Combating terrorism: EU, USA and the Middle East

Terrorism is on the rise, causing key questions to emerge as to whether there are any strategic policies that can be put in place to effectively combat attacks.

Combating terrorism: EU, USA and the Middle East

Terrorist networks across the world are expanding their operations over and arc of instability that exists without borders. In the aftermath of some of the latest attacks, grave implications have emerged – with world leaders realising they must develop strategies in order to defeat terrorism.


EU strategy

The European Union member states have stated that they are committed to jointly fighting terrorism. To this end, the Council adopted the EU counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to combat terrorism globally while respecting human rights and allowing its citizens to live in an area of security. The strategy is focused on four main pillars, which are to: prevent, protect, pursue and respond.

Prevent – One of the EU priorities in terms of prevention is to identify and tackle the factors that contribute to radicalisation and the processes by which individuals are recruited to commit acts of terror. In 2014, justice and home affairs ministers adopted a series of guidelines in this area to be implemented by the EU and member states.

Protect – The second priority of the EU is the protection of citizens, infrastructure, and the reduction of vulnerability to attack. In this area, the EU is working on legislation regulating the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for law enforcement purposes.

Pursue – The EU is also working to hinder terrorists’ capacity to plan and organise, and to bring these terrorists to justice. To achieve these goals, the EU has focused on strengthening national capabilities, improving practical cooperation and information exchange between police and judicial authorities, tackling terrorist financing and depriving terrorists of the means by which they mount attacks and communicate.

Respond – The fourth objective of the EU counter-terrorism strategy is to prepare to manage and minimise the consequences of a terrorist attack. They aim to do this by improving capabilities to deal with the aftermath, the coordination of the response, and the needs of victims.

The EU heads of state and government have stressed the importance for the EU to engage more with third countries on security issues. In these relations with third countries, the counter-terrorism agenda is present through high-level political dialogues, the adoption of cooperation clauses and agreements, or specific assistance and capacity building projects with strategic countries.


The EU cooperates on counter-terrorism with countries in the Western Balkans, the Sahel, North Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and North America, as well as in Asia. Cooperation with the US is a fundamental component of the EU’s strategy – with cooperation agreements having been reached in areas such as the financing of terrorism, transport and borders, mutual legal assistance or extradition.

Another important part of the external dimension of the fight against terrorism involves working closely with international and regional organisations to build international consensus and standards for fighting terrorism. The European Union works with international organisations including the UN and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, and regional organisations such as the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the League of Arab States or the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.



USA strategy

The USA strategy for combating terrorism includes: advancing effective democracies, preventing attacks by terrorist networks, denying terrorists the support and sanctuary of rogue states, denying terrorists control of any nation they would use as a base and launching pad for terror, and laying the foundations to build institutions it needs to fight against terror.

The USA also states that it in order to wage its ideas effectively, it must recognize what gives rise to terrorism: claiming, the terrorism it confronts today springs from: political alienation, grievances that can be blamed on others, subcultures of conspiracy and misinformation, and an ideology that justifies murder.

In order to combat terrorism, the USA has drawn up some priorities of action, which include, but are not limited to: preventing attacks by terrorist networks, attacking terrorists and their capacity to operate, eliminating safe havens, and creating a culture of preparedness.

Preventing attacks by terrorist networks – The USA aims to track down terrorists and then capture them, before cutting them off from the network of individuals, institutions, and other resources they depend on for support and that facilitate their activities. The network, in turn, will be deterred, disrupted, and disabled.

Attacking terrorists and their capacity to operate – Through the use of all elements of national power, the USA aims to deny terrorists of what they need to operate and survive. This includes; leaders, who provide the vision that followers strive to realize; foot soldiers, which include operatives, facilitators and trainers; weapons, which are the tools that terrorists use to advance their cause; funds, which form the material support necessary to their survival; communications, which allow terrorists the ability to store, manipulate, and exchange operations; and propaganda operations, which are used by terrorists to justify violent actions and well as inspire individuals to support or join the movement.

Eliminating safe havens – In order to do this, the USA aims to eliminate; physical safe havens, which are present in some sovereign states, specific areas, or cross-national borders and sometimes exist to help the government maintain control within its borders. Those that will be eliminated include; legal safe havens, which lack adequate procedural, substantive, and international assistance laws that enable effective investigation, prosecution, and extradition of terrorists; cyber safe havens, which provide an inexpensive, anonymous, geographically unbounded, and largely unregulated virtual haven for terrorists; and financial safe havens, which are used by terrorist organizations as a fiscal sanctuary in which to store and transfer the funds that support their survival and operations.

Creating a culture of preparedness – The USA also believe that in combating terrorism, there is a need for all elements of its nation, including the State, local governments and citizens, to help create and share responsibilities in all catastrophes.


Middle East strategy

Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a coalition of 34 largely Muslim nations to fight terrorism. The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister said “This announcement comes from the Islamic world’s vigilance in fighting this disease so it can be a partner, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease”.

When asked whether the coalition could include ground forces, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat told reporters that, “nothing is off the table”. Further stating, “It depends on the requests that come, it depends on the need and it depends on the willingness of countries to provide the support necessary”.

The Saudi Foreign Minister said, “The decisions will be made by individual countries in terms of what to contribute, and when to contribute it, and in what form and shape they would like to make that contribution”. Further claiming, “Without a doubt, there will be coordination in these efforts.”

A list of countries include Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, the Palestinians, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen, which have all been named to have decided on the formation of the coalition, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations.

Although specifics have not been provided about the operations in the coalition, the Saudi Foreign Minister said the initiative would have two distinct tracks including; security and military, in the exchanging of information, training, providing equipment and providing forces where necessary; and combating ideology, which involves the use of religious scholars, educators, political leaders and other experts to “drown out the message of the extremists”.

T5Israel has been working with the US government and private entities to develop technologies and equipment aimed at thwarting terrorism and safeguarding citizens. The Transportation Security Administration and airport officials from around the United States have been working with world-renowned security experts at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport in order to learn how to efficiently improve airline security.

Israeli police forces train international peers in security procedures ranging from combating terrorism to preparing for mass casualty emergencies. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Israeli National Emergency Authority have signed a formal agreement to conduct more joint-training drills and exercises. And American observers from FEMA and the National Guard often travel to Israel to participate in Israeli homeland security drills.