Preview of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015

MS. HARF: Hi, everyone. It’s good to be back at the Foreign Press Center. I’m always happy to come see friends here, especially when we have an event like this to talk about. As you all know, yesterday we began the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. There are a number of events yesterday and today at the White House and the State Department, and then tomorrow, of course, the State Department will hold the ministerial event, where we have countries from all over the world coming together to talk about a variety of thematic issues and share best practices and develop really an action agenda for how we come out of this going forward. Because that’s the point of all of this, right? It’s not just to get together and talk; it’s to develop action going forward. This builds on what we did at the UN General Assembly. I know some of us talked about this – in this room – and will lead into the next UN General Assembly next year, so we clearly have a lot of work ahead of us. There will also be some civil society events on Friday that we can give you more detail on as well.

So with that, I’m going to turn the microphone over to Under Secretary Sewall just to give a few opening remarks, and then we will take your questions. As normal, I will call them. And identify yourself, even though I know most of you, and then we can answer all the questions you might have.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Thank you, Marie. And good morning, everyone. It’s wonderful to have you here with us today. As Marie said, we’re very excited about the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. And I wanted to share with you some background and some commentary on the day’s events, and then look forward to a wonderful exchange of questions.

Last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary Kerry initiated a very important conversation about the long-term struggle against violent extremism. And he called for a global effort to analyze and to address the underlying conditions and factors that make it easier for terrorist networks to recruit members or to forge alliances with other actors toward their nihilistic goals that threaten international security.

Since 9/11, as you know, the United States has launched a strong military intelligence and law enforcement response to terrorism – first to al-Qaida, and then to affiliates in new forms of Islamic violent extremism. This response evolved to building partnerships with other governments and to – and other organizations, and to countering violent extremist messaging in recruiting efforts, efforts that remain vital to countering the immediate threats, such as al-Qaida and Daesh.

Yet Islamic extremism has continued to spread across the globe, exploiting the seams of conflict such as in Syria, weakly governed territory such as in Libya, and politically marginalized groups such as the Sunni in Iraq under President Maliki. Containing the growth of terrorist networks by drying up recruits and allies is a critical complement to our immediate military efforts, and it’s the only viable long-term solution to this global scourge. Therefore, as President Obama has said, we cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root. And in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments will prove self-defeating and alter our country in troubling ways.

And so the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism from North Africa to South Asia. For these reasons, Secretary Kerry tomorrow will host ministers and senior officials from more than 65 governments, the UN Secretary General, and leaders of regional organizations, as well as over a hundred international civil society and private sector representatives, to build upon the conversation that he started at Davos.

The meeting is part of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, and it’s intended to catalyze a global generational effort to address the factors that enable the spread of violent extremism. The event will be novel in several respects. First, by focusing on enabling factors, such as political, social, and economic marginalization; large youth populations lacking mentorship, education, and opportunity; and the weakness of mainstream religious and cultural leadership in messaging. Second, it will be proactive and preventive, not simply aimed at countering the evident violent extremism that exists before us, but also building upon personal and community resilience that can resist appeals to violent extremism. Third, the effort will harness and integrate the ideas and energies of a broad coalition of local civil society organizations, the private sector, foundations, international institutions, academics and others, in addition to the efforts of governments.

And finally, as Marie said, the event is a catalyst for an ambitious work agenda leading to another ministerial session on the margins of UNGA this September.

Delegates tomorrow will be sharing effective strategies and interventions to address the driving causes of violent extremism. Private sector and government leaders will highlight inclusive economic policies and business engagement as ways to cultivate economic opportunity for communities vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment. Others will describe innovative efforts to weaken the legitimacy and resonance of extremists’ messaging as well as how to amplify the voices of credible and authentic, nonviolent religious and cultural leaders. Community, youth, women, religious, and other civil society leaders will highlight examples of effective grassroots initiatives that are building community resilience against violent extremism. And government delegates will discuss effective programs to promote inclusive community policies that prevent alienation and, in turn, the radicalization to violence.

This event, of course, also builds on pillar one of the UN’s counterterrorism policy, and it builds on President Obama’s call to action against violent extremism in September at UNGA. It galvanizes the work of the global community on a range of thematic goals, as previously discussed.

