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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The U.S. Role in Countering Violent Extremism

Justin Siberell
Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism 

New York, NY
September 21, 2016




NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome. Thank you for being here today. The New York Foreign Press Center is pleased to be hosting Justin Siberell, the Acting Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism at the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Siberell will give a readout of the 2016 Global Counterterrorism Forum ministerial, as well as an update on U.S. efforts to confront the global challenges posed by violent extremism. Just a reminder that this is on the record. We’ll have some brief remarks followed by Q&A. Please remember to state your name and the outlet that you represent.

Over to you, sir.

MR SIBERELL: Well, again, good afternoon everyone. And thank you for coming to attend this briefing at the Foreign Press Center in New York. I understand there are many, many different events for you to cover this week, so I very much appreciate you taking the time to hear a little bit about the efforts we’ve been making, in particular through the Global Counterterrorism Forum, to advance U.S. counterterrorism objectives.

So as was noted, I’m going to make a few brief remarks about that effort this week and will be happy to take your questions. Of course, there are many, many things ongoing this week addressing the common challenge that we face of terrorist threats and our common counterterrorism approach. Obviously, issues related to Syria and the counter-Daesh efforts are ongoing, including today. I have to say that the ministerial that took place today was at the same time as the earlier – meeting this morning at which our Secretary spoke. So I won’t have comments directly related to that discussion. I’d leave it to the transcript and the spokesperson to address those issues.

There are other issues ongoing. There’s an aviation Security Council resolution tomorrow that we’re very supportive of, a session that’s been inspired and led by the United Kingdom. There are a number of different things happening this week, and I can get into some of those perhaps when we take questions.

But I did want to address at first – we just concluded the ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. The – as I hope some of you know, the Global Counterterrorism Forum was established in 2011 to support the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and to strengthen the international and civilian architecture for addressing 21st century terrorism. The United States was a founding co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum with the Government of Turkey, and the GCTF, as it’s called, is currently chaired by Morocco and the Netherlands.

As I said, this year’s ministerial occurred this morning. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken represented the United States. We have just issued a media note from the Office of the Spokesperson that’s available to you, and I think actually I see it in some of your hands, so it’s already been distributed. So you’ll find further detail about today’s proceedings in that media note.

But in brief, a couple of things to say about this year’s meeting, and also just to give you a sense of the role the GCTF can play and does play in our international counterterrorism architecture in advancing common objectives. I’ll give you an example where the GCTF has had a particular impact over the last couple of years. In 2013 at the GCTF ministerial there was a recognition of the growing threat – it was already present in the world, but was – required an international response, the threat posed by what are called foreign terrorist fighters, those individuals from around the world that were coalescing at the time in Syria in particular and in Iraq that formed ultimately the – an important component of Daesh.

In 2013 there was a recognition that this was posing an international challenge that needed to be addressed. And the Global Counterterrorism Forum began an initiative to develop a set of good practices that governments might adopt to better deal with that threat. That effort resulted in the adoption of a GCTF document called the Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Phenomenon. And that good-practice document in turn informed the discussion that ultimately led to UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which was adopted in September 2014 and has really served as the blueprint for international action that governments have taken to better deal with the issue of foreign terrorist fighters, to make it more difficult for individuals to travel to the conflict zone, to return from the conflict zone, to receive facilitation along the way, and ultimately to fight beside a terrorist organization like Daesh.

And some statistics that we have been able to determine after the adoption of the Hague-Marrakech Memorandum, the GCTF and UNSCR 2178 by the United Nations Security Council, we see that 60 different countries have put laws in place or amended existing legislation to prosecute and penalize foreign terrorist fighter activity. That might be something like penalizing or criminalizing the act of travel to join a terrorist organization that’s engaged in the conflict somewhere. Fifty countries have prosecuted or arrested foreign terrorist fighters or their facilitators on the basis of some of those legislative changes.

Both documents call for enhanced information sharing, and we’ve seen significant progress in the bilateral and multilateral information-sharing arrangements. And particular in the multilateral sphere, Interpol has begun to play a very important role in the sharing of information related to foreign terrorist fighter identities.

