26 September 2017

Workshop on Improving Understanding of the Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism

A Workshop on Improving Understanding of the Roots and Trajectories of Violent Extremism was held at Washington on June 20- 21, 2017.

Sample observations of individual participants on carrying out and combating violent extremism: 

Foreign fighters who have been recruited in distant countries or regions have generally been well-educated young men, often recruited in groups, and often seeking recognition of their noble purpose rather than remaining anonymous with no purpose.

Many foreign fighters have become disenchanted with their status and try to return home, a challenge that can lead to execution. Some have married women from abroad, and wives often have an easier time leaving with their children than do foreign fighters. 

Extremist groups need territory and finances. While territory can be lost and finances can be difficult to arrange, in the Middle East there are always new areas for activities. 

Understanding local context is essential to combat Jihadist movements. 

Often urban residents dominate disaffected populations, prisons provide many Jihadist recruits, and small countries are most open to migrants with unknown intentions.

A long-term regional security framework is important if the strategies of the western countries in addressing violent extremism are to be effective in the long term. 

The impact of social media is a priority area for research, although it is difficult to come up with reasonable hypotheses that can be effectively tested. 

Research often threatens religious leaders, increasing risks for the researchers. 

Voter turnout may be a useful indicator of future governance trends. 

Access to water is of spiraling importance in the Middle East, and cross-border approaches to increase water availability can at times help reduce political tensions. 

Differentiating between first, second, and third generation migrants is often of critical importance in analyzing attitudes relevant to violent extremism. 

Jihadists are probably fewer than 100,000 in number, with annual budgets of less than $10 million. Western governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in combating the Jihadists, and it is difficult to identify our successes. What are we doing wrong? (An unanswered question raised at the end of workshop by one participant.) Sample observations of individual participants on organizational and procedural issues: 

Joint U.S., Russian, and French efforts provide a good basis for a broad range of research and analytical activities. The CNRS international research network across North Africa and the Middle East is an important asset. Decades of Soviet/Russian involvement in ethnic and religious relationships in Central Asia and adjacent areas can be very informative. The heavy U.S. military presence in the Middle East often influences personal perspectives. 

Information about well-documented, but little-known, research and about availability of rare but insightful documents can be useful to scholars around the world. 

Interactions between residents in areas in turmoil and local authorities that build mutual understanding and trust may be difficult to arrange but can have high payoff. 

General discussions during annual meetings of experts from the U.S., Russia, and France can be valuable, but such meetings can also benefit from reports on specific field investigations of mutual interest—and ideally jointly organized investigations. 

Providing international and national officials with results of well-designed research programs, and particularly research involving on-the-ground observations, deserves high priority.

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*** Himalayan Impasse: How China Would Fight an Indian Border Conflict

By: Kevin McCauley

At the end of August, Chinese and Indian troops both pulled back from the Doklam region in Bhutan after weeks of tense posturing. The face off began in June when Chinese construction crews accompanied by soldiers began building a road. The area is sensitive to Indian national interests not only because of its ally Bhutan, but also due to area’s proximity to a narrow corridor connecting eastern India with the rest of the country. Beijing repeatedly ratcheted up the messaging to India, including the release of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal justification of China’s territorial claims against India (China Daily, August 3, 2017). If the two sides decide to face off again, forces on both sides will need to contend with the difficult mountain terrain and complex weather conditions. To prepare for such a contingency, both India and China have invested significantly in units capable of mountain and high-altitude warfare. An examination of the Chinese Military’s doctrine and training of such units provides important insights into how such a conflict would be conducted.


By Jennifer Cafarella with Jason Zhou

Key Takeaway: ISIS’s attack campaign in Europe is expanding despite ISIS’s losses of terrain and senior leadership in the Middle East and North Africa. ISIS continues to plan, resource, and execute attacks from its remaining safe havens in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. ISIS has successfully expanded its coordinated attack campaign in Europe to target the UK and Spain. Rising levels of ISIS-inspired attacks in Sweden and Finland may signal growing online ISIS activity targeting vulnerable populations in those states and receptivity among those populations to the ISIS message. Coordinated attack attempts could follow. ISIS is sustaining its attack efforts in its initial target states of France and Germany, meanwhile. ISIS’s activity in Belgium, also an initial target state, is much lower, but the lack of ISIS attacks in Belgium does not signal incapacity. ISIS may be using its networks in Belgium to support attack cells elsewhere in Europe. ISIS also appears increasingly successful at inspiring low-level attacks in Europe despite its territorial losses, indicating its messaging is still resonant. ISIS’s campaign in Europe will continue and may even increase despite its losses in Iraq and Syria. Download the PDF

Reviving Commercial Development of Afghanistan’s Aynak Copper Resource

BY: William Byrd

Rampant looting of Afghanistan’s medium-sized and smaller mineral resources is ongoing, but the major Aynak copper deposit languishes, having made only negligible progress toward commercial exploitation since the contract was signed in 2008.

The main problem is that the Chinese consortium awarded the contract made unrealistic promises that would be impossible or highly unprofitable to fulfill, resulting in a need to renegotiate contract terms in its favor, which the Afghan government has been reluctant to go along with.

Weekly Graphic: Turkey and a Dangerous Power Vacuum in Northwestern Syria

Turkish forces recently began massing on the southwestern border with Syria. As many as 80 military vehicles, including an unknown number of tanks and medical aid trucks, were dispatched to a part of Hatay province that’s approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border. Another convoy of an unspecified number of military vehicles was reportedly sent to another area of Hatay, just 2 miles from Syria’s border, and a third collection of 20 army vehicles was seen close to the border near Bab al-Hawa in Syria, about 7 miles from Reyhanli.



The recently resolved military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops along the border separating India, China, and Bhutan has drawn fresh attention to the predicament of smaller countries against the backdrop of rising Sino-Indian competition in Southern Asia. Border disputes notwithstanding, China’s deepening economic inroads in the region have created new strategic dynamics in a region dominated by India.

Meet the 17-Year-Old Who Hacked the Air Force


Jack Cable is 17 years old. With a thin build and large, square glasses, he looks like any unassuming high school senior from the Chicago suburbs. Except he’s a military-grade hacker.

How China's Social Media Giant Compares To Facebook

Written by Felix Richter

-- this post authored by Felix Richter with contributions by Econintersect

Due to the fact that social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are inaccessible in China, there exists a whole ecosystem of social networking and messaging platforms that are immensely popular in and around China but hardly known anywhere else in the world.

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Platforms such as QQ, Qzone and WeChat in particular have hundreds of millions of users and, just as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, they’re all owned by the same company. Their parent company Tencent became China’s largest tech company in terms of market capitalization last year, and is currently going back and forth with e-commerce behemoth Alibaba in the race for this title.

As our chart illustrates, there's no need for Tencent to shy away from comparisons with the world's largest social networking company. While Tencent's social networking and messaging services have yet to reach the billion-user mark, its financial results are nearly on par with Facebook's. In fact, until as recently as 2015, Tencent was more profitable than Facebook, and has been for many years prior. From an investing standpoint, both companies have been doing great over the past 12 months: Tencent's stock price soared more than 60 percent since August 2016, Facebook's is up by 35 percent.