Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
December 19, 2014
Earlier this week, Morocco hosted the inaugural meeting of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) working group on foreign terrorist fighters. Co-chaired by Morocco and the Netherlands, the new working group is “dedicated to addressing the FTF phenomenon, with a particular focus on the implementation of the newly-adopted Hague—Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon” and “helping to coordinate the growing number of efforts at the national, regional, and international levels to stem the flow of FTFs.”
The inaugural meeting in Marrakech welcomed nearly 100 participants from 40 countries to discuss best practices and specific ways to address the current threat from the Islamic State. Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Moroccan Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Nasser Bourita, outlined the scope of the challenge – increasing numbers of fighters from increasingly diverse nationalities and backgrounds. Mr. Bourita discussed Morocco’s specific approach to this challenge and echoed earlier statements about the Kingdom’s multifaceted approach that combines hard security measures, equitable and inclusive human development, and religious moderation.
Mr. Bourita also underscored the importance of international cooperation – something that we all know is vital to confronting the FTF phenomenon, which is fueled by social media and increasingly open and difficult-to-secure borders. The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum – and this meeting in Marrakech – hopes to achieve that type of cooperation to effectively mitigate this threat.
Speaking for the Netherlands, Piet De Clerk – Ambassador-Special Envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – called for the promotion of good security practices in compliance with the principles of the Memorandum. To recall, the Memorandum covers four categories, guiding governments to develop a comprehensive set of policies and practices to eliminate foreign terrorist recruitment from start to finish:
- Detecting and Intervening Against Violent Extremism
- Preventing, Detecting and Intervening Against Recruitment and Facilitation
- Detecting and Intervening Against Travel and Fighting
- Detecting and Intervening Upon Return
The first inaugural meeting of this working group is surely an important step in confronting the FTF phenomenon. Importantly, the GCTF member states include many who are also part of the anti-ISIL coalition – thus providing an additional venue for cooperation on the ongoing military fight against terrorism, while also working to promote solutions to inevitable future, and broader, fights that the FTF issue raises.
Of course, policies and programs to stop terrorists from becoming terrorists is only part of the story – and hard security measures still matter overwhelmingly. Lest that not be obvious to all involved, the day of the conference, Spain and Morocco announced that they arrested seven individuals suspected of trying to recruit women fighters for ISIL. That same day, Moroccan officials also confirmed having sent several F-16s and pilots to the UAE to help in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. The battle against extremism surely continues.