Chapter 4: Terrorist Safe Havens (Update to 7120 Report)

Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism
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 4605(j)(1)(A) of Title 50; section 2371(a) of Title 22; or section 2780(d) of Title 22– the state sponsors of terrorism. You can find information regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria in Chapter 2, State Sponsors of Terrorism.

TERRORIST SAFE HAVENS

AFRICA

Somalia. In 2017, terrorists used under-governed areas throughout Somalia as safe havens to plan, conduct, and facilitate operations, including mass-casualty bombings in major urban areas. Somali officials failed to implement critical national security reforms and pass legislation that could help enhance the government’s capacity to secure and govern effectively at all levels. Despite these critical gaps in its counterterrorism strategy, the Somali government remained a committed partner and vocal advocate for U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Despite facing increased pressure from strikes and other counterterrorism operations, al-Shabaab retained much of its safe haven throughout the country, and, in some cases, regained ceded territory after African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces continued to consolidate positions throughout southern Somalia in 2017. With the notable exception of targeted operations carried out by U.S.-trained and -equipped units of Somali commandos, the Somali National Army, as a whole, remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently. This critical gap allowed al-Shabaab to continue to extort local populations and forcibly recruit fighters, some of whom were children.

In northern Somalia, ISIS-linked fighters used the limited safe haven they established in Puntland to launch a suicide attack against regional security forces in May, killing five and wounding several more. In the months that followed, the group failed to expand its foothold in the face of targeted airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations that commenced in the latter part of 2017, as well as fierce opposition from al-Shabaab cells operating in the region. As if to declare itself the more capable and potent threat in Puntland, al-Shabaab launched an attack against Puntland security forces in Af Urur that killed more than 60 soldiers and civilians.

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 maintained control of several towns throughout the Jubaland region, including Jilib and Kunyo Barow, and increased its base of operations in the Gedo region to exploit the porous Kenya-Somalia border and attack targets in northeastern Kenya. Al-Shabaab also used its safe havens in Somalia to escalate its campaign in northern Kenya, primarily using buried improvised explosive devices and other explosives against Kenyan security forces and civilian passenger vehicles. The Kenyan government increased its presence throughout the border region, including in the Boni forest area best known as one of al-Shabaab’s primary facilitation routes, but security officials continued to struggle with border security and crisis response in the more remote areas of northeastern Kenya.

Somalia remained heavily dependent on regional and international partners to support almost all major security functions throughout the country, making little progress on improving interagency coordination to limit terrorist transit through the country.

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 Lake Chad Region. In 2017, Boko Haram and its offshoot ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) maintained limited safe havens in parts of Northeast Nigeria and on islands in Lake Chad, and prevented the reestablishment of state administration, service delivery, and humanitarian relief in broader territory surrounding Lake Chad. These safe havens are greatly reduced from the territory Boko Haram controlled in 2014-2015. Forces from Nigeria and other members of the Multinational Joint Task Force (Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger) conducted operations to clear these safe havens, but lacked the capacity and resources to secure borders and hold and administer liberated territory. Both Boko Haram and ISIS-WA continued to conduct asymmetric attacks against civilians, military, and government personnel, including through suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, raids, ambushes, kidnappings, and other means. As a result of this insecurity, at year’s end over two million people in the Lake Chad Region remained displaced and millions more remain dependent on humanitarian assistance.

No government in the Lake Chad Region was known to support or facilitate the proliferation or trafficking of weapons of mass destruction in or through its territory.

The Trans-Sahara. In 2017, the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al‑Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front came together to form Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). JNIM and other groups like Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, Ansural Islam, and ISIS in the Greater Sahara continued to stage asymmetric attacks in the Trans‑Sahara region. These terrorist groups were able to exercise relatively unimpeded freedom of movement in northern and central Mali and certain border regions of Niger and Burkina Faso.

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 small raids, soft target attacks, and use of improvised explosive devices, land mines, and suicide bombers.

The groups are no longer able to conduct major military-style campaigns as they did in 2012, but, in 2017, these groups have once again become serious challenges to the security of the Sahel region.

No government in the region was known to support or facilitate the proliferation or trafficking of weapons of mass destruction in or through its territory, although the region remained prone to arms and munitions smuggling, which can have a destabilizing effect on security.


SOUTHEAST ASIA

The Sulu/Sulawesi Seas Littoral. The sheer expanse of the area, its numerous islands, and substantial maritime traffic in the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu Archipelago make it a difficult region to secure. Traditional smuggling and piracy groups often supported terrorist networks, including through the movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. Kidnapping-for-ransom remained an ongoing threat and a source of funding for terrorist networks based in the southern Philippines.

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. The agreement took effect in June 2017, and the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia began joint patrols to combat piracy, terrorism, and the illegal drug trade.

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 help to build effective targeting and risk management systems are major goals of the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program.

The Southern Philippines. From May to November 2017, terrorist organizations pledging support to ISIS – including a faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Maute Group, and others – seized and occupied Marawi City. When the siege began, President Duterte declared martial law over the entire Mindanao region – approximately one-third of the country’s territory – and Congress granted an extension of martial law until the end of 2018. Security forces ultimately cleared the city and eliminated much of the terrorist leadership, but suffered many casualties during the siege.

While the Philippine government possesses the political will to apply security measures against terrorist threats, and has consistently partnered with the United States and other nations to build the capacity to do so, it struggles to apply a coordinated whole-of-government approach to prevent terrorism. Terrorist organizations’ continued ability to operate in the southern Philippines is a reflection of the centuries-long challenge of governing effectively in areas outside of Manila, and establishing consistent security in a region possessing a strong separatist identity, endemic poverty, and religious differences.


THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Egypt. Portions of Egypt’s Sinai region remained a safe haven for terrorist organizations in 2017, primarily for ISIS-Sinai Province (ISIS-SP). Throughout the year, ISIS-SP used this under-governed safe haven to plan and carry out attacks against civilian and military targets both in the Sinai and in mainland Egypt. In November, ISIS-SP attacked the Al-Rawad Mosque in northern Sinai, killing 311 people. In December, it attempted to assassinate the Egyptian Minister of the Interior at the El Arish International Airport.

In response to these attacks, the Egyptian Armed Forces began planning a major offensive against ISIS-SP, beginning with a buildup of personnel and equipment in the Sinai.

The United States supported Egypt’s efforts to combat ISIS-SP and other terrorist groups in Egypt by providing AH-64 “Apache” helicopters, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, counter-improvised explosive devices training, mobile sensor towers, and border security training programs. The United States routinely engages in military-to-military discussions on how it can help Egypt defeat ISIS-SP and other terrorist groups in Egypt. The United States remains 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. It provided 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 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the Government of Iraq retook the remaining territory held by ISIS in 2017. Prime Minister Abadi declared on December 9 that Iraq was fully liberated. The series of successive ISIS defeats included the Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) liberation of Mosul, Tall Afar, Hawija, and finally al-Qaim and Rawa, in November. As the ISF liberated territory, ISIS killed thousands of Iraqi civilians, forcing residents to remain as human shields to discourage airstrikes and shooting those attempting to flee. ISIS remained a terrorist threat in Iraq in 2017 and continued to carry out suicide, hit‑and‑run, and other asymmetric attacks throughout the country.

The terrorist organization Kata’ib Hizballah continued to maintain an active presence in Iraq.

ISIS continued to use the territory under its control in 2017 to produce sulfur mustard and improvised explosive devices filled with chlorine. The United States has proactively worked 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 from 2015-2017.

The United States and Iraq also continued their bilateral partnership to counter nuclear smuggling under the framework of the 2014 Joint Action Plan on Combating Nuclear and Radioactive Materials Smuggling.

Lebanon. Lebanon remained a safe haven for certain terrorist groups in both undergoverned and Hizballah-controlled areas. Hizballah used areas under its control for terrorist training, fundraising, financing, and recruitment. The Government of Lebanon did not take significant action to disarm Hizballah, even though Hizballah maintained its weapons in defiance of UNSCR 1701. The government was unable to limit Hizballah’s travel to and from Iraq or Syria to fight in support of the Assad regime. 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.

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 2017, which operated in mountainous, mostly uninhabited zones where the government had limited reach. In late summer 2017, Hizballah cleared out al-Nusrah Front positions along the Syria-Lebanon border. Separately, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) later undertook a major military offensive to expel ISIS fighters from 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, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, continued to operate within Lebanon primarily inside 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.

The United States worked closely with the LAF and Internal Security Forces (ISF) 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 and limited controls on strategic trade 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, to keep these items from transiting through Lebanon. A frontier border security interdiction-training program, in partnership with the Department of Defense, strengthened LAF and ISF 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. Libya’s vast, undergoverned territories constituted potential safe havens for terrorist organizations in 2017, including Benghazi, Darnah, and the deserts in the south and the west. U.S. airstrikes in cooperation with the GNA successfully targeted ISIS camps and drove remaining ISIS remnants to coastal areas or locations elsewhere. Due to the difficulties of controlling the southern and desert borders in particular, the GNA remained unable to effectively 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.

The Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program provided training to the Libyan Ministries of Defense, Customs, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Libyan Airport Authority, and Libyan Intelligence Service officials. This aimed to enhance Libya’s contribution to preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation and diversion of conventional arms and explosives to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The country’s history with WMD, its significant conventional stockpiles, and the continuing strength of armed groups with independent allegiance make these priority engagements. In 2017, targeted technical training included airport security and cargo interdiction training, basic and advanced land border security training, counter-proliferation investigations training, and fraudulent documentation training and counter-improvised explosive device training. These activities encourage interagency cooperation and promote regional and international cooperation to counter illicit trafficking in strategic items.

Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on behalf of the Republic of Yemen Government, are fighting to reclaim territory currently held by Houthi forces and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The northwest of the country, as well as portions of the southern coast interior are beyond governmental control, severely constraining the Yemeni government’s ability to prevent terrorist training, funding, recruitment, and transit. AQAP and ISIS-Yemen continued to benefit from the ongoing conflict with the Houthis, successfully insinuating themselves among elements of the anti-Houthi coalition and exploiting the security vacuum in large parts of the country to increase support. Under President Hadi’s leadership, the Government of Yemen has been as cooperative with U.S., Saudi, and UAE counterterrorist operations as its limited capacity will allow. In 2017, counterterrorism operations, led primarily by UAE-supported forces, targeted AQAP safe havens for clearance in Abyan Shabwah and Hadramawt Governorates.

Yemen’s political instability continued to hinder efforts to enact or enforce comprehensive strategic trade controls to counter the flow of weapons and munitions in the region. This left Yemen vulnerable as a transit point for destabilizing weapons. Nonetheless, the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program provided Yemeni authorities with training to reconstitute land border and maritime security capabilities – with a counter-proliferation focus – through a series of training programs for border guards, customs officers, and the coast guard.


SOUTH ASIA

Afghanistan. Terrorist and insurgent groups are active in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Government of National Unity (GNU) 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, including participation in joint operations against insurgents in districts bordering Pakistan.

The potential for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trafficking and proliferation remained a concern. In 2017, the United States and Afghanistan worked to finalize a bilateral framework to help Afghanistan enhance its capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear and other radioactive material smuggling incidents. The Afghanistan and U.S. governments also continued to work to implement comprehensive strategic trade controls and strengthen Afghanistan’s border security.

The United States continued to assist the GNU in building capacity to secure potentially dangerous biological materials and infrastructure housed at Afghan facilities, to promote surveillance capabilities to detect and identify possibly catastrophic biological events, and to engage Afghan scientists and engineers that have WMD or WMD-applicable expertise.

Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s National Action Plan calls to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” several terrorist groups focused on attacks outside of the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2017. These groups included the Haqqani Network, Lashkar e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Pakistan continued military operations to eradicate terrorist safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, although their impact on all terrorist groups was uneven.

Pakistan is committed to combating the trafficking of items that could contribute to WMDs and their delivery systems. 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 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 Pakistan and 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 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, define Colombia’s borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Historically these conditions have allowed for safe havens for domestic terrorist groups, particularly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The peace accord between the Government of Colombia and FARC in 2016 led to a normalization of relations, with the latter even entering the political sphere. Similar negotiations with the ELN stalled in 2017, precipitating a return to violence by the group. The Government of Colombia maintained pressure on the ELN to deny safe haven, disrupt terrorist financing efforts, and degrade its logistics infrastructure. In addition, Colombia conducted operations to counter the ability of the ELN to conduct terrorist attacks. Despite these efforts, the ELN and illegal armed groups 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. The Export Control and Related Border Security program has recently assisted Brazil in making border security improvements to prevent any groups that may potentially seek to export illicit weapons of mass destructor and precursor goods from being able to do so.

Venezuela. Venezuela’s porous border with Colombia has made its territory useful to the National Liberation Army and illegal armed groups, who used it to transit in and out of its territory.


