Defeating Islamist Extremists in 2016

The spread of extremist terror is not confined to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State. For that reason, the international community needs a comprehensive strategy to defeat Islamist extremism – one in which force, diplomacy, and development work together to achieve a more stable world.

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LONDON – The canon of Islamist terrorist activities in 2015 has been long and grim. In any given month, people have been killed in the name of a pernicious ideology.

In January, an estimated 2,000 were massacred in Baga, Nigeria; a car bomb killed 38 in Sana’a, Yemen; and 60 were slaughtered while praying in a mosque in Shikarpur, Pakistan. In June, more than 300 were executed or maimed in attacks in the Diffa Region in Niger, in Kuwait City, and in Sousse, Tunisia. And in November, nearly 200 died at the hands of terrorists in Sarajevo, Beirut, and Paris. Then, as December began, there was the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

This spreading terror is not confined to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); it is a global problem. For that reason, the international community needs a comprehensive strategy to defeat Islamist extremism – one in which force, diplomacy, and development work together to achieve a more stable world.

The most urgent pillar of this strategy is dismantling ISIS, which must be eliminated not just in Syria and Iraq, but also in Libya and everywhere else it operates. The debate about how to do it should not center on whether to put Western “boots on the ground.” All of us must do what is necessary to defeat a group that has seized territory in five countries and declared a new state ruled by fanatical ideologues. Because ISIS cannot be negotiated out of existence, a broad group of allies – with the right political strategy – must defeat it everywhere.