Academic journal article AEI Paper & Studies

Development Assistance and Counterterrorism

Academic journal article AEI Paper & Studies

Development Assistance and Counterterrorism

Article excerpt

Contents  Executive Summary                                           1 Introduction                                                2 I. A Civilian Counterterrorism Strategy                     3 II. Refining the Development Approach to Counterterrorism   8 Ill. Conclusion and Recommendations                        17 Notes                                                      19 


The United States government has engaged in an extended, multidimensional fight against terrorism for almost two decades. Despite recent battlefield successes, the 2018 National Defense Strategy notes that "terrorism remains a persistent condition driven by ideology and unstable political and economic structures." (1) The 2017 National Security Strategy highlights the pervasiveness of this security threat throughout much of the developing world. In recent years, violent extremist organizations--which use ideologically justified violence to further their social, economic, or political objectives--have fomented conflict in developing countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and the Philippines. (2)

The damage terrorism and violent extremism have done also extends well beyond the military realm. Extremist violence often creates or exacerbates an unstable economic environment--discouraging foreign investment, degrading infrastructure, and disrupting governments' ability to provide services. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace's Global Terrorism Index, terrorism cost the world roughly $52 billion and more than 18,800 lives in 2017 alone. (3) Fragile states bear the brunt of this burden, as they are both more likely to face terrorist attacks and more vulnerable to the economic consequences. (4)

The US military plays an essential role in degrading and disrupting terror networks abroad, but force alone will not succeed in suppressing highly adaptable terrorist movements. (5) Foreign assistance for terrorism prevention programs can complement military tools by funding civilian efforts to (1) disrupt the recruitment and radicalization of individuals and (2) reduce local support for violent extremist groups and political violence more generally. Yet civilian programming in this area is estimated to make up less than 0.1 percent of the total US counterterrorism budget. (6) And while the US government is well practiced in deploying the military against terror targets abroad, the same cannot be said for civilian counterterrorism efforts.

Part I ofthis report examines the role offoreign development assistance in the US counterterrorism tool kit. It assesses the degree to which current efforts, led by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), contribute to the overall goal of "preventing terrorists from directing or supporting external operations against the United States homeland and our citizens, allies, and partners overseas." (7) It argues that current efforts are spread too thin and need to be concentrated on four pillars: (1) physical security, (2) humanitarian need, (3) responsive governance, and (4) targeted and tailored interventions.

Part II draws lessons primarily from past US government-funded programs in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, and Tunisia. It recommends improved impact measures for terrorism prevention programs and suggests how the US can refine its current approach to better support its objectives. While these countries represent only a portion of ongoing efforts worldwide, their successes and limitations should inform future programs.

Overall, the report argues that a development-based approach to counterterrorism holds promise in shifting popular support among local communities away from terrorism if funds are programmed in a targeted and evidence-based manner. This means that program goals should be clearly defined, program activities should be limited in scope, and effectiveness should drive program design, participant selection, and monitoring and evaluation. …

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