechnya and carried out numerous attacks in this role. Gaziyev split from the group in 2010 and travelled to Turkey. He now leads a group in Syria, known as “Tarkhan Jamaat,” which is part of ISIL, and has participated in fighting in Latakia, Syria.
- French national Boubaker Hakim was once a member of Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia. Hakim claimed responsibility for the assassination of two Tunisian politicians in 2013. He is now a member of ISIL.
- Maxime Hauchard is a French national who traveled to Syria to join ISIL in August 2013. Hauchard was identified among the ISIL fighters appearing in the November 2014 execution video, which depicted the beheadings of several Syrian soldiers and showed the severed head of an American hostage.
- Shamil Izmaylov is a Russian militant currently fighting in Syria. Before traveling to Syria in 2012, Izmaylov trained in and later set up his own terrorist training center in Egypt. In mid-2013, Izmaylov established a Russian-speaking ISIL faction in Raqqa that has been fighting as a distinct unit. In addition to participating in combat in Syria, Izmaylov has been associated with the Caucus Emirates.
- British citizen Sally Jones traveled from the UK to Syria in 2013 to join ISIL and fight alongside her husband, deceased ISIL hacker Junaid Hussain. Jones and Hussain targeted American military personnel through the publication of a “hit list” online encouraging lone-offender attacks. Jones has used social media to recruit women to join ISIL. In August 2015, she offered guidance to individuals aspiring to conduct attacks in Britain on how to construct homemade bombs.
- Tajikistan citizen Gulmurod Khalimov – a former Tajikistan special operations colonel, police commander, and military expert – is a Syria-based ISIL member and recruiter. Khalimov appeared in a propaganda video confirming he fights for ISIL.
- French citizen Emilie Konig traveled to Syria in 2012 to join and fight for ISIL. While in Syria, Konig directed individuals in France to attack French government institutions. In a video posted on May 31, 2013, Konig was shown training with weapons in Syria.
- British citizen Nasser Muthana travelled to Syria from Cardiff, UK in November 2013 to fight for ISIL. In June 2014, Muthana was featured in an ISIL propaganda video in which he and two other English-speaking individuals attempt to persuade Muslims in the West to join the fight. In the video, Muthana admitted to participating in battles in Syria and expressed his plans to travel to Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan to continue the fight. Muthana has also used social media to threaten the British government about returning to the UK to test new skills he has gained in Syria.
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Caucasus Province (ISIL-CP) became ISIL’s newest regional group on June 23, 2015, when the spokesman for ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio recording accepting the allegiance of the fighters of four Caucasus regions – Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. On September 2, 2015, ISIL-CP claimed responsibility for an attack on a Russian military base in Magaramkent, southern Dagestan, which killed and wounded a number of Russian citizens. In December 2015, the group also claimed responsibility for a shooting near the citadel of Derbent in Dagestan, Russia that killed one and left 11 others injured.
- Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (JAK-A) is an ISIL-affiliated group operating in Algeria. The group emerged in September 2014 when top military commanders of AQIM’s central region broke away from AQIM and announced allegiance to ISIL. JAK-A became notorious following its September 2014 abduction and beheading of French national Herve Gourdel.
- Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN) aims to overthrow the Government of Iraq and implement a Ba’athist or similar regime. It first announced insurgency operations against Coalition Forces in Iraq in December 2006 in response to Saddam Hussein’s death. More recently, the group has played an important role in some of ISIL’s most significant military advances, including the seizure of Mosul.
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) was announced in an online video in January 2015. ISIL-K is led by former Tehrik e-Taliban Pakistan commander Hafiz Saeed Khan and consists of former Pakistani and Afghan Taliban commanders.
- The Mujahidin Indonesian Timur (MIT) is an ISIL-linked terrorist group operating in Indonesia. MIT members have ties to other Department of State designated FTOs, including Jemmah Anshorut Tauhid and Jemaah Islamiya. In July 2014, MIT’s leader, Abu Warda Santoso, pledged allegiance to ISIL. MIT has become increasingly bold in its attacks on security forces.
- The Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) to include the alias ISIL Sinai Province as its primary name. ABM has used ISIL Sinai Province as its primary name since pledging allegiance to ISIL in November 2014. The group has since continued attacking Egyptian targets. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on ISIL Sinai Province.
