A study of individuals who disengaged from violent movements concludes that tailored approaches to countering violent extremism (CVE) at key turning points in the disengagement process can help facilitate disengagement. CVE efforts will be most effective after an individual experiences initial doubts about involvement in violent extremist activities. From that point in the process, an effective disengagement strategy needs to consider the individual’s role within the group, vulnerabilities in that role, his or her support system, and level of commitment to violent extremism.
In 2011, the United States adopted the Strategy for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (Strategy) and a corresponding Strategic Implementation Plan. Since publication, the mission to prevent violent extremism has progressed, and violent extremist threats have continued to evolve. The overall goal of the Strategy and United States Government efforts to implement it remains unchanged: to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from inspiring, radicalizing, financing, or recruiting individuals or groups in the United States to commit acts of violence. This updated Strategic Implementation Plan responds to the current dynamics of violent extremism and reflects experiences and knowledge acquired over the last five years. It replaces the 2011 Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.
Despite efforts to counter violent extremism, the threat continues to evolve within our borders. Extremism and acts of targeted violence continue to impact our local communities and online violent propaganda has permeated social media. Countering these prevailing dynamics requires a fresh approach that focuses on education and enhancing public safety—protecting our citizens from becoming radicalized by identifying the catalysts driving extremism.
It has now been five years since the events of the “Arab Spring,” and initial optimism about lasting democratic reforms and an era of lessened tensions has been replaced by fear and skepticism. Many countries are now experiencing greater instability and violence than before. The vestiges of Al Qaeda in Iraq have morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (or the Levant)—ISIS or ISIL, sweeping through Iraq and Syria and leaving behind much death and destruction. The growth of violent extremism initiated by Al Qaeda and its radical interpretation of the Islamic ideology is continuing. ISIL’s deft manipulation of social media to compel and mobilize individuals to act out violently is both remarkable and frightening.