COUNTERING TERRORISM ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT

In 2017, the Department of State designated the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, designated one new Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and amended three existing FTO designations by adding aliases. In addition, the Department designated 30 organizations and individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and amended an existing E.O. 13224 designation by adding aliases. The Department revoked the FTO and SDGT designation of one entity.

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.

2017 State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation:

  • On November 20, the President announced the Secretary of State’s designation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a State Sponsor of Terrorism based on the determination that the DPRK repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

2017 Foreign Terrorism Organization/Executive Order 13224 Group Designations:

  • On August 17, the Department of State designated Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) under E.O. 13224 and as an FTO. (See Chapter 5, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on HM.)
  • On June 23, the Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 and FTO designations of Hizballah to add aliases including Lebanese Hizballah as well as the Foreign Relations Department and the External Security Organization, key components of the terror organization. (See Chapter 5, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for further information on Hizballah.)
  • Also on June 23, the Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 and FTO designations of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to add aliases Sons of Abyan, Sons of Hadramawt, and National Hadramawt Council, among others. (See Chapter 5, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for more information on AQAP.)
  • On November 2, the Department of State amended the E.O. 13224 and FTO designations of Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB) to add aliases, including Marwan Hadid Brigades. The Department has concluded that the group remains active and operates in Syria under the name Marwan Hadid Brigades, which has carried out attacks jointly with the FTO and SDGT al-Nusrah Front and has trained at a terrorist camp in Syria. (See Chapter 5, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, for more information on AAB.)

2017 Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 designations:

  • On January 10, the Department of State designated Ibrahim al-Banna, a senior member of FTO and SDGT group AQAP, who served as its security chief and provided military and security guidance to AQAP leadership. He praised the 9/11 attacks in an online magazine and threatened to target Americans domestically and abroad.
  • Also on January 10, the Department of State designated Hamza bin Laden, son of Usama bin Laden and member of FTO and SDGT group, al-Qa’ida. Hamza bin Laden repeatedly called for acts of terrorism in western capitals and against U.S. interests.
  • On January 12, the Department of State designated Ali Damush and Mustafa Mughniyeh, both members of Hizballah, an FTO and SDGT entity supported by Iran. Damush is a senior Hizballah leader and an aide to overall leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Damush leads Hizballah’s Foreign Relations Department, which engages in covert terrorist operations around the world on behalf of Hizballah, including gathering intelligence and recruiting. Mughniyeh is a commander in Hizballah and once led Hizballah’s operations in the Golan Heights, helping organize the group’s terrorist infrastructure.
  • Also on January 12, the Department of State designated Alexanda Amon Kotey. Kotey is one of four members of an execution cell for ISIS. The notorious cell, dubbed “The Beatles,” was responsible for holding captive and beheading approximately two dozen hostages, including several Westerners. As a guard for the cell, Kotey likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electric shock and waterboarding. Kotey acted as an ISIS recruiter and recruited several UK nationals to join the terrorist organization.
  • On January 13, the Department of State designated the Indonesia-based Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). JAD was formed in 2015 and is composed of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, an FTO and SDGT-designated group. In January 2016, four people were killed and 25 wounded following a JAD-attributed attack by a suicide bomber and gunmen in central Jakarta.
  • On March 29, the Department of State designated Ahmad Hasan Yusuf and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi, both members of the militant group al Ashtar Brigades (AAB) that receives funding and support from the Government of Iran. AAB has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks – some of which have resulted in casualties – mainly against police and security targets in Bahrain. Yusuf is an Iran-based senior member of the group. Alawi is based in Bahrain.
  • On April 4, the Department of State designated Shane Dominic Crawford and Mark John Taylor, both affiliated with ISIS. Crawford is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and is believed to have been a foreign terrorist fighter in Syria carrying out terrorist activity on behalf of ISIS, including acting as an English language propagandist for the group. Taylor is a New Zealand national who began fighting in Syria with ISIS in 2014. Taylor has used social media in support of ISIS, including appearing in a 2015 ISIS propaganda video to encourage terrorist attacks in Australia and New Zealand.
  • On April 5, the Department of State designated El Shafee Elsheikh and Anjem Choudary, both affiliated with ISIS. Elsheikh was identified as a member of the ISIS execution cell known as “The Beatles,” a group accused of beheading approximately two dozen hostages and said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions. Choudary is a British terrorist with links to convicted terrorists and terrorist networks in the UK. In September 2014, Choudary was arrested by London police for pledging allegiance to ISIS and for acting as a key figure in ISIS’s recruitment drive.
  • Also on April 5, the Department of State designated Sami Bouras, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian descent, who is a member of AQ and who has been involved in planning suicide attacks.
  • On April 12, the Department of State designated Abu Anas al-Ghandour, a military commander for the FTO and SDGT group, Hamas. Al-Ghandour leads a brigade in Gaza, has been involved in many terrorist operations, including the 2006 attack on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) outpost at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. The attack killed two IDF soldiers and wounded four others, and led to the kidnapping of dual French-Israeli citizen, Corporal Gilad Shalit.
  • On April 19, the Department of State designated Tarek Sakr and Farah Mohamed Shirdon. Sakr is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who has conducted sniper training in Syria, periodically travels to Turkey, and has been linked to al-Nusrah Front, al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria. Shirdon is a Canadian citizen who traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS; he is a prominent ISIS fighter and recruiter and has been involved in fundraising.
  • On April 26, the Department of State designated Mubarak Mohammed A Alotaibi, the Syria-based deputy leader of ISIS-Saudi Arabia, an SDGT-designated branch of ISIS.
  • On May 26, the Department of State designated Muhammad al-Isawi, the leader of ISIS-Sinai Province, as an FTO and SDGT group.
  • Also on May 26, the Department of State designated Hashem Safieddine, a senior leader in Hizballah. Safieddine is a key member of Hizballah’s executive council, which oversees Hizballah’s political, organizational, social, and educational activities.
  • On June 16, the Department of State designated Marwan Ibrahim Hussayn Tah al-Azawi, an Iraqi ISIS leader connected to ISIS’s development of chemical weapons for use in ongoing combat against Iraqi Security Forces. ISIS has repeatedly used sulfur mustard in chemical weapons attacks in Syria and Iraq.
  • Also on June 16, the Department of State designated Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) as an SDGT group. MMI is an Indonesia-based terrorist group formed in 2000 by Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of the FTO and SDGT group, Jemaah Islamiya. The group has conducted attacks in Indonesia. It claimed responsibility for a May 2012 attack at the book launch of Canadian author Irshad Manji; the attack left three attendees hospitalized.
  • On June 16, the Department of State designated Mohammad Shafi Armar, Oussama Ahmad Atar, and Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar Al Binali. Shafi Armar is a leader and head recruiter in India for ISIS. He has cultivated a group of dozens of ISIS sympathizers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps. Atar is a senior leader of ISIS’s external operations efforts, has established a network to carry out attacks in Europe, and was a leading coordinator of the November 2015 Paris attacks and March 2016 Brussels attacks. The Belgian-Moroccan national was responsible for recruiting, training, and sending at least some of the individuals to Paris to launch the November 2015 attacks, which killed and injured hundreds, including Americans. Al Binali is also a senior member of ISIS who departed Bahrain to join the terrorist group in 2014 and has since appeared in multiple ISIS propaganda videos calling on Bahrainis, specifically members of Bahrain’s security forces, to join ISIS.
  • On June 30, the Department of State designated Mohammad Yusuf Shah, also known as Syed Salahuddin, who, as the senior leader for FTO and SDGT-designated HM, vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces” in 2016. Under his leadership, HM has claimed responsibility for several attacks.
  • On July 26, the Department of State amended the designation of Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade (YMB) to change the group’s primary name to Khalid bin Al-Walid Army and to add new aliases. The YMB is allegiant to ISIS, was formed in 2012, and was first designated by the Department of State in 2016. It has staged attacks throughout southern Syria. Near the time of the U.S. designation, the YMB changed its name to Khalid bin Al-Walid Army after merging with groups operating in southern Syria.
  • On August 23, the Department of State designated two ISIS leaders – Ahmad Alkhald and Abu Yahya al-Iraqi – as SDGTs. Alkhald is an ISIS bomb-maker responsible for the deaths of numerous civilians, including Americans, in Europe. He is the explosives chief of the terrorist cell that carried out the November 2015 attacks in Paris and the March 2016 attacks in Brussels. Al-Iraqi is a senior ISIS figure who reports to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al-Iraqi oversees ISIS security in Iraq and Syria and reportedly plays a key role in al-Baghdadi’s security.
  • On September 20, the Department of State designated Tony-Lee Thulsie and Brandon-Lee Thulsie, twin brothers with links to ISIS. In July 2016 at the time of their arrest, the brothers had been plotting attacks targeting Jewish individuals and institutions and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy in South Africa. Both attempted to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS and recruited others to join the terrorist group.

MULTILATERAL EFFORTS TO COUNTER TERRORISM

In 2017, the United States continued to work through multilateral organizations to strengthen regional and international efforts to counter terrorism, including by developing and promoting global norms and building the capacities of states to implement them.

Of particular note is the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2396 on December 21, which obligates member states for the first time to develop and use certain tools to detect and counter returning foreign terrorist fighters and homegrown terrorists. The United States drafted and led the negotiation of UNSCR 2396, which requires all UN members to use Passenger Name Record data to stop terrorist travel. It further directs UN members to collect biometric data and develop watchlists of known and suspected terrorists. Resolution 2396 also calls for stricter aviation security standards and urges UN members to share counterterrorism information both internally and with each other. Other examples of U.S. multilateral engagement include:

The Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). Since its launch in September 2011, the GCTF has mobilized support for national and regional efforts to strengthen civilian institutions to counter terrorism and to counter violent extremism. This includes support for the development and implementation of GCTF framework documents, such as non-binding international good practices and recommendations related to addressing the full life cycle of radicalization to violence, including the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon and juvenile justice in a counterterrorism context, and the protection of soft targets, such as malls, restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces, against terrorist attacks. The GCTF is comprised of five thematic and regional Working Groups: Countering Violent Extremism; Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law; Capacity Building in the East Africa Region; Capacity Building in the West Africa Region; and Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The United States and Egypt co-chaired the Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law Working Group until September 2017, when the United States and Jordan became co-chairs of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.

With its primary focus on countering violent extremism and strengthening civilian criminal justice, the GCTF aims to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ capacity for dealing with terrorist threats within their borders and regions. The United Nations (UN) is a close partner of, and participant in, the GCTF and its activities. The GCTF serves as a mechanism for furthering the implementation of the universally agreed UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and, more broadly, to complement and reinforce existing multilateral counterterrorism efforts, starting with those of the UN. The GCTF also partners with a wide range of regional multilateral organizations, including the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the African Union, and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

In 2017, the GCTF launched three new initiatives:

  • Initiative on Addressing the Challenge of Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters: Co-led by the United States and the Netherlands, this initiative has two objectives:
  1. Raise awareness, identify needs, and leverage expertise and experiences to better understand the push and pull factors of family members of FTFs, and tailor the existing tools to deal with the challenge of returning family members potentially radicalized to violence; and
  2. Develop a set of internationally recognized, non-binding good practices.
  • Initiative to Address Homegrown Terrorism: Co-led by the United States and Morocco, in coordination with the International Institute for Justice and Rule of Law, this initiative will develop new good practices on addressing the challenge of dealing with homegrown terrorists.
  • Nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism Initiative: The Netherlands is leading an initiative to discuss the links between terrorism and transnational crime. The initiative will aim to raise awareness of the nexus, and expand and tailor the tools available to deal with it as it manifests itself in different regional contexts. The initiative will develop a set of internationally recognized, non-binding good practices.

In 2017, the GCTF formally endorsed two new framework documents, the Antalya Memorandum on the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context, and the Zurich-London Recommendations on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism:

  • Antalya Memorandum on the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context: The United States and Turkey, co-leads of the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Initiative, put forth the Antalya Memorandum for formal endorsement at the GCTF Ministerial Meeting in 2017. The Memorandum informs and helps guide governments and the private sector in jointly developing policies, practices, guidelines, programs, and approaches for the protection of their citizens from terrorist attacks on soft targets, such as malls, restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces.
  • Zurich-London Recommendations on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism: Switzerland and the United Kingdom, co-leads of the Strategic Communications and Social Media Aspects in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Initiative, put forth the Zurich-London Recommendations for formal endorsement at the GCTF Ministerial Meeting in 2017. The resulting good practices document, the Zurich-London Recommendations, is subdivided into three sections: addressing overall good practices for preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism online; good practices for content-based responses; and good practices for communications-based responses.

During 2017, the GCTF also continued work on three earlier initiatives:

  • The Initiative to Address the Lifecycle of Radicalization to Violence Toolkit
  • The International Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Capacity-Building Clearinghouse Mechanism
  • The Border Security Initiative

GCTF Inspired Institutions: The following three institutions were developed and supported by GCTF members as mechanisms for supporting strengthening civilian criminal justice responses to terrorism and countering violent extremism.

