Panel 12: Deterring actors

Chair: Laura GE Smith

LT 2&3, Thursday 21st, 0900-1100

Bianca Slocombe

Assistant Professor | CTPSR

Deterring and disrupting non-rational actors

Session: Panel 12: Deterring actors (LT2)

In deterring hostile actors, we might assume the efficacy of particular strategies based on logic and common sense. But people are inherently non-rational, and those acting in the name of sacred values demonstrate cognitive, behavioural, and perceptual characteristics that are impenetrable to external influence and logical calculation. In testing and modelling strategies for the deterrence and disruption of hostile actors, methods that are effective against a general population may be ineffective against, or even exacerbate the motivations of, hostile actors motivated by sacred values. How do we test the efficacy of strategies for deterrence and disruption against this type of complex actor?


Kristy Campbell

Analyst | National Counterterrorism Center

Bystander Reporting and Intervention Critical to Countering Violent Extremists

Session: Panel 12: Deterring actors (LT2)

Third parties usually witness activities or behaviors by homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) that could trigger early intervention by community members or law enforcement, yet less than half of these witnesses report their observations, according to a review of case studies of HVEs. The majority of bystander observations relate to radicalization, such as awareness that an individual is sympathetic to violent ideology or is emotionally unstable, probably in part because HVEs increase their operational security in the months leading up to a planned attack.

Family members and peers--who are best positioned to witness unusual behaviors--are the most resistant to share their concerns with authorities. Peers are the most likely to learn about ongoing plotting, often because HVEs want to boast, seek approval, or recruit them. Bystanders fail to report concerning behavior for a variety of reasons, including to avoid appearing alarmist, slandering a potentially innocent person, or causing authorities to overreact.

These findings are based on empirical and statistical analysis of data from cases of Islamic violent extremists in the US. The study is an ongoing joint effort to examine thought processes and identifiable behaviors that precede HVEs’ decisions to support or carry out acts of violence.

Co-authors: Andrea Fancher, FBI; Lauren Eason, NCTC; Amanda Schell, NCTC


John Morrison

Senior Lecturer | Royal Holloway

The Phoenix Model of Disengagement and Deradicalisation

Session: Panel 12: Deterring actors (LT2)

Improving our understanding of how disengagement and deradicalisation from terrorism and violent extremism occurs has critical real-world implications. A systematic review of the recent literature in this area was conducted in order to develop a more refined and empirically-derived model of the processes involved.

After screening more than 83,000 documents, we found 29 research reports which met the minimum quality thresholds. Thematic analysis identified key factors associated with disengagement and deradicalisation processes. Assessing the interactions of these factors produced the Phoenix Model of Disengagement and Deradicalisation which is described in this paper.

Also examined are some of the potential policy and practice implications of the Phoenix Model, as are avenues for future research in this area.

Co-authors: Professor Andrew Silke, Heidi Miberg, Rebecca Stewart and Chloe Slaya, Royal Holloway


Noah Tucker

PhD | University of St Andrews | Senior Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council (Washington DC)

Trauma as a Risk Factor in Violent Extremist Mobilisation: Evidence from Central Asia

Session: Panel 12: Deterring actors (LT2)

Since 2012, Central Asia has played a critical role in supplying volunteers to violent extremist organizations in the Middle East. Although they share no cultural or linguistic ties to Syria or Iraq, estimates indicate that up to 16,000 Central Asians emigrated to the conflict zones, many with their entire families. More than a thousand have now returned to their home countries in state-supported repatriation programs, but several thousand more remain in internment camps or as undocumented refugees in third countries. Drawing on semi-structured group and individual interviews with demobilized men in Turkey and women in camps and in repatriation programs, this paper will focus on the under-explored role that trauma and pre-conflict violence played in the life pathways of adults and children from Central Asia who became enmeshed in the conflict.

The paper will examine the complex role that prior trauma can play as a risk factor in mobilisation pathways, creating vulnerability in some that diminishes their agency, while pulling others into conflict as they seek to construct positive meaning in response to life-altering events. Finally, the paper will discuss the potential for the inclusion of trauma as a risk factor in violent extremist mobilisation to improve both preventions.

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