These are among the steps that have led to a decreased flow of foreign terrorist fighters to the conflict. Of course, there are many other factors, the most significant of which is the series of continued military defeats that Daesh has suffered at the hands of the coalition. They have not, as has been pointed out, had a significant – had a battlefield victory of any kind really in over a year. They have lost significant territory in Iraq, 50 percent of the territory they once controlled, and at least 20 percent of the territory they once controlled in Syria. This, of course, leads to a decrease in the amount of resources available to the organization and is one of the main reasons that individuals are no longer seeking to join Daesh in Syria. But these other measures I noted in the border security realm under UN Security Council 2178 have also been very important in that effort.

So this year at the Global Counterterrorism Forum, we concluded a project that was identified as necessary a year ago, and that was at some point the foreign terrorist fighters will begin to return to their home countries. So there was a need to look at a series of measures that governments might adopt, tools available to governments to deal with what we have called the life cycle of radicalization to violence. So last year in New York, the GCTF launched the Initiative to Address the Life Cycle of Radicalization to Violence, and this year Deputy Secretary Blinken was able to present that project to the membership of the GCTF, and it was adopted and we will be working to implement the Life Cycle Initiative over the coming year. And we pledged $5 million in support to implement the life cycle over the coming year in consultation with our Congress.

The Life Cycle Initiative is an effort to improve our – the international community’s ability to respond to every stage with the terrorist life cycle, from trying to prevent radicalization to violence in the first place, to additional measures that can be taken in the criminal justice system, to deciding when and how to reintegrate those who joined violent extremist groups but later have recanted. And the Life Cycle Initiative has produced a set of valuable recommendations and includes a web-based toolkit that we will be presenting at an event tomorrow at two o’clock p.m. to a broader audience of practitioners and implementers. And for those interested in attending that meeting, my colleague Jenny Olsen can provide further information on that.

Now, this Life Cycle Initiative really is also consistent with a broader effort within the international counterterrorism community to try to emphasize the importance of prevention efforts. This began in large part as a result of the Countering Violent Extremism Summit that was convened by President Obama in February 2015 at the White House, which convened global leaders in an effort to emphasize and raise the awareness of the importance of a prevention agenda, steps governments could take to address radicalization as it was occurring and to disrupt that process before individuals take that step of joining or seeking to join a violent extremist group.

After that February 2015 Countering Violent Extremism Summit, there were a series of regional summits convened around the world. Those efforts ultimately led to and informed the conclusion of an important document that was issued by the UN secretary-general at the end of 2015, which is the Preventing Violent Extremism Plan of Action. Now that – what’s called the PVE Plan of Action was appended to and endorsed by General Assembly members in the last renewal of the UN Security – of the UN Counterterrorism Strategy this past summer.

I’m throwing a lot at you, it’s a lot of words, but what we’re talking about here basically is the importance of addressing this prevention agenda and in the international architecture that is being built to support that. So the Life Cycle Initiative which I just described to you is very much in keeping with the secretary-general’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism, and is serving, again, as this blueprint for the international community to address prevention measures and to address the radicalization process.

In addition to the Life Cycle Initiative, Deputy Secretary Blinken also announced that we will be launching a new initiative in the coming year in the GCTF. It’s in the press release which you have in front of you. This is an initiative to – on the protection of soft targets in a counterterrorism context. We will be launching this initiative along with our partner Turkey. This is in the coming year. This is from 2016 to 2017. This is an effort to develop a set of internationally recognized best practices for protecting restaurants, sporting – sport arenas and other soft targets from terrorist attacks. What we’ve noticed is that as Daesh, as an example, faces more and more pressure in Syria and Iraq, they seek to conduct spectacular attacks around the world, and in particular, as we’ve seen, on what are known as soft targets – places where the public convenes and congregates. And we believe that there is a scope for an effort to help governments understand what kind of steps they can take to better protect those soft targets, and therefore protect their people against the scourge of terrorism.

