Transnational Terrorism: Three Things to Know

February 18, 2015

Transnational Terrorism: Three Things to Know
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Countering increasingly dispersed, heterogeneous terrorist groups is a global priority. Governments and NGOs are working to prevent radicalization and staunch the flow of foreign fighters who are joining ISIS and other extremist groups. CFR Senior Fellow Stewart Patrick offers three things to know about current efforts to combat transnational terrorism.

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Heterogeneous Groups: Terrorist groups that have risen since 9/11 are not a homogenous entity, Patrick argues. Al-Qaeda, now under Ayman al-Zawahiri’s control, still focuses on attacking the West, while groups like Boko Haram and al-Shabab “are more focused on their own neighborhoods than the West.” These terrorist organizations have unique histories that have shaped their goals, Patrick says.

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Foreign Fighters: More than twenty thousand foreign fighters are estimated to have joined extremist groups, three thousand of whom came from Western countries, Patrick warns. "The recruitment of Western fighters underscores the importance of countering ISIS propaganda and preventing radicalization," he says.

Countering Violent Extremism: Countering violent extremism by addressing its root political and economic causes is becoming increasingly mainstream, Patrick says. Efforts to prevent radicalization are "especially urgent in light of a recent uptick in so-called ’lone wolf’ attacks in the West," he says.

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Radicalization and Extremism

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