  • The International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ). The IIJ was created in June 2014. Its mission is to provide rule of law-based trainings to lawmakers, police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, and other justice sector stakeholders on how to address terrorism and related transnational criminal activities. With funding from the United States, the IIJ in 2017 trained 749 practitioners on a myriad of issues such as combating prison radicalization, increasing international cooperation in terrorism investigations and prosecutions, improving adjudications of terrorism cases, rehabilitating and reintegrating foreign terrorist fighters, and dealing with juveniles who are charged with terrorism-related offenses.

    Hedayah. On December 14, 2012, ministers and senior officials from the 30 members of the GCTF inaugurated Hedayah, the first-ever international center of excellence for countering violent extremism (CVE), headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Hedayah’s mandate focuses on three core areas: capacity building programs, dialogue and communications, and research and analysis. By the end of 2017, Hedayah had hosted counterterrorism-funded training and capacity-building courses on community policing and community engagement, CVE and education, and CVE and communications. Hedayah has organized expert workshops on prison disengagement and reintegration, victims of terrorism, CVE and education, security and development, and the development of national and regional CVE strategies.

    Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). In September 2013, the GCTF called for the establishment of the GCERF to serve as the first (and only) global fund to strengthen community resilience to violent extremism. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, GCERF focuses on preventing and countering violent extremism by building the capacity of small, local, community-based organizations. In 2017, GCERF operated in Bangladesh, Kenya, Kosovo, Mali, and Nigeria. Thirteen countries, plus the European Union, have contributed funds to GCERF, totaling over US $50 million.

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 investigative and analytical databases, and its system for sending messages and notices. The United States has been working with INTERPOL’s U.S. National Central Bureau (USNCB) to provide technical expertise to a number of member countries to extend their I-24/7 connectivity from their National Central Bureaus to the air, land, and sea ports of entry to increase their ability to screen and interdict the international transit of foreign terrorist fighters and other transnational criminals.

Acknowledging the value of this initiative and the remaining connectivity gaps in countries at risk of foreign terrorist fighter travel, in 2016, the G-7 committed to extending connectivity to I-24/7 to 60 countries by 2021. Since that time, the United States has engaged INTERPOL and USNCB to help fulfill the G-7 commitment by providing funding for projects aimed at extending connectivity in 10 countries.

The United States continued to support the INTERPOL Counter-Terrorism Fusion Centre’s Foreign Terrorist Fighter project, which manages an analytical database containing identity profiles of foreign terrorist fighters compiled by connecting various types of available data (biometrics, travel documents, names, etc.). These profiles are effective in supporting law enforcement and border control authorities’ abilities to identify and interdict suspected terrorists, ensuring that the right piece of data reaches the right officer on the frontlines. To support this initiative, the United States has also offered seed funding to support an INTERPOL project to improve its analytical capacity to allow the various databases to cross-reference data that links, for example, individual terrorist profiles with lost and stolen travel documents, or fingerprints found on improvised explosive devices. This capability will improve and speed up member states’ investigative capacity.

European Union (EU). 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.

In 2017, the EU Council adopted a regulation amending the Schengen borders code to strengthen external border checks against the relevant database and a directive on combating terrorism. These two acts strengthen the EU’s legal framework to address the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and prevent terrorist attacks. Europol has officers and personnel in all the migration hotspots (in Italy and Greece) to work alongside border security and immigration officers to assist in screening incoming migrants against Europol databases. In addition, the EU Commission published an Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces, which aims to enhance member states’ capacities to protect and reduce the vulnerability of soft targets, such as malls, restaurants, hotels, and other public spaces, against terrorist attacks.

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 Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Under the 2017 Austrian Chairman in Office, the OSCE focused on building support for a comprehensive approach to addressing terrorism-related challenges, in particular with regard to foreign terrorist fighters, information sharing, and countering radicalization to violence. The May 23-24 OSCE Counterterrorism conference in Vienna, chaired by Austria, focused on countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism. The conference included interventions and side events on how OSCE countries are dealing with the challenge of returning foreign terrorist fighters. The OSCE continued to address terrorism and violent extremism, including online, in a manner that respects human rights, such as freedom of expression. In 2017, the OSCE, enabled by U.S. support, conducted counterterrorism finance training for the countries of Central Asia, strengthened criminal justice sector responses to terrorism in the OSCE states, and implemented a project on sharing lessons learned from the (U.S.-funded) Good Practices Guide on Non-Nuclear Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection from Terrorist Attacks Focusing on Threats Emanating from Cyberspace. The United States has developed scenario-based, multi-stakeholder seminars to promote collaboration and disseminate good practices among regional, national, and community leaders. In addition, the United States has partnered with the OSCE on several tabletop exercises to build interagency coordination and whole-of-society collaboration.

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. NATO Allies endorsed an Action Plan to increase NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism at the May 2017 NATO Senior Leaders Meeting. As part of this plan, allies decided NATO should formally join the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and expand NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System support to the Coalition.

In addition, NATO members committed to:

  • Sustaining the NATO training mission in Afghanistan;
  • Continuing defense capacity building and training for Iraqi forces;
  • Establishing a new intelligence cell to increase information exchange on terrorist threats;
  • Naming the Deputy Secretary General as counterterrorism coordinator within NATO;
  • Seek opportunities to increase cooperation between NATO and the European Union on terrorism threats; and
  • Providing more counterterrorism-related training and capacity building support for partners.

NATO’s Civil Emergency Planning and Resilience efforts complement military efforts to deter or counter potential threats or disruptions to the civil sector, such as critical infrastructure, including from terrorism.

Council of Europe. The Council of Europe develops legal standards to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism through criminal law and other measures while respecting human rights and in full respect of the rule of law. In November, the Committee of Experts on Terrorism of the Council of Europe held a plenary meeting in Strasbourg to develop guidelines to prevent lone actor terrorist attacks and enhance cooperation on terrorist misuse of the internet. The Council also strengthened its cooperation with the private sector to promote an open and safe internet, where human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are respected. The companies partnering with the Council include Apple, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Orange and Telefónica. The associations are Computer and Communications Industry Association, DIGITALEUROPE, the European Digital SME Alliance, the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, the GSM Association, and the multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative.

Group of Seven (G-7). Within the G-7 Roma-Lyon Group meetings on counterterrorism and combatting crime, the United States worked with its counterparts to implement the G-7 Ise Shima Action Plan on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, including 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. The G-7 Action Plan also promoted reforms of the UN’s counterterrorism architecture and support for greater use of Passenger Name Record systems, which was reflected in UN Security Council resolution 2396. 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.

Organization of American States’ Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (OAS/CICTE). OAS/CICTE, which has 35 member states and 70 observers, seeks to prevent the financing of terrorist activities, increase border controls, strengthen cyber-security efforts, and increase law enforcement efforts across the Western Hemisphere. Working closely with its member states, CICTE establishes policies and implements programs to address these issues and bolsters counterterrorism partnerships, cooperation, and information sharing through promoting counterterrorism policies, training, and capacity building. The 17th OAS/CICTE Regular Session took place April 6-7 in Washington, DC. With participation from 28 delegations, the session addressed the dual themes of terrorism financing and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In 2017, OAS/CICTE began implementation of a U.S.-funded grant to improve member states’ domestic terrorist designation regimes, focused on Paraguay, Panama, and Trinidad & Tobago. OAS/CICTE also began implementation of a grant to research drivers of violent extremism and resiliencies and collect baseline data on high-risk communities in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community adopted a regional arrest warrant treaty, an asset sharing (forfeiture) agreement, and model CARICOM counterterrorism legislation at their July 4, 2017, Summit. Recognizing the potential threat posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters, homegrown terrorism, and the vulnerability of its tourist industry, CARICOM prepared its first-ever counterterrorism strategy. This strategy identifies the threats facing the region and calls for an organized approach to prevent violent extremism, deny terrorists means and opportunities, disrupt terrorist activities, improve preparedness, and respond effectively to a terrorist attack.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the East Asia Summit (EAS). 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 2017, the United States continued to provide technical assistance, equipment, and training to improve and automate ASEAN member state reporting to INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure global communications system. The EAS, which includes the 10 ASEAN members, plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States, issued three statements with a counterterrorism nexus: a U.S.-sponsored statement on chemical weapons; an Australia-sponsored statement on countering terrorist finance/anti-money laundering; and a Russia-sponsored statement on countering ideological challenges of terrorism and terrorist narratives and propaganda.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In 2017, 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 supply chains, travel, finance, and infrastructure. In October 2017, APEC member economies endorsed the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group Strategic Plan 2018-2022, which set priorities in such areas as the evolving threat of foreign terrorist fighters, terrorist financing, border and critical infrastructure security, and information sharing.

The African Union (AU). The U.S. Mission to the African Union and the AU held the first Countering Violent Extremism Week at the AU Commission October 25-27, 2017. This event brought together professionals from across the world to discuss ways to deepen partnerships to prevent and counter the rise of violent extremism in Africa. The AU High Level Forum on Counterterrorism in December recommended that countries incorporate UN Security Council resolutions into national legislation, improve information sharing, adopt whole-of-government approaches to counter violent extremism, and cut off terrorist financing, including from trafficking in drugs, wildlife and cultural artifacts, and ransom payments.

The Arab League. The Arab League is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and participated in the March 2017 Coalition Ministerial in Washington, DC. In the Amman Declaration following the March Arab Summit, the Arab League’s heads of state committed to “dedicate all necessary abilities to eliminate terrorist groups and defeat terrorists in all ideological, security, and military battlefields.” On August 21-22, senior officials met to implement the Amman Declaration and established a task force that included Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In 2017, the OIC worked with the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force on ways to promote implementation of the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. The OIC an important partner in the Fostering Peaceful Communities in Morocco pilot program funded by the Department of State. The program identified provincial-level religious and community leaders in targeted Moroccan communities and conducted a series of workshops and trainings to increase their understanding of violent extremism risks in their communities and gain tools to address those risks. The OIC also manages the New York-based “Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers,” a religious scholar network composed of community-level imams, priests, and rabbis who foster problem solving and conflict resolution.

Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD’s Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism completed its first full year of operations in 2017. Based in Djibouti, the Center held multiple workshops, conducted analysis and research, and established media platforms and networking opportunities for civil society organizations. The Center received support from a host of international donors, including the Turkish government, to furnish its new headquarters, and the Italian government, for human rights training of gendarmerie that support counterterrorism operations in Somalia.

G-5 Sahel. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger formed the G-5 Sahel in 2014 to focus on the four pillars of security, resilience, infrastructure, and governance. In February 2017, the G-5 announced its intent to stand up a Joint Force of up to 5,000 military, civilian, and police components. The aim of the Joint Force is to disrupt the activities of terrorist operations in trans-border regions of the five member states. Multiple countries and the European Union have pledged donor support to the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, with the United States joining by pledging US $60 million of bilateral security assistance to the G-5 member countries.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In May 2017, the United States and GCC held a summit in Riyadh to examine issues of security and stability. The GCC Terrorist Financing Targeting Center was created and announced during President Trump’s May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia. It is designed to track the financial movement and interdiction of terrorist resources.

The United Nations (UN). Sustained and strategic engagement at the UN on counterterrorism issues is a priority for the United States. Throughout 2017, the UN remained actively engaged in addressing the evolving terrorist threat. The UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted several resolutions to address the threat of terrorism to international peace and security. These included:

  • UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2341 to protect critical infrastructure from terrorist attack,
  • UNSCR 2354 to counter terrorist narratives,
  • UNSCR 2368 to further disrupt ISIS and al-Qa’ida’s sources of revenue,
  • UNSCR 2370 to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons,
  • UNSCR 2395 to reemphasize the importance of Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and extend its mandate, and
  • UNSCR 2396 to address the threat posed by returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters.

The United States supported the creation of the UN Office of Counterterrorism in June 2017 as a means of streamlining UN counterterrorism efforts, coordinating an all-of-UN approach to counterterrorism, mainstreaming Preventing Violent Extremism efforts across the UN system, and ensuring a balanced implementation of the Global Counterterrorism Strategy across its four pillars. Other U.S. engagement with UN actors on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism included:

  • The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). The United States supported CTED efforts to analyze capacity gaps of member states to implement UNSCRs 1373, 1624, 2178, 2396, and other relevant counterterrorism resolutions and to facilitate training and other technical assistance to UN member states. This included participating in Counter-Terrorism Committee thematic debates on a range of issues including depriving terrorist groups from accessing, raising, and moving funds; enhancing international law enforcement cooperation on counterterrorism; developing national and regional comprehensive and integrated counterterrorism strategies; and technical assistance needs-identification for Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The United Nations Office of Counterterrorism (UNOCT). The United States supported the creation of UNOCT and is working with it to ensure balanced implementation of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy through a whole-of-UN approach.
  • In 2016-2017, the State Department contributed over US $13 million to fund a range of UN Office of Drugs and Crime, UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, UN Development Program, and International Office for Migration activities including:
     
  • Strengthening the capacity of the judicial antiterrorism unit and specialized antiterrorism chambers in Niger;
  • Development of counterterrorism rule-of-law Plans of Action in the Sahel;
  • Promoting effective use of alternatives to imprisonment;
  • Supporting Kenyan prisons and probation for counterterrorism cases and the Development of two counterterrorism specific court houses;
  • Work with Mali's Special Judicial Pole;
  • A returning foreign terrorist fighter initiative;
  • Building the capacity of states to obtain digital evidence for terrorism investigations and prosecutions;
  • Development of a counterterrorism prison database in Bangladesh;
  • Border community engagement in Niger and Senegal; and
  • Strengthening community-police partnerships in high-risk communities.
     