The follow-on work stream is extremely important, and for those of you who haven’t had a chance yet to speak to the governments in which you – in the states in which you work, I would urge you to follow up and question to them. Because Secretary Kerry’s sincere plan for this discussion is, as Marie says, to lead to a very robust series of outputs, and these will include regional summits and other meetings that are aimed to foster the thematic goals of the conference; will also include efforts by nongovernmental actors to work on thematic efforts. And we have every expectation that our final statement coming out of this ministerial will provide more detail about the consensus that those gathered tomorrow have about where to prioritize our collective work. But we expect to see leadership from countries such as Albania, Algeria, Australia, Kenya, Norway, Singapore, and many others in hosting meetings and undertaking leadership for these different work streams that we will review the progress of at UNGA.

For some details about the ministerial agenda. It will begin with Secretary of State Kerry outlining the activities for the day and getting – gaining senior-level perspective on the changing threats of violent extremism, which, as you know, come in many forms. President Obama at 10:30 will deliver remarks to the ministerial, and his remarks will be followed by a panel focusing on economic opportunities, to include how to expand professional training for youth and how to engage the private sector in a wealth of activities related to preventing violent extremism.

The third session of the day focuses on weakening the legitimacy and the resonance of violent extremism as a brand, and that will include panels on strategic communications and social media, as well as a discussion about how nonviolent religious issues and education can be elevated as a matter of international concern.

The final panel will focus on secure and resilient communities, and it will in particular look at the role of youth and women in preventing violent extremism. It will also examine community and police relations and community and security force relations as a critical element of any prevention strategy. And it will, finally, broaden the conversation to address social, economic, and political marginalization, including issues related to integrating minority communities.

This very full and fulsome agenda will close at the end of the day with remarks by National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice. And as we said, the overall focus is on the statement and the ongoing work stream through until September, when the leaders will reconvene again at the margins of UNGA.

Very full and very ambitious agenda; a very exciting one; one that picks up streams that have been enunciated by many across the globe, but this really is an opportunity that the President and the Secretary hope to reinvigorate that international effort and to deepen the global coalition to counter and prevent violent extremism.

Parenthetically, I should note there will be today, in the afternoon, a sub-ministerial-level meeting that looks specifically at the foreign terrorist fighter element. And in addition, on Friday, civil society organizations here in Washington will be hosting a variety of events that are open to the public that include some of these thematic work streams that we expect will be followed through until September, such as how to better analyze at the local level the drivers of violent extremism or how to coordinate on private sector reforms.

Violent extremism threatens international values and interests. We’ve been acutely aware of this over recent years. We continue to feel its painful consequences in the actions of ISIL, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab. The international community is committed to strengthening its efforts to defeat these organizations militarily, but we must go further than these immediate near-term threats. Together, this summit can catalyze and reinvigorate our efforts to effectively prevent the next generation of threats by addressing some of the underlying factors and drivers of radicalization and violence that terrorist organizations exploit. This week’s summit offers a crucial opportunity to strengthen an affirmative, proactive, and inclusive global effort to achieve those goals.

So with that as background, I thank you again for your interest in the summit and I turn it over to Marie.

MS. HARF: Great. Is this microphone on? Can folks hear me? Okay, great. I always start with you, Andrei. You can go first.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: It’s become a habit now. Why would we break it?

