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Multinational Seminar Examines Violent Extremism

By Jason Tudor
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, Sept. 5, 2012 – Professionals from 61 countries have gathered at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here to share ideas about countering violent extremism across the globe.

A senior executive seminar titled “Beyond Al Qaeda: How to Understand and Counter Violent Extremism” gathers 98 ministers, parliamentarians, general officers and other senior leaders from around the world.

The forum provides a unique opportunity for senior policy makers to seek common understanding to a problem that doesn’t recognize borders, said Marine Corps Col. Philip Lark, the seminar’s deputy director.

“Participants are engaging in candid discussion of violent extremist ideology and activity,” he said. “The seminar is facilitating a comprehensive, cooperative approach to the problem.”

With 25 lecturers -- including Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe -- scheduled over eight days, the agenda is a busy one. Lark said the idea was to gather as many diverse points of view as possible.

“This problem has deep roots and is without borders,” Lark said. “The solutions we attempt to gather must be comprehensive.”

In his opening remarks to the group, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, Marshall Center director, said the time this group has together is vital and should be a shared experience.

“You will get out of this course what you put into it,” Dayton said. “There will not be a ‘sage on the stage’ who will give you wisdom and you walk out feeling much better. This is your course, and it is interactive.”

About 80 NATO senior enlisted advisors will work alongside the seminar participants, including Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Roy M. Maddocks Jr., U.S. European Command’s command master chief; and Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard T. Small from NATO Allied Command Operations.

Also among the attendees are 10 general officers from the National Guard and Air National Guard via the State Partnership Program sponsored by Eucom.

The Marshall Center staff conducts two senior executive seminars each year. A seminar in January dealt with the “Arab Spring” and revolution across the Middle East. Like that previous seminar, Lark said, this seminar centers on real-world happenings. The event’s lectures and smaller-group studies bring them into sharp focus, he added.

“Everything within the seminar is designed to deepen our understanding of the linkages between extremism, radical violence, globalization, and religious and cultural differences,” Lark said. “Participant expertise and experience will add context to these discussions. Extremists of all determinations pose a dangerous threat to global security and must be examined with equal diligence –- fighting extremism must be done with both determination and insight.”

Lark said the goal is for participants to return home with a deeper awareness of key issues that influence national, regional and international security; the factors that shape security strategy; and the components of cooperative security in an interdependent world.

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