For developing communities in South and Central America and
Africa, radio programs and serialized dramas have proved critical at dif-
fusing information and altering local norms; see Karen Greiner, Applying
Local Solutions to Local Programs: Radio Listeners as Agents of Change,
prepared by Equal Access for USAID (2010).
This approach breaks
the deleterious cycle through which VEOs are able
to carry out more attacks more quickly over time
as they gain new members.
research on the root causes of extremism and
radicalization. Researchers have started discarding
folk wisdom that sought to tie radicalization to
poverty, madness, and ignorance, and have come
to recognize terrorism as a decentralized, complex,
Rather than envisioning
counterterrorism efforts as a war fought through
military tactics, this soft approach to CVE reposi-
tions military intervention as one tool among
many. From an economic perspective, violent
extremism can be seen as a labor supply problem,
and development programs can dry up support
for VEOs and reduce their ability to recruit by
enhancing the legitimacy of partner governments,
integrating marginalized groups into society, and
providing social services.
The soft-side approach categorizes drivers
of violent extremism as push, pull, and environ-
mental factors driven by political, cultural, and
socioeconomic conditions with different impacts
on women and men.
Perceptions of social exclu-
sion, real or perceived discrimination, frustrated
expectations, and government repression may
push individuals into collective violence. Friends,
social networks, and services provided by extrem-
ist groups, alternatively, may pull individuals into
violent extremism. Environmental factors, such as
ungoverned spaces, border areas, and dislocation,
facilitate movement toward extremism.
10 Theoretical Frames on Pathways to Violent Radicalization: Understand-
ing the Evolution of Ideas and Behaviors, How They Interact, How They
Describe Pathways to Violence in Marginalized Diaspora (ARTIS, 2009).
11 Alice Hunt, Kristin Lord, John Nagl, Seth Rosen, eds. Beyond Bullets:
Strategies for Countering Violent Extremism, Solarium Strategy Series
(Center for a New American Security, 2009).
12 Aaron Clauset, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, “The developmental
dynamics of terrorist organizations,” working paper (2011).
13 Guilain Denoeux and Lynn Carter, Guide to the Drivers of Violent
Extremism, Management Systems International for USAID (2009).
Providing educational and vocational oppor-
tunities for populations susceptible to recruitment
by extremists serves both to counter indoctrination
offered by VEOs and to provide youth with new
skills, job security, and a positive vision of their
future, blunting push factors. The U.S. govern-
ment could assist foreign governments in under-
standing the grievances of peripheral communities,
such as the Tuareg in the Sahel, and work to
reduce marginalization through negotiation over
grievances with the goal of reintegration.
Rather than broadcasting mass media mes-
sages to the few households that may have access
both to electricity and televisions, U.S. planners
can deliver tailored messages through trusted
media channels, such as radio programs run by
local residents, on peaceful cross-cultural interac-
tion and positive interaction with the West.
More broadly, the United States could use such
media to systematically provide a counternarrative
to the themes of encirclement, humiliation, and
obligation being forwarded by VEOs such as al-
Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in northwest Africa,
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba in South Asia, and Abu Sayyaf
in the Philippines.
By disaggregating data on relevant communi-
ties by gender, the U.S. government can better
alter modalities for delivering counternarratives to
ensure it uses the most effective ways for reach-
ing women and men, who have different forms
of inﬂuence over their networks and families. For
example, data have shown that women in Pakistan
can use various strategies to de-radicalize their
children and that women’s radio-listening clubs in
14 John Campbell, “To Battle Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Put Down Your
Guns,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 5 (2011).
48 | USAID FRONTIERS IN DEVELOPMENT