And then finally, one more thing to mention with regard to our objectives at this year’s GCTF ministerial: Yesterday, we held an important conference – meeting, really, to discuss support for the Global Community Engagement and Resiliency Fund. This is called the GCERF. It’s a public-private fund to support local civil society-based countering violent extremism initiatives. We hosted that event together with the Government of Switzerland and were able to generate significant additional support for GCERF, which is really the first-of-its-kind fund to help support local CVE initiatives. The fund is currently active in three countries – Nigeria, Mali, and Bangladesh – has issued its first grants to support local CVE initiatives in those three countries, and Deputy Secretary Blinken was able to commit – again, with the notification approval of the U.S. Congress – the intention of the United States Government to provide an additional $3 million in support for the GCERF in 2017.

Okay. So with that hopefully short but maybe it sounded long introduction to all of you, I’ll be happy to take some questions on those issues.

QUESTION: Thank you. This is Heba El-Koudsy from Sharq Al Awsat newspaper. I would like you to elaborate a little bit about what kind of cooperation is the U.S. doing now with the GCC countries, with most of the Arab countries in the region? And are you focusing only on Daesh or are you still working to counter terrorism in other groups like Boko Haram and other terrorists? Thank you.

MR SIBERELL: Well, thank you very much. The GCC countries, of course, are very close partners with the United States across a range of activities. We have very close bilateral partnerships with each of the GCC states. And then collectively, of course, we have a very strong partnership with the GCC. And that was emphasized really in a series of meetings that were convened by President Obama at Camp David with the leadership of the GCC. That led to a series of working groups, one of which addressed the issue of counterterrorism, and we’ve been expanding our cooperation with the GCC states both bilaterally and as a collective organization in the area of expanded border security and information sharing.

The GCC has a very – all of the countries of the GCC have an important role in addressing the very immediate threats of historically al-Qaida but also of Daesh. Many are participating in and contributing to the effort to counter Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Their support is invaluable in issues related, for instance, to countering the financing of terrorism, and we work very closely with all of the partners, our partners in the GCC on that issue in particular.

With regard to the GCTF, there are three members of the GCC that are represented in the GCTF – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. The UAE also is the host to the Hedayah Institute. The Hedayah Institute is a Center for Excellence on Countering Violent Extremism. They’ve done really pioneering work in developing a doctrine and an understanding of what governments need to do to better address violent extremism and to prevent it, to intervene to prevent the radicalization process. Hedayah will be playing a very important role in helping countries develop what are called national action plans on preventing violent extremism, and that is a project that was announced at the ministerial.

So we have a very close, enduring partnership, of course, the Saudi – with Saudi Arabia. They’ve done very important work in the rehabilitation of former terrorists through the Mohammed bin Nayef Center, and that was also briefed to the ministerial today. So a whole variety of efforts, a very close partnership, a deep partnership on counterterrorism issues, and it’s highly valued by the United States Government.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Salim Siddiqi, Online International News Network from Pakistan. I have two questions.

You have just mentioned and read out about all focus is on the Syria and Iraq, while the Pakistan and Afghanistan region is – are totally ignored. Pakistan has been victimized and thousands of the citizens and the law enforcement officials have been killed – terrorism activities. The people escape – the militants and the terrorists escape to Afghanistan, and the Secretary John Kerry and other officials know about this. Pakistan has a – but the U.S. and the NATO has not taken any step to bomb their hideouts, to bring to the justice.

And second question about the homegrown radicalization and extremism: What measures beside the combating and arresting and prosecuting them? On the social side, what measures has been taken to prevent them? The youngster who support the – Monday, Afghan-origin man has been arrested.

So these two questions, if you’ll kindly address them.

MR SIBERELL: The first is I guess I would disagree with you that issues surrounding terrorism in South Asia or in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region have been ignored. That’s absolutely not the case. I think, as was noted in the Media Note that was issued after the – Secretary Kerry’s meeting with Prime Minister Sharif, they absolutely discussed counterterrorism issues. Pakistan, of course, is a very close partner in our effort against terrorism, and the Pakistani people, as you noted, have been victims of terrorism, and we urge Pakistan to continue their efforts against violent extremists. And that issue was also covered, as I said, in the Media Note that was issued after the Secretary’s meeting with the prime minister. A very close partnership there – very important, however, that we continue to keep up the pressure on militant groups, and that was emphasized.

