Chapter 5: Terrorist Safe Havens (Update to 7120 Report)

Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism
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

AFRICA

Somalia. In 2016, terrorists used under-governed areas in northern, central, and southern Somalia as safe havens from where they conducted, planned, and facilitated operations with little resistance. Despite having made significant progress toward formally federating its member states in the latter part of 2016, Somalia continued to struggle with the provision of security, justice, and governance capacity at all levels needed to limit terrorists’ freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate. Despite these limitations, all levels of Somali government continued to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Al-Shabaab’s ability to retain its safe haven in southern Somalia and regain new territory in central Somalia was due largely to lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations during 2016. The group carried out a series of complex assaults and raids against the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forward-operating bases that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of AMISOM and Somali soldiers, the deadliest of these occurred in January against a Kenyan forward-operating base in the Gedo region town of Ceel Adde.

Although select U.S.-trained Somali forces made limited progress against al-Shabaab in 2016, the Somali National Army, as a whole, remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently. In the latter part of 2016, Ethiopian forces largely withdrew from some areas it controlled in central Somalia, leaving previously liberated towns in Bakool, Hiiraan, and other regions, vulnerable to al-Shabaab.

In northern Somalia, a small group of former al-Shabaab members who had aligned with ISIS in October 2015 established a presence in remote areas that provided access to rudimentary ports along the coast of the Gulf of Aden and proximity to the Arabian Peninsula. Less than a year after pledging allegiance to ISIS, the group established a safe haven in the Golis Mountains of Puntland and temporarily took the port town of Qandala, which was retaken by Puntland’s security forces in December 2016. The ISIS-aligned faction retreated to the mountains where a group of roughly 200 fighters remained out of the reach of regional security forces.

As seen in previous years, al-Shabaab kept much of its safe haven in the Jubba River Valley as a primary base of operations for plotting and launching attacks throughout Somalia and northern Kenya. The group’s operatives controlled several villages and towns throughout Jubaland region, including Janaale, Jilib, and Kunyo Barow, and exploited the porous border regions further south between Kenya and Somalia to launch cross-border attacks.

Following one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history in April 2015 in Garissa, Kenya, increased its security presence along its northeastern border with Somalia to detect and counter al-Shabaab’s cross-border operations, especially in and around the Boni Forest area. During 2016, al-Shabaab capitalized on Kenya’s limited border security capacities by conducting smaller-scale attacks against soft targets and law enforcement facilities in Mandera and other northeastern counties in Kenya. The group continued to extort money from locals via illegal checkpoints and local businesses, while also taxing livestock and commodities, such as sugar, to finance its operations and pay recruits.

Despite chronically low capacity and human capital, the Federal Government of Somalia remained committed to regional counterterrorism efforts to eliminate al-Shabaab’s access to safe haven in Somalia. Still heavily dependent on regional and international partners, Somalia progressed politically and took steps toward advancing its national security objectives through law enforcement and criminal justice reform in its urban areas.

According to independent sources and non-governmental organizations engaged in demining activities on the ground, there was little cause for concern for the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Somalia.

The Trans-Sahara. In 2016, terrorist organizations – including al-Qai’da in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Mulathamun Battalion (AMB), Movement for Justice and Oneness in West Africa, Ansar al-Dine, and Macina Liberation Front – could no longer claim safe haven in the Trans‑Sahara region.

Following their degrading and scattering in 2013 by combined African and French operations, these terrorist groups took a year to reorganize and began a campaign of asymmetric warfare that included light raids, soft target attacks, and use of improvised explosive devices, land mines, and suicide bombers.

The groups were no longer able to conduct major military-style campaigns as they did in 2012. Nor were they able to claim safe haven in northern Mali as they are under constant pressure by French forces and denied free movement by the French and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Partner forces challenged their movements and operations when found throughout the Maghreb and Sahel. In 2016, these terrorist groups did not grow, recruitment remained flat lined, and they were unable to expand their zones of operation.

Nonetheless, terrorists’ asymmetric warfare in this region continued, making progress restoring governance, services, and security in parts of the Sahel difficult.

The Malian government does not support or facilitate the proliferation or trafficking of weapons of mass destruction in and through its territory.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral. The number of islands and maritime traffic in the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu Archipelago make it a difficult region to secure. Traditional smuggling and piracy groups supported terrorist networks, including the movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. Kidnapping-for-ransom remained an ongoing threat and a source of funding for terrorist networks in the region.

Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have made concerted new efforts to control their shared maritime boundaries. In 2016, the three countries signed a trilateral agreement that envisions joint air and maritime patrols, information sharing, and standard operating procedures for “hot pursuit” of criminal and terrorist elements actively conducting attacks.

Southeast Asia serves as a global trade hub, with some of the highest volume transit and transshipment ports in the world. Lack of political will, incomplete legal and regulatory frameworks, weak strategic trade controls, inadequate law enforcement and security capabilities, and emerging and re-emerging infectious disease and burgeoning bioscience capacity, make Southeast Asia an area of concern for weapons of mass destruction proliferation and transit. Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore are the only countries in the region with strategic trade control laws, and countries across Southeast Asia struggle with controls over dual-use items, as well as end-use or “catch-all” provisions. Assisting countries in the region to develop strong laws that meet international standards and helping to build effective targeting and risk management systems are major goals of the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program over the next few years.

The Southern Philippines. The Philippines’ geographical composition, with more than 7,500 islands, made it difficult for the central government to maintain a presence in all areas. Counterterrorism operations have succeeded in isolating the geographic influence and largely constraining the activities of transnational terrorist groups to the south. Members of numerous groups present in Mindanao have pledged allegiance to ISIS, including parts of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Dawlah Islamiyah Lanao (DIL) – commonly referred to as the Maute Group – and Ansar-al Khalifah Philippines. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other splinter groups were also present in large areas of Mindanao.

THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Egypt. Portions of Egypt’s Sinai region remained a safe haven for terrorist organizations in 2016. For most of the year, the situation in Sinai continued as a low-grade armed conflict involving forces linked to external terrorist movements and those with longstanding local grievances. The December 2016 suicide-bombing of a Coptic church in Cairo, for which ISIS claimed responsibility, has created increased concern that ISIS is making greater efforts to carry out terrorist attacks on mainland Egypt.

The Egyptian army has increased combat operations in northeastern Sinai but was not able to defeat fewer than 1000 ISIL-Sinai Province (ISIL-SP) fighters. Successful airstrikes in the Sinai, however, have removed key terrorist leadership, including ISIL-SP Sinai leader Abu Duaa Al‑Ansari, although ISIL-SP quickly reconstituted its leadership after these airstrikes.

The United States supported Egypt’s efforts to combat ISIL-SP by providing Apache helicopters, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, counter-improvised explosive devices training, mobile sensor towers, and border security training programs. The United States intensified military-military discussions on how it can help Egypt defeat the group. The United States remained concerned about the deteriorating security situation and potential impacts on the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission in the Sinai.

Through the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security Program, the United States worked with the Government of Egypt to enhance its 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 and 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 weapons of mass destruction-related materials, conventional weapons, and other illicit items.

Iraq. Supported by the 68-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the Government of Iraq retook more than 62 percent of Iraqi territory once controlled by ISIS by the end of 2016, including several key cities. The series of successive ISIS defeats included the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) liberation of Ramadi in February, elimination of ISIS cells in Hit, Rutbah, Karma, and Jazira al-Khalidiya through the spring, recapture of Falluja in June, seizure of Qayara Airbase (Q-West) in July, and the launch of a broad offensive in Ninewa in October, resulting in ISF penetration deep into eastern Mosul at the end of the year assisted by Coalition air power. ISIS showcased cruel savagery as it retreated, brutally executing hundreds of Iraqi civilians, publishing macabre videos of the murders to terrorize Iraqis, and forcing Mosul residents to remain as human shields to discourage airstrikes. ISIS also demonstrated its continuing ability to conduct massive terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Shia-majority areas, killing at least 300 civilians in coordinated bombings in Baghdad in July and killing at least 80 Iranians and Iraqis (the bulk of whom were Shia Arba’in pilgrims) in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in November.

Portions of Iraq remained under the control of ISIS during 2016. While ISIS continued to offer fierce resistance in Mosul’s city center and a few other strongholds, it lost most of its ability to generate new revenue or resupply itself militarily. The ISF had reclaimed most of Anbar (with only the Qaim-Rawa corridor remaining ISIS-controlled), nearly all of Salah al-Din, Kirkuk (except for Hawija), and Ninewa, except for Mosul and Tal Afar.

ISIS used the territory under its control in 2016 to produce sulfur mustard and improvised explosive devices filled with chlorine. The United States has been proactively working with our allies to dismantle this chemical weapons capability, as well as deny ISIS 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 program had difficulty implementing its outreach activities in 2015 and this continued into 2016.

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,” which 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 or other radioactive materials. The Joint Action Plan provides a useful framework for U.S. capacity-building efforts. For example, in line with this effort, the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence has provided Iraq with several mobile detection vans and training that can be used to alert officials to the presence of nuclear and radiological materials.

Lebanon. Lebanon remained a safe haven for certain terrorist groups. The Lebanese government did not take significant action to disarm Hizballah or eliminate its safe havens on Lebanese territory, nor did it seek to limit Hizballah’s travel to and from Syria to fight in support of the Assad regime or to and from Iraq. The Lebanese government did not have complete control of all regions of the country, or fully control its borders with Syria and Israel. Hizballah controlled access to parts of the country and had influence over some elements within Lebanon’s security services, which allowed it to operate with relative impunity.

Ungoverned areas along the un-demarcated Lebanese-Syrian border also served as safe havens for al Nusrah Front, ISIS, and other Sunni terrorist groups in 2016, which operated in mountainous, mostly uninhabited zones where the government had limited reach. Although the Lebanese government undertook sustained military operations to counter these safe havens and ISIS, al Nusrah Front, and other non-Hizballah terrorist activity, these groups maintained a presence in parts of Lebanon. Other terrorist groups, including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Asbat al-Ansar, Fatah al-Islam, Fatah al-Intifada, Jund al-Sham, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, and several other splinter groups continued to operate within Lebanon, although primarily out of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps. These groups used the Palestinian camps as safe havens to house weapons, shelter wanted criminals, and plan terrorist attacks. Lebanese security services also noted the ability of terrorists to use Syrian refugee settlements as places of refuge and transit.

The United States worked closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces to counter terrorist threats within Lebanon and along its border with Syria by providing counterterrorism training, military equipment, and weaponry.

Lebanon was not a source country for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) components, but its porous borders made 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 partnered with U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent proliferation and trafficking of WMD along the Syrian border.

The Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program (EXBS) provided commodity identification training for items that could be used in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons, in order to keep these items from transiting through Lebanon. EXBS also proceeded with a frontier border security interdiction training program, in partnership with the Department of Defense, to strengthen LAF and Internal Security Forces border security and interdiction capabilities. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence equipped the Port of Beirut with radiation detection equipment to scan cargo for the presence of radiation.

Libya. Due to the inability of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to effectively administer its territory, many areas of Libya’s vast ungoverned space constituted potential safe havens for terrorists and violent extremist organizations in 2016, including Benghazi, Darnah, and the deserts in the south and the west. The GNA devoted significant effort to wiping out ISIL-Libya, but due to the difficulties of controlling the southern and desert borders in particular, it was unable to track flows of foreign terrorist fighters in and out of its territory. Rival factions and political stakeholders outside of the GNA, including in the House of Representatives and the “Libyan National Army,” had also not stemmed or tracked the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.

In 2016, Libya requested international assistance with the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons program components, approximately 500 metric tons of category 2 chemical weapons precursors, to prevent its acquisition by terrorists operating less than 60 km away. In total, nine countries and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons contributed to the removal and destruction effort, with Denmark removing the chemicals from Libya, and Germany completing the actual destruction. The United States made a sizeable financial contribution to the overall effort. Libya retained a stockpile of natural uranium ore concentrate (yellowcake), however, 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.

The Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program efforts in Libya will focus on border enforcement capacity building through the provision of land, air, and sea border security training for Libyan officials, with the aim of advancing the GNA’s ability to mitigate the threat posed by ISIS, its affiliates, and related entities. Targeted technical training and equipment for land, air, and sea border enforcement authorities will improve the Libyan government’s ability to detect, identify, and interdict illicitly trafficked weapons of mass destruction, related items, and conventional weapons along Libya’s porous borders. These activities aim to encourage interagency cooperation and promote regional and international cooperation to counter illicit trafficking in strategic items.

Yemen. Throughout 2016, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS in Yemen (ISIS-Y) continued to exploit the political and security vacuum created by the ongoing conflict between the Yemeni government under President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi‑Saleh opposition forces. Due to the instability and violence in Yemen, the internationally recognized government under Hadi could not effectively enforce counterterrorism measures. A large security vacuum persisted giving AQAP and ISIS-Y more room to operate. Both groups manipulated and emphasized the conflict as part of a broader Sunni-Shia sectarian divide to increase their support bases and strengthen footholds in the country.

AQAP, in particular, benefitted from the conflict by significantly expanding its presence in the southern and eastern governorates. It successfully insinuated itself among multiple factions on the ground, making the group more difficult to counter. AQAP has managed to exacerbate the effects of the conflict, fighting against the Houthi-Saleh alliance, while at the same time attempting to prevent the Yemeni government from consolidating control over southern governorates. In April, Yemeni forces, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, successfully pushed AQAP out of Yemen’s fifth largest city of Mukalla, where it amassed unprecedented resources during its year-long occupation by raiding the central bank and levying taxes. The loss of Mukalla deprived the group of millions of dollars of revenue. By the end of 2016, the Yemeni government, in coordination with coalition partners, continued its efforts to push AQAP out of other safe havens across southern Yemen.

While ISIS-Y demonstrated a violent operational pace, it did not occupy significant territory in 2016.

The Government of Yemen continued to work towards a peaceful solution to the conflict while cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Yemen’s political instability continued to hinder efforts to enact or enforce strategic trade controls, leaving the country vulnerable as a transit point for weapons of mass destruction-related materials.

SOUTH ASIA

Afghanistan. Terrorist and insurgent groups are active in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Government of Afghanistan struggled to assert control over this remote terrain, where the population is largely detached from national institutions. Afghanistan generally cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, although there were some disagreements on the role of U.S. nationals during combined counterterrorism operations. President Ghani has actively pursued cross-border security cooperation with the Government of Pakistan, including the prospect of joint operations to reduce safe havens on both sides.

Since the transition from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Resolute Support in January 2015, the trilateral border agreement that governed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (ISAF was also a signatory) expired and the two countries were unable to finalize a bilateral agreement to replace it. While there were some positive tactical-level steps taken by each country’s military to improve operational coordination, regular cross-border shelling, and terrorist attacks on both sides of the border made formal agreement politically untenable.

The potential for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking and proliferation remained 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 Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program contributed to strengthening Afghanistan’s border enforcement capacity by providing training to the Afghan Customs Department. EXBS also sponsored regional cross-border collaboration through trainings with its South and Central Asian neighbors through the U.S. Department of Energy as well as Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe 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, EXBS sponsored Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s participation in the University of Georgia, Center for International Trade and Security, Strategic Security Trade Management Academy. In addition, the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence program provided Afghanistan with mobile detection vans and associated training to enhance capabilities to detect nuclear and radiological materials.

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. Numerous terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network (HQN), Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2016. Although LeT is banned in Pakistan, LeT’s wings Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FiF) were able to openly engage in fundraising, including in the capital. LeT’s chief Hafiz Saeed (a UN-designated terrorist) continued to address large rallies, although in February 2017, Pakistan proscribed him under relevant provisions of Schedule Four of the Anti-Terrorism Act, thus severely restricting his freedom of movement. The 2015 ban on media coverage of Saeed, JuD, and FiF continued and was generally followed by broadcast and print media. The Pakistani government did not publicly reverse its December 2015 declaration that neither JuD nor FiF is banned in Pakistan, despite their listing under UN sanctions regimes, although in January 2017, Pakistan placed both organizations “under observation” pursuant to Schedule Two of the Anti-Terrorism Act. While not a ban, this allows the government to closely scrutinize the activities of both organizations. On November 11, Pakistan’s National Counterterrorism Authority published its own list of banned organizations that placed JuD in a separate section for groups that are “Under Observation,” but not banned. Pakistan continued military operations to eradicate terrorist safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, although their impact on all terrorist groups was uneven.

Throughout 2016, the Government of Pakistan administered an Exit Control List intended to prevent terrorists from traveling abroad.

To combat weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking, Pakistan harmonized its national control list with items controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and continued to harmonize its control lists with other multilateral regimes, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australia Group. Pakistan improved legal and regulatory cooperation, industry outreach, and nonproliferation awareness for the Strategic Export Control Division and Pakistani Customs. In addition to industry outreach, Pakistan also delivered technical trainings to licensing and enforcement officials for the proper detection, interdiction, and identification of dual-use commodities that could be used to create WMDs.

Pakistan was a constructive and active participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process and in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and worked to strengthen its strategic trade controls, including updating its national export control list. The State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program increased the Government of Pakistan’s enforcement capacity by sponsoring training for Pakistani Customs and the 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 of 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 Jalalabad border‑crossing and encouraged sharing of customs data between countries.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

Colombia. Rough terrain and dense forest cover, coupled with low population densities and historically weak government presence have defined Colombia’s borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, and historically have allowed for safe havens for domestic terrorist groups, particularly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The Government of Colombia maintained pressure on these groups to deny safe haven, disrupt terrorist financing efforts, and degrade terrorist groups’ logistics infrastructure. In addition, Colombia conducted operations to counter the ability of the FARC and ELN to conduct terrorist attacks. Coupled with the peace accords with the FARC, Colombia experienced an overall decline in the total number of terrorist incidents in 2016. Despite these successes, the ELN and illegal armed groups, primarily known as “Bandas Criminales,” continued to use the porous border, remote mountain areas, and jungles to maneuver, train, conduct kidnappings for ransom, 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 continued 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 its territory useful to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, who both 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 2016, the Department of State designated three new Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and amended two existing designations. In addition, the Department designated 29 organizations and individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under executive order (E.O.) 13224, and amended two existing designations. The Department also revoked the SDGT designation of one individual.

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.

2016 Foreign Terrorism Organization/Executive Order 13224 group designations:

  • On January 4, the Department of State designated ISIL-Khorasan (ISIL-K) under E.O. 13224 and as a FTO. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on ISIL-K.)
  • On May 19, the Department of State designated ISIL-Libya under E.O. 13224 and as a FTO. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on ISIL-Libya.)
  • On June 30, the Department of State designated al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) under E.O. 13224 and as a FTO. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on AQIS).
  • On November 10, the Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 and FTO designations of al-Nusrah Front to add additional aliases, including Jabhat Fath al-Sham. In July, al-Nusrah Front announced that it would now be known as Jabhat Fath al-Sham. Whether it calls itself Jabhat Fath al-Sham or al-Nusrah Front, the group remains al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for more information on al-Nusrah Front and the July 2016 announcement.)
  • On December 28, the Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 and FTO designations of Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) to include the alias Al-Muhammadia Students (AMS). AMS is the student wing and a subsidiary of LeT. It works with LeT senior leaders to organize recruiting courses and other activities for youth. (See Chapter 6, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for more information on LeT.)