  • The UNSC 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee. The United States worked closely with the UN Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Team in 2017 by proposing listings and de-listings, providing amendments, engaging the Committee’s Ombudsperson in petitions for 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. In 2017, 12 individuals and five entities were added to the 255 individuals and 80 entities listed on the al-Qa’ida Sanctions 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 meet the criteria for listing. In 2017, 13 individuals were de-listed, of which seven individuals were de-listed following the submission of a petition through the Office of the Ombudsperson.
  • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). At its annual UN Crime Commission in May 2017, which oversees UNODC including its Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB), the United States joined other member states to negotiate and adopt an updated resolution on “Technical Assistance for Implementing the International Conventions and Protocols Related to Counter-Terrorism.” The UN General Assembly adopted this as Resolution 72/194 in September. The UNODC’s TPB continued to provide assistance to countries seeking to ratify and implement the universal legal instruments against terrorism and provided 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 and supported programming focused on strengthening the criminal justice system’s response to terrorism by member states. In 2017, the United States continued to support UNODC/TPB programs designed to strengthen the legal regime against terrorism within a rule of law framework in Africa, the Middle East, and the Central and South Asia regions.
  • The UN Inter-Regional Crime Research Institute (UNICRI). The focus of UNICRI’s work has been on rehabilitation efforts in prisons. The United States has provided assistance support to UNICRI to strengthen the capacity of prison officials to implement the good practices contained in the GCTF’s Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders. For example, in Indonesia, UNICRI worked on helping to create a specialized assessment tool for prison officials to use on terrorist inmates. In addition, UNICRI conducted a pilot program to identify and help juvenile offenders demonstrating signs of radicalization to violence before they commit acts of terrorism.
  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP engages countries to mitigate and prevent conflicts, including in the Maghreb, by developing national and regional strategies to counter and prevent violent extremism and deepening research on preventing violent extremism (PVE) through its center in Oslo, Norway. In 2017, the United States provided assistance funding to UNDP to help strengthen community-police partnerships in high-risk communities. UNDP sponsored a global conference in Oslo in March, which brought together non-governmental organizations’ regional and country directors to discuss PVE approaches. The UNDP later established the position of a global PVE director.
  • The UN Security Council (UNSC) 1540 Committee. The Committee monitors and facilitates efforts to implement the obligations and recommendations of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1540, addressing the nexus of proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, and illicit activities by non-state actors, including terrorist activities. The Committee submitted its annual review on implementation to the UN Security Council in December 2017.

    The Committee’s Group of Experts also participates as part of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, and cooperates with INTERPOL, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the Financial Action Task Force, and other counterterrorism bodies. In 2017, as coordinator of the transparency and media outreach working group, the United States led the revision of the 1540 Committee’s website to reflect the findings of the 2016 second comprehensive review of the implementation of UNSCR 1540 (2004) as well as provisions of UNSCR 2325 (2016). In addition to raising public awareness, the Committee website serves as a main source of information and resources relating to UNSCR 1540 for use by member states, committee members, civil society, and industry.

    In 2017, the U.S. contribution to the UN Trust Fund for Global and Regional Disarmament Affairs funded a range of UNSCR 1540 activities, including the establishment of a 1540 regional coordinator position in the Organization of American States Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (OAS/CICTE) to promote the full implementation of the resolution in the Western Hemisphere.
     
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In September 2017, ICAO hosted its first aviation security symposium at its headquarters in Montreal. The symposium brought together aviation security professionals from around the world to address the threat posed by terrorists targeting civil aviation by reinforcing, strengthening, and promoting the international framework of aviation security standards. In December 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 2396, which welcomed ICAO’s approval of the new Global Aviation Security Plan. The Plan provides the foundation for ICAO, member states, the civil aviation industry, and other stakeholders to enhance aviation security worldwide and to achieve five key priority outcomes. The outcomes are to enhance risk awareness and response, develop security culture and human capability, improve technological resources and foster innovation, improve oversight and quality assurance, and to increase cooperation and support. Member states continued to prioritize UNSCR 2309 implementation, which calls on UN members to ensure that effective, risk-based measures are in place at the airports within their jurisdiction, that such measures reflect the ever-evolving threat picture, and are in accordance with international standards and recommended practices. UNSCR 2309 further calls on all states to strengthen information sharing and requires airlines operating in their territories to provide Advance Passenger Information to appropriate national authorities to track the movement of individuals identified by the UN’s counterterrorism committees. It also urges all states to ensure cooperation among their domestic departments, agencies, and other entities and encourages continued close cooperation between ICAO and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate on identifying gaps and vulnerabilities in aviation security.
     
  • The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). The United States serves as Co-Chair of GICNT, a voluntary partnership of 88 nations and five international observer organizations committed to strengthening national and global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to the shared threat of nuclear terrorism. The GICNT conducts multilateral activities that strengthen the plans, policies, procedures, and interoperability of partner nations in technical areas such as nuclear detection, nuclear forensics, national emergency response frameworks, legal frameworks, radioactive source security, and sustainability. In addition to serving as Co-Chair, the United States provides both financial and human resources to support the initiative’s multilateral undertakings.

LONG-TERM PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES DESIGNED TO COUNTER TERRORIST SAFE HAVENS AND RECRUITMENT

COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM refers to proactive actions to counter efforts by terrorists to radicalize, recruit, mobilize, and inspire followers to violence and to address specific factors that facilitate terrorist recruitment and radicalization to violence.

State and USAID leverage a range of available diplomatic, development, and foreign assistance tools to prevent and counter radicalization and recruitment to violence, both online and offline.

The following five objectives guide our 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 terrorist ideology, 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 terrorism 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 terrorist 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. For more information on this effort, we refer you to the 2016 report.

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

  • Supporting the Development and Implementation of National Action Plans to Counter Violent Extremism: The United States provides technical assistance to governments as they design and implement national action plans to counter violent extremism (CVE), in partnership with civil society and the private sector. To reinforce these efforts, the United States supports Hedayah, the international CVE center in Abu Dhabi, which provides 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 (RESOLVE) Network, which connects academics and researchers to study the dynamics of countering violent extremism in specific local contexts and identify effective interventions. The United States also works with the Global Counterterrorism Forum 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 capacity of law enforcement to counter violent extremism, including police deployed to peace and stabilization operations, prison management, and justice sector actors. The United States also supports programs to train and assist corrections officials to counter radicalization to violence in prison settings and to promote rehabilitation.
  • Strengthening Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism 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 counters 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 to prevent radicalization to violence 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 U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), the United States supports efforts to help government and non-governmental partners counter ISIS and other terrorist messaging, and to promote alternative narratives. The United States supports a network of messaging centers such as, the Sawab Center, a joint U.S.-United Arab Emirates initiative that exposes, refutes, and counters 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 has worked collaboratively and voluntarily with private sector technology companies to help the companies better identify and address online terrorist content, which many companies choose to remove based on their terms of service. In 2017, counter-ISIS content had become more prevalent online and pro-ISIS content continued to decline.


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 partners in law enforcement, the justice sector, and corrections that 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 oversees the following capacity‑building programs: Antiterrorism Assistance, Countering the Financing of Terrorism, Counterterrorism Engagement with Allies, the Regional Strategic Initiative, the Terrorist Interdiction Program, and the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF).

In FY 2017, CTPF allowed the State Department 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 to mitigate the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, prevent and counter terrorist safe havens and recruitment, and counter Iranian-sponsored terrorism. For further information on these programs, we refer you to the 2017 Annual Report on Assistance Related to International Terrorism.

Rewards for Justice

The U.S. Department of State’s counterterrorism rewards program, Rewards for Justice (RFJ), was established by the 1984 Act to Combat International Terrorism, Public Law 98-533 (codified at 22 U.S.C. § 2708). RFJ’s goal is to bring international terrorists to justice and prevent acts of international terrorism against U.S. persons or property.

Under this program, the Secretary of State may authorize rewards for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits, aids, or attempts international terrorist acts against U.S. persons or property, that prevents such acts from occurring in the first place, that leads to the identification or location of a key terrorist leader, or that disrupts terrorism financing.

Since the inception of Rewards for Justice in 1984, the United States has paid more than US $145 million to over 90 people who provided actionable information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.

In 2017, the RFJ program announced the following reward offers for information.

  • March 15: Up to US $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who committed, conspired to commit, or aided or abetted in the commission of the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Shrum. On March 18, 2012, Shrum, 29, was shot and killed on his way to work in Taizz, Yemen. A few days after the attack, the terrorist organization al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the murder.
  • May 10: Up to US $10 million for information leading to the identification or location of Muhammad al-Jawlani, leader of al-Nusrah Front (ANF), al-Qa’ida’s branch in Syria. This was the first Rewards for Justice reward offer for a leader of ANF.
  • October 10: Up to US $7 million for information on Talal Hamiyah, and up to US $5 million for information on Fu’ad Shukr – both Haniyah and Shukr are two key leaders of the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hizballah.

SUPPORT FOR PAKISTAN

The President announced a new South Asia strategy on August 21, 2017, emphasizing Pakistan’s role in supporting regional security, the need for Pakistan to address aspects of its nuclear program, and the threat posed by the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups that operate in Pakistan. The strategy also emphasized that Pakistan, a long-standing and important partner, is critical to the success of the South Asia strategy. Counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and Pakistan continued on the effort to defeat Islamic State’s Khorasan Province and Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan.

From August to December 2017, the Trump Administration placed a pause on spending new Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan, holding these funds until Pakistan addressed key U.S. concerns, including the threat posed by the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups that enjoyed safe haven with Pakistan. Pakistan did not adequately address these concerns in 2017.

Civilian assistance continued in 2017 and strengthened Pakistan’s civilian institutions by fostering trade and growth, building education systems and educational ties, bolstering Pakistan’s law enforcement capacity, and helping Pakistan address terrorism, including on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The United States also fostered commercial cooperation that benefits U.S. businesses by encouraging trade and investment with Pakistan, as well as creating opportunities to forge lasting connections between Americans and emerging Pakistani leaders through educational and cultural exchanges.

U.S. support for civilian law enforcement and rule of law was crucial to helping Pakistan provide security and justice for Pakistani citizens, and to disrupting terrorism and transnational organized crime. Civilian assistance programs also helped Pakistan disrupt terrorist networks that operated within Pakistan’s borders.

 

Account

FY 2016
Actuals

FY 2017
Appropriated

FY 2018
Request

Total Foreign Assistance

534.7

512.4

344.6

Economic Support Fund

200.0

200.0

 

Economic Support and Development Fund

 

 

200.0

Global Health Programs

22.5

22.5

11.3

Intl. Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement

40.0

38.0

25.0

Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining

9.9

4.8

4.8

Foreign Military Financing

255.0

242.3

100.0

International Military Education and Training

4.8

4.8

3.5

Food for Peace Title II

2.5

0.0

 

*figures in millions, US $


COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATION WITH SAUDI ARABIA

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong bilateral counterterrorism relationship. Multiple high-level visits in 2017 served to advance 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 the President’s May visit to Riyadh, the two countries announced a Joint Strategic Vision Declaration to include new initiatives to counter terrorist messaging and disrupt the financing of terrorism. Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman vowed on October 24 to return Saudi Arabia to being a country of moderate Islam, pledging that the Kingdom would “not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas.”

During 2017, the Saudi Arabian government, working with the United States, continued to build and augment its capacity to counter terrorism and terrorist ideology, including al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and 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. In November, the Saudi government announced an expansive revision of its Counterterrorism and Counter Terror Financing Law (CT Law, detailed below) to reinforce its capacity to counter terrorism and purportedly align with international standards.