- The Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 designation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to include the alias Islamic State. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on ISIL.)
- On November 13, the Department of State designated Maghomed Maghomedzakirovich Abdurakhmanov. Abdurakhmanov is believed to have beheaded three individuals in Syria. He was arrested in July 2013, and in July 2015 was sentenced by a Turkish court to seven-and-a-half years in prison for being a member of a terrorist organization.
- On December 9, the Department of State designated Emrah Erdogan. Erdogan is a German-national known to have joined in combat, recruited, and fundraised as a member of al-Qa’ida and al-Shabaab. Erdogan was sentenced to seven years in prison in January 2014 in Germany for these activities and for phoning in false terrorist threats against the parliament in Berlin in November 2010.
In 2015, the United States continued to work through multilateral organizations to strengthen regional and international efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, including by developing and promoting global norms and building the capacities of states to implement them.
The Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). Since its launch in September 2011, the GCTF has mobilized more than US $300 million to support national and regional efforts to strengthen civilian institutions to counter terrorism and violent extremism. This includes support for the development and implementation of GCTF framework documents at both the regional and country levels. The GCTF is working with partners around the globe to change how states – particularly those emerging from authoritarian rule – respond to the challenges of terrorism and the violent extremist ideologies that underpin it. The GCTF, with its 30 founding members (29 countries and the EU), regularly convenes counterterrorism policymakers and practitioners, as well as experts from the UN and other multilateral and regional bodies, to identify urgent CT needs, devise solutions, and mobilize expertise and resources to address such needs and enhance global cooperation.
With its primary focus on countering violent extremism (CVE) and strengthening civilian criminal justice and other rule of law institutions that deal with terrorism, the GCTF aims to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ capacity for dealing with terrorist threats within their borders and regions.
In the past year, the GCTF launched two new initiatives:
- The International CT and CVE Clearinghouse Mechanism (ICCM): Operating as a project under the auspices of the GCTF, the ICCM will develop and manage an up-to-date database of recent and ongoing counterterrorism and CVE capacity-building assistance. The ICCM will assist pilot countries and donors to mobilize and coordinate donor resources to address identified needs, especially regarding key aspects of UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions related to counterterrorism and CVE. This initiative initially will focus on three pilot countries – Kenya, Nigeria, and Tunisia.
- The Initiative to Address the Lifecycle of Radicalization to Violence: This initiative is developing tools that can be applied across the full life cycle of radicalization: from the front end, where governments and communities are attempting to prevent susceptible individuals from being attracted to the ideologies promoted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other terrorist groups; to the back end, where governments and communities need to assess the risk posed by violent, radicalized individuals and determine their long-term disposition and possible rehabilitation and reintegration into society, either in or out of the criminal justice system. The purpose of the GCTF cross-working group initiative is to expand on existing GCTF good practices and develop additional tools needed to address the full life cycle of radicalization from prevention to intervention to rehabilitation and reintegration.
The GCTF has also inspired the establishment of three independent institutions that provide platforms for delivering sustainable training and resources in support of CVE and strengthening rule of law.
- Based in Abu Dhabi, Hedayah, the first international center of excellence on CVE, hosted a number of training and capacity-building courses focusing on community policing and community engagement, CVE and education, and CVE and communications. Hedayah developed Guidelines and Good Practices for Developing National CVE Strategies which is a document that offers guidance for national governments interested in developing or refining a national CVE strategy, or CVE components as part of a wider counterterrorism strategy or framework.
- The International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), based in Malta, was inaugurated in June 2014 as a center dedicated to providing police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, lawmakers, and other criminal justice actors with the training and tools required to address terrorism and related transnational criminal activity. During 2015, the IIJ trained more than 450 judges, prosecutors, investigators, parliamentarians, and other criminal justice professionals and experts from more than 30 countries. Some of the activities supported by the IIJ during the last year included programs directed at: dismantling terrorist facilitation networks; building informal and formal legal cooperation networks; combating kidnapping for ransom; fostering the rule of law while developing counterterrorism policies; supporting border security; bringing foreign terrorist fighters to justice; strengthening mutual legal assistance efforts; supporting senior judicial officials in developing criminal justice responses to terrorism; hosting the GCTF Criminal Justice-Rule of Law Working Group Plenary Meeting; and developing a parliamentarian program in the area of counterterrorism.