2016 Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 designations:

  • On March 10, the Department of State designated Abdullah Nowbahar and Abdul Saboor. Nowbahar and Saboor are explosive experts for Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG). Both are responsible for multiple attacks in Afghanistan, including assaults that have killed U.S. nationals.
  • On March 22, the Department of State designated Santoso, a leader of the SDGT group, Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT). Under Santoso’s leadership, MIT has been responsible for several killings and kidnappings throughout Indonesia. In 2014, Santoso pledged allegiance to the FTO and SDGT group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and ISIS leader and SDGT Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Santoso was killed by Indonesian police on July 18, 2016.
  • On April 5, the Department of State designated Saleh Abdeslam. The Belgian-born, French citizen is an ISIS operative who played a role in the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people, including an American college student, and injured more than 350. Abdeslam was captured in a police raid in Belgium on March 18, 2016, and charged with “terrorist murder” for his part in the attack.
  • On May 5, the Department of State designated Musa Abu Dawud. Dawud is a senior leader for the FTO and SDGT group, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Dawud is responsible for many AQIM terrorist attacks, including the February 4-5, 2013, attack on military barracks in Khenchela, Algeria that injured multiple soldiers. Dawud is also in charge of recruiting and training new members for AQIM.
  • On May 19, the Department of State designated three branches of the FTO and SDGT group, ISIS: ISIS in Yemen, ISIS in Saudi Arabia, and ISIL-Libya. The branches emerged in November 2014 after ISIS leader and SDGT Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced that he had accepted the oaths of allegiance from fighters in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, thereby creating ISIS “branches” in those countries. All three branches have carried out deadly assaults since their formation. ISIS in Yemen claimed a pair of March 2015 suicide bombings that targeted two separate mosques in Sana’a, Yemen that killed more than 120 people and wounded more than 300. ISIS in Saudi Arabia has killed well more than 50 people in attacks in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait targeting primarily Shia mosques. ISIL‑Libya’s attacks include the February 2015 kidnapping and execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
  • On May 25, the Department of State designated the Pakistan-based Tariq Gidar Group (TGG). The group, linked to the FTO and SDGT group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, has launched multiple large-scale attacks, including the January 2016 attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtukhwa, Pakistan that left more than 20 students and faculty dead. The TGG is also responsible for the 2010 kidnapping of a British journalist in North Waziristan, Pakistan and the 2008 kidnapping and beheading of Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak in Attock, Pakistan.
  • On May 25, the Department of State designated Jama’at ul Dawa al-Qu’ran (JDQ). JDQ is based in Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan and is responsible for numerous attacks, including the 2010 kidnapping and death of British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. The group has long standing ties to the FTOs and SDGT groups, al-Qa’ida and Lashkar e-Tayyiba.
  • On June 9, the Department of State designated the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade (YMB). The YMB was formed in August 2012 in Deraa, Syria. It cooperated with al-Nusrah Front through 2014, but has since pledged allegiance to ISIS.
  • On June 30, 2016, the Department of State designated Asim Umar, who is the leader of the FTO and SDGT group AQIS.
  • On July 13, the Department of State designated Aslan Avgazarovich Byutukaev, who is the leader of the SDGT group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Caucasus Province (ISIL‑CP). Prior to joining ISIL-CP, Byutukaev was a prominent leader in the SDGT group, Caucasus Emirate.
  • On July 13, the Department of State designated Ayrat Nasimovich Vakhitov, a foreign terrorist fighter from Tatarstan, Russia who has fought in Syria. He is associated with Jaysh al-Muhajirin Wal Ansar, a group that was designated by the Department of State as a SDGT under E.O. 13224 in October 2014.
  • On August 3, the Department of State designated the TTP-splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), which is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. JuA has staged multiple attacks in the region, including the March 2016 suicide assault at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal amusement park in Lahore, Pakistan that killed more than 70 people, nearly half of whom were women and children. Hundreds of others were injured in the attack, which was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since December 2014.
  • On August 3, the Department of State designated Mohamed Abrini. Abrini was a member of the Europe-based ISIS cell responsible for the November 2015 Paris attacks and March 2016 Brussels attacks. He was arrested on April 8, 2016 by Belgian authorities.
  • On August 31, the Department of State designated Abdiqadir Mumin, a former recruiter and spokesperson for al-Shabaab. In October 2015, Mumin pledged his allegiance to ISIS and now leads a group of ISIS-linked individuals in and around Puntland, Somalia.
  • On September 19, the Department of State designated Fathi Ahmad Mohammad Hammad, who has promoted terrorist activity for Hamas and established Hamas’ media outlet Al-Aqsa TV, which was designated as a SDGT in March 2010 by the Department of the Treasury. As Hamas’ Interior Minister, Hammad coordinated terrorist cells and was responsible for security within Gaza.
  • On September 19, the Department of State designated Omar Diaby. Diaby leads a group of approximately 50 French foreign terrorist fighters in Syria, which has participated in operations alongside al-Nusrah Front. He is credited as the chief reason behind why so many French nationals have joined militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
  • On September 20, the Department of State designated Jund al-Aqsa (JAA), a militant group that operates primarily in the Idlib and Hama provinces of Northern Syria. The group was formed in 2012 and has cooperated closely with al-Nusrah Front, but also carries out operations independently. JAA launched two suicide bombings at checkpoints on the outskirts of Idlib in March 2015 and carried out the February 2014 massacre in Maan in central Hama province that killed 40 civilians.
  • On September 28, the Department of State designated Anas El Abboubi, a foreign terrorist fighter of Italian origin who has been fighting for ISIS in Syria since 2013. In June 2013, Abboubi was arrested in Italy by the Brescia Police General Investigations and Special Operations Division and counterterrorism forces for plotting a terrorist attack in Northern Italy and recruiting others for militant activity abroad. An Italian court released him after two weeks in custody due to insufficient evidence to charge him, and he fled to Syria shortly after.
  • On October 20, the Department of State designated Hizballah commander Haytham ‘Ali Tabataba’i, who has commanded Hizballah’s special forces, and operated in Syria and Yemen as part of a larger Hizballah effort to destabilize the region.
  • On November 22, the Department of State designated Abdelilah Himich. Himich, also known as Abu Sulayman al-Faransi, is a senior ISIS foreign terrorist fighter and external operations figure reportedly involved in the planning of ISIS’s November 2015 Paris attacks and March 2016 attacks in Brussels. He created a European foreign terrorist fighter cell that contributes to ISIS’s operations in Iraq, Syria, and abroad.
  • On November 22, the Department of State designated ISIS external operations plotter Basil Hassan. In 2013, Hassan was accused of shooting Lars Hedegaard, a 70-year-old Danish author and journalist. After being arrested in Turkey in 2014, he was released as part of an alleged exchange for 49 hostages held by ISIS. After his release, Hassan was believed to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS.
  • On November 22, the Department of State designated Abdullah Ahmed al-Meshedani, an Iraqi ISIS leader who manages arriving foreign terrorist fighters, handles guesthouses for them, and transports suicide bombers on behalf of the group. He is also reportedly an advisor who reports to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • On November 22, the Department of State designated Victor Quispe Palomino, Jorge Quispe Palomino, and Tarcela Loya Vilchez. Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino lead the FTO and SDGT group, the Shining Path. Both have participated in Shining Path terrorist operations since the 1980s, when they admitted to taking part in the April 1983 massacre of 69 men, women, and children in Lucanamarca, Peru. Tarcela Loya Vilchez is a Shining Path leader in charge of the military and ideological training of children.
  • On December 21, the Department of State designated Saleck Ould Cheikh Mohamedou, an AQIM operative, who was sentenced to death in Mauritania in 2011 after his conviction for attempting to assassinate the Mauritanian head-of-state Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The plot, foiled by the Mauritanian army, included attacks on the French embassy and the Mauritanian Ministry of National Defense. Mohamedou is also regarded as the planner of the terrorist attack that resulted in the killing of four French tourists in Mauritania in 2007. He escaped from prison in 2015, but was captured in January 2016 and incarcerated in Mauritania.

MULTILATERAL EFFORTS TO COUNTER TERRORISM

In 2016, 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 works 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 them. The GCTF, with its 30 founding members (29 countries and the EU), regularly convenes counterterrorism policymakers and practitioners, as well as experts from the United Nations and other multilateral and regional bodies, to identify urgent counterterrorism 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. The United Nations 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 United Nations. The GCTF also partners with a wide range of regional multilateral organizations, including the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the African Union, and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

In 2016, the GCTF launched two new initiatives:

  • Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context Initiative: Co-led by the United States and Turkey, this initiative has two objectives: (1) to raise awareness, identify needs, and leverage the expertise and experience of governments and industry to better protect potential soft targets – like restaurants, sports arenas, and hotels from extremist attack – whether by organized groups or by individuals intent on doing harm both to their neighbors and to themselves; and (2) to develop a set of internationally‑recognized, non-binding good practices, which can serve as the basis for international engagement, assistance, and training to enhance the security and resilience of sites that are potential soft targets.
  • Dialogue on Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Radicalization to Violence in Central Asia: This initiative aims at assisting Central Asian States in addressing the challenge of countering foreign terrorist fighters and in implementing “The Hague‑Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon.”

During 2016, the GCTF also continued work on two earlier initiatives, the Lifecycle Initiative and The International CT/CVE Clearinghouse Mechanism:

  • “Initiative to Address the Lifecycle of Radicalization to Violence” Toolkit: In September 2016, GCTF Ministers adopted six new documents developed as part of the “Initiative to Address the Life Cycle of Radicalization to Violence” (“Lifecycle Initiative”) first launched in September 2015 as a response to the then emerging issue of returning foreign terrorist fighters and ISIS-inspired home-grown violent extremists. Co‑led by Turkey and the United States, the crosscutting Lifecycle Initiative equips policy-makers and practitioners with conceptual tools they can apply at various points of the life cycle of radicalization to violence: from prevention, to intervention, to rehabilitation, and reintegration. The six new documents include the role of families in identifying and intervening with members at risk of radicalization; identifying and countering terrorist recruiters and facilitators; comprehensive reintegration programs for returning foreign terrorist fighters; juvenile justice in a counterterrorism context; appropriate alternative measures for terrorism-related offences; and guidelines for legal frameworks for rehabilitation and reintegration. The new documents complement some 20 other existing GCTF and related documents that together make up the Lifecycle Initiative conceptual “toolkit.” To make the tools as accessible and useful as possible to stakeholders, the United States has funded the creation of a web-based Toolkit. The Toolkit gives policy-makers and practitioners access to consolidated information on the Lifecycle Initiative and related good practices, program models, research, and other counterterrorism and countering violent extremism resources. The Toolkit will eventually include a web-based forum that will allow users to connect with counterparts and experts in other countries, as well as a mobile “app” version that will enhance its accessibility.
  • The International CT-CVE Clearinghouse Mechanism (ICCM): In September 2015, GCTF Ministers approved the launch of the International Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Capacity-Building Clearinghouse Mechanism (ICCM). During 2016, the ICCM developed an up-to-date database of recent/ongoing counterterrorism and countering violent extremism capacity-building assistance programs in three pilot countries: Kenya, Nigeria, and Tunisia. A key objective of the ICCM is to identify gaps in programming and to de-conflict overlapping programs. Officially launched at the September 2016 GCTF Ministers’ meeting, the password-protected ICCM database is available to GCTF members, pilot countries, and key donors. The United States is providing US $2.25 million of funding for the initial two-year pilot effort.

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL): Through its I-24/7 secure 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. As a result of technical expertise provided by INTERPOL Washington, a number of member countries are now establishing or extending connections between I-24/7 in their national central bureaus to their respective national border security and law enforcement systems to increase their ability to help screen and interdict the international transit of foreign terrorist fighters and other transnational criminals. With continued financial and staffing support from the United States, the INTERPOL Counter-Terrorism Fusion Centre’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter project 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 60 countries contribute to INTERPOL’s foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) database, which now contains more than 8,000 foreign terrorist fighter 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 FTFs to ensure that the right piece of data reaches the right officer on the frontlines.

European Union (EU): In December 2016, the U.S.-EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Ministerial included a discussion on initiatives to improve counterterrorism efforts, including border security, screening of travelers and information sharing, as well as cooperation to better identify terrorist and foreign terrorist fighter (FTF) travel. The EU and the United States also agreed to reinforce their dialogue on chemical, biological, radioactive, and nuclear material and its possible use by terrorist networks.

In April 2016, the EU Commission published the “Communication on Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security,” outlining a multi-year approach to greater information sharing in Europe. In June, the Council of the European Union endorsed a “Roadmap to Enhance Information Exchange and Information Management” that detailed a lengthy list of actions the EU and its member states must implement to improve information sharing. In line with this roadmap, the Commission proposed an array of counterterrorism-relevant regulations and initiatives in 2016, including: the creation of an Entry-Exit System and European Travel Information and Authorization System to strengthen Schengen borders and track movements of persons of interest; requiring inspections of all travelers crossing Schengen borders; harmonizing counterterrorism legislation across EU member states and criminalizing various types of support to terrorists; and incorporating biometrics and new alerts into the Schengen Information System. The Council also passed an EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive in April 2016, mandating member states’ sharing of PNR data for intra-EU flights by April 2018.

The 2010 U.S.-EU Agreement on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program continued to enable the EU and the United States to share information related to financial messaging data for the purpose of identifying, tracking, and pursuing terrorists and their networks. The agreement's fourth joint review, conducted by the United States and EU during 2016, concluded that implementation of the agreement remained successful and vitally important to both sides' counterterrorism efforts.

In 2016, the EU created two new institutions, the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) and the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG). The ECTC will coordinate European information-sharing on counterterrorism matters and will include representatives from DHS and the FBI. The EBCG, in cooperation with member states, will be responsible for security the EU’s borders and sharing CT-related information with Europol.

Finally, the EU invested hundreds of millions of euros in humanitarian and economic programs within and outside the EU as part of its effort to counter violent extremism. The EU also continued six military and law enforcement capacity-building missions in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, working closely with U.S. elements in counterterrorism, border security, and stabilization efforts.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE): Under the 2016 German Chairman in-Office, the OSCE focused on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism, culminating in the adoption of declarations at the OSCE Hamburg Ministerial Council meeting in December 2016. As part of the, “OSCE United in Countering Violent Extremism (#UnitedCVE)” campaign, OSCE missions organized discussions, workshops, social media outreach, and a regional competition under the “Peer‑2‑Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism” initiative. The OSCE Counterterrorism Conference (May 31-June 1, 2016) brought together more than 300 deputy foreign ministers, secretaries of state, and counterterrorism coordinators from OSCE participating states with Asian and Mediterranean cooperating partners. The conference highlighted the role of youth, and, in particular, young women, with a focus on cooperation with youth-led and youth-focused initiatives, especially when designing strategies to counter violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism.

The OSCE, enabled by U.S. support, also promoted practical scenario-based multi-stakeholder seminars to discuss foreign terrorist fighters and countering violent extremism to enhance interagency and whole-of-society collaboration and develop good practices to share at regional, national, and community levels. Albania partnered with the OSCE to conduct a seminar in September 2016 in Durres, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH’s) Ministry of Security also partnered with the OSCE to conduct a similar event in March 2016 in Jahorina, BiH. These events helped build interagency coordination, promote whole-of-society collaboration, implement national CVE strategies, and develop action plans. The OSCE also adopted an Advance Passenger Information decision and counterterrorism declaration at the OSCE Ministerial (December 2016).

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. All NATO allies participate in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. At the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, allied leaders agreed that NATO as an institution would provide direct Airborne Warning and Control System support to the Coalition’s efforts; provide training and capacity-building support inside Iraq, while continuing to train hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan; and provide logistical and intelligence support to EU naval forces conducting anti-trafficking operations in the Mediterranean; and Allies reaffirmed their commitment to provide training and capacity-building support for Libya upon request and when conditions permit. In February 2016, NATO announced an agreement to create a NATO Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Regional Centre in Kuwait City. This Center will serve as a hub for NATO’s practical cooperation with Kuwait and other Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partners (Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates), as well as with Saudi Arabia and Oman.

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, improvised explosive devices, rockets against aircraft, and chemical, biological, and radiological materials. The DAT POW also supports the implementation of NATO’s spearhead force – the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force – by developing projects to improve troop readiness and preparedness.

Group of Seven (G-7): Within the context of the G-7 Roma-Lyon Group meetings on counterterrorism and counter-crime, the United States worked with RLG counterparts to draft the G-7 Action Plan on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which was included as annex to the G-7 Leader’s Communiqué. Based on language in the action plan, the United States spearheaded an initiative to generate greater G-7 political and financial support to connect priority countries to INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure global communications system in an effort to help interdict foreign terrorist fighter travelers more effectively. The United States also sought to advance projects through the Roma Lyon Group’s expert groups on counterterrorism, transportation security, high-tech crime, migration, criminal legal affairs, and law enforcement. In particular, the United States made substantial contributions to the counterterrorism expert group’s terrorist threat assessment, which surveys a variety of emerging threats to G-7 countries.

Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (OAS/CICTE): The OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) bolsters counterterrorism partnerships, cooperation, and information-sharing in the Western Hemisphere through promoting counterterrorism policies, training, and capacity building. In 2016, CICTE focused programs and activities on cyber and supply chain security as part of the OAS’ long-standing work on critical infrastructure security and resilience. The 16th CICTE Regular Session took place in February 2016 in Washington, DC. The meeting brought together high-level experts and authorities from the region to discuss the use of the internet for terrorist and criminal purposes, critical cyber-security considerations for the development of the economy and a digital society, and confidence building measures in cyberspace.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM): In 2016, CARICOM’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM/IMPACS) took steps to develop a coordinated regional counterterrorism strategy for the Caribbean, which it plans to release in 2017. CARICOM consulted with international partners including the United States, Canada, and the United Nations to identify best practices for inclusion in its counterterrorism strategy. This effort to improve cooperation and coordination builds on the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy, approved in 2013.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF): Counterterrorism activities of the 10-member ASEAN and 27-member ARF countries included annual meetings on counterterrorism and transnational crime and capacity building through ARF institutions. In 2016, the United States funded a grant for technical assistance, equipment, and training to improve and automate ASEAN member state reporting to INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure global communications system in an effort to help interdict foreign terrorist fighter travelers more effectively.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): In 2016, 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 follow-on workshop that built on the lessons learned from a 2015 workshop that highlighted the threat that foreign terrorist fighter travel poses to the Asia-Pacific region and that explained why advance passenger information and passenger name record (API/PNR) systems are effective at helping mitigate that threat. In particular, the follow-on workshop illustrated how API/PNR data can improve the effectiveness of domestic terrorist watchlists.

