Europe counterterrorism

Investment in Prisons as a Counterterrorism Approach

At a time when Europe is undergoing a new wave of terrorist attacks, the challenges posed by prisons and the monitoring of ISIL prisoners should be a focus in the fight against terrorism.

Prisons are places where inmates may be vulnerable, in contact with extremist ideas, and subject to recruitment. There the creation of networks between skilled criminals and radicalized detainees is facilitated. But prisons also face new challenges as the number and the diversity of profiles of radicalized detainees are increasing. And although they serve very different sentences, they are mainly of short duration, which poses a threat to Europe as many of them will soon be released. To reduce this threat, governments should invest in the prison system, even if it is not popular.

All these challenges regarding radicalized detainees were highlighted in a report published in July 2020 by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). At the time of its release and amongst the ten European countries they surveyed, 54% of detainees who showed signs of radicalization were convicted for “regular” crimes. And 82% of all extremist inmates categorized by ideology were jihadists. According to Europol, it is indeed the terrorist affiliation that counted the most arrests in Europe between 2015 and 2019.

stchart - Investment in Prisons as a Counterterrorism Approach

Source: Basra, Rajan, and Peter R. Neumann. “Prisons and Terrorism: Extremist Offender Management in 10 European Countries”, International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), July 22, 2020, pp. 7-8.

The ICSR report indicates as well that the repatriation of European ISIL fighters – due to the loss of the territory of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq – is an element that could impact radicalization in prison. The danger with their incarceration is that they may influence others and create more radicalization within the prisons, which could aggravate this problem even further.

Radicalization in prison is true all the more worrisome since some of the terrorists who have carried out attacks in Europe have been radicalized or have had contact with affiliations in prison. A case that illustrates this is the shooting at Charlie Hebdo and the siege of the Hyper Cacher in Paris, which took place in January 2015. Two of the assailants, Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibali, met at the Fleury-Merogis prison, the largest prison in Europe. There, they met Djamel Beghal, who trained in Al-Qaeda camps and who became their mentor.

This case, which is back in the news with its trial, shows that the prison system has failed to prevent radicalization. Currently, most of the countries have adopted a mixed approach in their prison regimes to prevent extremism, which means that the most dangerous inmates are separated while the others are dispersed among the prison population. But even separated, dangerous detainees are not totally prevented from interacting with others or taking action.

Another challenge is the imminent release of hundreds of radicalized prisoners due to the fact that most of them have received short sentences. According to Europol, the average length of prison sentences for terrorist offenses in Europe was six years in 2019. Because some prisoners strengthened their beliefs and commitment to their extremist ideas in prison, they emerged much more dangerous than before. The challenge then is to reintegrate them into society in the best possible way.

With the exception of a minority, the terrorist attacks linked to prison since 2015 in the countries surveyed in the ICSR report have generally occurred between four months and two years after the release of the offenders. To take a current example, Kujtim Fejzulai, the perpetrator of the attack in Vienna on November 2, 2020, was released from prison 11 months earlier, in December 2019.

The rate of recidivism is low, but a characteristic of terrorism is that the impact of attacks is disproportionate to the resources and people involved. This rate is also not representative of reality and could be undervalued because some die in their attack or go abroad and do not return to prison.

In order to reduce radicalization in prisons, governments should take what may be unpopular but necessary decisions by investing in prisons. According to Rajan and Neumann, the ICSR report’s authors, they must ensure that prisons are neither overcrowded nor understaffed to ensure their security and control. Prison staff should also be trained to develop expertise that would help them notably to differentiate radicalized behavior and prisoners who just practice their faith.

Moreover, governments should encourage the sharing of information between the different services involved in the prison system and the fight against terrorism. Failure to communicate is recurrent and can lead to the release of radicalized prisoners who commit attacks. Also, extremism assessment tools should be frequently evaluated with a prison staff trained in their use and provided with the resources to implement them. And defining what “success” means is important to evaluate the results.

Prison regimes should be evaluated as well and readjusted to the behaviors and characteristics of specific offender groups. In addition, probation should be linked to prison and be seen as a stage of the same process and governments should adapt proactively their procedures and processes to changes in reality.