With regard to homegrown violent extremists, this is obviously a critical challenge for all governments – the concerns about the radicalization process that may occur in isolation, where someone is able to ingest propaganda over the internet, as an example, and not necessarily make connections with other individuals that would provide law enforcement an opportunity to discover a radicalization or a plot. So those homegrown violent extremist actors, those individual lone actors are a real concern of the international community, and this very much relates to what I was talking about earlier, this issue of a prevention agenda, and really giving tools at the local level, at the community level. This is where you will have the opportunity to identify the signs of radicalization and to intervene.

So we look to innovative efforts at the community level, really, to address those with the support of national-level governments. And as an example, we have launched – we’re part of a new network called the Strong Cities Network, which was launched as part of the CVE Summit process I noted earlier that – convened by President Obama. The Strong Cities Network is really in – it has over 30 cities that are now part of this network, includes a number of American cities in this group. The idea here is that with these new terrorism challenges, the – we have to take a whole-of-society approach. It can’t simply be national governments with militaries and intelligence services and law enforcement. You really have to bring in the whole of the community. And the Strong Cities Network seeks to link cities and countries and people at the municipal level, and that’s where the important work will be done to set up systems to detect and then respond to the radicalization process and to disrupt it.

So this is a very important issue on the international agenda and each of us is grappling with it, trying to find where those common approaches are, but also understanding that, ultimately, the solution to this challenge will be highly localized and needs to be unique to the particular circumstance.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Hi, I am Imran Ansary. I am representing Bangladeshi daily The Daily Nayadiganta. We have seen couple of terrorist attack in Bangladesh recently – each and every attack, responsibility taken by ISIS, but government blame opposition for each and every attack. And we have seen U.S.A. concern about Bangladeshi attack, especially John Kerry call to Bangladeshi PM and President Barack Obama – when he addressed at the Pentagon, he mentioned Bangladesh name. And recently, Secretary Kerry visited Bangladesh.

My question is: What types of initiative taken by U.S.A. as a partner country to meet this challenge, to face these challenges, especially for Bangladesh? Thank you.

MR SIBERELL: Well, thank you for the question. We have a very close relationship with the Government of Bangladesh, consider Bangladesh a very close partner of the United States, and as you noted, Secretary Kerry was recently in Bangladesh, and we are working very hard to support the Government of Bangladesh to address the challenge they face from terrorism. We think that the trajectory that Bangladesh has been on of economic growth and positive change is very important to maintain, and therefore, we are very, very supportive of the government’s efforts to prevent the emergence of a significant terrorism threat in the country.

So therefore, we are working across a range of areas, including providing some support and capacity building to law enforcement efforts in Bangladesh to identify and disrupt terrorist threats. We are working in the area of what’s called community-oriented policing. We have a close partnership with Bangladesh where the Bangladesh Government is expanding its efforts to develop new tools for police to build close relations with the community because community security relations are absolutely vital to an effective counterterrorism response.

Bangladesh is a partner country, is a pilot country in the GCERF. I mentioned GCERF a moment ago. This is an organization that we are contributing to along with 11 or 12 other governments – funds to support locally-based countering violent extremism initiatives. And the GCERF has just concluded its first grants in Bangladesh. It’s working with local-based organizations to address issues related to countering violent extremism. And I was at an event yesterday, as I noted, that included the Bangladesh foreign minister – foreign secretary, excuse me. So we have a close partnership and it’s one that we hope will develop further. We were also extremely troubled and very saddened by the attack at the – in the bakery and want to help Bangladesh and support its efforts to address these threats in the future.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for the briefing. My name is Ahmed Fathi for ATN News. I appreciate your input about the counterterrorist measures; however, you covered very thoroughly the institutional measures. Recently, as terrorism has turned into global phenomena, we are confronted by what’s called a lone wolf or self-radicalized jihadis. What are the strategies in place to counter these measures? As you sure know, in Europe, for example, the situation for minorities, especially from a Muslim background or North African background, is incomparable, even for a second and third generation. Statistically, the median income for those families is half what it is, for example, of a regular French family, and so on in the rest of the European Union. What are the measures in place on a global level? What can U.S. contribute to counter this phenomena that is prevalent these days? Thank you.