The African Union (AU): Funded by the United States, the AU has been working to help member states adopt its Model Law on Counterterrorism. The AU, in partnership with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Terrorism Prevention Branch, currently is providing a team of legal experts to assist three pilot member states – Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mauritius – in undertaking the process to update, strengthen, or create counterterrorism laws to ensure that member states have in place an effective rule of law-based criminal justice response to terrorism.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): In 2016, the U.S.-GCC Counterterrorism Working Group continued to collaborate on key areas of mutual interest including countering the threat from foreign terrorist fighters, countering violent extremism, and countering Hizballah. The Counterterrorism Working Group held three meetings in 2016, including one in April in Riyadh to launch the U.S.-GCC Countering Violent Extremism Network.

The United Nations (UN): Sustained and strategic engagement at the United Nations on counterterrorism facilitates the United States’ ability to create strategic partnerships and coalitions, set global standards and norms, and build the political will and capacities abroad that are needed to deter and respond to terrorism. In this regard, an important priority in 2016 was to support the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE), and encourage member states to implement its 71 recommendations in seven key areas:

  1. Dialogue and conflict prevention;
  2. Strengthening good governance, human rights, and the rule of law;
  3. Empowering youth;
  4. Engaging communities;
  5. Gender equality and empowering women;
  6. Education, skill development, and employment facilitation; and
  7. Strategic communications, the internet, and social media.

One core recommendation of the PVE Plan is that member states consider developing national and regional PVE Action Plans, which would provide a strong foundation and entry point for the United States, UN entities, and other donors to initiate capacity-building assistance projects where they are needed.

The UN General Assembly continued to be engaged in building norms and facilitating international consensus to counter terrorism. In addition to other annual resolutions on counterterrorism, member states reaffirmed the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) and discussed key trends in terrorism during its biennial review and adoption of resolution 70/291 on July 1. The UN GCTS articulates principles and activities to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, prevent and counter terrorism, build states’ capacity and strengthen the role of the United Nations, while respecting human rights and the rule of law. In that vein, the Human Rights Council convened a panel at its 31st session in March to discuss the human rights dimensions of preventing and countering violent extremism and adopted a United States-supported resolution on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism” in September.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) continued to promote international cooperation to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters by promoting implementation of UNSC 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. In 2016, the UNSC adopted several other counterterrorism-related resolutions, including: UNSCR 2309 on aviation security, which called upon States to require that airlines operating in their territories provide advanced passenger information; UNSCR 2322 on strengthening international judicial cooperation; and UNSCRs 2325 and 2331, which focused on weapons of mass destruction and trafficking in persons, respectively, with a nexus to terrorism and terrorist financing.

In addition, the United States engaged with a wide range of UN actors on counterterrorism, which included:

  • The Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED). CTED continued its efforts to analyze capacity gaps of member states to implement UNSCRs 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), 2178 (2014), and other counterterrorism-related resolutions, and facilitate training and other technical assistance to UN member states. This included the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee thematic debates on a range of issues including stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters; depriving terrorists of accessing, moving, and raising funds; successful adjudication of terrorism-related cases; and preventing terrorists from exploiting the internet and social media to recruit 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 Counter-Terrorism Strategy, including by serving on the Advisory Board of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), which delivers training and technical assistance. In 2016, the United States continued to fund 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; supporting the working group on protecting human rights while countering terrorism; supporting media workshops for victims of terrorism; and supporting community engagement through human rights-led policing.
  • The UN ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee. The United States worked closely with the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Team in 2016 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 256 individuals and 75 entities on the Committee’s sanctions list. In 2016, 20 individuals and one entity 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. Six individuals were de-listed, of which three individuals were de‑listed following the submission of a petition through the Office of the Ombudsperson. In addition, one entity was delisted. The Committee also approved amendments to the existing sanctions list entries of 23 individuals and one entity.
  • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC): The UN Crime Commission that oversees UNODC as a governing body held a thematic debate in May on “Criminal justice responses to prevent and counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the financing of terrorism, and technical assistance in support of the implementation of relevant international conventions and protocols.” The UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) continued to provide assistance to countries seeking to ratify and implement the universal legal instruments against terrorism as well as providing assistance for countering the financing of terrorism in conjunction with the UNODC’s Global Program against Money Laundering. The United States has engaged UNODC/TPB as a counterterrorism assistance implementer, supporting programming focused on strengthening the criminal justice system’s response to terrorism by member states. Specifically, in 2016, the United States supported UNODC/TPB programs aimed at strengthening the legal regime against terrorism within a rule of law framework in the Sahel region.
  • The UN Inter-Regional Crime Research Institute (UNICRI): The focus of UNICRI’s work has been on rehabilitation efforts in prison. The United States has provided assistance support to a UNICRI-led global effort to strengthen state capacity to implement the good practices contained in the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders and to conduct a pilot program on diversion and use of alternatives for juvenile offenders charged with foreign terrorist fighter-related offenses. In addition, in 2016, the United States provided funding to UNICRI to bring it into the existing initiative co-led by the International Institute for Justice and Rule of Law and Hedayah to rehabilitate and reintegrate returning foreign terrorist fighters.
  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP): The UNDP engages countries to mitigate and prevent conflicts, including in East Africa, by developing national and regional strategies to counter and prevent violent extremism (PVE) and deepening research on PVE through its center in Oslo, Norway. In 2016, the United States provided assistance funding to UNDP to help strengthen community-police partnerships in high-risk communities. The UNDP sponsored a global conference in Oslo in March, which brought together non-governmental organizations and all of their regional and country directors to discuss approaches to PVE and later appointed a new global director for PVE.
  • The UN Security Council (UNSC) 1540 Committee: The UN Security Committee monitors and fosters implementation of the obligations and recommendations of UN Security Council resolution (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 1540 Committee completed its second comprehensive review of the implementation of UNSCR 1540 in November 2016. The comprehensive review found that, while many states have taken important steps to strengthen prohibitions and controls on weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in fulfillment of their 1540 obligations, key gaps remain in areas that include biological and chemical security, and proliferation finance. To address these and other issues, the UNSC unanimously adopted UNSCR 2325 in December 2016. The new resolution calls upon States to intensify their efforts to fulfill their 1540 obligations and to submit timely reports on their efforts. It also gives the 1540 Committee a mandate to focus its work on major gaps where it might have the most value added, particularly noting a need for more attention on enforcement measures; measures relating to biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons; proliferation finance measures; accounting for and securing related materials; and national export and transshipment controls. In addition, it calls for greater assistance for building State capacity, including through voluntary contributions, and for greater cooperation among all stakeholders, including civil society, academia, and industry. The Committee’s Group of Experts also participates as part of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, and cooperates with INTERPOL, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the Financial Action Task Force, and other bodies involved in counterterrorism efforts.

  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In September 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2309, which calls on all States to ensure that effective, risk-based measures are in place at the airports within their jurisdiction and that such measures reflect the ever-evolving threat picture and are in accordance with international standards and recommended practices. The UNSCR calls on all States to strengthen information sharing among States and to require that airlines operating in their territories provide advance passenger information to appropriate national authorities to track the movement of individuals identified by the counterterrorism committees. It also urges all States to ensure cooperation among their domestic departments, agencies and other entities, and encouraged continued close cooperation between ICAO and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate on identifying gaps and vulnerabilities in aviation security. ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Program (USAP) continued to support U.S. security in its efforts to evaluate the capabilities of ICAO’s member states in establishing, implementing, and performing oversight of National Civil Aviation Security Programs in compliance with Annex 17 security standards. In 2016, ICAO operated fully under its new USAP-Continuous Monitoring Approach, which aims to enable greater focus of resources on states requiring more assistance in meeting the Standards, allowing additional flexibility in where audits are focused and how follow-on activities are planned. Additionally, ICAO’s Implementation Support and Development – Security Section continued to conduct training and assistance missions to help states correct security problems revealed by surveys and audits. 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. ICAO and a task force of member states have begun work on drafting the Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP) to reflect the reality and needs of the current threat and risk environment. Also, ICAO, with the World Customs Organization, is working to establish standard practices for enhanced screening of cargo.

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 to address specific factors that facilitate violent extremist recruitment and radicalization to violence.

State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) leverage a range of available diplomatic, development, and foreign assistance tools to have a demonstrable impact on preventing and countering radicalization and recruitment to violence, both online and offline.

The following five objectives guide our CVE assistance and engagement:

  1. Expand international political will, partnerships, and expertise to better understand the drivers of terrorist radicalization and recruitment and to mobilize effective interventions.
  2. 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.
  3. Employ foreign assistance tools and approaches, including development, to reduce specific factors that contribute to community support for violent extremism in identifiable areas or put particular segments of a population at high risk.
  4. Empower and amplify locally credible voices that can change the perception of violent extremist groups and their ideology among key demographic segments.
  5. 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 also works to counter the use of the internet for terrorist purposes, including countering violent extremism online. This includes:

  1. Developing and promoting with foreign partners U.S. policy on countering the use of the internet for terrorist purposes;
  2. Partnering with private sector, civil society, academia, and other governments to find creative and effective solutions;
  3. Providing law enforcement training for foreign partners to more effectively counter terrorist activities online, including through Anti-Terrorism Assistance training;
  4. Promoting and providing training for counter-messaging and alternative messages;
  5. Providing foreign policy guidance and diplomatic coordination on U.S. counterterrorism-related cyber operations, as appropriate; and
  6. Developing and providing training for Department and U.S. federal employees on CVE online and offline, including through the Foreign Service Institute.

The Department of State and USAID are pursuing a range of programs to assist partners around the world. Key areas of programming include the following:

  • Supporting the Development and Implementation of National CVE Action Plans: The United States provides technical 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 supports Hedayah, the international CVE center in Abu Dhabi, by providing capacity building and technical expertise to interested governments.
  • Researching Drivers of Violent Extremism and Effective Interventions: The United States supports innovative regional, country-based, and thematic research on the drivers of radicalization and recruitment to violence and on programming approaches. The United States supports the Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism Network, which connects 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 works with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) to implement an expanded toolkit for addressing the life cycle of radicalization to violence.
  • Building the 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 terrorist radicalization such as corruption and human rights abuses. The United States also supports 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 supports the Strong Cities Network, a global network of municipal and other sub‑national leaders and local government practitioners involved in building community resilience. The United States also contributes 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: The United States supports programs that empower youth as positive change agents in preventing violent extremism among their peers. The United States also supports programs that elevate the role of women in recognizing and preventing the spread of violent extremism in their families and communities.

Counter-Messaging and Promoting Alternative Narratives: With the leadership of the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), the United States supports efforts to help government and non-governmental partners to counter ISIS and other terrorist messaging and to promote alternative narratives. The United States supports a network of messaging centers that expose, refute, and counter online terrorist propaganda. These centers harness the creativity and expertise of local actors to generate positive content that challenges the rhetoric of ISIS and its supporters. The United States is also degrading ISIS’s ability to operate in cyberspace due to an improved knowledge of its propaganda and recruiting networks, and to voluntary private sector efforts. Counter-ISIS content was more prevalent online and pro-ISIS content declined in 2016. The GEC works with Facebook to send highly-targeted messages to young Muslims showing signs of radicalization to violence. Videos in a recent campaign targeting specific people in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia were watched more than 14 million times. The effort has since expanded to other nations, including France, Jordan, and Libya.

The GEC also counters terrorist messaging through a network of civil society partners. The GEC launched its first partner-driven network, Families Against Terrorism and Extremism (FATE) in March 2016. The network, which supports skills building and intervention training for families at the forefront of violent radicalization, operates in key source countries for foreign terrorist fighters. FATE runs social media and programming in Arabic, English, French, German, and Russian, and has grown to include more than 80 organizations united to curb radicalization to violence and ISIS recruitment. One other such partnership is the GEC’s Amplifying Credible Voices (ACV) program, which establishes and activates networks of CVE influencers in priority countries. ACV was launched in Albania and Kosovo in April 2016 with a counter-messaging workshop that convened and trained 46 CVE influencers from across sectors to design and execute locally resonant messaging campaigns.

CIVILIAN COUNTERTERRORISM CAPACITY-BUILDING PROGRAMS. As the terrorist threat has evolved and grown more geographically diverse in recent years, it has become clear that our success depends in large part on the political will and capabilities of our partners to counter terrorism. To succeed over the long term, we must have partners who can not only militarily disrupt threats and degrade networks in a way that comports with international laws and norms, but who have strong civilian capabilities, as well. We need law enforcement, justice sector, and corrections partners, who can disrupt attacks and investigate, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate terrorists and their facilitation networks.

The United States uses various funding authorities and programs to build the capacity of law enforcement, justice, and corrections officials to counter terrorism. The Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism oversees the following capacity‑building programs: Antiterrorism Assistance, Countering the Financing of Terrorism, Counterterrorism Engagement with Allies, the Regional Strategic Initiative, and the Terrorist Interdiction Program. For further information on these programs, we refer you to the Annual Report on Assistance Related to International Terrorism, Fiscal Year 2016: https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/267763.htm.

Congress has appropriated additional funding for the Department of State’s Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund. This funding will allow us to significantly expand civilian counterterrorism capacity-building activities with key partner nations in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, South and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and other regions as required to mitigate the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, prevent and counter terrorist safe havens and recruitment, and counter Iranian-sponsored terrorism.

REGIONAL STRATEGIC INITIATIVE (RSI). The Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism uses RSI to promote a more regional and trans-regional approach to counterterrorism, to rapidly respond to and address emerging terrorism threats and related counterterrorism capacity gaps, and to complement and expand upon our targeted capacity building programs funded through the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, Antiterrorism Assistance program and other accounts. Current RSI efforts focus on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria and Iraq, countering terrorist safe havens, and countering Hizballah’s activities.

RSI funding in 2016 supported a wide variety of projects focused on regional law enforcement cooperation and effectiveness against transnational threats:

  • Department of Justice advisors assisted Kosovo in processing foreign terrorist fighter cases and taking them to trial; this support contributed to more than 50 prosecutions.
  • DOJ provided targeted technical assistance to Cote D’Ivoire’s investigations into the al‑Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)-linked attack at Grand Bassam in March 2016, producing valuable leads and resulting in improved regional cooperation on the investigation.
  • RSI funding strengthened Brazilian counterterrorism preparedness through focused counterterrorism training prior to the Olympics.
  • RSI funding was used to counter Hizballah. These funds assisted Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners to implement the March 2016 GCC designation of Hizballah, enhanced the Cypriot government’s ability to investigate and prosecute Hizballah cases (resulting in two successful prosecutions), and provided a forum for investigators and prosecutors to share information about Hizballah with their counterparts in other countries.

Programs to Counter Foreign Terrorist Fighters

A core component of the United States’ Counter-ISIS strategy has been to prevent the travel of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) to and from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Since 2011, an estimated 40,000 FTFs have traveled to Iraq or Syria from more than 120 countries to fight alongside a number of violent extremist groups, including ISIS and al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusrah Front. Over the past year, the flow of FTFs travelling to Iraq or Syria declined significantly. Similarly, ISIS’s attempts to establish a stronghold in Libya in 2016 attracted many FTFs, but by the end of the year, international pressure diminished ISIS’s aspirations there.

As a result of declining FTFs flows, ISIS can no longer replenish its ranks lost on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria with new foreign recruits. The number of ISIS fighters has been reduced to its lowest level in more than two-and-a- half years. While the sustained military campaign and ISIS’s loss of territory and resources are key factors, governments enacted a number of reforms and measures to make it demonstrably more difficult for FTFs to transit to and from Iraq or Syria.

Progress in the Fight: The United States undertook numerous bilateral and multilateral efforts to encourage partners to strengthen measures to counter foreign terrorist fighters. Our efforts, both multilateral and bilateral, are guided by UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178, passed in September 2014. UNSCR 2178 addresses fundamental measures necessary to stem the flow of FTFs, including increasing international information sharing, having in place and enforcing appropriate counterterrorism legislation, strengthening border security, and increasing efforts on counter-messaging. As a result, a number of countries took steps to implement UNSCR 2178 and as of the end of 2016:

  • More than 60 countries have laws in place to prosecute and penalize FTFs activities.
  • At least 65 countries have prosecuted or arrested FTFs or FTF facilitators.
  • The U.S. has information-sharing arrangements with 59 international partners to help identify, track, and deter known and suspected terrorists.
  • At least 26 partners share financial information within their country or with partners that could provide actionable leads to prosecute or target FTFs.
  • At least 31 countries use enhanced traveler screening measures.

Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters: With the appeal of fighting in Iraq or Syria diminished, thousands of FTFs returned home, and many in the international community are concerned these returning fighters will commit terrorist attacks at home. Since 2012, many of these returning fighters sought to reintegrate into society. A small number of these returning FTFs, however, relied on operational training, connections, and experience gained in Iraq or Syria to plot terrorist attacks or carry out an attack once returning home. In 2016 for example, returning FTFs were involved in a bombing in Istanbul, Turkey in January and the attacks in Brussels at the airport and a transit station in March.

Strategic Objectives and Initiatives: The Department of State played a pivotal role in the creation of an international framework for addressing the threat from FTFs and will continue to expand and deepen bilateral and multilateral engagement to counter the FTF threat and related radicalization and recruitment to violence. Over the course of the last four years, the Department of State has led interagency delegations to countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, and continues to work with our interagency partners to achieve the following objectives:

  • Encourage and assist partners to employ more robust border and aviation security procedures to identify and interdict potential FTFs and those returning.
  • Work with partners to identify, monitor, and address the travel of FTFs to and from Iraq and Syria and new areas affected by ISIS expansion, such as Libya.
  • Enable partners to track and interdict travel by FTFs through more robust information sharing, watchlisting, and traveler screening.
  • Encourage and assist partners to establish and employ the necessary legislative, administrative, policy, and criminal justice frameworks, capabilities, and tools to investigate, interdict, divert, prosecute, adjudicate, and incarcerate aspirant or returning FTFs.
  • Encourage and assist partners to counter violent extremism and prevent radicalization to violence, including through community resilience programs and counter-messaging.
  • Encourage and assist partners to develop comprehensive diversion and rehabilitation and reintegration programs for aspirant and returning FTFs, both inside and outside the prison setting.

SUPPORT FOR PAKISTAN

In 2016, the United States continued to build strong cooperation with Pakistan, including through U.S. assistance, as a stable, secure, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan is in the long-term U.S. national security interest. Although assistance levels have declined in recent years, to support this partnership, the United States has allocated civilian and security assistance totaling US $8.4 billion since 2009. U.S. security assistance to Pakistan is designed to build Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capacity. In addition, since 2001, the Department of Defense has reimbursed nearly US $14 billion in Coalition Support Funds for Pakistani expenditures in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Account

FY 2014

FY 2015

FY 2016
653(a)

Total Foreign Assistance

853.6

802.8

632.2

Economic Support Fund (ESF)

456.5

468.0

300.0

Global Health Programs (GHP)

-

-

22.5

Intl. Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE)

55.4

40.0

40.0

Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining (NADR)

5.6

10.0

9.9

Foreign Military Financing (FMF)

269.9

265.0

255.0

International Military Education and Training (IMET)

4.9

4.8

4.8

Food for Peace Title II (FFP)

61.3

15.0

-

*figures in millions, US $

Since 2009, the United States has committed about US $5 billion in civilian assistance to Pakistan, in addition to more than US $1 billion for emergency humanitarian assistance. In 2016, the United States continued to focus on five sectors determined in consultation with the Pakistani government in 2011: energy; economic growth including agriculture; stabilization of areas vulnerable to violent extremism; education; and health. Emphasis on improving democracy, governance, and gender equity are integrated into programming across the five sectors.