- In June 2014, the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) became fully operational in Geneva as a foundation under Swiss law, with its first Board meeting held in November of that same year. Pilot countries include Bangladesh, Mali, and Nigeria. In 2015, each of the pilot countries set up a “country support mechanism” which brings government, civil society, and the private sector together to develop needs assessments and oversee development of grant applications. An Independent Review Panel was established to review and make recommendations on grant applications. Grants will be focused on programs that strengthen resilience against violent extremism. In December 2015, the Governing Board approved Burma, Kenya, and Kosovo as additional beneficiary countries and reviewed the pilot countries’ draft national applications.
The UN is a close partner of, and participant in, the GCTF and its activities. The GCTF serves as a mechanism for furthering the implementation of the universally-agreed UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and, more broadly, to complement and reinforce existing multilateral counterterrorism efforts, starting with those of the UN. The GCTF also partners with a wide range of regional multilateral organizations, including the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the AU, and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The United Nations (UN). Sustained and strategic engagement at the UN on counterterrorism issues is a priority for the United States. Throughout 2015, the UN Security Council (UNSC) remained engaged with stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters by promoting implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014), a Chapter VII binding resolution that requires all states to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organization, transporting, or equipping” of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the financing of foreign terrorist fighter travel and activities.” Lithuania, Spain and the United States chaired ministerial meetings during their respective UNSC presidencies that focused specifically on measures to enhance border security; criminalize and prevent the travel of foreign terrorist fighters, counter violent extremism (CVE), and counter-ISIL financing. In 2015, the UNSC adopted several other counterterrorism-related resolutions, including: UNSCR 2199 to degrade ISIL, al-Nusrah Front, and other al-Qa’ida (AQ)-associated groups’ financial support networks, paying particular attention to halting oil smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, and the illicit trade of antiquities from Syria; UNSCR 2250 to emphasize the role of youth in countering terrorism and countering violent extremism leading to terrorism; and UNSCR 2253 to further disrupt AQ and ISIL’s sources of revenue. In addition, the United States engaged with a wide range of UN actors on counterterrorism, which included:
- The Counter-Terrorism Committee Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED). The United States supported CTED efforts to analyze capacity gaps of Member States to implement UNSCRs 1373, 1624, and 2178, and facilitate training and other technical assistance to UN member states. This included participating in the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) thematic debates on a range of issues including stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters; the role of women in countering violent extremism; and preventing terrorists from exploiting the Internet and social media to recruit terrorists and incite terrorist acts, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF). The United States supported CTITF efforts to create a capacity-building plan to assist Member States’ implementation of UNSCR 2178 and improve implementation of the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy, including by serving on the Advisory Board of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), which delivers training and technical assistance. In 2015, the United States funded a range of UNCCT and CTITF activities including: promoting effective use of advance passenger information to stem the flow of Foreign terrorist fighters; capacity building for Mali’s security and justice sectors; a training initiative to secure open borders; implementing good practices on addressing and preventing terrorist kidnapping for ransom; and supporting community engagement through human rights-led policing.
- The UNSC 1267/1989/2253 Committee. On December 17, 2015, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew chaired a special UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting with finance ministers on countering ISIL finance and all forms of terrorist financing to bolster international efforts to further disrupt ISIL’s sources of revenue and isolate it from the international financial system. At the finance ministers meeting, the UNSC unanimously adopted UNSCR 2253, which updated the UN sanctions on al-Qa’ida to recognize the increasing prominence of ISIL as a global threat by renaming the 1267/1989 al-Qaida Sanctions Regime and List to the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaida Sanctions Regime and List. The United States worked closely with the UN Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Team in 2015 by proposing listings and de-listings, providing amendments, engaging the Committee’s Ombudsperson in de-listings, and providing input to the Committee to enhance its procedures and implementation of sanctions measures. The United States also assisted the Monitoring Team with information for its research and reports. There are 215 individuals and 72 entities listed on the list. In 2015, 35 individuals and four entities were added to the list. The Committee also worked to ensure the integrity of the list by conducting regular reviews and by endeavoring to remove those individuals and entities that no longer met the criteria for listing. In 2015, 21 individuals were de-listed, of which eight individuals were de-listed following the submission of a petition through the Office of the Ombudsperson.