MR SIBERELL: Well, thank you for the question. This is an essential question, really, about how we in the counterterrorism community pivot and ensure that we are addressing the emerging threats. And as you noted, self-radicalization, lone actors – these are one of the areas of the terrorism threat that is growing, and we need to, as an international community, establish effective tools to address it. So this falls into the basket of what I refer to as sort of the prevention agenda. It’s not just about reacting to terrorism attacks, it’s actually looking ahead and trying to disrupt and identify where a radicalization process may be in place and trying to disrupt it.

The first piece of that is effectively in research and understanding what might be the drivers of radicalization to violent extremism. Are there issues, are there dynamics in a particular community that may be fodder for or driving individuals toward the radicalization. Now, that can be done in a number of ways. One would be for those countries that have had a number of their citizens travel to Syria and Iraq. If it can be determined, as an example, that they came from a particular area of the country or a particular community, you can begin to look backward at what was it about those – the circumstances in each of those individuals that maybe led them down that path.

It’s very hard to generalize; it’s very hard to attach remedies across a particular geographic region or across a particular community because, as we know, radicalization comes in all different forms. There is no one type of individual, there is no one ethnicity, there is no one religious background. It can affect all different types of people, so we try to understand what are the factors that may be contributing to a radicalization process and then deliver individualized solutions to address them.

That is, in one regard, an area I think we can collectively begin to develop good practice around and begin to confront more effectively. What’s more – been more of a challenge, perhaps, is in what you’d call the self-radicalized, the lone actor who is not connected and therefore is not demonstrating signs of radicalization outwardly, but is ingesting propaganda, et cetera, through the internet. That is a real challenge where we have to get at the issue of counter-narratives online, trying to reach people and address those issues in a way that will take some inventive and creative work. That’s why the Global Counterterrorism Forum was really established, as a group of countries who can think through these issues and develop good practice in that area.

So I would agree with you it’s obviously – it’s a very important question for U.S. law enforcement in our country and in many other countries. This concern about – it’s one thing to know about a group of people who may be plotting something, it’s another challenge to have to identify somebody that is not connected to a group or not demonstrating any outward signs. So this is something that we will be continuing to stress and work on together.

QUESTION: Mohamed Abdel-Baky. I am Mohamed Abdel-Baky, Al-Ahram daily newspaper, Egypt.

MR SIBERELL: Yes.

QUESTION: You know Egypt is – could be a transitional territory for jihadi fighter from Libya or Gaza or Sudan, so is there any cooperation with Egypt in this area? And what is the cooperation also between Egypt and the United States in terms of fighting terrorism in Sinai?

MR SIBERELL: Well, the United States and Egypt, of course, have a long partnership, a very strong partnership on security matters in particular, and have worked together to counter terrorism for many, many years.

With regard to Sinai, there is the – of course the multilateral force of observers that are – have a camp in the Sinai. The United States has soldiers there, so we’ve had close cooperation with the Egyptian Government in ensuring that mission can continue and ensuring that we provide support to the Government of Egypt to deal with threats that it faces from the presence of terrorists, including Daesh, in its country.

We had the Metrojet plane disaster and we have worked with the Egyptian Government to strengthen aviation security together. That’s a cooperative partnership, very close partnership in that area, and so these are the kinds of things that we work very closely with the Egyptian Government. Egyptian – Egypt is also a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. In fact, we co-chair one of the working groups with Egypt and I was just with my Egyptian colleague earlier today, and they are prepared to play an important role.

QUESTION: What’s your counterpart (inaudible)?

MR SIBERELL: The ambassador is – Ambassador Azmi is the representative of Egypt in the Global Counterterrorism Forum.