Since 2009, U.S. assistance has made more than 2,400 megawatts available to Pakistan’s electricity grid, benefiting some 28 million Pakistanis, and has helped Pakistan take steps to reform its troubled energy sector; funded the refurbishment or construction of nearly 1,100 kilometers of roads, enabling trade, security, and mobility; trained more than 5,600 police and 1,000 prosecutors across Pakistan; provided scholarships to approximately 15,000 Pakistanis to attend Pakistani universities, 50 percent of whom were women; and supplied better access to comprehensive family planning services to more than 100,000 women.

Energy: Chronic energy shortages severely limit Pakistan’s economic development. As such, energy is our top assistance priority, supporting the goal of job creation, private sector growth, security, and political stability in Pakistan. U.S. assistance has helped Pakistan improve governance and management systems, and increase the country’s distribution companies’ revenue collection by more than US $400 million, as well as provide commercial opportunities for U.S. businesses. The United States continued to fund infrastructure rehabilitation projects, especially in clean energy, and provided technical assistance to Pakistani energy institutions, including distribution companies, to increase power generation and improve performance.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) on-budget investments in energy generation, facilitated by the Energy Policy Program (EPP), contributed to increasing generation capacity, energy production, and the reliability of power. EPP helped Pakistan develop the contractual framework that led to the first importation of liquefied natural gas. Additionally, the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership will help the private sector add at least 3,000 megawatts of clean power generation infrastructure to Pakistan’s national electricity system by 2020. Through the Partnership, USAID will support capacity building, technical assistance, USAID Development Credit Authority financial guarantees, business-to-business sales arrangements, and the construction of transmission lines to private projects to stimulate increased levels of private investment in clean power.

Economic Growth: Through a range of programs and public-private partnerships in agriculture and other sectors of Pakistan’s economy, U.S. assistance helped Pakistan create jobs and foster economic growth. USAID programming will improve the financial and operating performance of at least 6,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in a maximum of seven industrial, manufacturing, and service sectors. In June 2016 in New York, the U.S. and Pakistan governments convened the fourth U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference. The U.S. Department of Commerce is providing technical assistance in the areas of trade facilitation, intellectual property reform, competition and telecommunications law, and commercial law education. Pakistani participants attend trade shows and get exposure to U.S. companies and business associations on best practices. More than 200 Pakistani private sector representatives attended trade shows in 15 different U.S. states.

The Department of Commerce also trains private sector professionals in a variety of industries, including supply chain, packaging, and gems and jewelry. To leverage this growing interaction with the private sector, the USAID Islamabad Mission has established a new Innovations and Partnerships unit, which will increasingly use public-private partnerships in Pakistan to leverage private sector financial resources and knowledge. One such example was USAID’s partnership with the Nestle Foundation, which leveraged Nestle resources to increase milk yields by 11 percent and revenues on average by US $60 per month for 22,600 dairy farmers.

USAID has also provided US $72 million for the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, which is matching U.S. funding with private equity capital to make nearly US $150 million available for investment in SMEs with high growth potential. Furthermore, the WECREATE Center, a co‑working space and incubator for women entrepreneurs, originally received U.S. funding, but in 2016 became self-sustaining. In 2016, Pakistan sent the largest foreign delegation to the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which took place in Silicon Valley. To further facilitate private investment by U.S. companies, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation has facilitated US $800 million in financing and insurance for projects in Pakistan.

Stabilization: The United States used civilian assistance to support Pakistan’s efforts to make its territory inhospitable to terrorists by strengthening governance and civilian law enforcement capacity and promoting socioeconomic development, particularly in areas bordering Afghanistan and other targeted locations vulnerable to violent extremism. USAID programs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) strengthen the civilian government’s ability to provide services, stabilize the area, and govern effectively.

Ten years of insurgency have resulted in frequent displacements of large populations to and from the FATA. In 2014, Pakistan’s military operations to clear the area of violent extremists caused an escalation of displacement from the FATA, and the region still faces dire challenges, including disproportionate rates of illiteracy, child mortality, and poverty, compared to the rest of Pakistan. USAID is partnering with Pakistan to support the return and reconstruction of displaced communities, the delivery of essential services and the expansion of economic opportunities to strengthen long-term stability. It pairs these efforts with the promotion of alternative narratives to counter the efforts of violent extremists. U.S. efforts included financing road construction, small community-based grants, police and governance training, and construction of municipal infrastructure. In 2016, USAID engaged more than 21,000 citizens in the oversight of government institutions, through the establishment of oversight forums, networks, and committees. It provided more than 270 grants to Pakistani civil society organizations that build linkages between citizens and government institutions. Additionally, USAID assistance provided policy development and leadership training for 100 political party members and assisted more than 600 individuals from marginalized groups to engage with political parties.

Education: Pakistan’s ability to educate its youth is critical to its economic growth and development, and future stability. U.S. education programs focused on increasing the number of students who enroll in and complete courses in primary and tertiary educational institutions; and improving the quality of that education – with a specific focus on early grade reading – to prepare Pakistani students for the workforce and provide high quality tertiary education that is responsive to market demands. The United States funds extensive exchange programs with Pakistan, including the largest U.S. government-funded Fulbright Program in the world, and since 2010, USAID has provided nearly 17,000 scholarships to students to attend university in Pakistan.

The United States has established 23 partnerships between Pakistani and U.S. universities to facilitate professional development for faculty, curriculum reform, joint research, and peer‑to‑peer interaction, including the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies, partnerships which build Pakistani higher education capacity in three critical sectors – energy, agriculture, and water.

Under the U.S.-Pakistan Basic Education program, the United States supported Pakistan-led efforts to introduce and institutionalize improvements in reading instruction and assessment in Grades one and two across Pakistan with a goal of improving the reading skills of 1.9 million primary grade students. Reading programs have reached a total of more than 661,000 grade one and two students to date. The United States has also funded the rebuilding or renovation of more than 1,000 schools, helped upgrade 16 faculties of education, and provided English language training to 9,400 underprivileged Pakistani teenagers countrywide. To improve girls’ education, Let Girls Learn was launched in October 2015, and since then the United States has worked with communities in KP and FATA to address community-specific barriers to education for adolescent girls – reaching more than 265,000 girls with reading programs and assisting more than 38,000 girls to enroll or reenroll in school in FATA, KP, and Sindh.

Health: The provision of basic health services in Pakistan is inadequate for much of the population, particularly for rural communities. U.S. health programs supported the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to deliver healthcare, particularly in the areas of immunization programs and maternal, child health, and family planning. U.S. assistance was also used to provide technical assistance to support Government of Pakistan initiatives to procure essential medicines and commodities, construct health clinics and hospitals, strengthen the use of health data at the provincial and district level to guide resource allocation, fund the acquisition of medical materials, and to support maternal and child health care. Since 2010, USAID has trained more than 47,000 health care workers, who served more than 7.35 million community members throughout Pakistan.

International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL): Pakistan took important steps to counter violent extremists operating in the conflict-affected areas bordering Afghanistan during 2016; these steps included intensifying support to civilian law enforcement and border security agencies. Over the course of 2016, INL helicopters flew more than 2,000 hours, providing reconnaissance, surveillance, casualty, and medical evacuation missions. In addition, INL helicopters provided defensive fire support to the Frontier Corps Balochistan while Pakistan security forces advanced on terrorist strongholds. INL oversaw the initiation, completion, or continued construction of 24 border outposts, bringing the total constructed by INL to 340 in KP and FATA, protecting the lives of the Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, and the FATA Levies. In addition to training prosecutors in trial advocacy, INL built and furnished an office for the Prosecutorial Service in each of the 14 districts in KP, which provides the prosecutors, for the first time ever, a place other than their homes and police stations in which to work. INL also supported the opening of the 28-kilometer Matani Bypass road in 2016 creating greater access for KP farmers to get to market, commercial carriers to run between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and law enforcement agencies to access the remote areas of KP and the FATA. Collectively, these efforts enhanced the counterinsurgency, law enforcement, and counter-narcotics capacities of Pakistan’s civilian law enforcement and border security agencies. Improved security will, in turn, facilitate economic development, which is necessary for long-term Pakistani stability and progress.

Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining, and Related Programs (NADR): The United States, through its Export Control and Related Border Security Program (EXBS) provided assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s export control system to prevent transfer of WMD and related technology. The EXBS program focused on assisting the Pakistani government with enhancing Pakistan’s regulation of strategic trade through increased licensing, building law enforcement capacity (with particular focus on commodity identification, investigations training, and cross border engagement), and expanding outreach to industry with the goal of promoting strategic trade control compliance. The Government of Pakistan made significant improvements to its national control list, which is now closely harmonized with the Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, and Nuclear Suppliers Group control lists. During FY 2016, EXBS Pakistan carried out the End-Use/End-User Risk Analysis Workshop, the Regional Advance Identification Training Workshop targeting Pakistan’s Chemical Industry Representatives, and organized the International Visitor Leadership Program for the Pakistani Strategic Trade Controls and Enforcement officials. In April, EXBS donated weapons of mass destruction detection and identification equipment in the amount of US $1.6 million to Pakistan. The United States also provided targeted assistance to build Pakistani law enforcement capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist threats. Specifically, the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program provided nine courses focused on instructor development, soft targets, counterterrorism investigations, and crisis response.

Humanitarian Assistance: Since October 2009, more than US $1 billion of emergency humanitarian assistance has been provided to Pakistan in response to floods and conflict, in addition to bilateral assistance. In 2016, USAID provided approximately US $60 million in humanitarian aid, early recovery assistance, and post-conflict development assistance to support the return of 600,000 internally displaced persons to their communities in the FATA.

Foreign Military Financing (FMF): FMF promotes the development of Pakistan’s long-term counterinsurgency and counterterrorism capabilities to enhance security and stability throughout the country, particularly in the conflict-affected areas bordering Afghanistan, and to improve Pakistan’s ability to lead and participate in U.S.-led maritime security operations that support maritime counterterrorism and counter piracy objectives in the Arabian Sea. The United States continued to focus FMF towards seven core capabilities: precision strike; air mobility/ combat search and rescue; battlefield communications; night operations; survivability and countering improvised explosive devices; border security; and maritime security.

International Military Education and Training (IMET): The IMET program supported professional military education for Pakistan’s military leaders, emphasizing respect for the rule of law, human rights, and democratic values, including civilian control of the military. IMET also supported effective management of Pakistan’s defense establishment through training in logistics, defense acquisition, and resource management. A portion of this funding supported modest technical and operational training that enhances Pakistan’s overall professionalism and improves its counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities. Pakistan received the largest amount of IMET of any of our global partners, at nearly US $5 million annually. Since 2009, the United States has trained more than 2,300 members of the Pakistan military and defense establishment. At approximately 1.5 percent, Pakistan consistently has the lowest IMET course forfeiture rate in the region and consistently remains well below the world-wide objective of 5 percent.

Measures to ensure that assistance has the greatest long-term positive impact on the welfare of the Pakistani people and their ability to counter terrorism: More than a quarter of U.S. civilian assistance is implemented via Pakistani partners, including the Government of Pakistan, private-sector actors, and civil-society and community-engagement partners, as practicable. This is done to strengthen local capacity and increase sustainability, providing the greatest possible long-term impact of U.S. assistance. Increasingly, U.S. assistance is also used for public-private partnerships to engage the private sector as a long-term partner in Pakistan’s development.


COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATION WITH SAUDI ARABIA

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong bilateral counterterrorism relationship. Multiple high-level visits in 2016 deepened this relationship at the personal and institutional level and provided senior officials from both countries the chance to discuss means of improving counterterrorism coordination.

During 2016, the Government of Saudi Arabia (SAG), working with the United States, continued to build and augment its capacity to counter terrorism and violent extremist ideologies, including al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Saudi Arabia maintained its long-term counterterrorism strategy to track and halt the activities of terrorists and terrorist financiers, dismantle the presence or reconstitution of al-Qa’ida (AQ)‑affiliates, impede the ability of militants to operate from or within Saudi Arabia, and continued to implement laws against supporting terrorist groups and travel to conflict zones. Saudi Arabia reinforced its efforts as a key member and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as evidenced by its co-leading counter-ISIS finance efforts alongside the United States and Italy. The Saudi government enhanced operations against ISIS, condemning its activities and participating in coalition’s military action to defeat the group in Syria and Iraq, and pursuing an aggressive campaign against ISIS at home. Saudi Arabia implemented UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 and 2199, and the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime; expanded existing counterterrorism programs and rhetoric to address the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters; and leveraged terrorist finance provisions of its Law for Crimes of Terrorism and Terrorist Financing (CT Law) and Royal Decree A/44 to counter the funding of violent extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere. In short, Saudi Arabia maintained a robust counterterrorism relationship with the United States and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of U.S. and Saudi citizens in both countries, and to enhance the security of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia critical to the global economy.

Saudi Arabia continued to cooperate with the United States to prevent acts of terrorism both through engagement in bilateral programs and through information exchange arrangements with the United States. During 2016, Saudi Arabia increased its public designations of individuals and entities for violating the Kingdom’s laws criminalizing terrorist financing and support. In October, Saudi Arabia and the United States took joint action to simultaneously designate two individuals and one entity acting on behalf of Hizballah. In March, Saudi Arabia and the United States disrupted the fundraising and support networks of al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and Lashkar‑e‑Tayyiba by imposing financial sanctions on four individuals and two organizations with ties across Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. In February, Saudi Arabia designated three individuals and four entities acting on behalf of Hizballah’s commercial procurement network.

Saudi Arabia sought to further expand economic, civic, and entertainment opportunities for its people. In April, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s plan to empower the private sector and lessen the fiscal burden on the state to provide jobs and social welfare; diversify the economy away from oil to decrease reliance on volatile oil prices; and increase the participation of Saudi nationals in the labor force, especially women and youth. The Saudi government has since taken several concrete steps to implement Vision 2030, including restructuring several ministries and public agencies, reducing public sector employees’ compensation as part of an austerity program, and initiating a public relations campaign to underscore the need for large scale reform. The United States sent a high-level delegation to Saudi Arabia in October 2016 to show our support for Vision 2030 goals and continued to engage the Saudi government on economic and other reforms during high-level visits through the end of 2016.

While some individuals not directly associated with the government reportedly made statements that promoted intolerant views and funded or engaged in activities overseas that allegedly promote violence in the name of Islam, the Saudi government itself took several steps to curb violent extremism. The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued to train and more strictly regulate imams, prohibiting them from inciting violence, and continued to monitor mosques and religious education. The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue promoted tolerance and respect for diversity through its dialogue and awareness-raising programs. The Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship de-radicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue) to counter internet radicalization. In 2016, Saudi Arabia launched a new Center for Intellectual Warfare designed to blunt ISIS’s ideological appeal and counter violent extremist messages by discrediting what SAG officials characterized as “distortions” of Islamic tenets used in recruiting and ISIS propaganda.

Saudi Arabia also improved oversight of proselytization and Islamic charitable activities, especially during Hajj. The Saudi government appointed new leadership in various Islamic organizations to bolster efforts to counter violent extremism and streamline these organizations’ charitable activities to enhance compliance with counterterrorism finance regulations. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MOIA) announced restrictions on foreign travel of Saudi-based clerics for da’wa (proselytization) activities, requiring them to obtain the government’s permission before traveling. Additionally, the MOIA promulgated regulations restricting Saudi clerics’ internal activities, for instance, requiring clerics to obtain permission before making media appearances even on Saudi networks. These are all part of centrally-coordinated efforts driven by the Saudi government’s leadership to limit the ability of individuals with questionable credentials or affiliations to propagate extremist messages at home and abroad, and to restrict their ability to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.

During 2016, the Saudi government continued its ongoing program to modernize the educational curriculum, including textbooks, although this has not been completely implemented and some textbooks containing derogatory and intolerant references to Shia and non-Muslims remained in circulation. Under the rubric of Vision 2030, the Ministry of Education worked to consolidate religious courses, increase the focus on modern educational needs, and improve the quality of instruction, including through the development of teacher training initiatives.

The United States continued to support Saudi Arabia in reforms it is undertaking by facilitating Saudi nationals studying in the United States and promoting educational exchanges; encouraging increased bilateral trade and investment; urging Saudi Arabia to take actions necessary to attract job-creating partnerships with U.S. companies; and supporting programming in such areas as judicial reform and women’s entrepreneurship, as well as the Ministry of Interior’s well‑developed extremist rehabilitation program, the Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center, to reduce recidivism among former fighters charged with crimes related to terrorism.

Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues, including its continued participation in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Saudi officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, and reaffirmed its determination to address all aspects of the threat at the national, regional and international, levels. The Saudi government hosted international counterterrorism conferences on subjects ranging from countering violent extremist ideology to media and terrorism.

On July 20, 2016 Saudi Arabia co-led the Defeat-ISIS Global Coalition Communications Working Group in Washington, DC, with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates; 28 other Coalition partners participated. The meeting focused on coordinated campaign messaging, the changing landscape of ISIS communications, and developing strategic partnerships between governments, the social media industry, and local actors.

Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals continued to participate in joint programs around the world, including in Europe, the United States, and a GCC joint military exercise focusing on counterterrorism and border security drills in Bahrain. In addition to Saudi Arabia’s bilateral cooperation with the United States, Saudi officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct counterterrorism operations and to exchange information. ISIS’s continued threat to both Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states encouraged greater dialogue about information sharing, coordination of counterterrorism efforts, and the importance of strategic cooperation against terrorist groups seeking influence in the region.

Saudi Arabia maintained a close and effective counterterrorism relationship with the United States, and supported enhanced bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of both U.S. and Saudi citizens within Saudi territories and abroad. After the establishment of the Saudi-led Islamic Counterterrorism Coalition in December 2015, the government hosted its first meeting of military chiefs on March 27. Representatives from 39 countries focused on ideological, financial, military, and media aspects to counter terrorism. Oman became the 41st country to join the coalition in late December 2016.


BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS INITIATIVES:
OUTREACH TO FOREIGN MUSLIM AUDIENCES

This section is provided by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)


Four of the five broadcast entities under the supervision of the BBG provided programming for countries with large Muslim populations in 2016: the Voice of America (VOA), the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV, Radio Sawa, and Afia Darfur), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

  • Fifteen of RFE/RL’s broadcast languages – approximately two-thirds of the total – were directed to regions with majority-Muslim populations, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Additional broadcasting to regions in the Russian Federation included the majority Muslim populations of Bashkortostan, the North Caucasus, and Tatarstan.
  • VOA has been particularly successful in reaching non-Arabic-speaking Muslim audiences in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Tanzania, among other places.
  • The Middle East Broadcasting Networks – Alhurra Television, Radio Sawa, and Afia Darfur – broadcast to more than 340 million people.
  • MBN launched the Raise Your Voice initiative across television, radio, and digital platforms. Raise Your Voice encourages Iraqis to speak out against the underlying causes of violent extremism and look for solutions to unite their country.
  • VOA and RFE/RL provided news and information to Afghanistan and the Afghanistan‑Pakistan border region in Dari and Pashto. Together, RFE/RL and VOA reached 53 percent of Afghan adults each week.
  • Radio Free Asia broadcast to the more than 16 million mainly ethnic Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of northwestern China and Central Eurasia.
  • In partnership with Radio Free Asia, the online news operation Benar News reached predominantly Muslim audiences in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. These communities often lacked access to accurate and balanced journalism, but are exposed to a proliferation of violent extremist narratives. Benar News countered those narratives by publishing credible domestic news, features, analysis, and commentary in multiple formats – text, video, and pictures – in five languages: Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaysia, Bengali, English, and Thai.

BBG used the latest communications technologies to avoid jamming of its signals, and to reach audiences through digital and other communications tools, such as mobile and messaging apps and social media platforms.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Arabic: Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) has seven bureaus/production centers in the region, in addition to its main studios in Virginia, and a network of regional correspondents. MBN broadcast to a population that included an estimated 317 million Muslims – 23 percent of the world’s Muslim population. MBN used three platforms: television (Alhurra TV, Alhurra-Iraq TV), radio (Radio Sawa, Radio Sawa Iraq, and Afia Darfur), and digital (Alhurra.com, RadioSawa.com, and Irfasaatak.com) – and all of their corresponding social media pages. Topics included freedom of speech, religion, and the role of women in society and politics.

Iraq: Every week, 42.6 percent of Iraqi adults – some 6.3 million people – listened to or watched one of the three BBG broadcasters serving the country: Alhurra TV, Radio Sawa, and VOA Kurdish. One third (34.5 percent) of Iraqis said they used Alhurra-Iraq (TV and digital) for news and information in the past week. Radio Sawa Iraq is one of the top radio stations among adults. VOA Kurdish reached 5 percent of Kurdish-speaking Iraqis weekly.

In 2016, MBN expanded the Raise Your Voice initiative, a multi-platform campaign for Iraqi audiences across television, radio, and digital, composed of five television programs, one radio program, an interactive website, and a digital team to engage audiences on Raise Your Voice social media properties. This initiative, entirely in Arabic, is designed as a non-sectarian platform to encourage citizens to speak out and be a part of the discussion about the fight against terrorism.

The Raise Your Voice initiative complements MBN’s established programming that highlights human rights, freedom of religion, female empowerment, and free speech. New MBN programs and examples of impact include:

  • Changing Viewpoints About ISIS: In surveys conducted in Iraq, 44 percent of Alhurra viewers said that something they saw on Alhurra led them to think differently about ISIS.
  • Launch of What’s Your Opinion TV: Following the success of Radio Sawa Iraq’s call‑in show, Alhurra-Iraq launched a weekly televised call in a show that encourages viewers to express their points of view on a singular topic that addresses what can be done to improve Iraq.
  • Radio Sawa’s Call-In Shows Provide an Outlet for Those Living Under ISIS Control: Radio Sawa Iraq’s two daily call-in programs regularly received calls from ISIS-controlled areas such as Mosul and Hawijah. When Iraqi Armed Forces started to retake Mosul, commanders came on the radio network to instruct Iraqis how to stay safe while there was fighting in their neighborhoods.
  • Engaging and Countering ISIS Sympathizers: Alhurra’s Raise Your Voice Facebook page has had repeated interaction with ISIS sympathizers. In one example, a few ISIS sympathizers commented on an article regarding ISIS military defeats, saying that ISIS represents Islam and will not be defeated. The Raise Your Voice moderators replied with links to information about how ISIS is being defeated in Iraq and Syria. Audience members also commented saying the sympathizers are wrong, and discussed how ISIS is a terrorist group and should not be considered representative of Islam.
  • Alhurra Produced a Documentary On Ordinary Citizens Fighting Violent Extremism: Alhurra Television’s Invisible Enemy is a three-part documentary series that took an in-depth look at what Moroccan citizens are doing to counter violent extremism. It examined the role that Morocco plays in the regional and international fight against terrorism and how government and community leaders are taking steps to eradicate the roots of terrorism. Invisible Enemy follows key members of Moroccan society as they address what they are doing to fight violent extremist ideologies.
  • Launch of Sit B’Mit Ragal (Arabic for “A Woman is Worth 100 Men”): Alhurra aired two seasons of this critically-acclaimed program that profiled four Egyptian women embarking on traditionally male-dominated jobs. They each talked about their career journey and the challenges they faced trying to make inroads in Cairo’s tough business environment.

VOA Extremism Watch Desk: In late 2015, VOA established the Extremism Watch Desk to acquire content in eight different languages focused on ISIS and its activities. That content is translated into English and is shared with VOA’s 45 language services, VOA Central News, and other BBG networks.

The Watch Desk launched a social media presence on Twitter and YouTube in early 2016, is establishing a blog for the main VOA English web site, and added a video producer to handle relevant video content for television and the worldwide web. In the summer of 2016, the VOA News Center added permanent placement on the homepage at VOANews.com, titled Extremism Watch, where content from the Extremism Watch Desk is disseminated to a worldwide audience in English. It has broken news on violent extremism and produced special projects such as Descent into Jihad, which was translated into more than 20 languages for dissemination.

Kurdish: The VOA Kurdish Service covered ISIS attacks in the Kurdistan region on a daily basis, with interviews and stringers reporting from the region. The service’s stringers: Kawa Omer, Dilshad Anwer, Salam Balayee, Ahmed Zebari, Zhiyar Omer, and Salah Aldin Abdullah, reported regularly for radio and television about ISIS. Their reports, which included interviews with people on the ground − including individuals who had escaped ISIS captivity − were shared with VOA’s Watch Desk and its newsroom.

Braving significant security risks, stringer Kawa Omar visited Mosul as the Iraqi forces liberated neighborhoods there. He spoke with refugees as they fled and also spoke with Iraqi soldiers.

In Syria’s Kurdish region, VOA stringers Zana Omer, Mahmoud Bali, and Amina Misto reported on the local fight against ISIS, generating daily television coverage. On-the-ground interviews included Kurdish and other regions’ commanders. Call-in shows and roundtables focused on ISIS. Many Kurdish television stations had Skype interviews with the Kurdish Service staffers to talk about events happening in the region, including NRT TV, Rudaw TV, and Orient TV.

To provide context and to explain events, the Kurdish Service regularly interviewed officials and analysts. In 2016, the Kurdish Service also covered various conferences and discussions about ISIS in Washington DC.

Persian: VOA’s Persian Service provided critical global and regional news relating to Iran and crucial information about U.S. policy toward Iran and the region.

  • In 2016, VOA Persian focused on covering the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS members providing training and equipment to Peshmerga units in Iraqi Kurdistan, to help them in their fight against ISIS. While on a reporting assignment in Erbil, Iraq, VOA Persian reporter Ali Javanmardi produced a series of exclusive television reports covering the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s preparation for Mosul. Javanmardi also hosted the weekly show “New Horizon,” which focused on Operation Inherent Resolve, a multinational effort to train and equip local fighting forces in Iraq and Syria.
  • In Washington, VOA Persian focused on exposing the role that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) played in supporting and controlling Hizballah units in Syria. VOA Persian produced a series of television packages and exclusive interviews with Emanuele Ottolenghi and Behnam Ben Taleblu, researchers from The Foundation for Defense of Democracies. They documented Mahan Air, an Iranian airline with close relations to the IRGC, providing airlifts to IRGC personnel, who were flown between Iran, Iraq, and Syria for military training.
  • VOA Persian also provided in-depth broadcast and digital coverage of several congressional hearings where members expressed concerns about Iran’s failure to address the risk of terrorist financing. Coverage included a hearing before the House Committee on Financial Services (Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing) and a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the topic of “Terrorism, Missiles and Corruption: The Risks of Economic Engagement with Iran.”
  • VOA Persian conducted an exclusive interview with General Michael Flynn, at the time an advisor to the Trump presidential campaign and, later, President Trump’s National Security Advisor. VOA Persian conducted another exclusive interview with Dr. Michael Ledeen, General Flynn’s co-author of the 2016 book The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.
  • Another exclusive interview was conducted with Dr. Michael Doran, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the 2016 book Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East. The interview with Dr. Doran provided a closer look at the power struggles within the Middle East and in-depth analysis of the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia forces.

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda broadcast newscasts at the top of each hour, followed by reports, features, interviews, and regular segments on youth, women, culture, economics, and politics.

  • Radio Farda reported from Mosul and from Aleppo, Syria.
  • In 2016, Radio Farda launched a new radio and digital program called Taboo, which provided a forum to discuss topics that would otherwise be considered taboo in Iranian society, such as the issue of government interference with people’s lifestyles and what comprises the common Turkic identity.
  • Radio Farda produced comprehensive monitoring of human rights inside Iran. Reportedly, prison inmates listen to the program regularly, relying on it for accurate reporting about their cases. In 2016, Farda produced and aired a 45-minute documentary about interrogation techniques in Iranian prisons, focusing on the personal testimonies of political and civic activists.
  • Radio Farda now has more than 1.7 million fans on its main Facebook page. During 2016, Farda expanded its social media engagement with audiences on social media that were not blocked in Iran.
  • Radio Farda’s circumvention strategies to fight internet blockage by the Iranian regime remained successful, with nearly 217 million page views logged in 2016.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

VOA South and Central Asia Division (SCA) has been one of the most active divisions in investigating violent extremism around the world. It covers the area from Syria to Iraq, Turkey, Central Asia, and all of South Asia. During 2016, the division provided news coverage of ISIS activities in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and the South and Central Asia regions, and U.S. policies and activities to address the threat. Production spanned radio, television, online, and social media.

Afghan Service: The Afghan Service continued its coverage of violent extremists’ actions in the country and the region. Call-in shows, round table discussions, interviews, and many other programs are produced on a daily basis.

In an exclusive interview with VOA Afghan Service, two former ISIS commanders in eastern Afghanistan described their enlistment with the terrorist group. The television interviews went viral on VOA Dari and Pashto social media and generated extensive audience engagement.

VOA Afghan Service was the first to report on ISIS’ drive to generate revenue through deforestation and by the levying of taxes on farmers in eastern Afghanistan. In addition, the service did a series reporting on ISIS’ drive to ignite Iraq-like sectarian violence in Afghanistan. After ISIS suicide attackers targeted Muslim Shia sites in Kabul and elsewhere in the country, VOA spoke to Shia and Sunni leaders, analysts, and ordinary citizens about ISIS’ agenda to provoke wars in Afghanistan.

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan also conducted reporting and analysis on atrocities committed by ISIS, with a focus on those inflicted on Afghan civilians. In early 2016, the Service's ISIS coverage concentrated on the eastern Nangarhar Province, where government forces and local volunteers fought to reclaim parts of the six districts lost to ISIS extremists in early 2015. In the later part of the year, the Service led Afghan media in reporting on new ISIS safe havens in the eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces after its fighters were defeated and chased out of Nangahar. Additionally, the video of an attack in Kabul on a Shia religious ceremony, in which more than 80 people died, was widely viewed and shared online. While covering ISIS in Afghanistan, the Service emphasized the regional aspects of this story, covering the organization’s links to neighboring Pakistan where a majority of its fighters are recruited – as well as links to Central Asia.

The Pakistan/Afghanistan Border Region: VOA Deewa and RFE/RL Radio Mashaal broadcasts go directly to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions.

Deewa: VOA Deewa broadcasts to millions of Pashtuns in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. VOA Deewa’s special daily broadcast engages youth and women in shaping narratives for promoting girls’ education, coexistence, diversity, democracy, human rights, and tolerance.

In 2016, VOA Deewa engaged U.S. Congress members, think tanks, religious scholars, and Muslim opinion leaders to address radicalization to violence after the terrorist attacks in California, Florida, New Jersey, and New York. Deewa’s access to U.S. leaders and opinion makers gave the agency a unique advantage over other foreign media outlets. Deewa reached out to prominent moderate religious scholars throughout the target regions and the broader Muslim world.

  • RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal continues to offer programming that serves as an alternative to the violent extremist rhetoric in the region.
    • One of Mashaal’s key programs is the weekly, Towards Peace, which is aimed at promoting dialogue and democracy as a means of conflict resolution in Pakistan’s tribal regions. The program includes talks with experts, tribal leaders, and other relevant stakeholders to examine ways to achieve political goals, settle disputes, and solve problems through non-violent means.
    • To underscore the message of peace and pluralism, a 2016 Radio Mashaal short documentary, Vanishing History, focused on the importance of the 2000-year-old historical sites of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which carry a message of religious tolerance. The sites are associated with the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara, where followers of several religions lived together in relative peace.

Urdu Service: Pakistan is among the countries most affected by terrorist groups, and VOA Urdu’s coverage has largely concentrated on that. The service provided comprehensive coverage of Pakistani military operations against terrorist groups in 2016. Several high-profile interviews, including with NGOs, were conducted to discuss the drivers of violent extremism and ways to counter it.

Bangla Service: The Bangla Service gave minute-by-minute reporting of the Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Dhaka in July 2016, with comments from local security, government officials, two-way interviews with Dhaka reporters, and other terrorism experts. A VOA stringer in Dhaka was the first to get comments from the Italian Ambassador in Dhaka, which was shared throughout VOA.

Turkish Service: VOA Turkish Service became increasingly critical in covering counterterrorism, as Turkey assumed an important role within the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The VOA Turkish Service produced more than four hours of live original television news content per week, another 30 minutes of a recorded magazine show, and five hours of repeated news shows. The service also maintained a strong presence on Turkish television and the internet. Content was distributed nationwide via affiliates TGRT Haber TV and Ege TURK TV, and online affiliates Mynet and Daily Motion. VOA Turkish provided substantial reporting for CNN Turk, NTV, and Haber TURK TV stations, with broadcasters appearing as guests, and VOA Turkish preparing special programming for those stations.

Events in Turkey demanded strong and nuanced news coverage. Turkish stringers in Ankara, Diyarbakir, and Istanbul covered Turkey’s security operations against suspected ISIS militants and recruiters inside Turkey. Coverage of Turkey-Syria-U.S.-ISIS issues and interviews with experts were often picked up by a variety of Turkish media outlets, and were attributed to VOA Turkish.

Azerbaijani Service: VOA Azerbaijani continued its coverage of issues related to counterterrorism efforts, with interviews of current and former officials, political experts, and civil society activists. It closely monitored political trials of individuals accused of involvement in terrorist activities and regularly informed the public of threats posed by violent extremists in the country and region at large.

In July 2016, VOA Azerbaijani spoke to Mubariz Gurbanli, the head of the Azerbaijani State Committee on Working with Religious Institutions. He discussed authorities’ efforts to counter the growth of radicalism on ideological, economic, and legal fronts. VOA Azerbaijani monitored the trials of those who had been accused of fighting for ISIS, al-Nusrah Front, and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. VOA Azerbaijani also interviewed a former intelligence official about the country’s intelligence capacity to counter terrorist threats.

Despite the December 2014 raid by Azerbaijani authorities on RFE/RL’s Baku bureau, which led to the bureau’s formal closure in May 2015, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, known locally as Azadliq, continued to offer coverage of under-reported events in the country by leveraging social media and mobile applications to provide critical regional news to audiences in Azerbaijan.

  • Beginning in FY 2016, Azadliq started production of a daily 15-minute news and current affairs television show, Azadliq A-LIVE, which airs on Facebook, YouTube, mobile and Smart TV apps, and the service’s website. Audio streams were also available on those platforms, as well as the TurkSat and Hotbird satellites.
  • Azadliq’s YouTube channel is one of the most popular channels in Azerbaijan, with more than 100,000 subscribers and 40 million views in FY 2016, up from 10 million in FY 2015.
  • In November, Azadliq launched a new unbranded project, Makroblog, to serve as an open platform for residents to publish, share, and discuss their views on public issues.

The BBG’s Central Asian Services engaged audiences to demonstrate that ISIS’ interpretation of Islam is at odds with that of prominent religious scholars. ISIS’ recruitment efforts were covered extensively by RFE/RL’s Central Asian Services, from the foreign terrorist fighters leaving Central Asia for Syria, to the families left behind.

In late-2015, RFE/RL launched an experimental wire service for Central Asia, to provide objective news to media outlets. In 2016, the number of subscribers to the service exceeded 700 media professionals and outlets. The service provided news in the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, Tajik, and Uzbek languages.

Kazakhstan: RFE/RL’s bilingual Kazakh Service focused primarily on digital distribution of Kazakh and Russian language content, as well as additional digital television programs. The Service covered stories that were otherwise suppressed or did not receive widespread attention, such as the radicalization and recruitment of Kazakh youth into ISIS.

Kyrgyz Republic: Coverage of international events and life in foreign countries by RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service worked to counter the influence of violent extremism and the growth of anti‑Western sentiment in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Service’s programming included a radio program called Religion and Us, which addressed a variety of issues involving Islam and other religious groups in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Service also sought to provide better in-depth analysis of Kyrgyz stories with both regional and international perspectives.

The weekly reach of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service rose in 2016 to 39.4 percent of the population. The Service's weekly television news programs -– the political talk show Inconvenient Questions, youth-oriented Azattyk+, and regional news segments – aired on a number of local affiliates, reached 37.4 percent of Kyrgyz citizens on a weekly basis.

Tajikistan: RFE/RL’s bilingual Tajik Service (Tajik and Russian) distributed news and information through broadcast, satellite, and online platforms, and the Service’s website regularly reached more than one million users per month. The Service’s coverage of Tajik youth who were killed while fighting for ISIS featured original interviews with their parents and shed light on ISIS for Tajik society and the government.

Turkmenistan: RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service is the only media in Turkmenistan offering alternative and uncensored news and information to a completely closed society where people cannot voice their opinion, participate in discussions, or freely express and exchange their ideas.

Uzbekistan: VOA’s Uzbek Service addressed growing ISIS recruitment in the Central Asia Region with in-depth stories related to radicalization among young males and females in Northern Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. VOA Uzbek also covered ethnic and religious tolerance among different U.S. communities. RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service is one of the few sources of reliable news and information for people in Uzbekistan. The Service relies on constant innovation and a wide network of local sources to uncover news and engage with audiences. It has more than 50,000 contacts on Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, and IMO who act as citizen journalists, sending news, photos, and videos from all corners of Uzbekistan, helping to verify information, since the Service is prevented from having a bureau in Tashkent.

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

China: VOA delivered news, including coverage of religious and local issues affecting more than 23 million Chinese Muslims, via satellite television, radio, internet, social media, and mobile channels in Cantonese, Mandarin, and Tibetan. Coverage included Chinese government policies and treatment of ethnic Uighurs and Tibetans.