Last but not least, treating radicalized prisoners with respect and fairness should be the norm. Extremist ideologies rely on tales of humiliation and representations of their enemies. This game should not be played rather there should be a focus on fundamental values such as human rights and the rule of law.

Radicalization in prisons is not a new phenomena but it is currently reaching high levels. The prison population is changing and includes more radicalized inmates with more diverse profiles who serve different but often short sentences. While the repatriation of European ISIL fighters could aggravate radicalization in prison, the imminent release of radicalized prisoners worries European countries and that is why prisons should be at the center of the authorities’ concerns in their fight against terrorism. Investing in prisons may be unpopular but it is necessary.

Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan

Special Report: The Rise of the Islamic State in Afghanistan

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is one of the deadliest and most potent terror groups the world has ever known and has made its way to Afghanistan. It emerged due to interstate fragility, foreign policy failure, and perennial instability in the Middle East. The 2003 United States’ intervention in Iraq and the Arab Spring contributed to the creation of ISIS. The United States’ removal of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — hardly the region’s first socio-political convulsion — facilitated figurative tectonic shifts in political and religious realities. Sunni Muslims, who long ruled Iraq, suddenly found themselves overtaken and systematically oppressed by Shiites. ISIS capitalized on the subsequent Sunni grievance. Given the recent developments which have included President Trump dropping the “mother of all bombs” which targeted a network of tunnels used by ISIS in 2017,  the loss of territory in Syria and the continued battles with the Taliban, has led ISIS to look for new opportunities. This search has led ISIS to move toward Afghanistan as they are geographically strategic and currently the government is very fragile.

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Afghan Aid Dependency: Two Alternatives for Foreign Donors

With just over 77% of its government budget dependent on foreign aid, Afghanistan’s prospects of establishing a self-reliant state in the near future appears bleak. In spite of the billions spent by individual countries and multilateral institutions, the question of how to sustainably use donor funds to embed resilience in Afghanistan has confounded policymakers for decades, culminating in several reports highlighting the country’s “phantom aid” problem.

After receiving much criticism for its sudden departure from Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Cold War, the United States has since spent anywhere from $800 billion USD to upwards of $1 trillion USD in what remains America’s longest war. Of these expenditures, just 14% is constituted as foreign aid, with 75% of this aid earmarked as military/security assistance, as opposed to economic aid.

Yet, a cursory review of Afghanistan’s developmental woes suggests many of its ailments remain tied to economic obstacles like chronic unemployment, corruption, poor provisioning of government services, and an overreliance on the agricultural sector. Incessant frustrations from the donor community have led to fatigue, which has been exacerbated by political infighting within the Afghan government, as well as an unclear strategy or criterion for when international forces may exit the country.

This perception of little to no return on investment (ROI) for Western taxpayers has made foreign aid a recurring target among populist candidates and parties demanding retrenchment from “forever wars”. In the case of the US, foreign aid to Afghanistan reached its peak in 2012 at $13 billion USD, a sum that was followed by steep cuts that now amount to just under $5 billion USD sent in 2019.

Regardless of the outcome of intra-Afghan dialogue, the continuation of gradual cuts toward aid (which began during the second of the Obama administration) seemingly conflicts with the public-facing objective of the development community, which ostensibly seeks to address underlying socioeconomic factors that feed into conflict.  USAID figures demonstrate that donors remain fixated on funding kinetic solutions to resolve insecurity in Afghanistan, as well as neighboring Pakistan, which has seen its US foreign aid inflows dwindle in a similar fashion.

A peace deal cinched with the Taliban won’t necessarily result in increased revenues or even decreased expenditures from the government. Instead, Afghanistan’s fragility suggests injections of aid will be most critical in the months and years after an agreement is reached and statecraft can begin in earnest. As the appetite toward military-aid dissipates, donors should turn to alternative financing options when allocating funds, including “Aid for Trade” and Conditional Cash Transfers.

