The Global Terrorism Index tracks the latest trends in terrorism around the world. The latest report, from 2020, found terrorism has decreased since its peak in 2014. But, far-right terrorism in the West is up 250 percent over the past five years. Early data suggests the pandemic is actually increasing terrorism in some parts of the world.
What draws people to violent extremism is a lack of other opportunities, said Kyle Dietrich, Director of Peacebuilding for Equal Access International, a nonprofit that works in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
“Violent extremism as a concept is empowered because it’s based on vision. It’s based on compelling triggering narratives of grievances and opportunities that people see themselves as part of that is inherently empowering,” Dietrich said.
He said people working in countering violent extremism must offer an alternative vision. Equal Access International uses media, like educational TV shows, to engage communities and transform violent extremism. The organization works with local partners who design the programs themselves.
“So we’re not just throwing stuff out. It’s designed by them, they’re advising … and then they’re giving us feedback on dramas, on TV shows and women’s empowerment cooking programs, so we know where it’s landing and how it’s landing,” Dietrich said.
Caught in the Crossfires
In the first three months of 2021 alone, more than 1,800 Afghan civilians were killed or injured, trapped in the middle of fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents. Correspondent Jason Motlagh reports from Maidan Wardak Province, one of Afghanistan’s most violent hotspots.
In 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden announced all U.S, troops in Afghanistan would be brought home by September, saying it was time to end America’s longest war. But what does the future hold for Afghans after 20 years of the U.S. presence?
“If we put the 20 years into two parts, some investment has been made on the infrastructure, on the human capital, on girls education, on health sector and all that, these are the good things that happened in a country in an absolute destitute level in terms of poverty,” said Orzala Nemat, director of the Kabul-based think tank, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. “But at the same time, violence never ended in the last 20 years,” she added.
In recent months, Nemat said violence has spiked, particularly around violence towards women. For any peace deal to succeed, Nemat says it must include education, political participation, and economic opportunities for Afghan women.