Indonesia: VOA Indonesian had a weekly audience of more than 48 million people, constituting 28.4 percent of the adult population – a 33 percent increase since 2014. The service’s highest rated segment is produced for Berita Islam Masa Kini (Islam News Now) on national station TransTV, reaching 11.8 percent of Indonesian adults. The VOA Indonesian Service routinely covered terrorist developments in Indonesia, including responses of both the Indonesian government and Indonesian civil society. The Indonesian Service also reported on ISIS, as well as U.S. and international responses to those events.

Thailand: VOA’s Thai Service has 16 affiliate radio stations in every region in Thailand. VOA Thai broadcast more than nine hours of news and information per week to its affiliates, in addition to producing a weekly video report for placement with Thai News Network, a 24-hour news channel and VOICE TV. The programs emphasized the U.S.-Thai relationship, U.S. policies towards Asia, business, science, women, environment, education, American cultures, and Thai communities in the United States. VOA Thai broadcast to south Thailand via three radio affiliates in Songkhla and Pattani province. VOA Thai has also expanded its online platform, sharing its news and content on its website, Facebook, YouTube, and a mobile application.

Burma: VOA’s Burmese Service closely monitored and reported on relations between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Burma, particularly in Arakan State. VOA’s weekly call‑in discussion programs provided opportunities to discuss national elections and sensitive issues, and to stimulate further dialogue. The service also presented U.S. and international opinions on the sensitive national issue of intra-religious relations. On a daily basis, VOA Burmese broadcast radio and television programs via shortwave radio, domestic affiliates, satellite, and also via popular web and mobile sites. The VOA Burmese Bureau in Rangoon participated in local ethnic media seminars to discuss professional journalism standards and to identify and counter messages of hate.

Radio Free Asia’s Uighur language service broadcast two hours daily, seven days a week. It was the only international radio service providing impartial news and information in the Uighur language to the potential audience of more than 16 million Uighur Muslims in northwestern China and Central Eurasia. Consistent with RFA’s mandate, the Uighur service acted as a substitute for indigenous media reporting on local events in the region. Its programs included breaking news, analysis, interviews, commentary, a weekly news review, and feature stories.

  • RFA launched a web page devoted to the Uighur diaspora in the west, Between Identity and Integration. The page charted ethnic Uighur migration since 1949, with interviews, research, and multimedia content.
  • The Uighur Service first reported on Chinese authorities in Xinjiang ordering local residents to attend a weekly patriotic flag-raising ceremony and sing the Chinese national anthem, in addition to further controls imposed during the holy month of Ramadan, when officials restricted Uighurs from attending prayers at mosques and observing religious practices.
  • The Uighur Service broke the news of the sentencing of a Uighur man for viewing a “sensitive” film in China. The report, part of ongoing coverage of China’s free speech restrictions on Uighurs, was cited by numerous global and Chinese-language outlets.

Radio Free Asia’s Burmese language service closely monitored the humanitarian crisis of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority and denial of basic rights. In November, RFA first reported on Burmese soldiers burning down Rohingya homes in border communities and assaulting Rohingya men and women.

BenarNews, an online news portal affiliated with Radio Free Asia, reached predominantly Muslim audiences in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. These communities were exposed to violent extremist narratives supporting the ideology of terrorist groups like ISIS. BenarNews countered those narratives by publishing credible domestic news, features, analysis, and commentary in multiple formats in languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaysia, Bengali, English, and Thai. BenarNews investigated violent extremism and its consequences in programs such as Torn Lives, which highlighted the human cost of extremist violence in Asia; and Dangerous Words, which focused on the 2016 blogger murders in Bangladesh. BenarNews also provided extensive coverage of the ISIS-claimed terrorist attack in Dhaka in July 2016.

EUROPE AND EURASIA

The Russian Federation and Ukraine: In October, BBG launched Current Time, a 24/7 Russian-language digital network. Current Time’s mission is to provide fair and accurate reporting, serving as a reality check on disinformation, including ISIS propaganda messaging. The program is distributed digitally, via satellite and cable providers to more than 30 television affiliates in Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Israel, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Initial content for the digital network includes approximately six hours of original television programming providing critical regional news and information.

Current Time is available to 7.3 million subscribers on 36 subscription satellite, cable, and internet services in nine countries. The entire live stream is available globally to another 75 million monthly unique users on FilmOn.tv and regionally to another 32 million monthly unique users on MeGoGo. The stream also goes to air Eutelsat Hotbird satellite which, according to Eutelsat, is received in 135 million homes.

The project is also taking advantage of the large over-the-top-TV (OTT) market in the region and worldwide through partnerships with global OTT powerhouse, Filmon.tv; a new entry to the OTT distribution market, Dutch-based Mobile2Morrow; and a strong regional player, MeGoGo.

With nearly 1.2 million households, Volia Cable in Ukraine is the largest cable distributor of the Current Time TV stream.

VOA’s Russian and Ukrainian Services regularly addressed terrorism-related issues and threats in Europe and the United States, and other areas of interest to the target audience.

VOA Russian Service reporter Roman Mamonov provided exclusive and comprehensive coverage of the 2016 attacks on an Orlando nightclub. Fatima Tlisova, a subject matter expert detailed from the Russian Service to VOA’s Extremism Watch Desk, produced numerous reports on ISIS propaganda operations in Russia and attempts to recruit Russian Muslims to fight in Syria and Iraq.

South Caucasus: VOA’s Georgian Service provided extensive coverage of developments in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge Region. In a series of reports distributed online and through social media, the Georgian Service examined ISIS’s propaganda and recruiting efforts and interviewed members of the local community who exposed ISIS’s efforts of luring young Georgian recruits with fraudulent promises of jobs and a better life.

Tatarstan/Bashkortostan and North Caucasus: The Tatar and Bashkir communities are the two largest Muslim communities in Russia. RFE/RL’s Tatar/Bashkir Service was the only major international media organization that produced content in the Tatar and Bashkir languages, providing listeners with objective news and analysis on issues such as Russia’s policy toward ethnic and religious minorities, centralization, corruption, the role of Islam in predominantly Muslim regions, and gender issues. Broadcasting in Chechen, RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service reported news in a region where media freedom and journalists remained under severe threat.

In both of these markets, RFE/RL also developed local websites to report news and information for individual cities and their surrounding regions. In 2016, the Tatar-Bashkir and North Caucasus Services launched Russian language websites to complement the Services’ continuing reporting in the Bashkir, Chechen, and Tatar languages while extending their reach to new audiences. The websites targeted those regions particularly vulnerable to disinformation.

The Balkans: During 2016, VOA’s Balkan services provided comprehensive and accurate coverage regarding U.S. and Defeat-ISIS Coalition operations. VOA’s coverage, reaching more than 4.7 million adults weekly across broadcast and digital platforms, focused on terrorist recruitment of young Muslims; actions taken by local law enforcement against ISIS fighters who returned home; and weapons from the Balkans, which had made it to the hands of ISIS fighters and terrorist attackers in Europe. VOA’s Bosnian and Albanian services produced documentary series on the radicalization and militarization of traditionally secular Muslims and measures taken by local governments to fight violent extremism.

RFE/RL’s Balkan Service is an inclusive source of news in a region where media freedom remains elusive and many outlets reflect ethnic divisions. The Service has broad impact and regularly sparks debate and analysis in the region.

  • A February 2016 interview conducted by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service with Columbia University researcher David Phillips, on the number of foreign terrorist fighters recruited from Kosovo to fight in Syria and Iraq, initiated a public debate among security advisors to Kosovo’s Parliament and the Interior Ministry on whether the country was investing sufficient efforts to counter violent extremism.
  • The Balkan Service aired a special television report on the falling numbers of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, offering analysis. The special edition was broadcast in the aftermath of the December Berlin attack.

AFRICA

Hausa: VOA’s Hausa Service continued to provide comprehensive, multimedia coverage of Boko Haram’s terrorist activities in Northern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin through its daily news programming, interactive call-in shows, audio streaming, and website postings.

  • In 2016, VOA Hausa expanded its presence on the ground by opening reporting centers in Abuja, Nigeria and Niamey, Niger. Contributors operated out of the new reporting centers and provided comprehensive multimedia coverage of Boko Haram’s activities.
  • The service placed particular emphasis on two of its platforms to dissuade youths from being recruited by terrorists: Yau Da Gobe (Today and Tomorrow) and the digital stream Dandalin VOA, which engage youths on social media and draw an average of 1.12 million visits per week.

Somali Service: In 2016, VOA’s Somali Service regularly interviewed Somali government officials, Islamic scholars, and independent experts for perspective and context on terrorist threats. VOA Somali also leveraged its connection to Somali diaspora communities in the United States to highlight dangers of radicalization and terrorist recruitment.

  • VOA Somali produced a televised town hall meeting connecting Somalis in Minneapolis and Mogadishu. This interactive event gave the Somali diaspora in Minneapolis-St. Paul the rare opportunity to speak directly with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Somali youth community leaders in both cities queried the president about terrorism, unemployment, and education. The program aired on Somali National Television and streamed live on both the VOA Somali web site and social media platforms.
  • The Somali Service also covered the election campaign of Ilhan Omar, the first Somali‑American legislator in the United States. The 34-year-old Ilhan grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya before moving to the United States with her family. She won a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives as a Democratic candidate.
  • In August, VOA interviewed two former Somali intelligence officials who had called for a review of strategy and security policy against al-Shabaab following three terrorist attacks. They emphasized the need for Somalia to build its security network starting at the district level, and connecting security agents with police, investigating agencies, community police forces, and local governments.
  • In July, the service carried a speech by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, where he called on al-Shabaab to end what he called its “suicidal mission,” and to stop its brutal attacks. In the speech marking Somalia’s 56th anniversary of independence, the president urged the terrorist group to consider the lives they disrupt.

French to Africa: VOA’s French-to-Africa Service broadcast to Muslims throughout Francophone Africa on shortwave, medium wave, and, increasingly, on FM radio through dozens of affiliates across the region. It also broadcast via its own 24/7 FM transmitters in nine major cities: Abidjan, Bamako, Bangui, Dakar, Goma, Lubumbashi, Ndjamena, Niamey, and Ouagadougou.

VOA provided extensive coverage of the Mali peace process and of reconciliation efforts in the Central African Republic. VOA also provided reports about terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Nigeria, as well as in Europe and the United States. In 2016, VOA continued to broadcast to the region in French, Bambara (widely spoken in Mali and neighboring countries), and in Sango (spoken in Central African Republic and parts of neighboring countries). The service also reached Muslims through its weekly program, Dialogue des Religions, which offered discussions with religious scholars on a variety of topics, including Islam’s relations with other religions.

Swahili Service: VOA’s Swahili Service broadcast to large Muslim populations in Tanzania and Kenya, and to smaller Muslim communities in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Uganda. The service also enhanced its efforts to reach Muslim communities on the East African coastline, where cities like Mombasa experienced terrorist attacks. In 2016, the VOA Swahili reporting center in Mombasa became operational, producing radio and television programming on a range of topics, including the security situation, the impact of security threats on tourism, and Kenyan government efforts to increase security and revive the tourism industry, traditionally one of the country’s most important economic sectors. In Burundi, the DRC, and Uganda, the Swahili Service produced and aired a number of programs on youth and joblessness.

The VOA News Center. Throughout 2016, VOA News provided comprehensive, round-the-clock coverage of U.S. and international efforts to counter violent extremism. Coverage included VOA reporting across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Reports on violent extremism and related issues accounted for more VOA stories than any other topic. Major coverage included the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq; the fight against ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan; terrorist attacks in Asia, Europe, and the United States; the drivers of violent extremism; and efforts by various countries – in the public and private sectors – to counter violent extremism. Other topics included U.S. counterterrorism strategy and the political impact of terrorist threats in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere.

The VOA News Center posted web reports on various aspects of these issues every week. In addition to ISIS, VOA News also focused on al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups. The VOA News website highlighted content from the VOA South and Central Asia Division’s Extremism Watch Desk.

Iraq. VOA News Correspondent Sharon Behn was stationed in Erbil, Iraq for several months in 2016. She regularly traveled with Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the front lines of the fight against ISIS and to Baghdad to report on the Iraqi government’s ability to sustain the war. VOA Cairo Correspondent Heather Murdock later returned to Erbil, where she stayed for the remainder of the year, reporting from the front lines in the battle for Mosul and interviewing Iraqis who had been liberated from ISIS.

Syria. For much of 2016, reporter Jamie Dettmer was based in Turkey, near the Syrian border, where he interviewed politicians, diplomats, and rebel leaders for stories examining the complex interplay of rebel and pro-government factions, and their political supporters in Russia, Turkey, and the United States. Reporter Dorian Jones, based in Istanbul, filed stories throughout the year on Ankara’s role in the war and its impact on Turkish politics.

Washington, DC. VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin drew on his sources in the U.S. intelligence community to assess the relative strength of various forces in the fight against violent extremists, the outcome of major encounters, strategies for countering violent extremism, the political support for various factions, and related developments. His reporting addressed not only the fighting in Iraq and Syria, but also efforts against violent extremism in South Asia and Africa as well as terrorist activities in Western countries.

Afghanistan and Pakistan. Islamabad-based reporters Ayesha Tanzeem and Ayaz Gul closely followed efforts in Afghanistan against the Taliban and growing ISIS influence. They also covered terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

Nigeria and Cameroon. Reporters Chika Oduah in Abuja, Chris Stein in Lagos, and Moki Edwin Kindzeka in Yaounde, extensively covered Nigeria’s struggle against Boko Haram. Despite considerable personal risk, Stein and Oduah traveled to northern Nigeria to interview citizens whose lives had been disrupted. Similarly, Kindzeka reported from the Nigerian border.

Somalia. Correspondent Jill Craig in Nairobi reported on efforts by the Federal Government of Somalia in Mogadishu to establish order and counter al-Shabaab attacks. She and reporter Mohammed Yusuf regularly interviewed Somalis in Kenyan refugee camps and covered Nairobi’s efforts to prevent the radicalization of Muslims in Kenya.

Europe. VOA’s London Correspondent Luis Ramirez and Paris-based reporter Lisa Bryant provided extensive coverage of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Nice, and Paris, including reporting on the sources of radicalization in Belgium and France. Ramirez and other VOA reporters also traveled across Greece and the Balkans to interview refugees and migrants, who were mostly fleeing from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.


VISAS FOR PARTICIPANTS IN UNITED STATES PROGRAMS

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ current visa policies and procedures have two fundamental missions: protecting national security by helping secure U.S. borders against actual or potential threats, while at the same time facilitating legitimate travel and international exchange. Focusing on these two fundamental missions ensures timely adjudications of visa applications for individuals to participate in exchange visitor programs while at the same time protecting our nation’s borders.

It is the Bureau of Consular Affairs' policy to facilitate and make a priority visa interviews for all student and exchange visitors for them to arrive in the United States by their program start dates, provided they qualify under the law for the visa. During the interview process, all applicants are screened through a robust, interagency vetting system drawing on both biographic and biometric data elements. This policy is in place at every embassy and consulate worldwide where nonimmigrant visas are processed.

In countries with significant visa interview wait times due to high demand, this policy may reduce wait times for students and exchange visitors from weeks to days. Applications may require additional administrative processing after the interview. Because of this, program sponsors and applicants should coordinate to initiate visa applications well in advance of their planned travel. Applicants should be advised to obtain passports immediately and visit travel.state.gov for instructions on applying for U.S. visas.


Basic Education in Muslim Countries

Whether they attend school or not, some 250 million children in Muslim majority countries do not learn the basic skills required to be competitive economic actors in a globalized world. Drop-out rates remain high and too few students, particularly adolescent girls, continue studies beyond the primary level. While important gains in primary school enrollment have been achieved across the developing world, and the gender gap in access to primary education has been narrowed or closed in many countries, access to education remains inequitable, and the quality of education remains poor. More children have a better chance of attending school than ever before, but they do not necessarily have a better chance of learning anything while there. As they grow up, an increasing number of young people in developing countries find themselves without relevant knowledge and skills and are unable to fully participate in and contribute to economic development, promote security and stability, and effectively and peacefully engage in civic and political matters.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Education Strategy guides and focuses education programs to support countries’ achievement of specific, measurable results: children are reading; children and youth are accessing safe, quality education in conflict and crisis; young people are learning the skills they need to gain employment and contribute to society; and higher education institutions are supporting development progress across sectors. Under this strategy, USAID determines the best approach to education programming in a given country (including countries with predominantly Muslim populations) based on U.S. development policy priorities, overarching foreign policy and national security considerations, individual country and/or regional priorities, and USAID’s comparative advantage and available foreign assistance resources, among other factors. Individual country strategies are grounded in data, evidence, and analysis, including country-wide, education sector, and demographic analyses. This informs USAID interventions and approaches taken to implement and achieve the goals of the country strategy.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, USAID allocated US $384.7 million to basic education to countries with large Muslim populations. Approximate amounts for each region were:

  • Asia: US $30.6 million was allocated to Bangladesh, the Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines (Mindanao), and Tajikistan. USAID has ongoing basic education activities in Indonesia, although there was no allocation of FY 2016 funds there. Basic education activities in countries such as these can help improve economic opportunities which could lead to economic growth and help reduce some of the pressures that could otherwise lead to radicalization.
  • Europe and Eurasia: USAID has ongoing basic education activities in Kosovo, although there was no allocation of FY 2016 funds there.
  • Middle East: US $145.5 million was allocated to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen.
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan: US $95.1 million was allocated to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: US $113.5 million was allocated to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, and Tanzania, and on regional programs.

ASIA

Bangladesh: USAID/Bangladesh’s education activities improve the reading skills of children in the first three years of primary school, and focused on the geographic areas with the poorest educational outcomes. These activities improve the quality of reading instruction and teachers’ ability to assess student reading performance, as well as providing supplemental reading materials. In 2016, USAID reading activities reached nearly 400,000 primary school students, trained more than 4,000 teachers, and procured and distributed 347,101 books to provide access to supplementary reading materials. USAID continued support to 164 community reading camps located in 80 school catchment areas throughout the country. USAID recruited more than 300 community volunteers to conduct reading sessions through this network of reading camps. Additionally, USAID assisted in setting up child-friendly reading corners at 20 public and community libraries to promote a culture of reading. USAID provided age-appropriate books, leveraged procurement of tablets from a non-profit organization, and installed various reading apps on those tablets. These child-friendly reading corners are seeing increasing use, with more than 8,000 children visiting to read books and play with reading games installed on the tablets. USAID also trained more than 20 librarians to promote reading among children.

Indonesia: The Prioritizing Reform, Innovation, and Opportunities for Reaching Indonesia’s Teachers, Administrators, and Students ( PRIORITAS) initiative works directly with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to strengthen district and local training for improved governance and management of financial and human resources, and operates across 50 districts in up to 10 targeted provinces. In 2016, PRIORTAS supported activities to improve reading in more than 1000 primary schools. The USAID program worked with local government and school leaders to establish reading corners in schools, include more instructional time for reading, and develop training modules to improve how teachers teach reading. USAID worked with a local organization, Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI), to revise, improve, and align textbooks with the national curriculum. PRIORITAS also helped develop a training module on how to train teachers to use the books and supported printing them. These books were delivered to more than 1,400 PRIORITAS partner schools which will benefit more than four million students.