The Saudi government conducted operations against ISIS, condemning its activities and participating in the 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 messaging to address the phenomenon of returning foreign terrorist fighters; and leveraged terrorist finance provisions of its CT Law and Royal Decree A/44 to counter the funding of terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

King Salman issued major decrees on July 20 amending the organizational structure of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and creating a new independent domestic intelligence and CT entity called the State Security Presidency (SSP). In October, the government also established the National Cyber Security Authority to formalize its cybersecurity infrastructure and combat cyber threats. The Government of Saudi Arabia announced an expansive new CT Law on November 4, updating its 2014 law. Among the most significant aspects, the new law expands the range of activities defined as “terrorist” crimes and transfers many of the CT authorities previously held by the MOI to the SSP and the new Public Prosecutor’s Office. These recent changes and initiatives instituted by the Saudi government have the stated aim to streamline the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, and to reinforce its capacity to counter terrorism, although human rights groups view the new CT Law as overly sweeping.

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. This was particularly evident with Saudi efforts to counter terrorist financing in the Kingdom and the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia, along with the United States, co-chairs the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a Riyadh-based initiative announced during the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May. In October, Saudi Arabia joined the United States and the other TFTC member countries in jointly announcing sanctions against individuals and entities supporting AQAP and ISIS-Yemen. The new CT Law is aimed at further buttressing the Saudi government’s effort to obtain full membership in the Financial Action Task Force. Earlier in the year, the government directed domestic authorities to impose financial sanctions on individuals and entities providing support to or acting on behalf of Hizballah. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the Kingdom’s central bank, demonstrated strong supervisory authorities when it suspended three leading money service businesses in late-September for deficient anti‑money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism controls.

Saudi Arabia also continued to lay the groundwork for a long-term countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy, opening potential new avenues for counterterrorism coordination. The Center for Ideological Warfare, launched in 2016, became operational in April to blunt ISIS’s ideological appeal and counter terrorist messages by discrediting what Saudi officials characterized as “distortions” of Islamic tenets used in recruiting and ISIS propaganda. King Salman inaugurated the Global Center for Countering Extremist Ideology (Etidal in Arabic) in Riyadh on May 21, which the President attended, further expanding efforts to counter terrorist messaging and promote a culture of moderation.

Senior Saudi officials reinvigorated CVE outreach with visits, including to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis September 20 and to the Grand Synagogue in Paris November 20, in an effort to cultivate an image of greater tolerance with followers of other faiths. King Salman issued a royal order October 17 creating a religious center in Medina to scrutinize the written collections of the Prophet Muhammed’s hadiths (sayings) for content that could be interpreted as encouraging terrorism. The Saudi government expanded counter-radicalization programs through the King Abdullah Center for National Dialogue to address the rising threat to youth from recruitment efforts by groups like ISIS.

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 Ministry of Interior continued to operate its flagship de-radicalization program (the Sakina Campaign for Dialogue) to counter internet radicalization. The government continued to improve 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 radicalization to violence 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 2017, 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 Shi’a 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’ study 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 terrorist fighters charged with crimes related to terrorism.

Saudi Arabia cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues, including through its status as a founding member of and continuing participant in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. On July 11, Saudi officials participated in the Defeat-ISIS Global Coalition’s Working Groups on Counter Finance, Foreign Terrorist Fighters, Stabilization Support, and Communications in Washington, DC. The working groups individually assessed the campaign and discussed ways to intensify pressure on ISIS in each of these critical areas. The following day the full Coalition met for in-depth discussions on how to accelerate Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS in the remaining areas it holds in Iraq and Syria and maximize pressure globally on its branches, affiliates, and networks. Saudi Arabia is also a critical partner for the United States in combating financial support of ISIS and serves as a co-lead, along with the United States and Italy, of the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG). In December, Saudi Arabia pledged US $100 million to support the G-5 Sahel force to combat terrorism in West Africa. Throughout the year, Saudi security professionals continued to participate in joint military and CT programs around the world and with partners inside the Kingdom. The Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), established in December 2015, hosted its Inaugural Meeting of the IMCTC Ministers of Defense Council November 26 to address the ideological, financial, military, and media aspects of counterterrorism.


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 2017. These are the Voice of America (VOA), the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (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 its languages – 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, Bangladesh, the Balkans, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Tanzania, among other places.
  • MBN’s Alhurra Television, Radio Sawa, and Afia Darfur broadcast to more than 340 million people.
  • MBN continued its successful Raise Your Voice initiative across television, radio, and digital platforms, which encouraged Iraqis to speak out against terrorism 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 39 percent of Afghan adults each week. (VOA is at 29 percent and RFE/RL at 27 percent.)
  • Radio Free Asia broadcasts 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 BenarNews reached predominantly Muslim audiences in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. BenarNews countered terrorist narratives by publishing credible domestic news, features, analysis, and commentary in text, video, and pictures, in 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, Inc. (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, 23.2 percent of the world’s Muslim population (according to the 2017 CIA World Fact Book). 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.

To build on the success of the Raise Your Voice initiative and to inform and engage with the people of the Maghreb region, MBN launched MaghrebVoices.com and corresponding social media platforms. The website targets nearly 100 million people and focuses on issues such as terrorism, corruption, human trafficking, including slavery, and minorities’ rights. Maghreb Voices facilitates dialogue and interaction with its audience through community managers. It goes to the streets of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia to interview citizens and hear their views. Maghreb Voices has a section of the website dedicated to defectors’ stories. This section includes interviews and firsthand accounts of people who joined and then left terrorist groups such as ISIS after they became disillusioned. Audiences also will find video content, polls, question of the day, citizen journalist content, and articles.

In addition to Maghreb Voices, MBN launched several new initiatives and programs:

  • Being an Outlet for Independent Voices: For the first time, MBN launched an op-ed section on the Alhurra.com website. From a Different Angle provided a space for free expression on a variety of topics, including terrorism. Articles included commentary by featured writers who are journalists, intellectuals, and human rights advocates from the Middle East and the United States.
  • ISIS Defectors Share Horror Stories of Life under the Rule of ISIS: Alhurra launched a documentary series, Exiting ISIS, in which ISIS defectors provide first-hand accounts of the terrorist group’s entrenched culture of deception, intimidation, cruelty, and sexual abuse.
  • Investigative Journalism Exposing Topics Not Addressed in the Arab Media: In 2017, Alhurra began developing an investigative team to address topics absent from other Arabic television stations, such as Hizballah’s growing influence throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.
  • Focus on the Role of Women as an Important Part of Society: Alhurra Television launched the third season of its program Sit B’Mit Ragel (A Lady is Worth 100 Men). The series followed four young Egyptian women and their professional aspirations and resilience in overcoming social and culture barriers to succeed and realize their dreams.

Iraq: Every week, 42.6 percent of Iraqi adults – some 6.3 million people – listened to or watched Alhurra TV, Radio Sawa, and VOA Kurdish. One-third (34.5 percent) of Iraqis said they relied on Alhurra-Iraq (TV and digital) for news and information during the past week. Radio Sawa Iraq is one of the top radio stations among adults. VOA Kurdish reached 8.5 percent of Kurdish-speaking Iraqis weekly.

As Iraqi troops pushed out ISIS from Mosul, Alhurra and Radio Sawa provided the latest accounts from the frontlines. They also told the stories of Iraqis living in displacement camps.

MBN continued to increase the audience of 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 social media properties. This Arabic-language initiative was designed as a non-sectarian platform to encourage citizens to speak out about the fight against terrorism.

VOA Extremism Watch Desk: In late 2015, VOA launched the Extremism Watch Desk to acquire content in eight languages focused on ISIS and its activities. Since then, the desk has expanded to cover other terrorist groups, including al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, Hamas, and ISIS’s various branches. Content is translated into English and shared with VOA’s 47 language services, VOA Central News, and other BBG networks.

The Watch Desk maintains a social media presence on Twitter and YouTube, and has established a blog for VOANews.com. On Facebook, the number of followers has reached nearly one million people with 3.7 million views.

The Desk has added a producer to handle video content for TV and all web platforms. The VOA News Center continues to provide permanent placement on VOANews.com for Extremism Watch, where English-language content from the Extremism Watch Desk is disseminated to a worldwide audience. The Extremism Watch Desk has broken news on terrorism and produced special projects such as Descent into Jihad, which was translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2017, the Extremism Watch Desk introduced VOA 60 Extremism, a daily 60-second video on terrorism around the world. The product is produced in English and shared with language services for adaptation into target languages in South and Central Asia. The Desk also produces short web videos in English from materials provided by VOA stringers in various regions. The short videos are posted on the main VOANews.com page and on Extremism Watch Desk social media pages. Total interactions on the Extremism Watch Desk Facebook page reached 1.57 million in 2017, with average 120,000 monthly interactions (Source: Crowd Tangle).

Kurdish: The VOA Kurdish Service covered ISIS attacks in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region on a daily basis, with interviews, analysis, and stringer reports from the region. VOA Kurdish reports, which featured interviews with people on the ground, including individuals who had escaped ISIS captivity, were shared with the Watch Desk and the VOA newsroom.

Braving significant security risks, VOA Kurdish stringers reported from Mosul as Iraqi forces liberated neighborhoods. VOA interviewed refugees as they fled ISIS and reported on Iraqi soldiers as they liberated the city. A VOA Kurdish stringer in Raqqa also reported on military operations there. The service added hourly news updates during key listening times in Kurdish‑speaking areas of northern Iraq as the push to drive ISIS from Mosul and other areas gained momentum.

In Syria’s Kurdish region, VOA stringers reported on the local fight against ISIS, generating daily TV coverage. Call-in shows and roundtable discussions focused on ISIS. Many Kurdish TV stations (including NRT TV, Rudaw TV, and Orient TV) conducted Skype interviews with VOA Kurdish Service staffers who discussed events in the region.

To provide context and to explain events, the Kurdish Service regularly interviewed officials and analysts. The Service also covered numerous ISIS-related conferences in Washington, D.C.

Persian: VOA’s Persian Service provided global and regional news related to Iran and information about U.S. policy toward Iran and the region. Highlights of VOA Persian interviews and reports in 2017 and recent audience survey research results are below.

Samples of key 2017 interviews conducted by VOA Persian included: Senator Chris Murphy; Behnam Ben Taleblu, Iran analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Brookings Institution; Anthony H. Cordesman, Strategy Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michael Pregent, Adjunct Fellow at Hudson Institute; and Ambassador Dennis Ross, counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

  • VOA reaches 15.9 percent of adults (age 15+) in Iran at least once a week via a combination of satellite TV and digital platforms (based on July-October 2017 survey). This is approximately 9.6 million people. (VOA’s daily audience was 6.3 percent, or 3.8 million people.) This represents a 4 percent increase in VOA audience in Iran since 2015.
  • The bulk of VOA’s audience in Iran comes from satellite TV broadcasts. More than 15 percent of Iranian adults (15.2 million people) watch one or more VOA TV programs on a weekly basis. Four-and-a-half percent of adults (2.7 million people) access VOA content online weekly. Most of those who consume VOA content online also watch VOA satellite television programs.
  • Nearly 60 percent of VOA’s weekly audience in Iran – almost six million people – says their understanding of current events is enhanced by VOA programming and 52 percent of VOA’s audience in Iran says that VOA helps them understand U.S. foreign policy.
  • In 2017, VOA Persian continued to focus on covering the U.S.-led coalition providing training and equipment to Peshmerga units in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, to help them in their fight against ISIS and the battle in Mosul. VOA Persian’s correspondent hosted the weekly show “New Horizon,” which focused on Operation Inherent Resolve.
  • VOA Persian continued to expose the role that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps play in supporting Hizballah units in Syria.
  • VOA Persian provided in-depth broadcast and digital coverage of U.S. congressional hearings.
  • VOA Persian conducted interviews with numerous experts on Saudi Arabia’s support of the U.S.-led Defeat-ISIS Coalition.
  • VOA Persian observed the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by hosting a panel discussion that featured Ronen Bergman, senior correspondent for Military and Intelligence Affairs for Yedioth Ahronnoth; and Thomas Sanderson, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Transnational Threats Project.

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda features newscasts at the top of the hour, followed by reports, interviews, and segments on youth, women, culture, economics, and politics. Coverage in 2017 included:

  • Reporting from Mosul and from Aleppo, Syria.
  • Taboo, a radio and digital program that provided a forum to discuss such topics as religious extremism and identity.
  • Comprehensive monitoring of human rights inside Iran.
  • A Facebook page with more than two million followers. Farda increased its social media engagement with audiences on digital media platforms that were not blocked in Iran.
  • The Farda website attracted a monthly average of 12.5 million visits and 24.3 million pages views. Approximately two-thirds of all traffic originates from inside Iran despite an official government ban on the website and the need for a proxy to access it.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

VOA South and Central Asia Division (SCA) has been one of the most active divisions in its terrorism coverage around the world. It covers Syria to Iraq, Turkey, Central Asia, and all of South Asia. During 2017, 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. Broadcasts spanned radio, television, online, and social media.

Afghan Service: VOA Afghan devoted a significant amount of coverage across all broadcast platforms – TV, radio, web, and social media across all broadcast platforms – to President Trump’s Strategy for Afghanistan, and the Afghan Government’s efforts to curb terrorist activities.

