Marshall Center counterterrorism alumni share best practices for countering terrorism

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Marshall Center counterterrorism alumni share best practices for countering terrorism

By Christine June
Public Affairs Office
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (May 26, 2016) – U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Anna Gulbis asked “how do we prevent at-risk youth from joining the Islamic State” during her presentation May 25 at the Global Counterterrorism Alumni Community of Interest Workshop at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.

“ISIS excels at recruiting American teens,” said Gulbis, a recent graduate of  the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, during her ISIS and the Lonely Young American presentation.

Gulbis was one of 10 Marshall Center alumni participants who presented countering terrorists narratives from Africa, Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Oceania, Europe and the United States during the workshop, which was held May 23 to 26.

Counterterrorism workshops support and engage the more than 1,500 alumni of the Marshall Center’s premier Program on Terrorism and Security Studies, as well as CT-focused alumni from other U.S. Department of Defense Regional Centers, said Dean Reed, director of the Marshall Center alumni program, which currently has more than 11,000 alumni from 152 countries.

“In light of unprecedented levels of radicalization and terrorist activity worldwide, the need to counter terrorist narratives and ideology is now greater than ever before,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. (Ret.) James Howcroft, who is the PTSS course director and the coordinator for this COI workshop. “Yet, it’s an area of counterterrorism where we still have much to learn.”

The alumni narratives provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with 73 participants from 41 countries attending this Countering Terrorist Narratives: Best Practices from Around the Globe workshop.

Herman Jangi, assistant commissioner of Police from the Mauritius Police Force and an alumnus from PTSS, discussed what Mauritius is doing to counter the appeal of terrorist narratives and propaganda, the key challenges involved, the best practices identified that fellow alumni could learn from, and recommendations to improve their ability to counter terrorist narratives.

Lt. Col. Deo Asiimwe, chieftaincy of Military Intelligence at the Uganda Peoples' Defense Forces and alumnus from the Marshall Center’s Program on Applied Security Studies. He talked about how East African Region is one of the growing hot spots for terror activities. He listed some of the terror groups in the region include: Al-Qaeda; Al-Shabaab; Allied Democratic Forces (ADF); Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); Al-Ittihad Al-Islamia (AIAI); and, Al-Muhajiroun.

Dr. Agata Furgala, from Poland and a PTSS alumna, defined the role of the Polish government institutions in educating and informing citizens about terrorist threats.

Irfan Abubakar, director of the Study of Religion and Culture in Jakarta, Indonesia and alumnus with the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. He talked about the threat of radical ideology spreading out using online media, including the Jihadist propaganda. He also talked about different approaches to facing this threat such as banning radical websites and gaining greater public support to countering radicalism.

Dr. Irina Chernykh, chief research fellow in Kazakhstan and PTSS alumna. She talked about the major terrorist acts in Kazakhstan, Foreign fighters from Kazakhstan, internal and external radicalization factors, strategies for fighting violent extremism, legislation, institutions creating counter-narratives on terrorism, the people’s assembly of Kazakhstan, the religious affairs agency, and mass media and social media factors.

Australian Col. Stuart Davies, director Special Operations Development within Australia’s Special Operations Command, gave an Australian perspective on countering violent extremism and went into strategic methods such as understanding the Issue to create a strategy, developing content with simplicity as the key, implementing the campaign and finding out if you are having the affect you want.

Bangladesh Army Maj. Gen. Md Shafeenul Islam, an alumnus from PTSS, explained the basic themes of terrorist’s narratives and counter narratives in Bangladesh, as well as shared best practices, key challenges and recommendations.

Other alumni presentations looked at counter terrorist narratives in Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

“After attending this workshop, I have become interested in doing independent research on the potential for sentiment analysis technology to be used as a tool for assessing the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures,” said Gulbis.

This is the fourth alumni community of interest workshop this fiscal year, and the seventh successive Counterterrorism Alumni Community of Interest event that started with an inaugural workshop in October 2010, Reed said.

“We recently got a mission here at the Marshall Center from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to expand our transnational efforts and become a center of excellence for transnational threats and this workshop clearly fits into this mission,” Howcroft said.

Howcroft added that a report on the best practices and findings from this workshop will be released soon.