Targeting the de-materialised “Caliphate”. Extremism, radicalisation and illegal trafficking
Rome – December 6, 2018
The war against terror has been a past political and strategic construct that has at the same time reduced the forces under the banner of Al-Qaeda and IS, but also complicated the mitigation of several regional crises, especially in the Gulf and Levant regions. Counterterrorism has relayed the war on terror after its evident limitations in Iraq and Somalia, culminating in the destruction of the de facto entity of the Islamic State between Syria and Iraq. DAESH, after having shown that the century old frontiers of the Sykes-Picot can be put into question, is shifting its propaganda towards a more messianic and potentially timeless horizon. NATO’s Counterterrorism Action Plan reflects quite accurately this shift from combat-driven operations to activities enhancing partners’ overall effectiveness.
The time is ripe for an in-depth and deliberate effort of meshing counterterrorism and countering violent extremism activities in order to keep the terrorist scene fragmented and off-balance not only in military and security terms, but more importantly in terms of narrative and stifling the future terrorist recruiting.
Military and security operations have their distinct role, but more often than not they coexisted without much synergy. Counterterrorism can deliver just one segment of the effects against the enemy groups, while countering violent extremism is necessary on the ground and in cyberspace to disarticulate the jihadist propaganda, to prevent radicalisation (in addition to de-radicalisation actions in prisons and problematic neighbourhoods) and to stifle the criminal links to terrorist funding. This is also an area where, on certain aspects, the fledgeling UN-NATO antiterrorism cooperation can be further improved across the spectrum (European Counter Terrorism Centre – ECTC; cooperation in the cyberspace, regional capacity building).
The conference will be structured into three panels.
The first panel is dedicated to the state of the global terrorist scene and the counterterrorism priorities against terrorist operations and territorial diffusion.
The second one tries to tackle the difficult issue of terrorism funding as the logistic lynchpin between terrorist kinetic and non-kinetic operations. It will concentrate on the critical logistic and financing vulnerabilities of groups transitioning from a quasi-state dimension to a more fluid and “virtual caliphate” dimension.
The third will discuss the growing importance of countering violent extremism as twinned instrument with counterterrorism against a volatile terrorist adversary.