x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Counter-terrorism unit to be based in Abu Dhabi

The centre will provide a platform for training government officials, non-governmental organisations and community leaders to reduce the number of recruits for terrorist organisations, undermine radical ideologies and thwart plans and attacks.

NEW YORK // A global centre for countering terrorism and violent extremism will open in Abu Dhabi next year, officials in the US said this week at the launch of a Global Counterterrorism Forum.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, detailed the ambitions of the new organisation, which is headed by the US and Turkey and would provide training for governments of the European Union and 29 other countries -- including 11 Muslim-majority nations -- in border security and criminal justice.

The site in Abu Dhabi will in effect be the operations centre for the forum.

The Abu Dhabi location will provide a platform for training government officials, non-governmental organisations and community leaders to reduce the number of recruits for terrorist organisations, undermine radical ideologies and thwart plans and attacks.

The centre is expected to have its doors open for about five years.

The transition of countries such as Egypt from emergency law to democratic rule will be a major focus of the forum.

"Across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, governments are turning their backs on repressive tactics. They are writing new counterterrorism legislation, reorganising their police and reforming their judiciaries," Ms Clinton said in New York on Thursday.

"So this is an opportunity to develop and share best practices and to mobilise resources, technical assistance, and political will."

It is not the first attempt at establishing an international counterterrorism network. The Group of Eight forum formed the Counterterrorism Action Group in 2003, but meetings have not been held in recent years.

The forum's Global Centre for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism will be established in the capital because "the US and Abu Dhabi have a very good working relationship," the US State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said yesterday. "Both recognise the threat posed to people around the world, and it is a matter of a country stepping up and saying this is important and wanting to play a key role."

At a GCC session in Jeddah this month, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed called on the international community to establish a centre to combat terrorism and monitor the movements of extremists.

The costs for the forum and the centre have not been finalised, though officials estimated that the programming for a working group of experts on the rule of law, which will be co-chaired by the US and Egypt, will cost at least Dh275m. That group will attempt to build stronger legal institutions to train police, prosecutors and legislators to handle terrorism cases in civilian courts.

The forum will have committees focusing on three regions: the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia. While officials acknowledged that some countries in the Arabian Peninsula, such as Yemen, face serious terrorism threats, they said it was not yet clear whether they would be included.

Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism czar for the US presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush and now the chairman of the security consultancy Good Harbor Consulting, which operates in Abu Dhabi, pointed out that violent extremism is a problem in every region of the world.

"The New Centre of Excellence in Abu Dhabi will bring together the best practices, knowledge about what works, from all over the world for any trusted nation to draw upon," he said yesterday.

A spokesman for Good Harbor said company officials did not know if they would be involved in the centre's operations. Officials at the US State Department would not comment on who will have a hand in operating the centre.

econroy@thenational.ae