VOA Afghan reporters were on the scene when ISIS fighters attacked the Shamshad TV station in Kabul. The service interviewed key leaders including the country’s acting Defense Secretary and provincial governors. This was complemented by comment and analysis from U.S. military and NATO leaders, and other experts.

VOA Dari and VOA Pashto saw an increase in audience engagement as they carried the service’s reporting on terrorism on its social media sites. Short videos on the Shamshad attack generated more than 140,000 views on Facebook and hundreds of comments.

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

VOA Deewa broadcasts to millions of Pashtuns in the critical northwestern tribal and semi-tribal region of Pakistan, close to the Afghan border. VOA Deewa’s daily broadcasts are focused on engaging leading moderate voices, at-risk youth, and women. In 2017, VOA Deewa extensively covered the expanding ISIS network in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, its global activities, and the digital caliphate of ISIS. VOA Deewa covered the U.S.-sponsored Defeat‑ISIS Coalition summit in Washington, DC.

VOA Deewa enhanced its daily women’s show and began using an extra hour of time on Asia Sat 3. The current two-hour women and youth daily Radio on TV show has optimized VOA’s outreach to those groups. VOA Deewa engaged U.S. members of Congress and covered ISIS and terrorism-specific events with exclusive interviews with representatives from Washington-based think tanks and prominent moderate religious scholars.

Urdu Service: VOA Urdu’s coverage has concentrated on terrorism in Pakistan. In 2017, the service provided comprehensive coverage of Pakistani military operations against terrorist groups. Several high-profile interviews with Alice Wells, the Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the United States, U.S. members of Congress, and Pakistan and Afghanistan terrorism experts were conducted live on Urdu’s newly launched TV show View 36, and on corresponding radio, web, and social media platforms.

Bangla Service: A prime example of VOA Bangla’s 2017 programming was the series Extremism: Conflicts, Concerns & Consensus to Overcome. In this series, VOA Bangla looked closely at global to regional aspects of terrorism. VOA Bangla examined the definition, scope, and extent of terrorism from various angles.

Following the arrest of an alleged Bangladeshi terrorism suspect in New York, VOA’s Bangla Service broadcast several interview-based programs on Bangladeshi terrorists inside and outside Bangladesh and provided audiences with an opportunity to participate in VOA Bangla call-in shows.

RFE/RL’s Central Asian Services engaged audiences with fact-based, objective reporting about events in the region. RFE/RL is the only Western media outlet in Central Asia that has a significant reputation for credibility and that operates in all major Central Asian languages (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek, and Russian), with data showing that audiences find RFE/RL reporting trustworthy (i.e., Kazakhstan: 84.8 percent average (87 percent Kazakh; 82.6 percent Russian)). Each language service has consistently reported on terrorism in the region. In fiscal year 2017, RFE/RL launched two additional programs to engage audiences on this topic:

  • Not in Our Name: RFE/RL intends to offer an engaging and informative series of anti‑terrorism video programs targeted primarily toward youth audiences in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. RFE/RL will report on terrorist activities, facilitate discussions with youth, and then report on these discussions for youth to “hear it in their own words.” Using video from these in-person engagements, RFE/RL will produce a documentary, as well as short, popular social media-friendly videos and articles. Reporting on the topic of terrorism and the dangers it poses to individuals, families, and society will increase local awareness of the issue. The goal of the program is to provide people – especially youth aged 16-22 – with the knowledge and tools necessary to resist becoming affiliated with terrorist groups and activities.
  • Raise Your Voice: In September 2017, RFE/RL launched a Raise Your Voice project for Central Asia to engage social media audiences in a dialogue about terrorism-related world events. The project will counter the terrorist narrative by engaging young people in Central Asia on popular social media platforms. Social media community managers in each country will identify a topic or news event of interest for discussion, post related questions to social media, and actively encourage youth to "raise their voice on that topic." Discussion topics will include breaking international or local news, such as terrorist attacks in Europe or a woman in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, being attacked on the street for wearing western-style dress. BBG will adapt Raise Your Voice to meet the needs in each country, incorporating multimedia (text, video, and audio).

Kazakhstan: RFE/RL’s bilingual Kazakh Service, Radio Azattyq, reports on stories that would receive little or no coverage from local media. It provides a platform for audiences in Kazakhstan to engage and share ideas. The Service focused primarily on digital distribution of reporting and digital TV programs. The Service covered stories that were otherwise suppressed or did not receive widespread attention, such as recruitment and radicalization to violence of Kazakh youth in ISIS.

Kyrgyz Republic: RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Radio Azattyk, connects Kyrgyz society with informed reporting and debate on such topics as interethnic tolerance, minority rights, terrorism, and government corruption. Sample weekly television programs include the political talk show Inconvenient Questions and the youth-oriented Azattyk+.

Tajikistan: RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, provides professional news and information in a largely government-controlled media environment. Ozodi is one of the most trusted media outlets in Tajikistan, connecting citizens with their political and civil society leaders to support greater pluralism and better governance. The main advantages of the service are its access to important sources of information and that it raises sensitive and relevant issues. 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, Radio Azatlyk, offers Turkmen-speaking audiences locally-sourced information about current affairs within their society. It is the only international media broadcaster operating in Turkmenistan with original video reporting and photojournalism on breaking news, human rights and civil society, freedom of the press and expression, and reports on religious and ethnic minorities.

Uzbekistan: VOA’s Uzbek Service addressed growing ISIS recruitment in Central Asia with in‑depth stories related to radicalization to violence 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. After a New York terrorist attack, the Service conducted exclusive interviews from Uzbek community leaders and religious figures from the United States.

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 thousands of contacts on Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, and IMO who act as citizen journalists, sending news, photos, and videos from all corners of Uzbekistan. Contacts also help verify information, since the Service is prevented from having a bureau in Tashkent.

In late 2015, RFE/RL launched an experimental wire service for Central Asia, to provide objective news to media outlets. In 2017, the number of subscribers to the service exceeded 1,200 media professionals and outlets. The service provided news in the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, Tajik, and Uzbek languages.


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.

Indonesia: VOA Indonesian broadcasts to the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. It reaches more than 48 million people per week, which is about 28.4 percent of the adult population – a 33 percent increase from 2014. In 2017, the Service increased reporting on Islam in America, giving context and insight to the freedoms of religion and speech in the United States. VOA Indonesian continued to routinely cover terrorist threats in Indonesia as well as the Indonesian government’s increased counterterrorism efforts.

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. It also produced a weekly video report for placement with Thai News Network (a 24-hour news channel) and VOICE TV. 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.

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.

Radio Free Asia’s BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news portal for Muslim populations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, who are exposed to terrorist narratives. BenarNews counters those narratives by publishing credible domestic news, features, analysis, and commentary in multiple formats and languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malaysia, Bengali, English, and Thai.

In May 2017, BenarNews launched coverage of the Philippines, particularly the southern region. Weeks later, ISIS-linked militants took over the southern city of Marawi. BenarNews provided extensive coverage during the five-month battle that ensued. BenarNews reporters were among the first allowed back into Marawi after the Philippine military liberated the city in October.

BenarNews helped give voice to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. More than 700,000 fled persecution in Myanmar in 2017; terrorist groups like al-Qa’ida exploited their suffering in recruitment propaganda.


EUROPE AND EURASIA

The Russian Federation and Ukraine: In February 2017, the BBG officially launched the Current Time TV and digital network providing Russian speakers globally with access to balanced, accurate, topical, and trustworthy information. Led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, Current Time TV provides viewers with informed and up-close coverage of major news and events that are not reported, or are misreported, elsewhere.

In fiscal year 2017, Current Time went from providing one hour of daily TV programming to a full-fledged 24/7 channel stream. One year ago, the full Current Time stream was carried by 26 distributors in 11 countries. At year’s end, the channel was carried by 76 distributors in 17 countries. In addition to its TV operation, Current Time Digital engages audiences with its content via social media. Current Time is active on multiple social platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, VKontakte, Twitter, Instagram, Odnoklassniki, and Telegram. Current Time Digital doubled total video views on digital platforms in 2017, with well over 300 million views – half of them from inside Russia.

As part of Current Time’s “Behind the Scenes” program, RFE/RL journalist Shahida Yakub went to Kabul, Jalalabad, and the remote northern regions outside Mazar-e Sharif, where she spoke to local police and self-organized militias who have found themselves fighting off attacks by both ISIS and the Taliban.

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 October 2017 terrorist attack on a New York City bicycle trail, with live, on‑the‑scene reports on the Current Time network and Facebook. VOA’s reports, news updates, and interviews with eyewitnesses garnered more than 100,000 views on Facebook. VOA Russian reporters also visited Uzbek communities in New York and Los Angeles whose members denounced the Uzbek-born terrorist who allegedly carried out the attack.

In 2017, VOA Russian journalists produced more than 250 original reports and exclusive interviews focusing on U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts and terrorism-related threats to U.S. national security. These stories were often picked up by Russian-language media outlets and discussed in social media forums.

South Caucasus: VOA’s Georgian Service continued to provide 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.

Azerbaijani Service: VOA Azerbaijani continued its coverage of issues relating to religious radicalism and efforts to counter terrorism by interviewing current and former officials, as well as political experts and civil society activists. VOA Azerbaijani closely monitored the political trials of individuals accused of being involved in terrorist activities and sought to inform the public.

The Balkans: During 2017, 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 to violence of traditionally secular Muslims and measures taken by local governments to fight terrorism. VOA Bosnian’s documentary series, Salafis in Bosnia, prepared by Aldin Arnautovic, was aired on a number of TV stations throughout the Balkans. The series was also published on Facebook, where it was viewed more than 1.6 million times.

VOA’s Albanian Service’s documentary series included exclusive interviews with Liridon Kabashi and Albert Berisha, returned terrorist fighters from Syria. They revealed the false nature of ISIS propaganda and its utopian promises to those who traveled abroad to join ISIS, as well as the group’s brutality. Both are now part of an initiative to set up a charity persuading potential ISIS recruits not to leave and help those that return to re-integrate into society. In June 2017, the VOA Albanian documentary, Kosovo Foreign Fighters, was aired during primetime on the influential national TV21. The top Muslim religious leaders, Kosovo and Bosnian muftis, were interviewed by VOA Albanian and Bosnian. VOA Bosnian Service also partnered with the Balkan Investigative Reporters Network to co-produce a series of TV reports concerning problems of corruption and rule of law in Bosnia. One report in the series focused on problems of radicalization to violence in Bosnian prisons.

Additionally, in FY 2017, the Service launched a new title:

  • #notinmyname: In September, RFE/RL’s Balkan Service launched a rubric for Kosovo and Bosnia to counter terrorism by engaging young people in dialogue on popular social media platforms. Social media community managers in each country identified topics or news event of interest for discussion, posted related questions to social media, and actively encouraged youth to "raise their voice on that topic." Discussion topics were drawn from either breaking international or local news, such as terrorist attacks in Europe or families devastated by ISIS.

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 both languages.

Broadcasting in Chechen and Russian, RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service reports news in a region where media freedom and journalists remain under severe threat, and offers audiences reporting and analysis of the insurgency in Chechnya and Dagestan.

In both markets, RFE/RL also operated regional websites in the Russian language to expand audience reach and target areas. These efforts complement the Services’ continuing reporting in the Bashkir, Chechen, and Tatar languages while extending their reach to new audiences.

Turkish Service: VOA Turkish coverage of counterterrorism and ISIS operations in Turkey, Europe, and the Middle East continued in 2017. The VOA Turkish Service maintained a strong presence on Turkish television and the internet and is the only foreign broadcaster directly broadcasting on Turkish TV stations, with reporters providing live coverage from the United States on-demand.

VOA Turkish has assumed the role of a reliable news agency for digital and print media. The Turkish Service’s Facebook live reports achieved record high audience gains during international and domestic coverage of terrorist attacks and counterterrorism efforts. Many Turkish media outlets have been using VOA Turkish’s exclusive live coverage with full attribution.

VOA Turkish produces 2.5 hours of weekly news and a 30-minute weekly magazine show for TGRT Haber TV Channel, a 24-hour nationwide network with a weekly audience share of over 30 percent of Turkey’s estimated 25 million regular viewers. VOA Turkish also produces 2.5 hours weekly of “Studio Washington” for Ege TURK TV with an additional 7.5 hours of repeats. “Studio Washington” is a 30-minute program that includes news, interviews, a U.S. press opinion roundup, and health, science, technology, and lifestyle features.