- The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC/TPB). The Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB), in conjunction with the UNODC’s Global Program against Money Laundering, continued to provide assistance to countries seeking to ratify and implement the universal legal instruments against terrorism. The United States provided funding to UNODC/TPB for a vast array of counterterrorism programming focused on strengthening the criminal justice system’s response to terrorism. In 2015, the United States provided funding for several new TPB programs aimed at strengthening the legal regime against terrorism within a rule of law framework in Morocco and improving the criminal justice response to foreign terrorist fighters in the Balkans and Central Asia.
- The UN Inter-Regional Crime Research Institute (UNICRI). The United States has provided financial support to a UNICRI-led global effort to strengthen the capacity of countries to implement the good practices contained in the GCTF’s Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders. In addition, in 2015, the United States provided funding to UNICRI to launch a pilot diversion program aimed at potential foreign terrorist fighters and others at risk of recruitment into violent extremism and terrorism. This pilot effort seeks to address the challenges presented by youths who have come to the attention of law enforcement as a result of having come under the influence of violent extremist ideologues or terrorist recruiters.
- The UNSC 1540 Committee. The Committee monitors and fosters implementation of the obligations and recommendations of UNSCR 1540, which establishes legally binding obligations on all UN Member States related to the establishment of and enforcement of appropriate and effective measures against the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials to non-state actors, including terrorists. The 1540 Committee’s program of work focuses on four main areas: monitoring and national implementation; assistance; cooperation with international organizations, including the UNSC committees established pursuant to UNSCRs 1267 and 1373; and transparency and media outreach. The Committee submitted its annual report on implementation to the UNSC in December 2015, which also described preparations for the 2nd Comprehensive Review of UNSCR 1540 in 2016. The Committee’s Group of Experts also participates as part of the CTITF, and cooperates with INTERPOL, UNODC, FATF, and other bodies involved in counterterrorism efforts.
- The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Program (USAP) continued to contribute directly to U.S. security by ensuring that each of ICAO’s 191 member states conducts regular security audits that comply with aviation security standards. In 2015, ICAO continued to transition to the USAP-Continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA) to enable greater focus of resources on states requiring more assistance in meeting the Standards. ICAO has begun to pilot the process and certify auditors accordingly. USAP conducted assistance missions to help states correct security problems revealed by surveys and audits. ICAO, in partnership with the UN’s CTED, has assisted member states in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on counterterrorism, including border control. The two entities have conducted assessment visits and organized workshops focused on countering terrorism and the use of fraudulent travel documents, and promoting good practices on border control and aviation security. ICAO is also working with member states to encourage incorporation of advance passenger information and Passenger Name Record in the travel decision process and with priority countries on implementation of ICAO’s public key directory program, as a means to validate e-passports at key ports of entry. Also, ICAO with the World Customs Organization is working to establish standard practices for enhanced screening of cargo. Together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, ICAO and CTED have encouraged member states to ratify and implement international counterterrorism treaties.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA continued to implement its Nuclear Security Plan (2014-2017) for countering the threat of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive material. The United States was actively involved in IAEA efforts to enhance security for vulnerable nuclear and other radioactive materials and associated facilities, and to reduce the risk that terrorists could gain access to or use such materials or expertise.