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie, and thank you, Under Secretary, for doing this, and thanks to our friends at the FPC for hosting this. My name is Andrei Sitov. I’m with the Russian News Agency Itar-Tass here in Washington, D.C. Russians are sending one of the top most security officials to the summit, Director Bortnikov of the FSB, which seems sort of unusual given the current state of dialogue in our bilateral relations. So my question is: Do you regard this as a sort of an opening? Do you intend to use it? And they say that he’s bringing a specific plan for sharing intelligence information on the threats. Are you aware of the proposal? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Well, we very much welcome Russia’s commitment to countering violent extremism and the decision to send a high-level official. One of the interesting things about the enthusiasm that we have experienced with regard to the invitation to participate in this summit is that many countries have chosen to send different types of delegates: some interior ministers, some foreign ministers, some ministers with other responsibilities. We see one of the big opportunities in this conversation is being a way to link many of the efforts that are made domestically within nations to some of the foreign policy agenda with regard to the underlying causes of violent extremism. So we welcome Russia’s participation in that and we look forward to engaging more voices in this very important work.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Let’s go across the front row here. Wait for the mike.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good morning. My name is Nike Ching with the Voice of America, Chinese branch. Thank you so much for taking my question. Is there any delegation from China or other Asia Pacific region besides Singapore? And then last year in July 15, if I remember correctly, after the sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue a first-ever deputy ministerial-level meeting on counterterrorism was held here in Washington, D.C. And in China, Muslim minority groups are all of a sudden identified by the Chinese authority as a targeted community that were recruited and trained by extremism groups. On the other hand, Human Rights Watch group fears that it’s a reason to crack down on the ethnic minorities. What is your take? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Thanks for the question. The list of attendees is changing and in flux, and we will be releasing that list tomorrow. And I just can’t remember exactly where the Chinese delegation stands, so I’ll refer you to that list when we release the final list.

But on the broader question, I think that the we have engaged in very productive discussions with the Chinese Government at both the S&ED and in the Counterterrorism Forum context on questions of terrorism where we have a shared interest in international stability. And the U.S. has great empathy for any nation that is struggling with violence within its borders. I think we have continued to reiterate the importance of adopting an approach to counterterrorism that is consistent with the rule of law and that is inclusive of minority communities, so that in the longer term stability is enhanced. And I think that is the tenor of our bilateral dialogue and we look forward to continuing that in any context with the Chinese Government.

MS. HARF: Great. Let’s finish the front row, and then we’re going to go to New York because we see you standing there.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Stefan Grobe with Euronews, European television. You’re talking about – the summit name is Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, but we’re really talking about violent jihadism or Islamic extremism. Why are you not calling it as it is? And you’ve outlined the long-term strategy, but we have a very short-term problem at hand, especially in Europe, and it seems to me that it’s more urgent in Europe than in the United States. What is the short-term strategy and what is the message that you would like this summit to convey to ISIL? If I were a member of ISIL, should I be worried?

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: So the short-term strategy has many different components, and from the United States’ perspective, the President has made clear that he sees military force as an important tool to – in response to anyone actively plotting against the United States who is a terrorist leader. And I think the U.S. leadership and commitment to the counter-ISIL coalition is another critically important element of the international response to the short-term threats; they’re on everyone’s mind. But the threat continues to spread and the threat comes in many forms, and we have historical experience with terrorism that has been of a different variety altogether. And we believe firmly that there are lessons to be learned about violent extremism more broadly and the long-term fight against violent extremism that must be highlighted if we are to be successful in our short-term efforts. In other words, we can do whatever we want militarily to counter the current threat, but if we fail to think generations ahead at how we can prevent that threat from expanding, we will be behind the curve. This is an opportunity to move us ahead of the curve. And so we see it as a really critical complement to our current and ongoing efforts to counter ISIL and other forms of terrorism.

MS. HARF: And on the first question about what we call it.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: I’m happy to – go ahead.

MS. HARF: We’ve talked about this a lot at the briefings and TV interviews, but we don’t want to confer religious legitimacy upon these extremists. They want to be called Islamic, but we and moderate religious leaders across the globe reject that because what they’re doing, as you’ve seen the President say and the Secretary say, is acting in a warped or perverted form of Islam. So we’re not going to give them that religious legitimacy. There’s also extremist threats that have nothing to do with Islam in many places that we’re concerned about, whether it’s in Africa or Asia or elsewhere. So these are tools that are applicable across the board, I would say, and obviously not just focusing on one form of extremism.

Yes, let’s go to New York, actually.

QUESTION: This is Mushfiqul Fazal from Bangladesh. As you know, Bangladesh is a moderate Muslim country. And now the current political situation of Bangladesh is extremely – it’s a political – a critical situation. But the – some corner of the government there now, Bangladesh is running by the unelected government, and as we know that tolerance, democratic society is very much needed to establish a peaceful atmosphere. And the current government ruling Bangladesh, they are trying to say that the situation is going on is – violence is taking place is because of the – they are trying to say that it is not a political; it is some like terrorism or extremism or something like that. But everybody knows, including the Western media, that everybody notice that Bangladesh is a very much political situation because one-sided polls was held in 2014 January, and nobody participated – maximum party, including the main opposition, BNP, they are not participated that election. And that was a selection and a ruling authority form.