Kyrgyz Republic: The USAID Quality Reading Project continued to improve early grade reading by establishing reading curriculum standards, strengthening teachers’ reading instructional practices, providing reading materials, incorporating community activities to enhance the culture of reading, equipping government leaders’ and structures’ capacity to establish reading curriculum standards, and strengthening teachers’ reading instructional practices around primary grade reading education, as well as improving access to higher education through corruption-free admission tests. The Quality Reading Project reaches more than 150,000 students and the USAID interventions have improved reading skills. USAID has achieved significant results with 12,140 educators trained, which comprise about 80 percent of all grade 1-4 primary school teachers, representing 65 percent of the schools nationwide. Programming for youth in workforce development continues to better prepare young adults for available careers to remain in the Kyrgyz Republic and avoid the dangers and uncertainty of migratory employment, including the risks of radicalization.

Philippines: U.S. education assistance focused on vulnerable out-of-school youth. In 2016, 6,707 youth received life-skills training before going back to school or entering the workforce. Through the community-based Out-of-School Youth Development Alliance, youth graduates were linked to the private sector to help gain employment post-training. This linkage was especially successful in 2016. A fish-packing plant formalized an arrangement to offer on‑the‑ job training and employment to youth graduates. A chain of hardware stores has almost exclusively hired youth trained through U.S. assistance programs. Among youth graduates that enrolled in the government’s alternative learning system, 613 took the accreditation and equivalency test, with 87 passing and 41 already pursuing college degrees. USAID education program assistance in Mindanao is training teachers; providing computers, textbooks, and other materials to schools; and building the capacity of Parent-Teacher Associations. By improving the instruction in Mindanao’s public schools, programs are increasing access to quality education and skills in areas most affected by conflict and poverty.

Tajikistan: USAID’s Quality Reading Project aims to improve reading performance of 65 percent of all primary school (grades 1-4) students and 85 percent of targeted primary teachers in Tajikistan. QRP works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education to improve reading instruction in primary school by increasing the availability of reading materials, especially age-appropriate Tajik language books. To build a “reading culture” in Tajikistan, USAID has worked diligently to increase the number of age-appropriate reading materials available to primary students through libraries in classrooms, schools, and communities. USAID addressed the critical shortage of Tajik language, age-relevant children’s books by bringing local authors and illustrators together to create original, high quality books. In 2016, a total of 212,000 books were produced and disseminated. In addition, USAID has worked with other donors and the private sector to create public service advocacy videos on the importance of reading and an animated, subtitled children’s television series aired at no cost on a national network to increase attention in the area of reading.

EUROPE AND EURASIA

Kosovo: The Basic Education Program works with schools and communities to develop 21st century skills for children in primary school grades 1-9. USAID also assists Kosovo education institutions in undertaking reforms such as: decentralizing the Municipal Education Directorates, improving the quality of teaching and learning outcomes of primary school students, and improving teacher professional development through school-based training. The program enables Kosovo’s primary schools to attain a high level of educational excellence, preparing youth with the necessary skills to succeed in a global economy.

MIDDLE EAST

Egypt: To help Egypt cope with poor instruction quality and to develop critical thinking and practical skills in the largest school system in the Middle East (more than 18 million students), USAID works with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to align its education system more closely with the needs of a modern economy. This includes improving the quality of teachers at the primary level through mandatory practical training for all new teachers so they have guided experience in the classroom prior to full-time instruction. USAID also supports Egyptian government efforts to implement education programs that develop critical thinking and practical skills of primary and secondary school students. To support previous investments in early grade reading and math nationwide, USAID is continuing technical assistance to the MoE to build integral and sustainable early grade reading and math systems – with a focus on improving curriculum and materials, strengthening teacher professional development, and including early grade learning instruction in university faculties of education. USAID is also enhancing Egypt’s talent pool and competitiveness by piloting and expanding science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in secondary schools. Two pilot STEM high schools that USAID helped establish in Cairo have been so successful that the government is scaling up this program nationwide and establishing STEM schools in all 27 governorates.

Jordan: Despite many achievements, the Government of Jordan recognizes that the quality of education remains uneven and not competitive by international standards, particularly in poorer urban and rural areas. USAID aims to strengthen the public education system by building Ministry of Education capacity to implement reforms that improve learning environments and outcomes, using quality assurance standards and making better use of information and data-driven decision making; establish monitoring and evaluations systems; develop enduring public‑private partnerships; and promote professionalism and recognize excellence among teachers and other educators. USAID also supports improving the quality of education and learning outcomes through programs that establish a comprehensive professional teacher/administrator development system and policy framework; strengthen primary students’ reading and math skills in grades K‑3; improve counseling and developing the skills of secondary school students to prepare them for higher education and future careers; promote parent and community involvement; and create positive opportunities for at-risk youth, such as non-formal education. A large portion of basic education funding goes toward improving access to education and learning environments. USAID is building, expanding, and renovating schools in underserved areas to alleviate overcrowding, ease the impact of the refugee influx, and improve the learning environment; addressing psycho-social aspects of the learning environment to make schools more engaging, healthy, and safe; and involving parents and community members in schools to create a sense of ownership and responsibility among stakeholders within the public school system.

Lebanon: USAID programming supports the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) in providing quality public basic education to its citizens. In a country as diverse as Lebanon, public education is a key foundation to political and social stability. USAID works to improve the learning environment and opportunities in public schools nationwide through equipment provision and in-service teacher training, including on the topic of psychosocial support and leadership training for principals. USAID is also working to improve reading outcomes for primary level public school students in grades 1-4. An Early Warning System for struggling readers is being established and piloted. In addition, USAID supports the MEHE’s Reaching All Children with Education strategy, which addresses the significant burden placed on the public education system by the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees into Lebanon. USAID covered school fees of 78,467 girls and boys to access the formal education system in public schools nationwide; 28,000 of these students were vulnerable non‑Lebanese. USAID is also expanding access to education for 10,000 vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee students through transportation solutions, provision of technology equipment, and capacity-building of school staff. Also, USAID works to strengthen the government’s management and monitoring systems with the objective of institutionalizing reforms. Finally, school-based and community support to Lebanese and non-Lebanese students at risk of dropping out is provided, and research into the impact of the Syrian conflict on the education sector is supported.

Morocco: The bulk of USAID basic education assistance in Morocco is focused on testing reading interventions and strengthening stakeholder engagement to improve reading skills in grades 1 and 2 in select schools across eight provinces in four regions. Activities such as developing and piloting grade 1 reading materials; evaluating and revising grade 1 materials based on feedback; developing grade 2 materials; and crafting texts and stories were introduced in the 2015-2016 school year and will be used as the foundation for a national program that will be implemented the following year. Additionally, Morocco supports an activity designed to benefit children in grades 1-3 in schools for the deaf to improve their reading competencies in Arabic. To achieve this goal, the project has developed a fully-functional Modern Sign Language (MSL) to Modern Standards Arabic (MSA) dictionary software; held its first training for teachers from 10 different schools on educational strategies for deaf or hard of hearing students; and disseminated needs assessment to teachers and administrators. USAID is working with the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training and local associations for the deaf to develop software for reading instruction that incorporates MSL and MSA; train teachers, parents, and other stakeholders in using the software and appropriate techniques for teaching reading to children that are deaf or hard of hearing; and develop a sign language-friendly early grade reading assessment.

West Bank and Gaza: USAID works closely with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Palestinian Authority to build leadership and teacher development, particularly in hard-to-reach areas in the West Bank, including rural and isolated areas. One program emphasizes critical thinking, research, and other life skills by upgrading the qualifications of in‑service teachers and administrators via a modern teacher training program. The program specifically provides in-service training to teachers of grades 5-10, as well as to principals and district supervisors, to upgrade their qualifications and competencies. USAID also works to improve the school environment for higher quality learning in schools for marginalized populations. Students receive counseling and participate in community building activities that include parents and after school programs. Finally, through a local construction program, USAID support the rehabilitation of schools in underserved areas of the West Bank.

Yemen: Yemen’s education challenges include low enrollment, especially for girls; poor academic achievement; problems of school security; dilapidated infrastructure, in particular with water and sanitation facilities; poor teacher skills; and inadequate teaching and learning materials. Prior to the ongoing conflict, USAID developed – in partnership with the Ministry of Education – an early grade reading program that was rolled out in roughly 80 percent of schools, and enjoyed strong buy in at the local and national level. The conflict negatively impacted the progress of this initiative and the project remained on full suspension along with most development projects, at year’s end. Nonetheless, local staff reported that teachers are committed to using the new reading curriculum and sought to continue to train new teachers on the methodology. Challenges have been exacerbated by the conflict. There has been severe damage to physical infrastructure, mass displacement (approximately 2.2 million were internally displaced as of November 2016), growing regional and sectarian tensions, and psychosocial trauma among students and school staff. USAID continued to coordinate with other donors engaged in education in Yemen to prepare for when the environment will allow for activities to build on the previous successes of USAID’s education programming.

AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Afghanistan: USAID’s basic education program, working in close partnership and cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MoE) and other international donors continued to extend access to quality education to all Afghans by improving the government’s service provision capacity, targeting educational access for girls, training teachers, supporting community-based education schools, and helping to establish vocational education opportunities for marginalized youth. USAID programs helped train 154,000 MoE teachers, including more than 54,000 female teachers. The availability of trained female teachers is essential to improve the enrollment rate for female students as cultural norms in Afghanistan sharply limit the degree to which male teachers can teach female students. USAID programs also contributed to the procurement and distribution of 130 million textbooks. In addition, USAID’s support to Community-based Education has enabled more than 84,000 Afghan girls to attend school in rural and insecure areas where official MoE schools do not exist. Additional programs focus on improving transparency within the MoE, and improving the capacity of community and civil society organizations to provide oversight, thus mitigating corruption risks.

Pakistan: Pakistan’s ability to educate its youth is critical to its economic growth and development and future stability. U.S. education programs focused on increasing the number of students who enroll in and complete courses in primary and tertiary educational institutions; and improving the quality of that education – with a specific focus on early grade reading – to prepare Pakistani students for the workforce and providing high quality tertiary education that is responsive to market demands. Under the U.S.-Pakistan Basic Education program, the United States supported Pakistan-led efforts to introduce and institutionalize improvements in reading instruction and assessment in grades one and two across Pakistan with a goal of improving the reading skills of 1.9 million primary grade students. Reading programs have reached a total of more than 661,000 grade one and two students to date. The United States has also funded the rebuilding or renovation of more than 1,000 schools, helped upgrade 16 faculties of education, and provided English language training to 9,400 underprivileged Pakistani teenagers countrywide. To improve girls’ education, Let Girls Learn was launched in October 2015, and since then the United States has worked with communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to address community-specific barriers to education for adolescent girls; reaching more than 265,000 girls with reading programs; and assisting more than 38,000 girls to enroll or reenroll in school in FATA, KP, and Sindh.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Djibouti: To promote the education of girls in primary and middle schools, USAID partners have revised textbooks for gender neutrality, and developed a mentoring program for girls. USAID has also supported Parent Teacher Associations, given small grants to establish a dozen school libraries, strengthened governance in more than 100 school management committees, helped produce the Ministry of Education’s Annual Statistics Manual with improved data and graphics, and provided job training to 120 out-of-school youth (half of whom are women). Current programming is being scaled back to focus on early-grade reading skills, in alignment with USAID’s new Education Strategy.

Ethiopia: A study conducted in 2010 was the largest Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in Africa. Results of the assessment showed that the majority of students in Ethiopia are not reading at the appropriate levels of comprehension by the end of the third grade. While access to education and equity issues improved enormously at the primary level, quality education in primary schools remained a challenge. USAID-funded studies show that children in the first primary cycle do not develop the basic skills necessary to learn effectively in later years. USAID programs in Ethiopia reflect the agency’s commitment to ameliorating the quality of education by increasing reading and writing competency among primary schoolchildren and youth and providing opportunities for teacher training. Literacy is imperative to sustainable development and contributes to a vibrant and participatory civil society.

USAID seeks to improve literacy through community and youth engagement and interaction, and through the provision of quality education materials that encourage reading fluency and comprehension in English and the seven nationally-recognized mother tongues.

Kenya: The Government of Kenya first introduced free universal primary education in 2003, leading to an increase in total public and private primary student enrollment from 5.9 million in 2002 to 10 million in 2014. This increase has had a significant impact on Kenya’s Net Enrollment Rate (NER), which now stands at 88.2 percent. Drastic growth in primary enrollment has negatively affected both the service delivery and instructional quality within Kenyan primary schools. Kenya’s reading proficiency dropped from second to fifth of the 15 African countries participating in the Standard 6 examination administered by the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality between the years 2000 and 2007. A more recent assessment found that only 30 percent of Standard 3 children could read a Standard 2 level story in English or Kiswahili. In addition to the lack in reading proficiency, a high student to teacher ratio, gender inequality, and low student retention and transition rates have also proven problematic for the Kenyan education system. USAID/Kenya education activities are partnering directly with the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology to take evidence-based programming to scale. Tusome, “let’s read” in Kiswahili, will improve early grade reading skills for more than 5.4 million children in 26,200 primary schools via scalable and sustainable programming that underscores host country leadership of the development agenda and provides a 1:1 textbook ratio.

Mali: USAID works with Mali’s Ministry of Education along with a range of local and international partners to expand access to quality basic education. Current programs focus on improving the quality of early grade reading instruction in primary schools, expanding the national curriculum with an emphasis on mother-tongue instruction reinforcing education system decentralization, providing academic, vocational, and civic education to out-of-school children and youth, and supporting Mali’s Global Partnership for Education. Special emphasis is placed on post-conflict programming aimed at reopening schools, targeting marginalized groups including girls and young women, and increasing inclusive access to students with disabilities. USAID/Mali has current and projected education activities spanning the eight regions of Mali: Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Segou, Sikasso, and Timbuktu.

Nigeria: Nigeria’s basic education system is fragile and poorly managed by the government. As a result, the public has very low expectations of what the government can provide and historically has demanded very little accountability or transparency. About 20 million children are enrolled in primary school, leaving about 10 million still out of school. The weakest education-related indicators are found in the two northern-most geopolitical regions in Nigeria, where primary school attendance and academic achievement remain far below national averages. Net attendance in the Southwest region is 79 percent, while in the Northwest it is 41 percent. Additionally, the Southwest has a literacy rate of 79 percent, while the Northwest literacy rate is at 28 percent. The lack of equity in access is evidenced by the fact that 68 percent of household members in the Northwest are more likely to have no education compared to 15 percent in the Southwest. USAID will partner with Nigeria’s Ministry of Education to improve the reading skills of students and the ability of teachers to teach reading effectively. Furthermore, USAID programs will work to increase access to quality basic education by strengthening Nigeria’s governance structures to better provide for the education sector. Projects will also focus on developing accelerated learning programs for students attending Islamiyya-integrated schools − which teach both Western and Islamic curricula – with the goal of transitioning them into the formal school system or vocational programs.

Senegal: Education accounts for 40 percent of Senegal’s operating budget, which has led to significant increases in primary school enrollment over the last 10 years. Despite such improvement in primary school enrollment, illiteracy remains high and a low percentage of children complete basic education. USAID’s commitment to improving learning outcomes in Senegal is reflected in its years of assistance, which has helped Senegal achieve vast gains in basic education and literacy. The Partnership to Improve Elementary Reading and Math (PALME) works directly with Senegal’s Ministry of Education, as well as other partners, to improve reading and math classroom instruction, strengthen school monitoring and student learning assessments at the local and national levels, and increase research and evaluation capacity within the Ministry. In addition to the PALME project, USAID is also implementing other education-related programs that work to improve local capacity through the strengthening of community legitimacy. Education, Priorité, Qualité focuses on ameliorating the quality of education through support to regional teacher training centers and community-based service projects. USAID is also working to make education more accessible to youth living in the conflict-affected areas of the Casamance region in the southeastern part of the country.

Somalia: Because 70 percent of Somalia’s population is under 30 years old, education and employment opportunities for youth are critical to securing future stability and development in the country. USAID works to provide fair and equal access to secondary education for girls and boys by building and rehabilitating classrooms, training teachers and school administrators, supporting curriculum development, providing learning materials and technical assistance to local authorities at the regional and district levels, and involving communities in management of education. To help build a generation of active citizens and leaders, USAID is creating opportunities in education, economic growth, and civic participation for youth. Youth trained in advocacy and leadership have organized community service activities including tree planting, donations to a mental health hospital, school cleanup campaigns, and girls’ education awareness. Programs also include non-formal education for out-of-school youth, vocational education and training, financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills training, and provision of funding for selected start-ups run by youth.

Tanzania: Although access to education has increased significantly in Tanzania, many students are still not mastering rudimentary reading skills. An early grade reading and math assessment conducted in 2013 found that grade 2 students are reading Kiswahili on average better than their counterparts in other Kiswahili-speaking African countries. However, nearly 40 percent of students could not read a single word, and those that can read with some accuracy still lack fluency. This highlights a key challenge in Tanzania’s education sector, indicating that students are transitioning through primary school without achieving basic reading and literacy skills. Low reading skills among Tanzanian children can be attributed in part to a lack of both appropriate reading material and high-quality instruction. Reading curricula in Tanzania is not standards-based, and neither teacher preparation nor professional development programs instruct teachers on how to effectively teach children how to read. Tanzania’s institutional capacity to resolve this problem is poor, and low reading skills depress the overall quality of Tanzanian education as well as national development in all sectors of the country. Therefore, USAID activities in Tanzania aim to improve the reading capabilities and literacy rate of primary level students. In addition to improving reading skills, USAID seeks to ameliorate the quality of education accessible to young students through teacher training and professional development initiatives, and the provision of quality instructional materials.

Economic Reform in Muslim Majority Countries

In countries with predominantly Muslim populations, the pursuit of economic growth is one way of achieving sustainable social benefits that can reduce some of the pressures that may lead some to turn to violent extremism. In 2016, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in cooperation with other U.S. government agencies, undertook programs that promoted reforms to enable developing and transitional countries to more effectively and transparently allocate resources toward activities to accelerate economic growth. USAID activities often focused on improving the regulatory or business-enabling environment so that small and medium businesses can flourish and contribute to increased economic activity and trade. Program interventions have been designed to pursue measurable results in the commercial, legal, and regulatory framework that would increase transparency and accountability while lowering the costs, obstacles, and time required for doing business. These programs have not been designed to measure impact against violent extremism.

AFRICA

Through the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, USAID supports integration of the region and with the rest of the world. Often in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), USAID helps to improve customs regulation and policy reform to encourage internal and external trade, encourages the use of U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) incentives for trade with the United States, and develops private sector capacity to meet international trade and export standards. Examples include support to Burkina Faso to streamline cargo transport; to Mali and Burkina Faso to formalize livestock trade practices and add value through cattle-fattening; to Nigeria to promote access to trade finance; and to ECOWAS to develop a regional strategy and a 10-year implementation plan for corridor management and development to improve efficiency of transport corridors. USAID also supports AGOA Trade Resource Centers in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Senegal, and the Trade Hub has a satellite office in Senegal.