Aid for Trade

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines Aid for Trade as an effort “to align donor and partner countries’ strategies in promoting trade as a leverage for poverty reduction.” In short, aid for trade seeks to reduce the cost of facilitating goods and services and promote the recipient nation’s export sector by addressing infrastructure deficits and providing technical assistance to the private sector. Such a strategy has proven successful in funding efforts like port upgrades to improve maritime trade, expanding access to affordable Internet services, and digitization training for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

In the context of Afghanistan, Aid for Trade can harness what has traditionally been the country’s greatest economic advantage: its geography. Notwithstanding its status as a landlocked state, Afghanistan sits at the nexus of some of the fastest-growing regions in the world, which provides opportunity to reap advantages in overland trade. Yet harnessing this advantage requires building the necessary physical and digital infrastructure that can support the reliable and safe transportation of goods withing Afghan borders.

At present, the standard mechanism for aid delivery has been conditioned on a number of restrictive measures that stipulate what can be purchased with the aid, and from whom it can be purchased from. Ostensibly, the logic behind the conditional aid was designed to create strict parameters that compelled accountability from the aid recipient. Yet, as exhibited by the “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” reports published by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), such conditions have not repelled opportunities for graft, which is often carried out through opaque procurement regimes that allow funds to disappear among the lengthy supply chain of contractors and sub-contractors.

Furthermore, conditional aid can often stipulate requirements that damage the recipient’s economy. This is particularly true in the case of food aid, where donor governments will use aid to pay their own farmers to export the products, which undercuts the prices that the agricultural sector in the recipient country can charge. Considering the fact that Afghanistan’s agricultural sector employs roughly 40% of the workforce and is responsible for contributing nearly one-quarter of the country’s GDP, reorienting aid to focus on productive investments (e.g. irrigation, equipment/materials, transportation) that lower the cost of trade is more likely to boost incomes instead of distorting local markets.

Conditional Cash Transfers

Though still conditions-based, conditional cash transfers (CCTs) differ from the status quo in that they tend to be far smaller in scope and scale. The “conditional” in this context refers to the requirement that the recipient fulfill a certain objective before the funds are released, which stands in stark contrast to other programs that deliver larger sums in shorter timeframes. The advantage of Conditional Cash Transfers is latent in the psychology of incentives, where signs of waste, fraud, and abuse can result in the immediate termination of future disbursements, giving donors more flexibility over their purse strings, while also encouraging long-term adherence to specified goals.

CCTs have proven successful in a number of policy realms, including decreasing homicides in Brazil, improving healthcare delivery to vulnerable children in Ghana, and incentivizing farmers across South America to cease the cultivation of illicit crops in favor of legal alternatives. For Afghanistan, CCTs can be especially useful in combating illicit poppy farming which fuels 90% of the world’s opium and heroin production. Though forceful eradication programs have been implemented, they have failed to make a dent in production, leading to an entrenchment and reliance on the opium trade to sustain rural household incomes.

The economic, political, and security ramifications of targeting poppy farmers has made the Afghan government reluctant to tackle cultivation of illicit crops. Yet, CCT programs provide a useful medium in establishing and sustaining evidence-based programs that have demonstrated efficacy in illicit crop eradication such as crop substitution programs supported by subsidies that are paid directly to farmers and that minimize institutional involvement.

The politicization of foreign aid is a consequence of misaligned objectives between donors and recipients, in addition to flawed and ineffectual distribution. Achieving such objectives requires recalibrating the criteria that donors use to both allocate aid and subsequently measure its efficacy. Though security remains pivotal, a lasting reconstruction agenda will depend far more on targeting aid toward economic initiatives that enable Afghans to gradually reduce their dependency on foreign aid, replacing it with sustainable revenues generated by the country itself.

Remembering Rajani Thiranagama and Examining the Roles of Women in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

”One day some gun will silence me and it will not be held by an outsider but by the son born in the womb of this very society, from a woman with whom my history is shared.”

The quote above is from Rajani Thiranagama just few months before her assassination in 1989. She was assassinated by the people she sought to represent. While this event occurred 31 years ago, it begs the question where do women in Sri Lanka stand now, especially after the Sri Lankan Civil War?