The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). Through its secure I-24/7 global police communications system, INTERPOL connects its member countries’ law enforcement officials to its array of investigative and analytical databases, as well as its system of messages, diffusions, and notices. Following the example of the U.S. National Central Bureau, a number of member countries are now integrating INTERPOL’s information sharing resources and capabilities into their respective national border security and law enforcement infrastructure to help monitor and interdict the international transit of foreign terrorist fighters and other transnational criminals. With financial and staffing support from the United States, the INTERPOL Counter-Terrorism Fusion Centre’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter project represents a multinational fusion cell that manages an analytical database containing identity particulars that supports law enforcement and border control authorities’ abilities to determine the terrorist threat posed by subjects located in, or attempting to enter, their respective jurisdictions. More than 50 countries now contribute to INTERPOL’s foreign terrorist fighters database, and information shared through its channels has increased six-fold in the last year, growing to some 5,000 foreign terrorist fighters identities. From these records, dedicated analysis has been delivered to INTERPOL’s membership to combine, evaluate, and share intelligence on the capabilities, means and emerging trends of foreign terrorist fighters to ensure that the right piece of data reaches the right officer on the frontlines. In this respect, more than 2,000 INTERPOL alerts intended to disrupt foreign terrorist fighter mobility were issued by member countries in the last year.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the FATF-Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs). The United States supported FATF plenary activities on a number of countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) issues including guidance on, and vulnerabilities of, emerging terrorist financing risks, preventing terrorist financing abuse of the non-profit sector, and countering the financing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; and participated in the FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) work to strengthen the implementation of FATF CFT standards. In particular, the United States continued to stress the importance of targeted sanctions and Recommendation 6, a provision to freeze and confiscate assets. The United States also continued to stress Recommendation 5, a provision to criminalize terrorist financing for any purpose, including, as clarified in a newly-revised interpretive note, the financing of foreign terrorist fighters.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Under the 2015 Serbian Chairman in-Office, the OSCE focused on counterterrorism, culminating in the adoption of declarations on countering violent extremism (CVE) and strengthening OSCE efforts to counter ISIL/DAESH at the OSCE Belgrade Ministerial Council meeting in December 2015. Throughout the year, the OSCE conducted numerous CVE initiatives in line with the February White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, such as launching a robust CVE communications campaign, hosting a counterterrorism conference that joined together a broad array of stakeholders on sharing best practices to counter the incitement and recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters, and developing a capacity-building program for community leaders to thwart violent extremists. These CVE-related initiatives were bolstered by other OSCE activities, such as an expert workshop on Media Freedom and Responsibilities in the Context of Counterterrorism Policies in Bucharest in October 2015 and a conference on foreign terrorist fighters in Southeastern Europe in September 2015. On border security, U.S. funding to the OSCE’s Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe contributed to building the capabilities of border and customs officials to counter transnational threats in Central Asia. The United States also funded a border security training seminar focused on the OSCE’s Mediterranean Partners (North Africa and the Middle East) in Spain. Through the OSCE’s Action against Terrorism Unit, the United States also supported initiatives aimed at addressing effective criminal justice system responses to terrorism, travel document security, cyber security, and nonproliferation.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO’s counterterrorism efforts focus on improving awareness of the threat, developing response capabilities, and enhancing engagement with partner countries and organizations. In 2015, the North Atlantic Council and working level NATO committees hosted representatives from the UN, GCTF co-chairs Turkey and the United States, and NGOs for discussions on the foreign terrorist fighter threat and lessons learned in countering violent extremist content online. The NATO Headquarters’ Intelligence Unit now benefits from increased information sharing between member services and the Alliance, and produces analytical reports relating to terrorism and its links with other transnational threats.
Building partner capacity and developing innovative technologies are part of NATO’s core mission, and methods that address asymmetric threats like terrorism are of particular relevance. Much of this work is conducted through the Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW), which aims to protect troops, civilians, and critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks, including suicide bombers, IEDs, rockets against aircraft, and chemical, biological and radiological materials. The DAT POW supports the implementation of NATO’s spearhead force – the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force – by developing projects to improve troop readiness and preparedness. To complement counter-ISIL coalition efforts, NATO has continued to develop a Defense and Related Security Capacity Building package to assist Iraq in building more effective security forces.
European Union (EU). In 2015, the EU’s work with the United States included efforts to curb terrorist financing, strengthen cooperation on countering violent extremism, shut down foreign terrorist fighter networks, and build counterterrorism capacity in partner countries. Much of this work is completed through regular senior-level and working-level consultation and collaboration, including the U.S.-EU Consultation on Terrorism and the U.S.-EU Political Dialogue on Counterterrorist Financing. In the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, the EU committed during in December to several counterterrorism actions, including improving data entry of foreign terrorist fighters in various EU information data bases, approving a Passenger Name Record directive to help identify and track terrorist travelers, and pursuing closer cooperation with key partners such as the United States.
