A “whole-of-society” approach is key to keeping at bay the emergence of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) among a country’s citizens.
Such an approach seeks to build resilient communities and promote inclusion among all stakeholders, regardless of their makeup (e.g. migrant, indigenous, and religious).
These were among the main points raised during the Foreign Service Institute’s (FSI) latest Mabini Dialogue that featured “The Citizen as Enemy Combatant: Dealing with Foreign Terrorist Fighters.”
The Dialogue presenter was Ms. Jacinta Carroll, a Research Fellow in Counter Terrorism and Social Cohesion at the Australian National University (ANU), who discussed the FTF phenomenon and Australia’s experience in dealing with FTFs, a threat shared by all countries facing terrorism.
The FTF phenomenon is complex in nature, causing difficulty for policymakers and law enforcers in determining who may be considered an FTF.
One of the complex challenges in dealing with FTFs is that the citizen-turned-fighter may be classified as both victim and perpetrator. This duality in the nature of FTFs complicates their prosecution.
According to Ms. Carroll, FTFs are radicalized in complementary ways: through shared ideology between the extremists (recruiters) and the vulnerable individuals and through the relationships built between the two. Minors have particularly become a target of recruitment and are subsequently trained into becoming child soldiers.
Strategic communication, especially through the use of social media to amplify the message of solidarity with the community and calling out extremism and violence, shall help connect the state and communities with the common objective of preventing radicalization that causes the growth in the number of FTFs.
Legislation on counter-terrorism needs to be comprehensive, recognizing the fact that planning, financing, facilitating acts, and supporting FTFs are all part of terrorism.
These laws on counter-terrorism should also be implementable, and periodic review is recommended to ensure that it keeps pace with the evolution of terrorism methods.
The Mabini Dialogue is a forum organized by the FSI, where experts engage in discussions on national, regional, and global issues that have political, economic, and socio-cultural impact on the Philippines.
Officers and staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), FSI, and other government agencies attended this Dialogue held last 17 July 2019 at the Carlos P. Romulo Library, DFA Building.