Rajani was an individual who loved peace, order, equality and strove for a harmonious society. What made her memorable was her courage to realize this philosophy into reality. When the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) betrayed her hope for peace for the people of Jaffna, she officially cut ties with the organization. She was forced to flee to the United Kingdom with her children shortly afterwards.

In the 2005 documentary “No More Tears Sister” it was mentioned how Rajani felt like evading the conflict and moving far away. However, for the people of Jafffna, she overpowered her fear and returned to Sri Lanka.

When atrocities committed by the Sinhalese government, the LTTE militants and the Indian peacekeeping forces peaked, Rajani along with fellow university colleagues formed an organization that criticized the actions of the atrocious groups and strove to achieve basic rights for the people of Jaffna. She also documented each and every local woman whose male family members were either killed or missing, and highlighted their plight. She compiled her report and named it “No More Tears Sister.”

Looking into the situation post-war, according to an article by United Nations Women, there is underrepresentation of women in political and public decision making in Sri Lanka. Even though it claims that women are 56% of voters, there is only 5% representation through legislators. The source of such plight is considered to be lack of educational opportunities and lack of encouragement of women in decision-making.

During the civil war, political movements and organizations that strove for peace were initialed by women, such as Mother’s Front. However, after the war, hardly any such large-scale representation of female participation is evident. In consequence of poor representation, laws in the country discriminate against women. To give some examples, marital rape remains legal, there are discriminatory legal restrictions on women in the workforce and limitations have been imposed in relation to inheritance and property.

In a common-sense point of view, women are linked with peace. Due to perceiving their roles as nurturers, women are considered to be effective mediators. Ironically this role seems to be limited to only resolving conflicts at the familial level or just remains unsung as “unofficial” contributors to their communities. There are few instances of the official recognition of women in the peace-building process as well as much less encouragement of their role in it.

During the period of the Sri Lankan Civil War, women suffered the most. They had to go through the trauma of losing their children, husbands, fathers and brothers throughout the conflict. In those times of helplessness, they had to gather courage and run their household. As they have experienced the state of vulnerability during the war, they know the value of peace.

This is why there is a need to empower, encourage and acknowledge women in their potential to take on roles in the peace-building process. The first step towards it can be through proper representation, especially in decision-making.  Peace can be only achieved through equal access to opportunities and proper representation.

–Nelofer Laskar

From Bonn to Doha: Why Is Afghanistan Still at War?

In December 2001, the city of Bonn, Germany hosted a conference on Afghanistan after the joint operation by the United States military and the Northern Alliance toppled the Taliban regime. The conference ushered in a new era for Afghanistan in which a democratic government was established that ensured elections, women and human rights, and civil and political liberties.

War was thought to be over and the reconstruction process funded by massive amounts of international aid that had poured into the country began. Nineteen years later, Doha is hosting another conference on peace for Afghanistan. Why does Afghanistan continue to find itself at war?

After the collapse of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan experienced a couple of peaceful years with no war and political turmoil. As the US redirected its military and political focus on the Iraq war, the Taliban based in their safe haven of Peshawar, Pakistan, used the opportunity to regroup and reemerge. The first question that comes to mind is how did they manage to grow as strong as they are now in the face of coalition forces and the fairly well-equipped Afghan national army?

The first response would be the fact that they have safe havens in neighboring Pakistan. Originally, they were supported by the Pakistani government and used as a proxy army to ensure Pakistan’s benefits in Afghanistan. After their collapse, and especially because Pakistan’s role was completely ignored at the Bonn conference, they still seemed to be of use for fulfilling Pakistan’s strategic goals.

This means that they had both safe havens and the support and encouragement from Pakistan which enabled them to retreat any time they were under attack, get medical services, re-equip and re-launch their attacks wherever possible. The question why the US and the world have not held Pakistan accountable and for supporting many other terrorist groups is yet to be answered.

The second response is ethnic supremacism. New research by Civil Society of Afghanistan indicates that ethnic supremacism is one of the main roots of war in the country. This is in line with the stances of the Afghan presidents since 2001. Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, in an interview with BBC denies calling the Taliban a terrorist group. In another interview, he even says that the Taliban have every right to control some parts of the country since they are also Afghans.