QUESTION: Thank you for the briefing. My name is Argemino Barro. I work for Capital Radio, Spain. I would like to know if you can elaborate more on the counter-narratives online. I read today that Google is developing a project to sort of, like, guide some users to, like, content that is against ISIL, like through – like some words that they normally look up. Are you, like, having partnerships with the private sector, for instance with Google or some others? Thank you.

MR SIBERELL: Well, this is another area that is – a lot of attention is being paid to. Counter-narratives are an important element, we believe, of pushing back against the terrorist narrative. Now, there was a time when this really consisted of finding credible voices to address ideological arguments that a group like al-Qaida would propagate, but today the challenge has grown because of the ease of distribution of propaganda and the way that ISIL has very effectively used the internet as a platform. So we really have to be more aggressive in finding and identifying credible voices with stories to tell that can counter the terrorist narrative. Governments are not always the most effective deliverer of that counter-narrative, so we really need to find individuals or groups or even private sector parties that are interested in spreading an effective counter-narrative.

The United States established something recently called the Global Engagement Center, and this center is committed to that work, to finding credible partners and encouraging their work and being prepared to partner with groups that seek to push back on the terrorist narrative. You’ve also seen a number of governments establish counter-narrative centers or counter-messaging centers, including the United Arab Emirates, which has established something called the Sawab Center, which is effective in delivering counter-narrative messages through the internet.

With regard to the private sector, certainly we have an ongoing conversation with the private sector on these issues. The technology sector itself is not interested in having the internet used as a platform for terrorist propaganda or operational information. In fact, they have taken quite aggressive steps to outline and then enforce what are called terms of service to ensure that terrorist groups are not able to use those platforms, and that’s had some success. Many, many, as an example, Twitter accounts, of course, have been taken down. The challenge is that they just come right back up in some cases, but this is an effort that I think will continue and that the private sector is quite engaged and really must be a close partner in this effort.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Sorry, I have a lot of question this time.

MR SIBERELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. You said that you have this initiative of a life – life cycle of --

MR SIBERELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- of terrorism. Can you elaborate? What’s the stages of this cycle?

Another question about Libya. Now Daesh not attracting foreign fighters to come to Syria and Iraq, and instead they are encouraging them to go to Libya, so do you have any efforts regarding the situation in Libya?

And third question. It’s not about education or poorness or wealth or something like that. Can you say what exactly would change a man’s life from being a normal human being with tolerance and 180 percent change to be a terrorist or adopt this kind of violent – yeah – radical ideas? Thank you.

MR SIBERELL: Sure, I’ll try to take those in order. The first was regarding the GCTF Life Cycle Initiative. It consists of a series of new good-practice documents that fall into three principal categories. The first is prevention, the second is intervention, and the third is rehabilitation and reintegration. So broadly, the issues of prevention would relate to things like the role of education in countering violent extremism, and we have a good practice document that addresses that as part of this project. Intervention would relate to law enforcement measures, and including alternatives to prosecution, as an example. One of the new life cycle documents relates to the issue that many governments are facing, where you have hundreds, perhaps even thousands of returned foreign fighters. What is the process by which you evaluate whether those individuals all must be prosecuted or are any other alternatives to prosecution in any of those cases? And then rehabilitation and reintegration relates to counter-radicalization in the prison setting. We know that prisons in particular have become in many cases a source or an area where radicalization is propelled, where terrorists are able to recruit. So we have quite a lot of work ongoing within the GCTF to identify good practices to better manage a prison population to ensure that radicalization is not able to grow inside a prison setting. We can get you an actual – a – more detail on the Life Cycle Initiative, including all of the documents associated with it, and we can do so right after this briefing. I’m happy to do that.

With regard to Libya, of course there’s been the effort in support of the Government of National Accord to expel Daesh from Sirte, and that has been ongoing. It’s a very difficult, tough fight. ISIL was quite embedded in the city of Sirte. And the forces that have been confronting ISIL there have fought heroically and with many – high casualties in that effort. We are part of that effort to support the Government of National Accord to expel Daesh from Libya, but of course, what is required in Libya is stability and a Government of National Accord that all parties will support so that the country can be stabilized and does not provide a safe haven for terrorist groups or violent extremist groups. So therefore a political solution really lies at the heart of preventing terrorism from spreading in Libya.