But now the – I think the Bangladesh is representing this summit. So what will be the message for the Bangladesh Government from this summit to restoring democracy? And the human rights situation is going on, very horrible situation where every day peoples are killing – extrajudicial killing is going on. So what will be the message for the Bangladesh authority from this summit?

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: One of the very important opportunities that we have at this summit is to explore the relationship between governance and violent extremism. And as President Obama has said on numerous occasions, questions such as attention to and respect for human rights, the continuation of space for civil society organizations to convene and advocate on behalf of populations, are really critical elements of, again, any sustainable and effective long-term approach to countering violent extremism (inaudible). But that will be very much on the minds of participants and in the discussions, and certainly in the fourth session, I think that will be a featured element of the dialogue.

MS. HARF: Great, thank you. Let’s go here in the third row. (Inaudible.) I don’t know your name.

QUESTION: I’m Brian Beary, Washington correspondent to Europolitics newspaper. Can you talk about today’s sub-ministerial event and say who is attending this event? And I know you mentioned it’s about foreign fighters, but more specifically, what kind of measures are they going to be talking about during today’s sub-ministerial?

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Sure. Well, as you know, there is a robust both broader construct for engagement on the question of foreign terrorist fighters in terms of 2178, the UN Security Council Resolution, and a series of ongoing both bilateral and multilateral dialogues that have occurred with regards to how to improve the international community’s ability to strengthen its efforts to prevent the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters. This is one part of that ongoing discussion. I don’t know whether the list of participants has been released.

MS. HARF: We’ll check on that. We can get that around to folks.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: And the focus for this shorter session today is to follow up on ongoing discussions having to do with the sharing of information and how across borders and governments there can be increased law enforcement cooperation.

MS. HARF: And actually, speaking to your point, that’s one of the more short-term how we share with our partners, particularly in Europe. Whether it’s information sharing or intelligence sharing, that’s part of that discussion as well.


QUESTION: Hi. My name is Namo Abdullah with Rudaw TV of Kurdistan in Iraq. Last time in London, there was another security summit, and the Kurds complained that they were not invited by – for that summit. Have you invited the Kurds for this conference? I haven’t met any of the representatives yet in Washington.

MS. HARF: We can check on who the Iraqi delegation is made up of. As you know, separate from this, we have many ongoing conversations with Kurdish leaders on a range of issues, on how to fight ISIL particularly. Those are consistent and very high-level and ongoing. I’d let the Iraqi Government speak for who’s in their delegation.

QUESTION: And President Barzani of Kurdistan in Germany met with Vice President Joe Biden and a number of other U.S. officials. And after returning from that summit, he said he got promises from U.S. lawmakers and politicians that the United States would be providing more direct arms to the Kurds. Is that something that’s going to --

MS. HARF: You’ve asked this question many times, and we’ve talked --

QUESTION: This is an update from President Barzani, so --

MS. HARF: And update from – directly from President Barzani. Look, we have an ongoing dialogue with the Iraqi Security Forces, with the Kurds about how we can expedite our assistance, particularly military assistance, to them on the ground. We’ve already expedited a lot of this. You know that this is working all in conjunction with the central government, and that’s ongoing. So I know that the discussions, again, happen in a very high level. No update for you, though, but we are getting things there as quickly as we can.

Yes, let’s go across the second row. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks for taking the question. I’m Andreas Ross with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. I was wondering how happy are you with what has been achieved between the Security Council session that you referenced and now. Is the summit a sign of – is it sort of an implicit criticism of not enough having happened and needing another effort to make every country understand this is really something that needs to be tackled? Because otherwise I suppose some people would question – even inside Western Europe, people say the situation in each and every country is very different. Here there’s an extremely diverse group of countries represented, and it seems that the specific answers for countering violent extremism would be extremely different as well. So what’s the purpose in having another worldwide and another one at the margins of UNGA? Do people need another wakeup call, or what’s the premise?

