US needs new strategy to battle extremism, task force says

US needs new strategy to battle extremism, task force says

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From left, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Vice President Mike Pence, and Second Lady Karen Pence walk to the podium at the start of the 9/11 Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon on Tuesday. Hundreds of family members, service members, dependents, veterans and distinguished guests gather to reflect on the lives lost during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. (Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita M. Lawrence/DoD)

WASHINGTON — The United States should construct a new national security strategy to prevent the spread of terrorism in fragile states by targeting both the conditions and the actors that fuel violent extremism, a report released Tuesday says.

The report is the first to be issued by the congressionally mandated, bipartisan Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. That group was created in April 2018 “to address the 9/11 Commission’s unfulfilled call for the United States to adopt a preventive strategy to reduce the spread of extremism,” the report says.

The panel is chaired by former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, who were co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission.

“The world order has changed in the 17 years since 9/11,” Hamilton said. “The nature of terrorism has evolved — extremist groups are taking advantage of fragility in the Middle East, Sahel and Horn of Africa to establish new governments built on intolerance, exclusion and hate that spur violence and civil conflict within and across borders.”

The report was released as ceremonies remembering the September 11 attacks occurred in New York, Pennsylvania, the Pentagon and elsewhere in the country.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told families of those who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building “that hatred, disguised in false religious garb to murder innocents, will not prevail.”

He said the U.S. military responded to the attack and continues to respond by following “to the ends of the Earth those who sought to break our spirit.”

Hamilton said other global and regional powers, such as Russia, China and Iran, have fueled the current and rising instability, which poses a new threat to U.S. interests at home and abroad.

“We cannot effectively thwart these competitors without quashing extremism,” he said.

The bipartisan Task Force, hosted by the United States Institute of Peace, expects to release a detailed strategic plan in early 2019.

The report released Tuesday said extremism emerges through the confluence of poor and undemocratic governance in fragile states, as well as extremist ideology and organization. The report said that strong, sustained U.S. leadership is needed to be effective in tackling the conditions that gave extremism a chance to take root in a society and the behavior of actors that spawned these conditions in the first place.

“The United States needs to build productive national and local partnerships in fragile states for strengthening the resilience of their societies, including through humanitarian assistance; secure the political cooperation and financial support of international partners; dissuade countries from abetting extremism, corruption, and repression in fragile states; and unite disparate American and international efforts behind a common goal,” the report said.

Defense Secretary James Mattis signs a memento for the door gunner on a CH-47 Chinook upon departure from Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday. Mattis met with Afghan and coalition members during the previously unannounced visit to the country. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
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