Likewise in 2015, current president, Ashraf Ghani, objected that it was unjust that 98% of the prisoners in Bagram prison were speakers of the same language while he knew that those prisoners were convicted of terrorist actions. Both presidents have repeatedly called Taliban brothers instead of terrorists or enemies of Afghanistan.

The former first vice president, Younus Qanuni, in his recent interview said that President Karzai dealt with the Taliban, after their reemergence, under the influence of ethnic emotions. That was one of the reasons why the Afghan government never drafted a clear strategy for fighting terrorism and allowed the Taliban to grow into the deadly group they are today.

In general, one can assume that a decisive determination to fight the Taliban into their collapse did not happen for different reasons. Perhaps, military use was not an ideal solution.

Now that peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are in progress in Doha, brutal attacks in Kabul saps optimism about achieving peace and security. Recently, terrorist gunmen attacked Kabul University and killed more than 22 students, injuring at least 22 others. Although ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, the first VP of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, declared that they had found evidence indicating that the attack was performed by the Taliban.

A couple of days before that, terrorists stormed a cultural center in Kabul and killed 41 people while injuring 84 others. Again, ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack. The main question that comes to mind, thus, is if ISIL or any other terrorist groups are capable of perpetrating such deadly attack in the capital city of Afghanistan, to what degree people can be hopeful that a peace deal with Taliban will actually bring peace to their country?

Understanding Memories of the Sri Lankan Civil War

Memory is not just the process of retaining events that happened in the past as it has a major function of validating reality. Memories do not have a predefined structure as they are shaped according to the emotions, relations, and the locations of the one recollecting an event. By preserving memories, the narrative of an event is kept alive and it further allows people to share among other fellow memory-bearers, thus creating cultural memory and establishing a new identity of one’s own. When these harbored memories are threatened, the bearers aggressively show their discontent. This is what happened in Sri Lanka last month.

Memories related to the Sri Lankan Civil War were threatened and it gave rise to two incidents. The first one surrounded controversies related to the making of a film about veteran cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan. The supposed lead actor Vijay Sethupathi faced anger and threats from the Tamil community for accepting the role of a person who is accused of dismissing the Sri Lankan government’s brutality during the war and having ties with the oppressor, being a Tamil himself.

The second incident is related to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was invited as a special guest to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. This raised some eyebrows as he is often accused of being one of the perpetrators of the Civil War.

Both these events had the same functional problem: perceived threats against a collective memory. The protests against the film were made by the Tamil community as they feared that such representations threaten the memory they have of the Civil War. The invitation of Rajapaksa as a chief guest in an UN event was criticized for similar reasons.

In the controversy around the film, it seems like protesters were immersed in these memories that bittered the present for events from the past. However past is never discontinuous from present. When there is an audience to remember, the event no more remains only a component of past, but also of the present. That is why people scrutinize how memories of past events are represented. Representations are ways to remember and they have the potential to change memory or its interpretation.

These incidents also portray the phenomenon of cultural trauma — where groups of people that share the same identity collectively remember atrocities against them — in relation to the Sri Lankan Civil War. This war lasted for 26 years and it has been barely over a decade since it ended. No wonder the country is still recovering from the horrors of those days.

The traumas experienced by the people during that time have become a shared memory and thus giving it the shape of cultural trauma. Trauma is not instilled due to the potential of harming oneself or due to the rupture in the usual routine, but because they are perceived to have abruptly and harmfully affected the collective identity. Now imagine the trauma being invoked when proper reconciliation approaches are not made or the perpetrator of the war (the reason of their trauma) is acknowledged as chief guest for an event at an organization that promotes the idea of peace and security. This is what Human Rights Watch meant by “slap” on the face of the victims.

As long as there is difference in remembering an event, there will be conflict as different groups of memory-bearers will feel threatened by misrepresentation of the memory and further distortion of it. This risk of distortion even threatens their much shared identity in the present.