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Well, thanks for that question. I think we’re very excited about this summit because it’s an opportunity to really focus on the pillar of the UN’s counterterrorism strategy, and indeed, an element of the United States counterterrorism strategy that can often fall aside as we focus on the near and immediate threat. But as I said, President Obama since 2013 in his NDU speech has been talking about how that opportunity to think more long-term and think more preventively is one that we owe to future generations. Because violent extremism has been with us for a long time, it is particularly acute at this moment – it is not going to go away. It is a challenge to the international system, it is a challenge to international values, and we must make every effort to continue prioritizing the longer-term efforts even as we fight in the near term with different tools.

This is really a wonderful opportunity to bring people who may not be centrally engaged in the counter-ISIL coalition or may not be facing foreign terrorist fighter recruitment issues at home but who nonetheless share the international community’s concern about violent extremism and what it means for the stability of the globe and for international commerce and for the continuation of the rights regimes that we have worked to build since World War II. And so this is a wonderful opportunity to be more inclusive, and as I said, to be more proactive and preventive, and I think there will always be opportunities for continued meetings to elevate the longer term. I think it’s natural that we would all benefit from those. And so the planned meeting on the margins of UNGA will give us a wonderful opportunity to look back on this meeting and see what we’ve accomplished between now and September.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, the achievement that --

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: One of the things that we will be talking about at the summit is what has been done since the last UNGA. And so that is part of our work stream there.

MS. HARF: And I think an important point that the Under Secretary brought up is, in a tangential way, this is much bigger than ISIL. ISIL is the immediate threat we’re looking at, the most acute immediate threat. There are others that we’ve all talked about. But it’s not just about the anti-ISIL coalition; it’s so much bigger and much more longer term than that. So I think this is a good opportunity. A lot of these countries aren’t – many of them aren’t involved in the anti-ISIL coalition, and they have different extremist threats they’re facing. So I think that’s an important point as well.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Meixing Ren from Shanghai Media Group. And I’ve got two combined question. So this round of counterterrorism, compared to the – to 14 years ago after 9/11, the counterterrorism, what’s the biggest difference from the international situation, political, economic situation? And my second question is: Since after White House’s Cybersecurity Summit in Stanford University, President Obama announced the intelligence information cyber threat sharing and intelligence integration center. That level is same as counterterrorism level. So we keep seeing those – ISIS or ISIL, the terrorists, they are posting those murdering – violent video online. So is this a sign of intelligence failure that we are nowhere to find out who upload the video and where the location they upload the video? And because of the cyber – and this is the digital age, right? So are we still – are we going to see some big improvement on the internet monitoring? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Let me start with the first question. I think in the post-9/11 era, the U.S. in particular, but I think globally, was very much focused on military tools. And I think we have since seen the threat of violent extremism expand in ways that really speak to the inadequacy of military tools alone. This is really President Obama’s comment in his NDU speech in 2013. Military tools alone are not sufficient. And so I think, again, the opportunity here is to really launch a complementary, additional, longer-term and proactive approach to deal with underlying issues. And that, I think, stands in stark contrast to where we were in 2001, and I think is a wonderful opportunity for the entire international community to come together around a goal that is fundamentally about making people’s lives better and is therefore positive and inclusive.

MS. HARF: And the cyber? Do you want to take the cyber (inaudible)?

I think you’re combining a couple sort of related but a little different issues. When the President – when we talk at the Stanford event for example, a lot of that is countering offensive cyber capabilities that are designed to attack either American businesses, U.S. Government. We’ve seen that, unfortunately, in the last year. So we clearly are very focused on that cyber threat to our national security both at the government level, business level. That’s the threat we’re focused on.

But I think what you’re talking about is the fact that groups like ISIL in the Digital Age are able to use social media to rapidly spread their message to people they never would have been able to reach even 10 years ago. And so one of our sessions, one of our thematic sessions, is how you combat that. And the internet – it has a lot of blessings and a lot of curses, right? And so if we can have not the U.S. Government but other moderate religious voices, cultural voices competing in that digital space, that’s one place we certainly need to compete with these groups, not just ISIL but others. So that’s a little different effort that’s undergoing, but we’re certainly concerned about both.