Group of Seven (G-7). Within the context of the G-7 Roma-Lyon Group (RLG) meetings on counterterrorism and counter-crime, the United States helped develop a policy toolkit of measures to address the foreign terrorist fighter problem and generated support for the newly established International Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Clearinghouse Mechanism (ICCM), which the G-7 supports under the auspices of the GCTF. The United States also sought to advance projects through the RLG’s expert groups on counterterrorism, transportation security, high-tech crime, migration, criminal legal affairs, and law enforcement.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Counterterrorism activities of the 27-member ARF countries included the annual meeting on counterterrorism and transnational crime (CTTC) and supported capacity building through ARF institutions. In 2015, the United States provided funding for an ARF Workshop for First Response Support for Victims of Terrorism and Other Mass Casualty Events, which was hosted by the Government of Philippines in Manila on September 22-23. The workshop brought together policymakers, practitioners, and first responders across the ASEAN region from the domains of (natural) disaster preparedness and management and those responsible for managing and coordinating responses to terrorist attacks. Participants included a total of 63 policymakers, practitioners, and first responders from 16 countries. The meeting took stock of national and regional efforts on these fronts in Southeast Asia as well as international good practices in the area of first responder support to victims of terrorism and other mass casualty events. Additionally, the United States encouraged information sharing and supported the CTTC work plan, which focused on illicit drugs; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism; cybersecurity; counter-radicalization; the sponsorship of a regional transnational crime information sharing center; and a workshop on migration.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In 2015, APEC continued to implement its comprehensive Consolidated Counterterrorism and Secure Trade Strategy. The Strategy, adopted in 2011, endorsed the principles of security, efficiency, and resilience, and advocated for risk-based approaches to security challenges across its four cross-cutting areas of supply chains, travel, finance, and infrastructure. The United States sponsored a workshop that highlighted the threat that foreign terrorist fighter travel poses to the Asia-Pacific region and explained why advance passenger information systems are effective at helping mitigate that threat. The United States also sponsored a workshop on countering terrorists’ use of new payment systems (NPS) that helped reinforce the capacities of APEC members to promote the legal and transparent use of NPS while effectively countering their illicit uses.
Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (OAS/CICTE). In 2015, the CICTE Secretariat conducted 62 activities, training courses, and technical assistance missions that benefited more than 3,687 participants in five thematic areas: border control; critical infrastructure protection; counterterrorism legislative assistance and terrorist financing; strengthening strategies on emerging terrorist threats (crisis management); and international cooperation and partnerships. The United States is a major contributor to CICTE’s training programs and has provided funding and expert trainers for capacity-building programs focused on aviation security, travel document security and fraud prevention, cybersecurity, legislative assistance and counterterrorism financing, supply chain security, and customs and immigration.
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND PROTOCOLS
A matrix of the ratification status of 18 of the international conventions and protocols related to terrorism can be found here: https://www.unodc.org/tldb/universal_instruments_NEW.html
LONG-TERM PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES DESIGNED TO COUNTER TERRORIST SAFE HAVENS AND RECRUITMENT
COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM (CVE). CVE refers to proactive actions to counter efforts by violent extremists to radicalize, recruit, and mobilize followers to violence; and efforts to address specific factors that facilitate violent extremist recruitment and radicalization to violence.
President Obama convened the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February 2015. More than 60 countries, 12 multilateral bodies, and representatives from civil society, business, and the faith community participated and launched a global “whole-of-society” effort to tackle the broad range of factors fueling violent extremism.
The Summit underscored the need for a comprehensive approach that seeks to both limit the growth of active violent extremist groups and prevent new ones from emerging. Summit participants outlined a concrete action agenda with nine pillars related to preventing and countering violent extremism:
- Promote local research and information-sharing on the drivers of violent extremism;
- Empower civil society;
- Strengthen relations between at-risk communities and security and police forces;
- Promote counter-narratives and weaken the legitimacy of violent extremist messaging;
- Promote educational approaches to build resilience to violent extremism;
- Enhance access to mainstream religious knowledge;
- Prevent radicalization in prisons and rehabilitate and reintegrate violent extremists;
- Identify political and economic opportunities for at-risk communities; and
- Strengthen development assistance and stabilization efforts.
Governments in Albania, Algeria, Australia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mauritania, and Norway hosted regional CVE summits to engage additional states, municipal governments, and civil society and private sector participants in preventive approaches to violent extremism. A number of countries developed National CVE Action Plans charting their way forward.
On the margins of UNGA 71, mayors from around the world launched a new Strong Cities Network to identify and share community-level best practices for building social cohesion and resilience against violent extremism.