AFRICA

Hausa: VOA’s Hausa Service challenged the terrorist ideology of Boko Haram across the Lake Chad Basin with daily multimedia news programming, interactive call-in shows, town hall meetings, and exclusive digital content. In 2017, VOA produced Boko Haram: Journey from Evil, a 60-minute television documentary showing the group’s brutality in video shot by the terrorists themselves while also presenting the counter-narrative of four women who stood-up to the violence. Those women include an organizer of the Bring Back Our (Chibok) Girls group, a photographer with positive images from Maiduguri, a psychiatrist working to rehabilitate Boko Haram fighters, and a Sambisa Forest hunter who is tracking the terrorists. Produced in cooperation with Creative Associates and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the film premiered at Washington’s U.S. Institute of Peace and London’s Chatham House before it was shown in full or in parts at public screenings in 13 cities in Nigeria and Niger, as well as on more than 40 broadcast and digital partners in English, Hausa, and French, in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. Leaders of Nigeria’s most-populous Muslim state, Kano, are showing the VOA production as part of a campaign to counter violent extremism in more than 900 public schools. The film continues to drive online traffic to the original VOA TV production Boko Haram: Terror Unmasked, which has more than 18 million video views in English, French, Hausa, Khmer, Pashto, Persian, Russian, Somali, Swahili, and Urdu.

Offering an alternative to terrorist violence by highlighting stories of entrepreneurial opportunity, VOA Hausa produced a video profile of 14-year-old self-taught cobbler Zainab Mu’azu. At a time when many girls in Northern Nigeria are street hawkers, Mu’azu’s small business produces 20 pairs of shoes a day. The video reached more than 1.6 million people and helped raise donations for Mu’azu to expand her business.

Former Boko Haram fighter Bana Umar says international radio helped convince him to escape. “I listened to these radio stations frequently to the extent that when I lay down to sleep I would be thinking of what I heard. I realized that all our activities were evil,” he told VOA Hausa at a military debriefing camp in Maiduguri. “We killed. We stole. We dispossessed people of their properties in the name of religion. But what we are doing is not religion. Finally I got fed up with the group.”

Somali Service: VOA Somali broadcast live the election of a new president, Somali-American Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who promised to redouble efforts to build a national army capable of taking over from AMISOM.

On October 14, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device exploded at a major traffic crossing in Mogadishu, killing more than 500 people and injuring approximately 300 more, VOA went live with on-the-scene reporting. VOA helped put a face to the toll of the terrorist violence by profiling victim Maryan Abdullahi Gedi, a medical student killed while shopping for her graduation gown. Her father was traveling from London to attend her graduation. Instead, he attended her funeral.

Mohamed Dhere escaped from al-Shabaab when his commander sent him on a training mission. He was profiled as part of a VOA special report on rehabilitating al-Shabaab fighters. “There are clerics who give awareness lectures and hold debates about Islam and extremism,” explains Reintegration Director Abdirashid Ibrahim Mohamed. “Normally, when these youngsters defect from al-Shabaab, they already know what they were involved in is wrong, and they come to us to save themselves.”

Forced al-Shabaab recruitment in the southwestern Bay and Bakool regions drove hundreds of boys into Baidoa, where VOA broadcast appeals from local lawmaker Abdishakur Yaqub Ibrahim who says militant leaders told local elders that “if a family has two sons, they will draft one as a militant. If they have three, they will take two of them. They are saying they will educate the children, but they are going to turn them into bombs.”

French to Africa: VOA’s French-to-Africa Service broadcast to Muslims throughout Francophone Africa online, on television, and on 24/7 FM broadcasts in Abidjan, Bamako, Bangui, Dakar, Goma, Lubumbashi, Ndjamena, Niamey, and Ouagadougou.

VOA reporters were the first to interview the mayor of the Nigerien town where four U.S. Green Berets were killed in an ambush. Exclusive VOA reporting was picked up by many American news outlets including The Washington Post, MSNBC, and Buzzfeed.

Swahili Service: VOA’s Swahili Service broadcast to large Muslim populations in Kenya and Tanzania, and to smaller Muslim communities in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. VOA Swahili produced a series of multimedia reports from Mombasa about efforts to educate girls about the dangers of radicalization to violence through marriage.

The VOA News Center expanded its terrorism coverage with innovative multimedia projects that focused on the global effort to defeat ISIS in addition to comprehensive daily coverage of related news developments in Washington and around the world. A collaboration with the Africa division produced a documentary and multimedia project that showed Boko Haram’s devastating impact on Nigerians.

Multimedia Projects: Middle East Correspondent Heather Murdock presented her extensive multimedia coverage of the battle to reclaim Mosul from ISIS in Mosul is Falling/Mosul: What’s Next After IS, detailing through first-person accounts, frontline videos, and analysis of the crucial fight to oust ISIS from its Iraqi stronghold and the formidable challenges to keep terrorism from taking hold once again.

Boko Haram documentary: The Boko Haram project is an ongoing collaboration between the News Center and the Africa Division. Journalists have produced compelling content by taking 18 hours of Boko Haram footage and combining it with additional reporting using VOA resources around the world to tell in-depth stories about the group and its victims.

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem reported from remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan in late 2017, filing a series of multimedia reports tracking how terrorism and war are shaping communities and how local governments are responding. From an Afghan village coping with the aftermath of forcing out ISIS fighters to widows in Herat to grieving family members killed while fighting in Syria, her stories highlight how vulnerable communities are coping with terrorism. Reporter Ayaz Gul in Islamabad also covered the region’s struggle with terrorist attacks and political jockeying by terrorist organizations.

Iraq/Syria: Heather Murdock traveled extensively through northern Iraq and parts of Syria in 2017, with incisive on-the-ground reporting featuring the people directly affected by ongoing violence. Dorian Jones in Istanbul covered Turkey’s volatile entry into the conflict and rising tensions with Syrian Kurds.

Europe: Correspondent Luis Ramirez and reporters Henry Ridgwell and Jamie Dettmer filed multimedia reports from Brussels, London, Rome, and elsewhere in Europe on how countries are responding to ISIS attacks. Stories explored de-radicalization efforts, outreach to local Muslims, and tightened security.


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. We would advise applicants to obtain passports immediately and visit travel.state.gov for instructions on applying for U.S. visas.


BASIC EDUCATION IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, USAID allocated US $384,234 million for basic education in countries with large Muslim populations. Approximate amounts for each region were:

  • Asia: US $34 million was allocated to Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines (Mindanao), and Tajikistan. An additional US $94 million was allocated to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Europe and Eurasia: USAID has ongoing basic education activities in Kosovo, although there were no FY 2017 funds allocated.
  • Middle East and North Africa: US $125 million was allocated to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen (however, the Administration has placed all funding to Palestinians on hold pending an interagency review and the WBG Mission has yet to receive any of its FY 2017 funds).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: US $129 million was allocated to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, and Tanzania, and on regional programs.

ASIA

Afghanistan: USAID/Afghanistan continued to improve access to and quality of education, emphasizing early grade reading. The “Afghan Children Read” program developed, distributed, and tested early grade reading materials in Dari and Pashto to 68,228 students and 1,414 teachers in grades 1 and 2 at pilot schools in Herat and Kabul. United States assistance is part of a multi‑donor collaborative effort to implement the “Increasing Access to Basic Education and Gender Equality” program. More than 1,600 community-based education teachers who teach more than 170,000 children received training. USAID’s support to UNICEF resulted in nearly 94,000 student enrollments – about half of which were girls – and supported the production and distribution of more than 72,000 teaching and learning materials. The Global Partnership for Education enrolled an additional 42,004 students in community-based schools. Through the “Education Quality Improvement Project,” a World Bank-managed Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund program, USAID and other donors funded a teacher-training program for nearly 71,000 teachers to improve education through better classroom instruction. The “Strengthening Education in Afghanistan” program helped prepare girls in 300 secondary schools to improve their learning achievements. The students received tutorials and other related support to help them prepare for the Kankor examination, a test required for admission to public universities. Additionally, USAID distributed 197 tablets and 900 solar panels to public schools to support exam preparation.

Bangladesh: The USAID/Bangladesh basic education program aimed to increase access to education and improve reading skills for children in lower primary grades. Several programs assisted with this goal. The “Innovation for Improving Early Grade Reading” program opened 1,000 new schools reaching 27,301 out-of-school youth; approximately half were girls in urban slums. The “Reading Enhancement for Advancing Development” program expanded its literacy interventions to 2,949 government primary schools in all seven of Bangladesh’s states. The program trained 3,912 teachers and provided approximately 1.5 million individuals with teaching and learning materials. One major accomplishment of USAID’s literacy activities in Bangladesh was the creation of 2,201 classroom libraries, each with 155 approved supplementary reading materials to complement the national textbook. USAID also continued supporting Sisimpur, the early childhood development program that is Bangladesh’s version of Sesame Street. Through the development and broadcasting of 26 episodes in FY 2017, the program shared pre-reading skill lessons with more than 12 million viewers.

Indonesia: USAID/Indonesia completed the “Prioritizing Reform, Innovation, and Opportunities for Reaching Indonesia’s Teachers, Administrators, and Students” initiative with notable achievements. These include a cadre of 3,833 district facilitators ready to conduct training in teaching-and-learning and school-based management, community participation in school-management oversight, and training in participatory and accountable school management for more than 1,585 school supervisors, principals, community members, and teachers. More than 44,300 educators in 11,668 non-partner schools received best practices in improved teaching methods and school governance, leveraging more than US $2.1 million in Government of Indonesia funding. The Ministry of Education and Culture selected nine districts to promote a culture of reading, and local government and technical ministries replicated the project's good practices using their own funds by training 44,332 educators from 11,668 non‑project schools in 2017. Approximately US $2.1 million of local funds were spent to replicate USAID’s investment to the benefit of 2.8 million students.

Kyrgyz Republic: The USAID/Kyrgyzstan basic education program “Quality Reading Project” continued to focus on improving reading skills for children. USAID developed reading standards and in-service training materials to train and officially certify 10,166 educators. An additional 23 teachers from two Schools for the Blind and Visually Impaired received training on reading instruction and adaptive technologies and materials. Donations were made of more than 419,000 books to primary schools, children’s libraries, and students.

The U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section also expanded equitable and inclusive education services through the “Book Translation Program,” which translated, printed, and distributed children’s literature. These books illustrated key American values such as tolerance, diversity, inclusion, and the empowerment of women, girls, and disadvantaged groups. Several Democracy Commission small grants supported basic education, including a grant to increase school access for disabled students. A Democracy Commission grantee created a Kyrgyz speech synthesizer for Windows and Android platforms, thereby ensuring students’ access to secondary and special education in their mother tongue.

Pakistan: USAID/Pakistan supported building and rehabilitating infrastructure and improving the quality of education in several areas of the country. Programs like the multi-sectoral infrastructure program “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Reconstruction Program” resulted in the completion of four schools, while the government-to-government “Sindh Basic Education Program School Construction Component” resulted in 30 schools. Two hundred forty schools were rehabilitated in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) grant to UNICEF for the “Pakistan Safer Schools Program.” This grant provided assistance to 199 schools in targeted districts of Balochistan, Sindh, and KP. The USAID Office of Transition Initiatives’ “School Rehabilitation” program rehabilitated 223 schools in the FATA and KP, and its reading program created and distributed more than 5,200,000 teaching and learning materials to students and teachers in Sindhi, Urdu, and English. Thirty-four thousand teachers had training in instructional techniques that have effectively boosted the reading skills of more than 1,300,000 children.

Philippines: USAID/Philippines focused on education service delivery and early-grade reading by bolstering the capacity of educators and administrators, education governance, and community engagement. The Philippines program increased reading activities at an additional 1,700 schools, expanding outreach to more than one million primary students receiving reading interventions. USAID also provided 627,615 units of teaching and learning materials. Five thousand six primary school classrooms received a complete set of essential reading instructional materials. More than 21,281 primary school educators and 5,300 local authorities and school administrators received training to improve their understanding of evidence-based reading instruction.

The “Education Governance Effectiveness” program focused on local government, local school boards, and school governing councils to strengthen fiscal management, transparency, and accountability for education. It trained 2,528 Parent-Teacher Associations and community-based school governance structures while delivering 94,090 textbooks and other teaching and learning materials to 1,804 classrooms.

The “Mindanao Youth for Development” program provided youth susceptible to violent extremism in Mindanao with access to educational opportunities through the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning Systems. The program offered pathways for out-of-school youth to gain equivalency certification or re-enter the formal school system. The program trained 6,987 youth in social, life, and leadership skills.

In addition, a USAID and U.S. Peace Corps project engaged youth in a weeklong, life skills training and leadership session, and trained teachers to improve youth management strategies and teaching practices.

In its final year of post-Typhoon Haiyan reconstruction work, the “Rebuild” program built and equipped 164 disaster-resilient classrooms at 25 primary and secondary schools in Leyte province. These classrooms are capable of withstanding winds of up to 224 miles per hour and an 8.5 magnitude earthquake. In total, 24,040 students in primary and secondary schools benefited from the classrooms.