Yes, we’ll go up to the front and then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. Thank you, Secretary. Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. I wonder if you can address to some of the concerns or criticisms regarding this summit, because we’re in – on the second day of the summit already but still we haven’t received the list of attendees, and also there is no detailed agenda of this summit. Why is that? And will there be a joint statement after tomorrow’s meeting? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWELL: So today’s meeting is a very different session from tomorrow’s meeting. Today’s meeting focuses primarily on civil society, does not feature government. So the ministerial portion is tomorrow. I believe that there is an agenda that has been shared.

MS. HARF: Yes, and we’ve talked a lot about – she talked about some of the thematic sessions as well. And we’ll share more details as we finalize them.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWELL: So one of the things I would just say is that this is a very ambitious undertaking and it has continued to be in flux, and so we have sought to be as responsive as we can within the limits of being accurate.

MS. HARF: And --

UNDER SECRETARY SEWELL: We appreciate your patience.

MS. HARF: And the over 65 countries represent the entire world and are representative of different regions and different extremist threats, but certainly are not everyone in the world that we talk to about this. We have conversations at a wide range of levels with many, many countries.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWELL: And I think if I can just build on that, one of the really important points that I would like to emphasize particularly in this context with this journalistic cohort is that we envision this as a catalyst in two ways: one, as a way to reinvigorate a work stream going forward, but I think it’s very important to understand that we envision that work going forward as work that will be led by many different regions, countries, types of participants, and it can include all of the countries that wish to be engaged, not simply those who were invited to the summit. And so I think there is very much a desire for those who have not been integrally involved in tomorrow’s activities to nonetheless play leadership roles in the work leading up to UNGA. So that is just a point that I wish to emphasize.

MS. HARF: And on your first question, the intention is to have some sort of statement after tomorrow’s meeting that outlines the path forward and some of the action agenda items we talked about.


QUESTION: Hi. Hanan Elbadry, Rose El-Youssef Magazine, Cairo News Egypt. It seems that United States will not agree or support the Egyptian request at the international council today asking or seeking for forming a coalition to contain the fundamentalists and the militia and ISIL in Libya. Is that true? I need to know how you can describe that – I mean the American situation. And don’t you send – sending a wrong message to the fundamentalists and to the world regarding containing the people who are beheading the innocents?

MS. HARF: Those discussions are ongoing, and I certainly – we don’t want to get ahead of what is an ongoing conversation with the Libyans and with others at the UN about the possible path forward here. So we’ll let our other colleagues speak to that. But more broadly speaking, Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry over the weekend to express his condolences and to say we’re going to continue consulting about the path forward here on this issue, clearly, as this is one of a key concern with us – for us in working with the Egyptians. This has been a concern of us that we’ve had for a long time. When it comes to Libya, I think this is a good example – and the under secretary can speak more to this – of a place where there – the lack of governance is really driving a lot of this instability and leading people to join some of these organizations. So I think that’s just an example of something we’ll discuss over the next few days.

I don’t know if you have something add to that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


QUESTION: Lawrence Freeman with Executive Intelligence Review. I wanted to just bring up the question of Boko Haram on two levels. One is: Now Boko Haram has attacked all four countries that were the founding members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission – Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon. And I was recently there at the request of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, asked to participate on their committee to develop alternatives. Forty million people depend on Lake Chad, which is now drying up. And the proposals we have put forth is to bring water to Lake Chad from the Congo and other areas. They tell me that the U.S. has no involvement whatsoever in this policy. I looked on the internet, I couldn’t find any support from the U.S. for water transfer to Lake Chad, which affects the lives of 40 million Africans. This is one of the underlying causes for Boko Haram’s easy recruitment among these people in this area. I was wondering if you could talk to that.

Also, the fact that there’s been reports by the former Assistant Secretary of State Johnny Carson, that the United States and Nigerian relations are at a ten-year low. The ambassador came to Washington, went out to the United States, and kicked out some of the trainers. How is that going to help in a closer U.S.-Nigerian military alliance against Boko Haram? I’m aware of the flint-lock maneuvers that just took place. But there’s enormous amount of disagreement and tension between Nigeria and the U.S. on how to deal with Boko Haram.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: Well, thanks for that question. We’ve of course been watching the situation in Nigeria and in neighboring countries with great concern and interest, and we have been actively engaged in both bilateral discussions with all governments concerned as well as regional efforts to help strengthen a Lake Chad taskforce to address the military challenge. I think one of the points that we have consistently made – and I think it is very much along the lines of the conference agenda – is that there are elements beyond military action; as crucial as military action is – and we look to be very supportive there of enhancing the capabilities of those who would fight Boko Haram militarily – we’re in discussions on that front – that there are other issues that will need to be addressed in that context. There is an emerging international coalition, or an emerging regional coalition, and I suspect that the conversations about the kind of support that they both request and desire from other partners will continue over the long term. And we look very much forward to engaging with African nations and the AU on that topic.

