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Dr. Alex Schmid, director of the Vienna-based Terrorism Research Initiative, shares recent findings regarding foreign fighters, how they're recruited and where they come from during a plenary session of the Partnership for Peace Partnership Consortium (PfPC) Combating Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, July 29. (Marshall Center photo by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn /Released)

GCMC Public Affairs Staff Report

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (July 27, 2015) – The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies is the site for The Partnership for Peace Consortium’s Combating Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) meeting this week in a ground-breaking seminar entitled “Foreign Terrorist Fighter Challenges and Responses.”

The event, hosted by and co-sponsored by the London-based Asia Pacific Foundation, brings together more than 80 practitioners and researchers from over 40 countries to examine the growing foreign terrorist fighter problem through an interactive table top exercise.

Professor Alex Schmid, the Director of the Terrorism Research Initiative in Vienna, delivered the seminar’s opening remarks on Tuesday, 28 July, emphasizing the need to counter contagion of violent extremism, which leads to the “imitation of successful, publicized acts.”  According to Professor Schmid, in order to reduce the pull of violent extremist groups, the international community must challenge extremist narratives, the efforts of which to date have been largely unsuccessful.

Other seminar participants include Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation; and George Selim, the U.S. White House’s Director for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Policy.

The seminar examines the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon through consideration of recruitment dynamics, travel facilitation, tactics and strategy, ideology and propaganda, and potential return and reintegration issues.  Central to the seminar is a tabletop exercise featuring a whole-of-society approach aimed at providing best practices in addressing foreign terrorist fighter activity.

The interactive tabletop exercise is based on the Global Counterterrorism Forums’ Hague-Marrakech Memorandum foreign terrorist fighter recommendations and utilizes a case study methodology to help participants devise effective strategies, formulate policy recommendations, and develop programmatic responses for public and private sector leadership.

Exercise participants are focusing on developing innovative solutions to help address the foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon from a community engagement perspective.   The objectives of the tabletop exercise include: 1) building awareness of foreign terrorist fighter-related challenges among a community of counterterrorism professionals; 2) developing actionable policy responses; 3) sharing best practices; and 4) identifying further areas for international collaboration.

The CTWG, one of the PfPC’s nine working groups, is a multinational think tank of internationally recognized terrorism studies specialists organized to better understand international, regional, and domestic terrorist and violent extremist threats, in order to educate and train future military, civilian and other leaders who have counterterrorism  responsibilities, and to provide policy analysis and related assistance to decision-makers.

The PfPC Operations Staff is co-located with the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Marshall Center’s Director U.S. Army Lt. Gen. (Ret) Keith Dayton is the Chairman for PfPC’s Senior Advisory Council, which governs PfPC and meets annually to guide PfPC’s strategic direction.  

For more information on the Partnership for Peace Consortium and the Combatting Terrorism Working Group, visit http://www.pfp-consortium.org.