Burkina Faso: USAID is working to transform agricultural production to both strengthen the food supply and increase incomes from agricultural activity. Efforts focus on expanding subsistence farming into larger and more profitable enterprises, improving livestock and poultry production, ensuring appropriate natural resource management, helping producers market their products, expand access to credit, and increasing the number of women involved in growing and selling produce.

In addition to the resilience instruments managed by the Sahel Regional Office, Food for Peace supports two development food assistance programs that also target the most vulnerable through agricultural development/food security programming coupled with improved nutritional and water, sanitation, and hygiene practices.

Mali: As part of Feed the Future, USAID supports the efforts of the Government of Mali to refine and implement a country-led comprehensive food security strategy to reduce hunger and increase economic growth through market-led agricultural development. These strategies aim to reduce hunger, improve nutrition, and promote broad based economic growth through agricultural development. Efforts support farmers in improving the production, processing, and marketing of goods related to rice, millet, sorghum, and livestock. Activities promote small private enterprise development and employment generation by increasing access to credit to purchase agricultural inputs and processing equipment, facilitating contracts between producers and processors of agricultural commodities, and improving market information systems.

Nigeria: USAID supports Nigeria to improve agricultural productivity and expand jobs in rural areas in an effort to reduce poverty. It also works to improve market access, increase the country’s energy supply, reduce obstacles to trade, and expand access to clean water. It helps develop a policy environment for small businesses and expand access to market-driven vocational and technical training linked with private sector employment opportunities. Support also includes improving access to financial services.

Senegal: USAID, through its inclusive economic growth program, supports Senegal in the areas of agriculture and nutrition especially for women and children, water and sanitation, and energy. USAID, through the Feed the Future Initiative, supports four value chains (rice, maize, fisheries, and dry cereals, such as millet). It helps tackle poverty and malnutrition by supporting activities that address agricultural policy issues and promote access to financing and markets. It also assists smallholder farmers to diversify and increase their agricultural production by disseminating technologies such as high-yielding varieties of agricultural products and associated climate-smart best practices.

Somalia: USAID, through its Growth, Enterprise, Employment, and Livelihoods program promotes inclusive economic growth throughout Somalia, Somaliland, and Puntland. The activities under the program address challenges and opportunities that are common among multiple sectors and initiatives that affect key industries, particularly agriculture, fisheries, and renewable energy. The program builds the capacity of internal investors as well as the Somali diaspora eager to invest in business opportunities, and prioritizes opportunities in industries likely to attract women and youth who have been marginalized from pursuing economic opportunities.

ASIA

Bangladesh: USAID provided technical assistance through the Bangladesh Trade Facilitation Activity (BTFA). Under the BTFA, USAID is assisting the Bangladesh National Board of Revenue/Customs to reduce the time and cost to trade, and improve the transparency of processes and availability of information. With assistance from BTFA, a variety of policy and regulatory changes are being made to support efficiency-enhancing procedural adjustments. Many of these changes are required to comply with World Trade Organization and World Customs Organization guidelines and standards such as the Secure and Facilitate Trade framework of standards.

USAID’s Catalyzing Clean Energy in Bangladesh (CCEB) works with the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), Government of Bangladesh ministries and agencies, energy utilities, private sector energy end-users, and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen the energy regulatory environment, increase energy efficiency, and promote clean energy development. In 2016, CCEB developed two policy instruments ‘Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) Electricity Consumer Complaint Handling Procedure Regulations’ and the “BERC Regulatory Energy Audit of Generation Facilities Regulations.”

Indonesia: USAID/Indonesia partners with the private sector and the Government of Indonesia on activities for economic growth, which contribute to a stable society and resilience to radicalization. These activities include building research and development capacity to boost innovation; enhancing resilience and adaptation of marine ecosystems (fisheries); supporting the development of renewable energy resources; and strengthening the conservation of Indonesia’s carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands. USAID/Indonesia has also partnered with universities and the private sector to strengthen the role of science, technology, and innovation in Indonesian development and policy-making by targeting three key areas: the supply of high-quality research; the application of scientific evidence to policy making; and the use of innovative approaches to addressing development challenges.

Indonesia is the second largest fish producer in the world. Its waters are overfished and many are in decline. Further, water management issues are challenged by illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing activities and the adverse impact of a changing climate. USAID biodiversity funding supports marine sector activities that promote sustainable fisheries management and marine conservation in biologically significant marine ecosystems.

USAID/Indonesia’s investments in clean energy and climate security initiatives strengthen the foundation for low-carbon energy systems in Indonesia. This directly contributes to the Government of Indonesia’s targets in increasing access to energy, while concurrently supporting national efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to focusing on the improved policies, USAID/Indonesia has integrated direct engagement with the private sector across its development portfolio. These relationships have stimulated significant direct private sector investments. During FY 2016, there were 11 ongoing public private partnerships with U.S. and Indonesian businesses, of which 10 were Global Development Alliances. The Mission leveraged a total of more than US $284 million in private sector resources (of which nearly US $277 million was for clean energy).

Kyrgyz Republic: USAID works with the Kyrgyz Republic, the only freely elected democracy in post-Soviet Central Asia, to build on progress in democratic governance by partnering with institutions, promoting civic engagement, strengthening judicial independence and effectiveness, improving delivery of public services, increasing the capacity of an independent media, and expanding economic opportunity through programming such as small business opportunities to help deter migratory work or reintegrate returning workers. USAID in the Kyrgyz Republic also works with the regional USAID Mission to Central Asia to advance the U.S. government’s New Silk Road initiative, which increases connections between Central and South Asia – including Afghanistan – and the C5+1 ministerial platform to foster greater stability and prosperity across the region. USAID’s Business Growth Initiative (BGI) expands upon the business enabling environment reforms initiated by USAID’s REFORMA Project in tax administration, business licensing and inspections, trade agreements, civil aviation safety, and mining. It also seeks to improve access to working capital and equipment finance for value chain firms. BGI worked with individual firms and stakeholders in the apparel, tourism, and construction materials sector to improve access to markets and increase sales; and to expand product offerings, improve productivity, quality controls, and financial management; and other critical capacities to make them competitive in both domestic and international markets. USAID’s Agro Horizon Project improves the country’s foundation and systems for long-term food security and increased farmer income. USAID assistance benefited smallholder farmers and vulnerable groups in a geographic zone of influence that covers 55 percent of the country’s population in four provinces (Batken, Jalalabad, Naryn, and Osh) with the highest poverty rate (49 percent versus 37 percent for the rest of the country). USAID provided technical assistance in the zone of influence to increase productivity and gross margins per hectare, expand farmers’ access to financing, improve women’s share of increased incomes and credit financing, and improve women’s and children’s nutrition.

Uzbekistan: USAID’s Agricultural Value Chain activity is providing technical assistance to improve the quality and volume of agricultural production and post-harvest handling, facilitate market linkages – to transition from water-intensive cotton production to more profitable horticulture, and link educational institutions with private sector demand. Using regional trade activities as a platform, USAID helped Uzbekistan cultivate new export markets.

EUROPE AND EURASIA

Albania: USAID’s Mission in Albania stimulates economic growth and employment, particularly in the agriculture, small business, tourism, and financial sectors. USAID works through local organizations to support farmers, agribusiness, and banks to increase financing to the agriculture sector and to make improvements in key crops on production, quality control, and marketing. In addition, USAID has signed a loan guarantee program with two private banks to support lending to agribusinesses. USAID also supports employment in the growing, sustainable, and vibrant agro-tourism sector by providing technical assistance to small business entrepreneurs and trainings to Albanians working in the tourism sector – particularly for youth and women – so they can gain skills and enter the workforce. For example, a Tourism Investment and Finance Fund in Albania will provide capital and technical assistance to micro, small, and medium sized businesses operating in Albania’s tourism sector to promote sustainable tourism, improve the business enabling environment and workforce capacities, and spur job creation and economic growth. USAID seeks to strengthen Albania's financial sector stability and increase public confidence in the banking system to stimulate private sector growth, foreign direct investment, and job creation.

Azerbaijan: In FY 2016 USAID/Azerbaijan-funded programs promoting the development of the agricultural sector, particularly in high value agriculture, which contributed to the non-oil sector diversification of the economy. Through on-farm technical assistance, agronomists identified needs and provided a series of recommendations to maximize harvest volume and quality. An annual survey of beneficiaries indicated increased productivity, improved quality standards, and expanded sales volumes for FY 2016. In the reporting period, the beneficiary farmers and agribusinesses in the hazelnut sector increased the value of domestic sales by 76 percent and the value of exports by 37 percent. USAID/Azerbaijan also provided technical assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan to build its trade capacity and increase Azerbaijan’s trade and agricultural exports. Specifically, USAID is supporting the Coordinating Council on Transit Freight to develop a transit freight business intelligence system. The project also promotes market access for Azerbaijani exports by assisting small and medium enterprises’ partnership with European and Middle Eastern counterparts.

Kosovo: USAID’s Mission in Kosovo managed a number of activities that stimulate economic growth and employment in 2016. USAID’s Partnerships for Development supports the Government of Kosovo’s leadership of economic reforms by helping improve the business enabling environment, implementing construction reforms, and enhancing macroeconomic stability and public financial management at the central and local levels of the Kosovar government. The EMPOWER Private Sector project stimulates large-scale job creation by elevating the competitiveness of Kosovo firms by helping them identify and connect to market opportunities, improve product design and quality, increase productivity, upgrade management and workforce skills, and expand access to finance, particularly for underemployed and disadvantaged populations. Through the Agricultural Growth and Rural Opportunities Program, USAID focuses on increasing agricultural productivity, marketability, and responsiveness to markets, which will enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of targeted Kosovar agribusinesses in domestic and export markets.

MIDDLE EAST

Middle East Bureau: USAID's Middle East Bureau managed a number of regional and bilateral activities that stimulated investment and increased employment in Muslim countries in 2016. First, the Middle East Bureau manages both the Tunisian American Enterprise Fund and the Egyptian American Enterprise Fund, which together invest up to US $80 million per year into small and medium-sized businesses in these two countries. Additionally, the Bureau manages a wide range of regional programs to produce more trade between the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region and the rest of the world, as well as promote more business‑friendly legal and regulatory environments in Egypt and Tunisia. In addition to regional programs, USAID manages a variety of bilateral pilots throughout the MENA Region. For example, for Lebanon there is a pilot with Microsoft to maximize the use of an electronic platform for job matching and soft-skill development. Such activities contribute to regional understanding about economic policy reforms to improve employment generation, enterprise competitiveness, and economic opportunities for all in the MENA region.

Egypt: USAID supports Egyptian efforts to improve the trade environment, increase labor market efficiencies, reform the business policy and regulatory environment, foster innovation, and improve the services provided to Egyptian entrepreneurs and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. A number of new initiatives were being designed in 2016.

Iraq: USAID assisted the Ministry of Planning to develop and require all Iraqi government spending units to use standard bidding documents (SBDs) for public tenders. SBDs were finalized for 19 types of procurements, and a help desk was set up to assist other government procurement offices on how to use them. The use of SBDs is a global best practice in procurement. The Ministry of Planning now requires all government spending units to use SBDs for all public tenders. The adoption of SBDs by 30 government entities is a significant step towards transparency and predictability in their procurement system.

USAID also enabled the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to introduce an electronic registration system for individuals receiving government payments. This registration system based on biometrics eventually will include all 1.4 million recipients of KRG salary or support payments. The system will prevent fraud and will detect recipients who are receiving duplicate or ineligible payments.

Jordan: USAID increased private sector competitiveness through regulatory reform, public and private sector capacity building, and workforce development programs. This assistance targeted sectors such as Information and Communication Technology and tourism, which showed the greatest potential for a broader, more sustainable effect on the economy. USAID supported Jordan’s promotional efforts in tourism to increase the country’s foreign exchange income. USAID partnered with the Jordanian government on its regulatory reform agenda to enhance the business-enabling environment, allowing for greater investment, access to finance, and private sector development. USAID worked with the Jordan Investment Commission to promote investments and improve the business enabling environment, ultimately increasing foreign and domestic investments in the trade sector.

Libya: USAID is providing Public Financial Management training for national and municipal officials.

Tunisia: USAID actively promotes increased access to finance, particularly for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), through enabling environment reforms, enterprise level work, and technical assistance to financial institutions. In partnership with public and private partners, USAID is supporting development of an international best-practice secured transactions law that will establish a framework for significantly increased use of “moveable goods” (a wide variety of personal property and assets) as collateral in Tunisia. In particular, this will benefit SMEs, as well as sectors of the population such as youth and women, who traditionally lack access to “immovable goods” (such as land or real estate) with which to secure credit.

Assistance programs have collaborated intensively with financial institutions to streamline and improve their loan approval processes to improve access to finance for SMEs. USAID is supporting the Tunisian government in implementing tax policy and administration, and customs reforms. The purposes of the reforms are to improve tax policy and to enhance effectiveness, fairness, and transparency in tax and customs administration.

In the area of business reform, USAID’s Business Reform and Competitiveness Project is generating priorities for business reforms from its enterprise competitiveness work. Employment is a Tunisian government policy priority and as of April 2016, the project had generated 9,980 jobs and leveraged US $22.4 million (from non U.S. government sources). This project is presently able to create a job for between US $800 to $900. Under this project, partners are identifying the specific business environment challenges – such as certifications – for the Government of Tunisia to address so that both Tunisia and Tunisian enterprises may become more competitive.

West Bank and Gaza: At present, the Palestinian Authority (PA) lags behind most of the world in using technology-based government-to-citizen systems. In partnership with the Palestinian Information Technology (IT) Association, USAID provided assistance to develop a cost benefit analysis study and policy paper to encourage the PA to partner with the private sector for the implementation of e-government services. The Ministry of Telecommunications and IT endorsed the USAID study and, as a result, the PA Cabinet issued a decree in November 2015 approving the recommendations of the policy paper. USAID assisted the ministry to complete 10 e-government service activities. The objective of this initiative was to facilitate public sector outsourcing of e-government services to the private sector to directly serve Palestinians, encourage business-enabling policy changes, and further the development of government‑to‑citizen e-solutions. In addition, USAID’s assistance to the Minister of National Economy helped to get a secured transactions law and a movable assets law.

SOUTH ASIA

Afghanistan: USAID has worked with the Afghan government, private sector, and international partners to implement laws and policies to support trade, increase exports, promote transparency, and reduce trade barriers to improve the business environment. USAID helped the Afghan government negotiate the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement, and supports its implementation, as well as Afghanistan’s ongoing efforts to comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements. Afghanistan’s accession to the WTO is the culmination of more than a decade of legislative reforms and trade negotiations. Since USAID began providing technical assistance for customs reform in 2009, average times for goods crossing Afghanistan’s borders have decreased and in 2015 custom revenues increased by 25 percent.

USAID provides technical support to facilitate growth of the telecommunications sector in Afghanistan, a US $800 million per year industry employing more than 100,000 individuals. USAID helps micro, small, and medium-sized businesses receive loans, connect to new markets, and learn new skills. By working to reduce compliance costs for businesses and promote private-sector enabling legislation, USAID works to improve the business climate and transparency to make Afghanistan more attractive to domestic and international investors. Since 2009, USAID has strengthened Afghanistan’s private sector through management training, market information assistance, and public-private alliance grants. As of July 2016, USAID has launched 284 public-private alliances, mobilizing US $261 million of investment in the private‑sector. Eighty-seven percent of this investment was provided by private sector partners in construction, food processing, consumer goods manufacturing, insurance, natural-resource extraction, apparel, communications/media, and information technology. Since 2011, USAID facilitated US $52 million in loans to individuals and businesses to create or sustain 5,977 jobs. USAID is also providing critical financing for Afghan businesses through credit guarantees and is also supporting the development of mobile money as an innovative way to expand access to digital finance and reduce corruption through secure technology.

Pakistan: Through a range of programs and public-private partnerships in agriculture and other sectors of Pakistan’s economy, U.S. assistance helped Pakistan create jobs and foster economic growth. USAID programming will improve the financial and operating performance of at least 6,000 small and medium enterprises in a maximum of seven industrial, manufacturing, and service sectors. In June 2016, U.S. and Pakistan governments convened in New York the fourth U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference. The U.S. Department of Commerce is providing technical assistance in the areas of trade facilitation, intellectual property reform, competition and telecommunications law, and commercial law education. In 2016, more than 200 Pakistani private sector representatives attended trade shows in 15 different U.S. states, where they got exposure to U.S. companies and business associations on best practices. The Department of Commerce also trains private sector professionals in a variety of industries, including supply chain, packaging, and gems and jewelry.

To leverage this growing interaction with the private sector, the USAID Islamabad Mission has established a new Innovations and Partnerships unit, which will increasingly use public-private partnerships in Pakistan to leverage private sector financial resources and knowledge. One such example was USAID’s partnership with the Nestle Foundation, which leveraged Nestle resources to increase milk yields by 11 percent and revenues on average by US $60 per month for 22,600 dairy farmers. USAID has also provided US $72 million for the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative (PPII), which is matching U.S. funding with private equity capital to make nearly US $150 million available for investment in small and medium enterprises with high growth potential. Furthermore, the WECREATE Center, a co-working space and incubator for women entrepreneurs, originally received U.S. funding but in 2016 became self-sustaining. In 2016, Pakistan sent the largest foreign delegation to the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which took place in Silicon Valley. To further facilitate private investment by U.S. companies, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation has facilitated US $800 million in financing and insurance for projects in Pakistan.

INTRAREGIONAL TRADE

Europe and Eurasia Regional Program: USAID’s Regional Economic Growth Project supports inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the Europe and Eurasia region through greater integration and harmonization of regional markets by improving firms' competitiveness, reducing the barriers to intra-regional and inter-regional trade, and increasing financial sector stability.

Central Asia/South Asia electricity transmission project (CASA-1000): CASA-1000 is expected to provide a transmission infrastructure with contractual and institutional arrangements to facilitate the export of 1,300 megawatts of electricity from the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. CASA-1000 represents an important milestone of cooperation among these countries to help transform the region and serve as an important step toward realizing the planned Central Asia-South Asia Regional Electricity Market.

Central Asia Regional Program: The United States is advancing the New Silk Road Initiative and creating trade and jobs across the region, facilitating stronger economic ties, and advancing regional connectivity between South and Central Asia. Through USAID’s Regional Economic Cooperation Project, the United States supported legal and regulatory improvements with host governments, business-to-business networking opportunities, and private sector training to increase cross-border trade between Central and South Asia.

South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Integration (SARI/EI): The SARI/EI program activities are expected to increase government’s capacity to participate in regional power wheeling, harmonize grid codes, and develop policies and regulatory frameworks that support a regional energy market, while ensuring that environmental and social impacts of energy projects are minimized.