MS. HARF: Yes, the gentleman behind you.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. My name is Jeremy Au Yong. I’m from the Straits Times of Singapore. I just wanted to get a sense of how we’re going to get a concrete outcome out of this. I understand there’s going to be a joint communique and some action was planned. How do you come – how do you take 65 different countries or 65 ideas and get a consensus or some kind of work plan? And in the follow up, what sort of metrics will be used to access – assess how successful, how effective the work plan has been?

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: So those are great questions and they harken back to an earlier question about how diverse the different violent extremism challenges are and how unique each situation is. Nonetheless, one of the things that we have learned over the course of recent years as we’ve been dialogue with partner countries that are struggling with different and diverse forms of violent extremism, is that there are some very important commonalities that can be identified. And we have tried to organize the agenda of the summit around some of those commonalities. And if I were predicting with my crystal ball the kinds of work streams that will come out of the meeting, I would expect that they would be very closely linked to the kinds of innovations and observations that are reflected in the presentations by panelists and respondents during the session.

So, for example, I think we would all agree that we need to better understand the drivers of violent extremism to include their local variance. I think we would all agree that on the strategic communications front, there is a need for both truth to be conveyed in the face of many of the lives that violent extremists propagate, but also a need to elevate the voices of those who are community, communal, religious leaders who offer a different perspective. I think we would all agree that there are very important ways to look at how mainstream tools of foreign policy – and here, I think, is a potentially underdeveloped area – mainstream tools of foreign policy such as development assistance, and such as stabilization assistance, and such as governance support, perhaps at the local level – those mainstream tools can be applied in areas that might be vulnerable to the next stage of terrorist outreach and infiltration. Those are some of the opportunities that I think we can all commonly see, and those, I think, would be the basis of likely work streams that would come out of the summit. But again, we will be releasing a collective document that captures that plan. So stay tuned.

MS. HARF: Any final questions? Yes. We’ll do the last question here.

QUESTION: Bahaa Tawil (ph), On TV News, Egypt. Ma’am, will the summit address the situation in Egypt? The country is quite stable but it’s witnessing almost – terrorist attacks on daily basis. Also the situation in Libya and the barbaric murder of the 21 Egyptian citizens.

And the second question is: It’s not clear what does the United States think of the Egyptian airstrikes. Do you support them or are you against them? I mean the last airstrikes in Libya. Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: I’ll take the first question, you take the second?

MS. HARF: Sounds good.

UNDER SECRETARY SEWALL: So the summit is really organized, I think as you can see in looking at the agenda, it’s really organized around thematic topics. We do expect that individual participating delegates, whether they’re from government or civil society, will bring questions of their own immediate concern and experience to that conversation. But the summit per se is not about situation X or situation Y; the summit per se is about how we can best defeat violent extremism over the long haul so that the next generation isn’t dealing with an even bigger problem caused by violent extremism. So that is really the focus of this summit.

MS. HARF: And the President – I don’t know if everyone saw the – President Obama’s op-ed today in the LA Times, he mentioned the horrific murder that you just mentioned, as well as a number of others. So I would encourage people to take a look at that.

When it comes to your second question, countries can obviously make their own decisions about what actions they take. Seeing the reports coming out from that – again, the horrific murder that we saw. Obviously, we’ve consulted closely with the Egyptians about this and the choices they’re going to make going forward. We don’t have much more to say on it than that. Again, they certainly are in a position to make their own decisions about how they respond to these really truly awful, awful situations.

And with that, I would encourage everyone tomorrow at the State Department we will have a filing center. So if you signed up for a credential – I see some of you have them on – come to the State Department. We’ll be talking more tomorrow at the end of the day about what has come out of this and are always open to answer any questions you all may have going forward. And I really appreciate everyone coming today to the briefing.