Your third question was about – sorry.

QUESTION: What makes --

MODERATOR: Why do people become radicalized?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR SIBERELL: Yeah. That’s a very hard – this is one where the circumstances really are individualized. So as I noted, we issued a new strategy on countering violent extremism – the U.S. Department of State and USAID. It has five objectives, and the first objective is increasing of research: better understand the drivers of radicalization. You can’t make generalized statements that any one particular community or there’s a direct link, let’s say, between poverty and terrorism. We know that’s not true. There may be cases where poverty contributes to alienation or a sense of grievance that then contributes to a radicalization process. You can’t make generalized statements about particular communities, particular countries, particular regions, or particular issues. It’s really a complex set of factors. So we really need to increase and enhance our understanding of that process. It could be that there are particularly charismatic individuals who are able to influence young people who are searching for some meaning in their life and they encounter this charismatic person who convinces them to believe in a set of beliefs that really will lead them not to a better life really but to a life of terrorism.

So there are different stages along that radicalization path. And we need to also give support to the academics, think tanks, others that are really studying this. It’s also the frontline practitioners, social workers, teachers, police who – people who would understand and see radicalization as it’s occurring and give them the tools and support to address those issues as they are emerging.

So I don’t have a terrific answer for you, what is it, the – it’s a complex variety of factors that come together.

QUESTION: Okay. Good afternoon, sorry for coming late. I was just trapped in commuting. I am Kanwal Lati. I’m from Pakistan. I have come from FPC Washington, D.C. I belong to Metro 1 News. I have three questions and one suggestion. My question is about this – you know global terrorism, it’s a key issue. So in terror financing in that area, do you have any strategic alliance with Pakistan Government to tap on or like – regard – in terror financing?

And second, my – I’m very happy to hear about the stronger city networks in which you just mentioned. There’s 30 cities and (inaudible) once a week in Karachi, I volunteer with SSU, that – a special security unit, and I just – we have set up a facilitation desk in Karachi. So I’m very happy to hear about stronger city networks. So may I know which city in Pakistan do you have any alliance with so I can look into it?

And my third and last question is about Boko Haram that is in Nigeria. You – the bring back our girls, that was an issue there. So may I know the current status of that? And in which year was this – in which year was Boko Haram designed as a terrorist organization? Thank you.

MR SIBERELL: Thank you for the questions. We may need to get you a list of the strong cities that are – cities that are part of the Strong Cities Network, and we can do that. That will give you the list of those – the cities. I think there is one for Pakistan, and that’ll have to be something we give you.

Your --

QUESTION: Terror finance.

MR SIBERELL: Yes, terror finance. Terror finance, of course – financing of terrorism has been and countering the finance of terrorism, disrupting the finance of terrorism has been a central project of the international community in particular since 9/11, and there is a network of – well, there’s really an infrastructure that surrounds that that centers around the protection in particular of our banking system to prevent it from being used by terrorist individuals or organizations. And so, therefore, there is a network of what’s called the Financial Action Task Force, which is an organization that focuses in particular on disrupting the and preventing the finance of terrorism, that has a series of regional subgroupings, and most countries are members of one of those.

We also use through the United Nations, and then in domestic – under domestic authority, we will sanction individuals and groups as being part of or supporting terrorist organizations. And once we do that and if they are listed at the United Nations, all governments have an obligation to enforce those sanctions and to prevent individuals from using the financial sector, to prevent travel, et cetera.

So there’s a very strong infrastructure in place to disrupt the financing of terrorism. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It often happens outside of formal banking channels, which becomes another challenge – as an example, with the – through the informal money movement system, using smuggling of bulk cash, or using trade-based money laundering. These are tactics that terrorist groups might use to move funds outside of the formal banking system, so we really need strong cooperation to disrupt those efforts. There is also the hawala system sometimes in some countries that exists, and so we certainly urge countries to bring those informal mechanisms into a process of regulation of some kind to – so that we can ensure that terrorist individuals or groups are not making use of those outside of the reach and accountability of countries.

