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Joint efforts needed to end terrorism

By Zhu Sumei | China Daily | Updated: 2015-02-17 07:48

The United States will host a meeting with all its allies on Feb 18 to discuss ways to fight "violent extremism around the world". This was announced by US Attorney General Eric Holder in Paris on Jan 11, four days after the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people. Speaking after consulting European security ministers following the Paris attack, Holder said the meeting to be held in Washington would be presided over by US President Barack Obama.

The two major tasks of the Feb 18 meeting are likely to be strengthening transnational cooperation, especially intelligence exchange, to prevent terrorist attacks and consolidating the US' leadership in the global "war on terror".

Horrifying as they were, the Paris attack, and the killing of two Japanese hostages and burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic State militants, and the latest Copenhagen shootings have unified the global forces fighting terrorism. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, French President Francois Hollande and leaders from more than 40 countries, including Germany and Italy, joined hundreds of thousands of French people to march in the streets of Paris to pay homage to the victims, which was in stark contrast to many European governments' ambiguous stance on terrorism in different regions.

The killings of the hostages by the IS have infuriated Jordan and Japan, a country which seemed far removed from Islamic extremism. By establishing the first department that specializes in the fight against terrorism, Japan has exhibited its stronger-than-ever determination to take part in the global battle against terrorism. Jordan too is determined to eliminate the threat of the IS.

Another focus of the Washington meeting could be how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would transform Japan's economic and technological advancements into advantages in the fight against terrorism.

In specific terms, cyber cooperation should be a priority for the countries, especially Western ones, taking part in the meeting. The possibility of joint efforts to remove online information that instigate and provoke terrorist attacks was already discussed at the meeting Holder had with European security ministers in Paris in January.

Unlike many traditional terrorist organizations, the IS is notoriously skilled at using the Internet to recruit young jihadists from across the world, including Europe. It is also known to recruit men and women and train them in Syria and Iraq to launch attacks in their home countries on their return.

Therefore, the IS' propaganda materials that preach hatred and instigate Muslims to launch attacks have to be removed from the Internet. But this is no easy task given the lack of legal agreements on how to fight terrorism in cyberspace and perceptual divergence on cyber supervision in the international community. Ideally, the Washington meeting should push for global consensus on such matters.

Confronted with the marauding expansion of the IS, all countries have to work together to find new and effective ways to first check its advance and then eliminate it. The "community intervention" program started in Minnesota is just one of the many ways to protect the youth from the influence of the IS. Under the program, an 18-year-old Somali American, arrested earlier for attempting to join the IS in Syria, was released and placed under community based supervision and education on Jan 27. Many see this as a big step in Washington's crackdown on extremism and its influence on American soil.

Communities have always played a vital role in the US' anti-terrorism strategy. Its 2011 National Security Strategy listed families, communities and other local organizations as the best media to defend extremism, and a similar proposal was floated by the Department of Justice last year.

Irrespective of how fruitful the Washington meeting will be, all the participants should realize that their loose control over transnational terrorists is the result of the short-sighted policies of appeasement they have adopted. Unanimous commitment to eliminating the root cause of terrorism has never been more important.

The author is a professor in the International Politics Department at the University of International Relations in Beijing.


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