The first step to reconcile these differences or to avoid conflicts is the recognition and acceptance of different ways of remembering an event. This can be done by acknowledging not only the dominant narrative of a particular event, but also that of the invisible or the “unheard” part. The way an individual remembers an event is important as it paves the way to connection to past events that facilitates the construction of history. A past which is accepted by all will also lead to acceptance of all.

–Nelofer Laskar

Are There Any Lessons for Afghanistan from Post-Civil War Algeria?

Wars manifest differently in various locales: however, accrued insights can be considered in other scenarios. The Algerian government experienced a brutal decade-long intra-state conflict against Islamist extremist groups that ultimately ended in a statist victory. An official end to conflict left the proverbial door open to experiments in hard and soft government policies to combat terrorism and transition former fighters into contributing members of society. While the Algerian case is imperfect (as in any security matters reliant on fallible political will and resources), it offers some broad lessons for Afghanistan.

Two Very Different Conflicts

Afghanistan has been entrapped in 40 years of conflict, but the last 19 confronting the Taliban have transitioned from primarily a militaristic question into discussions of democracy and the role of traditional elements in any future manifestations of the state. As often noted, the Taliban do not recognize the current government in Kabul as legitimate and ultimately seek an Islamic emirate as their preferred choice of governance. Still, in the circumstance that intra-Afghan dialogue results in a viable and resilient peace deal, matters of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) have to be hammered out, understood, and prioritized.

The civil war in Algeria emerged very differently. Islamist nationalism simmered for decades, but general dissatisfaction over socio-political factors caused by government inefficacy climaxed in the 1980s. As an aside, disenchanted young men travelled to training camps in Peshawar, Pakistan in order to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was there they gained experience in insurgent tactics and guerilla warfare.

After the 1988 Black October riots (where security forces used excessive force that resulted in injury and death), the fall of the one-party political system dominated by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), and the emergence of the Islamist political party Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) as victorious in local elections, the stage was set for a political fissure.

The FIS defeated the FLN in the first round of parliamentary elections in December 1991, however those in the deep state, les décideurs (the deciders) and le pouvoir (the power), considered this unacceptable. A second round of voting was cancelled by the military and they staged a coup d’état against President Chadli Bendjedid. From this point, civil war slowly but surely materialized. Extremists travelled to the north of the country to train while bombings and targeted killings occurred.

Numerous Islamist insurgent groups took up arms against the government. The armed wing of the FIS, the Armée Islamique du Salut (AIS), was composed of moderates that eventually entered into a ceasefire with Algiers in 1997. As part of the deal, the AIS was required to distance itself from hardline affiliates and used this opportunity to pursue a path as a political party. Further, the FIS continues to be barred from the Algerian political process though they maintain an existence by proxy. Even so, they acknowledge a political settlement is the definitive goal as they once sought a (failed) resolution with the Algerian government — the Sant’Egidio Platform.

On the other hand, hardline factions pushed the envelope. The Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) had battle-hardened insurgents from the Afghan front in their ranks as well as former members of Bou Yali — a faction that previously engaged in armed rebellion against state institutions. It was a collective objective to topple the civil-military political arrangement and replace the government with an Islamic caliphate. Additionally, the Groupe Salafiste de Predication et du Combat (a breakaway from the GIA) acted as a key force and this is extremely important as the GSPC are often considered the foundation of al-Qaeda affiliated groups that continue to incite regional security concerns.

The Algerian Civil War first sprung in 1991, but ultimately ended in 2002. It is often called la sale guerre (the dirty war) due to the heavy handedness of the Algerian security forces to counter the insurgency whilst Islamist groups were rebuked for their attacks on civilians. Nonetheless, a fractured country immediately faced the situation of how to reach any semblance of unity as well as deescalate any further eruptions rooted in disparate views of governance. These next steps may provide the Afghan situation some insight.

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration

In the case intra-Afghan talks reach a sound negotiated settlement, questions over the future of former Taliban fighters remain open. Many elements must be considered such as the extent of the radicalization of individuals or whether they took up arms due to coercion or for gainful economic payouts.