And certainly this is an issue which we discuss with Pakistan frequently, the importance of denying to terrorist groups funding – in particular proscribed terrorist groups and individuals. That was your question, yes? You had one last --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR SIBERELL: Yes, sorry. Boko Haram.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR SIBERELL: Yes. Boko Haram is – and the year that they were designated, I believe it was 2012 or 2013. I can get you that specific information. Boko Haram is an organization that has brought misery to northern Nigeria and beyond and has crossed borders into Niger, Chad, Cameroon, in what is known as the Lake Chad basin. So the countries of those – of that region have come together and developed a strong partnership under what’s called the Multinational – MNJTF – Joint Task Force, headquartered in N’Djamena, Chad under the leadership of a Nigerian general, a two-star general, where they’re coordinating their military activities to squeeze away the territory that Boko Haram holds.

Boko Haram is considered – has lost considerable territory as a result of this international cooperation, but they still remain a very dangerous group and they still have pockets of presence in and around those – the border regions of those countries. There’s been a major effort by the Nigerian Government and others to deny territory and to restore to their families those people who have been kidnapped by that group, and that effort is ongoing.

I’ll just make a comment here, which is that one of the things we all must do in the international community is try to coordinate and cooperate to address the challenges posed by these non-state actors like Boko Haram. And here is an example, although it’s very difficult and there’s a long way to go, where you have several countries who have committed to cooperate and to coordinate their efforts. And they’ve come together and they’re putting effective pressure upon Boko Haram. As I said, there’s a long way to go, there’s a lot of issues to address in those countries that will provide a sustainable basis to prevent the emergence of other groups, but international coordination and cooperation like we’ve seen in the Lake Chad basin area is in some ways the model of cooperation that we need to see elsewhere to address terrorist groups and ensure that they’re not able to use the seams between countries as safe haven for their activities.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more. We’re going to go down to the end here, I guess.

QUESTION: My question, I will – back to Libya because it’s really a pressing issue, because there are some countries in Middle East you feel it’s too late to restore stability, like Syria – you need a major change to do it. But for Libya, in the United States perspective, what should – the international community should do before it’s too late? This is the first question.

And the second question: Can you more elaborate about the initiative of the soft targets?

MR SIBERELL: Yes. With Libya, my role as the acting coordinator for counterterrorism, I have a particular focus on the terrorism challenge in Libya. And as I noted earlier, there’s been support for the Government of National Accord and its effort to expel ISIL from Sirte. And with regard, however, to the long-term challenge of bringing together a unified Libyan government that can address the aspirations and needs of the Libyan people and bring together stability, that’s an ongoing effort that many of my colleagues in the Department of State are involved in and engaged in. It’s a very high priority.

I can’t address the specifics of the negotiation; there are discussions ongoing this week about Libya. What’s clear, however – it’s that the international community is – needs to work together with the Libyan people. The Libyan people need to resolve their issues and come together in a government of national accord – support the Government of National Accord that we all recognize so that there can be stability brought to the country, so that there’s no room for a safe haven for a group like Daesh to prosper.

With regard to the soft targets initiative, what we intend to do here is to develop through the Global Counterterrorism Forum a set of good practices for governments to better protect their vulnerable sites. What that would consist of, broadly speaking, would be things like do you have a system in place to identify what facilities might be at greatest risk, do you have a system of warning, and to ensure that you have crisis response capability to address threats to a particular site, to help governments better understand what they can do to ensure that those public spaces in particular are protected from terrorist attack.

This is one where we think that we governments will have some role, but we will bring in the private sector, the tourism sector, the hotel sector, the sports industry, others to partner in this effort, and it will consist of a series of meetings of experts and will result ultimately in a set of good practices issued through the Global Counterterrorism Forum. The Turkish Government announced today at the Global Counterterrorism Forum ministerial that they will host the first experts meeting in Antalya, and we are working on a date for that meeting in Turkey.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Alright, that concludes today’s briefing. Thank you very much. The transcript will be available soon, and thank you especially to our guest for his time. Thanks.

MR SIBERELL: Thank you.