Young people gathered at the first-ever Global Youth CVE Summit to showcase innovative tools for countering the appeal of violent extremism among their peers. Researchers and practitioners with the support of State and USAID launched the RESOLVE Network (Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism) to connect with policy institutes and methodologists around the world to better understand the community-level factors fueling violent extremism and the best evidence-based approaches to address them. Civil society organizations joined in all of these events and initiatives, further amplifying the chorus of voices to counter violent ideologies on the ground.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development sponsored a new CVE Center for Excellence and Counter Messaging for the East Africa region. The Government of Albania is spearheading an initiative to build regional capacity and cooperation around CVE, for example by supporting CVE-related research and counter-messaging.
In line with the Department of State and USAID Joint Strategy on CVE, State and USAID leverage a range of available diplomatic, development, and foreign assistance tools and resources to have a demonstrable impact to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism.
The following five objectives guide our CVE assistance and engagement:
- Expand international political will, partnerships, and expertise to better understand the drivers of violent extremism and mobilize effective interventions.
- Encourage and assist partner governments to adopt more effective policies and approaches to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism, including changing unhelpful practices where necessary.
- Employ foreign assistance tools and approaches, including development, to reduce specific political or social and economic factors that contribute to community support for violent extremism in identifiable areas or put particular segments of a population at high risk of violent extremist radicalization and recruitment to violence.
- Empower and amplify locally credible voices that can change the perception of violent extremist groups and their ideology among key demographic segments.
- Strengthen the capabilities of government and non-governmental actors to isolate, intervene with, and promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals caught in the cycle of radicalization to violence.
State and USAID are pursuing a range of programs to assist partners around the world to prevent and counter radicalization and recruitment to violence. Key areas of programming include the following:
- Supporting the Development and Implementation of National CVE Action Plans: The United States is providing technical support and assistance to governments as they design and implement national CVE action plans, in partnership with civil society and the private sector. To reinforce these national action plan efforts, the United States is supporting Hedayah, the CVE Center of Excellence in Abu Dhabi, in providing capacity building and technical expertise to governments on CVE policy and practice.
- Researching Drivers of Violent Extremism and Effective CVE Interventions: The United States is supporting innovative regional, country-based, and thematic research on the drivers of violent extremism and on programming approaches designed to inform targeted CVE policy and programming. The United States is supporting the Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism (RESOLVE) Network, which connect academics and researchers to study the dynamics of CVE in specific, local contexts and identify effective CVE interventions. At the same time, the United States is also working with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) to develop an expanded toolkit for addressing the life cycle of radicalization to violence.
- Building the CVE Capacity of Criminal Justice Actors and Institutions: The United States is supporting programs, especially in the Horn, Sahel, and Maghreb regions of Africa to strengthen the CVE capacity of law enforcement, including police deployed to peace and stabilization operations, prison management and justice sector actors, and to help address drivers of violent extremism such as corruption and human rights abuses. The United States is also supporting programs to train and assist corrections officials to counter radicalization to violence in prison settings and promote rehabilitation, including addressing returning foreign terrorist fighters.
- Strengthening CVE Efforts by Sub-National, City, and Local Partners: The United States is supporting the Strong Cities Network, a global network of municipal and other sub-national leaders and local government practitioners involved in building community resilience and social cohesion to counter violent extremism in their local communities. The United States is also contributing to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, the first multilateral fund supporting community-based projects that counter local drivers of recruitment and radicalization to violence.
- Enhancing Civil Society’s Role in Countering Violent Extremism: Recognizing that youth play a vital role in preventing the spread of violent extremism, the United States is supporting programs that empower youth as change agents in preventing violent extremism in their communities. The United States is also supporting programs that elevate the role of women in preventing the spread of violent extremism in their countries, communities, and families.
- Countering Violent Extremist Messaging and Promoting Alternative Narratives: With the leadership of the announced interagency Global Engagement Center, the United States is supporting efforts to help government and non-governmental partners to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL’s) messaging and promote alternative narratives. The United States is supporting the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, the first-ever joint online messaging program, to counter ISIL propaganda by directly exposing its criminal nature, challenging its doctrine of hate and intolerance, and highlighting Coalition successes. The United States is also supporting efforts to mobilize and build the capacity of civil society actors and other influential voices who can credibly challenge violent extremist narratives, including through the Peer-to-Peer: Challenging Extremism Program (P2P).