Undoubtedly, Algeria had to contend with a large number of insurgents. Algiers pursued a hard approach to managing extremist groups, especially those intent on the establishment of a caliphate or challenge political security. This was a double-edged sword as the austere measures employed by government forces often crossed acceptable lines and ushered in disapproval in the populace.

Some extremist groups never renounced violence and that is to be expected no matter the quality of any peace accord. The GSPC rejected the 2005 Charter of Peace and Reconciliation that was passed with a 97% approval rating in a referendum simply because they preferred to continue as a terrorist faction. This was a significant blow as they were the largest group still active from the civil war and shared connections with known transnational terrorist organizations.

For example, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a direct outcome of insurgent groups that did not lay down their arms in the post-civil war period. Fragmentation typical of terrorist organizations meant that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Algeria Province (ISIL-AP) splintered from AQIM and thus it is yet another distant offspring of past fighting.

Extremist organizations are ready to absorb any fighters unwilling to embrace peace and lay down their arms. In Afghanistan, there are numerous groups dedicated to violent methods so this remains an underlying problem, therefore hard approaches must be considered in any future outlook,  though they are not particularly a sunny matter. Just as Afghan security forces require support to ensure national security, Algerian security forces continue to conduct operations in areas of the country known for being hotspots of operational development or locales where insurgents typically and unassumingly cross the border into conflict-riddled Mali.

At the same time, Algiers promoted a soft approach. Afghanistan does not have the same economic means as hydrocarbon-rich Algeria, but both struggle with weak government and contracted economies. Nonetheless, Algeria ushered in a series of economic reforms to secure financing from the private sector as well as international partners. Dividends from these investments as well as energy revenues were allocated towards social programming, such as housing incentives and prospects for employment in state-funded positions. It is often noted that social discontents and the lack of viable employment opportunities prop up the effectiveness of extremist recruitment tactics so it is wise to solicit resources to nip this phenomenon in the bud.

Clemency was sought for those insurgents that were members of radical factions that did not commit serious crimes such as large scale indiscriminate killings or bombings. In clemency, willing fighters found an avenue to reintegrate into their local communities. Those that were convicted of grave offences — but willing to renounce violence — received lighter prison sentences. Some were not convicted or imprisoned at all due to a lack of evidence as crimes committed during civil wars are often messy and ambiguous. This was obviously problematic as justice must come prior to reconciliation and it must be completed in a method that aligns with the zeitgeist of local communities.

While political Islam did not amass an especially large following, extremism exhibited by factions during the civil war turned the Algerian populace even further away from related political philosophies. It is often remarked that Afghans will not renounce the progress and development that has occurred over the last 19 years. Algerians reached similar conclusions. At ongoing political protests, protesters were wary of the involvement of political parties that played a role in the civil war, and one stated,we are vaccinated against the FIS and its excesses.” A similar viewpoint could be easily expressed by Afghans who are tired of war, Taliban attacks, and chronic stagnation.

The role of women has been transformed from solely a human rights issue into an instrument of combatting extremism in Algeria. While it may seem facetious for a government to adopt this position to highlight the differences between acceptable forms of governance and extremism, women have generally benefitted from this arrangement. A similar approach can be extended to Afghanistan insofar as infringement upon the rights of women has become a red line that will not be crossed or negotiated away. In the words of a young Afghan woman, “We as women need to tell the Taliban that…this is a new Afghanistan.” Highlighting this element is a definitive difference between two philosophies and an applicable lesson from Algeria.


Intra-state conflicts are as unique as the nations that sadly end up engaged in them. Similarly, the means in which a state achieves relative peace will be reflective of its unique political culture. No perfect process exists nor will it ever.

At the same time, experiences of other states that have confronted extremist groups in intra-state conflicts offer valuable insight for others that must engage in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The aftermath of the Algerian civil war taught observers that attractive financial incentives, clemency for foot soldiers, and the tactical use of civil society issues in the context of a negotiated political settlement provided a means to quash further extremist rebellion in the long term.

This framework does not totally subjugate the overpowering allure of terrorism therefore the continued application of the repressive state apparatus is required. The situation is different in Afghanistan, but the case study of Algeria provides interesting food for thought.

Rise to Peace