Countering Violent Extremism

Sam Trudeau

Countering Violent Extremism

The radicalization of armed groups is one of the more pressing challenges facing third generation DDR. The shift in the character of conflicts since the early to mid-2000s has been marked by the growing presence of armed extremist groups operating in intra-state wars, a reality that has repeatedly challenged peacekeeping and peace building operations mandated by international bodies like the United Nations Security Council. Security Council members have usually sought to exclude radicalized groups from Comprehensive Peace Agreements (CPA) and participation in Council mandated DDR initiatives. Instead, these groups are usually dealt with through military means that aim to disrupt and degrade their capabilities in the hopes of ultimately ending their operations permanently. Yet armed extremist fighters have proven resilient and demonstrated a capacity to regroup after essentially waiting-out the military operations targeting them. The transnational nature of many of these groups and the porous borders in many conflict zones have facilitated these tactics.

 

Groups such as Al Shaabab in Somalia have been able to regroup and carry out operations in neighboring countries such as Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Mali-based groups such as Ansar al Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) have been able to do the same in Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. These armed extremists have consequently been able to repeatedly act as spoilers to state and peace building initiatives in both countries after having weathered military pushes to defeat and dislodge them. This game of cat and mouse between local and international military missions targeting armed extremist groups seems to highlight the fact that combatants attached to armed ideological movements are at times driven by political grievances that cannot simply be disappeared through the use of force. In many cases, the cycle of violence seems likely to continue and further perpetuate violent extremism if a political space to express legitimate grievances is not created in a manner that engages the individuals that make up these groups. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiatives have been identified as a tool that might help create an opening, at least in certain cases, to include individuals in these groups into the reintegration processes of DDR initiatives. The challenge seems to be identifying instances where military and counterterrorism operations can be coupled with DDR to defuse violent extremism and under what conditions creating a political space is appropriate.

 

In Somalia for instance, efforts have been made to engage with rank and file members of Al Shaabab who have disbanded from the group. In theory, allowing these individuals to participate in DDR reintegration processes with a CVE component focusing on de-radicalization, while at the same time affording them the opportunity to engage in a political process that2 addresses legitimate grievances, can be understood as promoting political agency to tackle radicalization.

In practice however, such initiatives have to be carefully calibrated to the political and social realities on the ground if they are expected to facilitate true social reintegration. In Mali, individuals and communities associated with radicalized groups were given the opportunity to disassociate themselves from Ansar al Dine and MUJAO and join the CPA under broad coalitions. Yet, this process was hampered by a lack of political will towards the CPA that left DDR processes stalled. These types of delays have proven detrimental DDR and led individuals and communities to return to radicalized armed groups. In this context, CVE might help prevent the slide back towards extremism, but ultimately the speed of implementation and political will of actors are crucial to a achieving long-lasting outcomes.

Sam Trudeau

 

Countering Violent Extremism

 

The radicalization of armed groups is one of the more pressing challenges facing third generation DDR. The shift in the character of conflicts since the early to mid-2000s has been marked by the growing presence of armed extremist groups operating in intra-state wars, a reality that has repeatedly challenged peacekeeping and peace building operations mandated by international bodies like the United Nations Security Council. Security Council members have usually sought to exclude radicalized groups from Comprehensive Peace Agreements (CPA) and participation in Council mandated DDR initiatives. Instead, these groups are usually dealt with through military means that aim to disrupt and degrade their capabilities in the hopes of ultimately ending their operations permanently. Yet armed extremist fighters have proven resilient and demonstrated a capacity to regroup after essentially waiting-out the military operations targeting them. The transnational nature of many of these groups and the porous borders in many conflict zones have facilitated these tactics.

 

Groups such as Al Shaabab in Somalia have been able to regroup and carry out operations in neighboring countries such as Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Mali-based groups such as Ansar al Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) have been able to do the same in Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. These armed extremists have consequently been able to repeatedly act as spoilers to state and peace building initiatives in both countries after having weathered military pushes to defeat and dislodge them. This game of cat and mouse between local and international military missions targeting armed extremist groups seems to highlight the fact that combatants attached to armed ideological movements are at times driven by political grievances that cannot simply be disappeared through the use of force. In many cases, the cycle of violence seems likely to continue and further perpetuate violent extremism if a political space to express legitimate grievances is not created in a manner that engages the individuals that make up these groups. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiatives have been identified as a tool that might help create an opening, at least in certain cases, to include individuals in these groups into the reintegration processes of DDR initiatives. The challenge seems to be identifying instances where military and counterterrorism operations can be coupled with DDR to defuse violent extremism and under what conditions creating a political space is appropriate.

 

In Somalia for instance, efforts have been made to engage with rank and file members of Al Shaabab who have disbanded from the group. In theory, allowing these individuals to participate in DDR reintegration processes with a CVE component focusing on de-radicalization, while at the same time affording them the opportunity to engage in a political process that2 addresses legitimate grievances, can be understood as promoting political agency to tackle radicalization.

In practice however, such initiatives have to be carefully calibrated to the political and social realities on the ground if they are expected to facilitate true social reintegration. In Mali, individuals and communities associated with radicalized groups were given the opportunity to disassociate themselves from Ansar al Dine and MUJAO and join the CPA under broad coalitions. Yet, this process was hampered by a lack of political will towards the CPA that left DDR processes stalled. These types of delays have proven detrimental DDR and led individuals and communities to return to radicalized armed groups. In this context, CVE might help prevent the slide back towards extremism, but ultimately the speed of implementation and political will of actors are crucial to a achieving long-lasting outcomes.

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