Tajikistan: USAID/Tajikistan supported education programs by supporting revisions of obsolete Soviet training practices. The “Quality Reading Project” closed out its interventions at the end of FY 2017. This project reached more 65 percent of primary schools nationwide (462,000 students and 17,608 teachers in more than 1,800 schools). An Early Grade Reading Assessment conducted in 2017 demonstrated that grade 4 reading comprehension increased by 19.1 percent more than the 2014 baseline for Tajik students and by 37.4 percent more than the baseline for Russian students for the national sample. On July 31, 2017, USAID and the Ministry of Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reaffirm the commitment to partnership and investment in the primary education sector through direct programming. As a result, four national-level working groups were established to engage on professional development for teachers; assessment, innovations and public private partnerships; and provision of age-appropriate, curriculum-aligned reading materials.

A Multi-Input Area Development Financing Facility for Tajikistan partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation implemented an approach called “Relevance Pedagogy” in select schools. Education interventions in 48 schools provided mentoring for more than 1,000 teachers and 141 administrators, benefiting more than 12,000 learners.


EUROPE AND EURASIA

Kosovo: USAID/Kosovo was not allocated basic education funding in the FY 2017. It implemented activities with prior year funds. These included a Basic Education Program to develop twenty-first century skills for children in primary school grades 1-9; assisting Kosovo education institutions to undertake 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.


MIDDLE EAST

Egypt: USAID/Egypt awarded three new programs ranging from adult literacy and community education to technical support to the Ministry of Education, Professional Academy of Teachers, and Early Grade Learning Unit. USAID continued its support to Egypt’s network of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) high schools, expanding its presence to 11 schools in nine governorates, providing equal learning opportunities for 1,292 boys and 1,049 girls. STEM schools participated in international science fairs in the United States and Taiwan and won several awards. One hundred fourteen boys and 64 girls graduated and continued their studies at top-ranked public and private universities in Egypt, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

In support of the government’s effort to end illiteracy, USAID/Egypt awarded a four-year literacy program in March 2017. The implementing partner signed a Protocol of Cooperation and formalized a plan with the Adult Education Authority to guide implementation over the next four years. Two major awards were signed at the end of FY 2017 to further support to children in early grades. The first is a US $15 million four-year government-to-government partnership that seeks to enhance the quality of education in primary and middle schools nationwide through improving teaching and learning in grades 1-3. The second, a US $3 million task order for technical assistance, will provide the Ministry of Education with technical capacity to plan and successfully implement the partnership.

Jordan: USAID/Jordan improved the quality of basic education for children in Jordan and ensured equitable access to public schooling. In 2016-2017, the Ministry of Education saw the enrollment of more than 126,000 Syrian children in the public school system, further straining the government’s strapped resources. USAID supported a multi-donor pooled funding mechanism to support the enrollment of 126,097 Syrian children in formal education and 1,262 previously unenrolled students in a "catch up" program. In addition, 28 non-formal education centers for out-of-school Jordanian and Syrian youth were established and equipped.

USAID revised, printed, and distributed 95,752 teacher guides for early grade reading and mathematics and trained 11,432 educators on teaching techniques and standards, provided more than 64,000 coaching sessions for trained teachers, established 914 community-reading groups, and held competitions via social media to encourage parents and teachers to read to children. USAID/Jordan has multiple, ongoing school infrastructure activities that expand, renovate, and build schools.

Lebanon: USAID/Lebanon improved the quality of and access to basic education. The program “Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement” attempts to improve Arabic reading outcomes for public school students in grades 1-4 delivered more than 62,000 Arabic books, established 492 classroom libraries in 117 public schools, provided 359 packs of educational materials to 59 schools, and installed 2,442 sets of classroom technology equipment in 260 schools. It also installed 400 technology resource rooms in 300 public schools and trained teachers to use the technology. As per the international community’s pledge to support Lebanon within the context of the Syria refugee crisis, USAID/Lebanon covered the school fees of a total of 110,976 students – 27,532 of whom were non-Lebanese – through UNICEF’s Access Program and Retention Support Program. It also provided 18,800 vulnerable students, who were struggling academically, with remedial and homework support activities.

USAID continued to fund the Research4Results two-year grant in partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the World Bank to support education research in Lebanon. The research sought to address the issues of school retention, school dropouts, community engagement, and learning measurements, especially in relation to vulnerable Syrian refugees.

Morocco: USAID/Morocco continued its program to improve students’ reading skills. The “Reading for Success” project focused on gender equity, inclusiveness, and capacity development, and experimented with the first "Summer School" to reduce summer learning loss among early graders. The program “Reading for Success – Improving Deaf Children's Reading through Technology” refined computer software to produce reading materials for deaf and hard of hearing children in grades 1-3. The program’s most significant change was the Ministry of Education’s registration of deaf students in the official school system to grant them the primary education certificate and ability to obtain secondary education. This program also resulted in the Government of Morocco’s creation of an office dedicated to inclusive education. Additionally, “Reading for Success – Human and Institutional Capacity Development” – in partnership with the Millennium Challenge Corporation – completed a study on the institutional and human resources of the Ministry of Education.

Syria: Both USAID and the Department of State’s Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) programs provided basic education programming in Syria. USAID supported light refurbishment of facilities, training, workshops, short-term technical assistance to education directorates, community-based organization capacity building, youth mapping, and assessments. The Department of State (NEA) established child centers throughout Raqqa that provided psychosocial support and remedial literacy and numeracy to vulnerable children. The centers’ personnel worked with grassroots organizations and the Raqqa Civil Council Education Committee to provide light rehabilitation to schools, psychosocial support training to teachers, build the capacity of education committees and local education providers, and conduct educational surveys to better assess academic needs. NEA provided education services for children and youth in the northwest in close coordination with other international donors.

West Bank and Gaza: USAID/West Bank and Gaza focused on infrastructure, teacher development, and schools in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. With USAID support, the “Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development Program” constructed and furnished a three-floor building expansion, including classrooms, science and computer labs, staff and administration rooms, a counselor's office, handicap-accessible bathroom facility, ramps, and a small kindergarten. In addition, Braille signage was set up in a marginalized area in the West Bank. The school’s total student capacity has increased by about 42 percent, from 170 to 240.

The “School Support Project” supplied 45 school libraries with 50 computers, 45 science labs, internet connectivity, and books. The project also offered expanded youth extracurricular activities during and after school hours. More than US $1 million was leveraged from the Joint Financing Partners for teacher training activities. The "Leadership and Teacher Development Project” provided internet connectivity and equipment to 151 schools and technical expertise to improve classroom assessment policy and plan for management restructuring and decentralization. The Masters of Arts in Teaching enabled nine in-service teachers to receive a joint degree offered by Bard College and Al-Quds University.

Yemen: USAID/Yemen helps to stabilize communities while ensuring that children have access to safe classrooms or remedial education opportunities. USAID supported UNICEF through a Public Institution Organization grant to refurbish schools and school bathrooms, support a Back-to-School campaign, provide recreation kits for psychosocial support, and provide teachers with training to identify children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, a “Self-Learning Program” was developed and provided to children to guide their own learning when school is cancelled. The program reached more than 600,000 youths and more than 160,000 students benefited from school refurbishment and rehabilitation. Additionally, more than 30,000 children received counseling to learn to cope with the trauma of war and to focus on learning.


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Djibouti: USAID/Djibouti focused its activities on designing a new early-grade reading program. USAID/Djibouti completed several reading analyses to inform the development of the program.

Ethiopia: USAID/Ethiopia implemented the “Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed (READ)” Technical Assistance Project. In coordination with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, results of the project included the revision of Ethiopia’s primary-level English curriculum, training of 47,767 teachers, distribution of more than 1.9 million textbooks and supplementary reading materials, and the establishment of 10,582 reading spaces. In addition, teachers in Dolo Ado and Jigjiga refugee camps received training in collaboration with the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs.

Kenya: USAID/Kenya supported reading and youth development activities. The “All Children Reading Tusome” program aims to improve early grade reading comprehension. Tusome reached 3,363,687 pupils and 77,478 teachers in 23,890 schools with interventions that will define how Kenyan children learn to read for decades to come. Tusome also delivered 5,398,194textbooks and learning materials for a textbook to student ratio of one to one, a notable benchmark for the continent. The program also integrated Information and Communication Technology to operationalize Kenya’s Education Management Information System via a national training platform.

USAID/Kenya also used the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief funds to provide scholarships and leadership training to Kenyan orphans and vulnerable children mired in extreme poverty. The “Wings to Fly” program mobilized the resources of a local financial institution and engaged other development partners in a Global Development Alliance to help 2,495 children access secondary education and mentoring, counseling, leadership development, and career guidance. Similarly, the “Global Give Back Circle” program partnered with 30 private sector entities to support an employment transition program for 428 disadvantaged girls and boys with scholarships, mentoring, life skills, internships, and job placements.

The “Kenya Youth Employment and Skills” program targeted out-of-school youth aged 18 to 35 who have not completed high school, resulting in 16,309 youth gaining new or better employment. USAID/Kenya also continued to implement the “Young African Leaders Initiative,” which builds skills, assets, and competencies for leadership in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management for youth age 18 to 35, resulting in 733 young leaders – 48 percent of which are women –completing the program.

Mali: USAID/Mali addressed violence and insecurity from terrorist groups, which led to the closing of 500 schools in conflict-affected regions. The “Selected Integrated Reading Program” benefitted 134,296 learners, provided reading kits to 3,595 schools and trained 10,661 teachers and school directors on balanced literacy. The program also trained 7,503 parents to use the “Does my child know how to read and write?” booklet. The “Equitable Access to Quality Education for Children in Conflict-Affected Regions” project enrolled 417,611 children in accelerated learning programs. USAID launched two new activities to support deaf and blind children: the “Inclusion of Deaf and Blind Children in Mainstream Schools” project, and the “Inclusive Education for Visually Impaired Primary School Children” project in Bamako, Gao, Koulikoro, and Segou.

Nigeria: USAID/Nigeria continued to improve reading outcomes for primary-school-age children and increase access to education. The “Northern Education Initiative,” which operates in the northern states of Sokoto and Bauchi, printed and distributed more than two million Hausa language student textbooks and teaching manuals to train more than 12,000 teachers and instruct nearly 400,000 primary school children. The “Education Crisis Response” program supported the needs of internally displaced children in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe. The children learned basic literacy, numeracy, and life skills. In addition, displaced children were offered psychosocial services to help them cope with post-traumatic stress. The program funded 746 non-formal learning centers, including 387 co-educational centers and seven centers for people living with disabilities. This reached a total of 80,341 beneficiaries.

Senegal: USAID/Senegal supported reading for early grades through the “Reading for All” program. The program initiated development of the materials that improved reading in subsequent years of the program. Students’ classroom tools and take-home reading material were developed and validated in the three national languages: Wolof, Pulaar, and Serer. Teacher guides and training modules were developed and printed in each of the three languages for the start of school in October 2017. The “Our Sisters Read” program mobilized communities in the region of Fatick to improve girls' success in education and in the foundational subject of reading. The program awarded scholarships to 139 elementary students who were in danger of dropping out of school and supported two mobile libraries that reached more than 9,000 children. USAID also worked with several host country institutions to carry out a national study of out‑of‑school children and youth.

Somalia: USAID/Somalia supported the provision of education in a country where three million children are out-of-school. Al-Shabaab has increasingly focused its recruitment efforts on children under 15, launching an alternative school curriculum in April 2017 and actively recruiting in Gedo and Middle Shabelle. USAID funded a five-year, US $10 million “Alternative Basic Education” program supporting non-formal education that supported 16,000 students in the regions of Bakool, Gedo, and Bay which were acutely affected by the recent drought and where children are particularly vulnerable to al-Shabaab recruitment efforts. Interventions included the creation of safe and sustainable learning spaces, distribution of teaching and learning materials, and training of 371 community teachers.

Tanzania: USAID/Tanzania worked closely with the Government of Tanzania to embed activities within government structures. The “Let's Read Together” – “Tusome Pamoja” program made significant gains during its second year of implementation, reaching 552,764 and 12,722 students in the four mainland regions and the islands of Unguja and Pemba in Zanzibar. Collaborating closely with the Tanzania Institute of Education, approximately one million teacher and student teaching and learning materials were printed and distributed in FY 2017, and two sets of professional development programs began for more than 1,000 teachers.

The “Let Them Learn” (Waache Wasome) program, which aims to address discriminatory gender norms and practices, started in six pilot schools. During this inception phase, USAID reached 1,923 students through “Protect Our Youth” clubs, which were designed to serve as safe spaces in schools for girls to learn to navigate risks and build protective assets. Teachers and heads of school had training in school-related gender-based violence prevention. To round out the socio-ecological model that supports girls as individuals within their household, school, and community, 24 savings and lending groups were created in villages surrounding the pilot schools to build households’ resilience to keep their girls in secondary school.


ECONOMIC REFORM IN MUSLIM MAJORITY COUNTRIES

We refer you to https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/economic-growth-and-trade and https://www.usaid.gov/reports-and-data for information on the U.S. Agency for International Development’s programs on Economic Reform.