Deradicalization: Using Triggers for the Development of a US Program


  • Stefanie Mitchell American Military University, Graduate International Relations and Transnational Security


deradicalization, deradicalization program, Complex Interdependence, Containment, jihadi, defector, terrorism, amnesty


Although the United States (US) is leading the fight against transnational terrorism, and the United Nations (UN) has strongly encouraged an interdependent approach, the US still lacks guidance for a coherent US Deradicalization Program. This is of critical concern given that the US recently received its first publicly known US Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant defector, but currently lacks a policy or program to handle this population, outside of standard incarceration. Moreover, this population, along with homegrown extremists and returning fighters from Syria pose the most likely continued jihadi presence in the US.  The purpose of this paper is to review successful program options, and establish a basis on which to develop an effective US program. This paper outlines the known triggers for deradicalization, the known characteristics of the US jihadi population and analyzes the most useful deradicalization program components based on successful international models. Using a qualitative, cross-national content analysis of former jihadi personal narratives, international deradicalization program structure evaluations and major research findings, this paper concludes that a standardized UN sponsored program, with comprehensive services which include credible ideological and psychological support, and amnesty incentives tailored to the US jihadi population, would be the most effective way to address former jihadi population needs while enhancing US national security objectives. Key Middle Eastern stakeholders and Western states must cooperatively develop best methodologies for target populations, by leveraging each other’s competencies and capabilities.


Akers, Ronald L. and Christine Sellers. 2013. Student Guide for Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, Application. New York: Oxford University Press. Accessed August 8, 2016.

Ali, Rashad. 2015. Deradicalisation and Integration: The United Kingdom’s Channel Program. George Washington Program on Extremism. NY: George Washington Program on Extremism. Accessed April 27, 2016.

Ashour, Omar. 2009. The Deradicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements. London: Routledge. Accessed April 13, 2016. EBSCOhost.

Beavis, M. 2016. International Relations Knowledge Base. Accessed April 10, 2016.

Bertram, Luke. 2015. “How Could a Terrorist Be Deradicalized?” Journal for Deradicalization. Winter, No 5. 120-149. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Boucek, Christopher and Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone. 2011. “Deradicalization: Oasis or Mirage?” Center for Strategic and International Studies. Global Security Forum. Lecture Transcript. Washington DC. Accessed April 2, 2016. ProQuest ebrary.

Bouzar, Dounia. 2016. "Escaping Radicalism" Scientific American Mind. 27, no. 3: 40-43. Accessed April 21, 2016. EBSCOhost

Bureau of Justice. 2016. Bureau of Justice Statistics Database. Accessed August 8, 2016.

Caramés, Albert. and Eneko Sanz. 2008. Analysis of the Worlds Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs. Barcelona: School for a Culture of Peace. Accessed April 20, 2016.

Cedros, Christopher. 2015. “Lone-Wolf Terrorist Radicalization and The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Ensuring Mutual Cooperation Between At-Risk Muslim Americans and Local Communities.” Thesis for Naval Post Graduate School. Accessed April 20, 2016. http://www.dtic.

CCTV America. 2015. The Heat: Deradicalization and The Islamic State. Video Interview with Mubin Shaikh and Youssef Assidiq. Accessed April 27, 2016.

Cillufo, Frank, Sharon L. Cardash and Laura O. Khor. 2014. Detainee Release and Global Public Safety: Terrorist Disengagement and Deradicalization Programs—The Way Ahead. Homeland Security Policy Brief. Accessed April 20, 2016. http://homelandsecurity.gwu

Chowdhury Fink, Naureen and Hamed El-Said. 2011. Transforming Terrorists: Examining International Efforts to Address Violent Extremism. International Peace Institute. Accessed April 26, 2016.

Coolsaet, Rik, ed. 2011. Jihadi Terrorism and the Radicalisation Challenge: European and American Experiences (2). Abingdon, Oxon, GB: Routledge. Accessed October 31, 2016. ProQuest ebrary

Clutterbuck, Lindsay. 2015. Deradicalization A Perspective on the Challenges and benefit. Middle East Institute.

Duchesne, Mark. 2011. “Deradicalization: not soft but strategic.” Crime Law Social Change. 55:287–292. Accessed April 2, 2016. DOI 10.1007/s10611-011-9283-8

Durose, Matthew R., Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder. 2014. Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Accessed April 23 2016.

Duvall, Justin, Lee C. Novy, and Calvin A. Knox. 2012. “An Analysis of Modern State-Level Terrorist Deradicalization Campaigns.” Thesis for Naval Post Graduate School. Accessed April 20, 2016.

EU Commission. 2014. Strengthening the EU's response to radicalisation and violent extremism. Press Release.

Exit Germany. 2016. Exit Germany Web-Site. Accessed April 20, 2016.

Ezzarqui, Liza. 2010. “De-Radicalization and Rehabilitation Program: The Case Study of Saudi Arabia” Thesis for Georgetown University. Accessed April 20, 2016.

Feddes, Allard and Marcello Gallucci. 2015. “A Literature Review on Methodology used in Evaluating Effects of Preventive and De-radicalisation Interventions”. Journal for Deradicalization. Winter, No 5. 1-27.

Hearne, Ellie B. and Nur Laiq. 2010. A New Approach? Deradicalization Programs and Counterterrorism. International Peace Institute. Conference on Countering Violent Extremism: Learning from Deradicalization Programs in Some Muslim-MajorityStates, Meeting Notes. NY: International Peace Institute. Accessed April 2, 2016. EBSCOhost

Horgan, John and Mary Altier. 2012. The future of terrorist de-radicalization programs. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 13(2), 83-90. Accessed on October 27, 2016.

Horgan, John and Max Taylor. 2011. “Disengagement, De-radicalisation and the Arc of Terrorism: Future directions for research,” in Jihadi Terrorism and the Radicalisation Challenge. edited by Rik Coolsaet. Abingdon, Oxon, GB: Routledge. Accessed October 31, 2016. ProQuest ebrary.

Horgan, John and Kurt Braddock. 2009. Assessing the Effectiveness of Current De-Radicalization Initiatives and Identifying Implications for the Development of U.S.-Based Initiatives in Multiple Settings. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, US: START. Accessed April 20, 2016.

Horgan, John, and Tore Bjørgo. 2009. Leaving Terrorism Behind: Individual and Collective Disengagement. London: Routledge. Accessed April 15, 2016. eBook Collection EBSCOhost

Horgan, John. 2003. “Search for the Terrorist Personality.” Terrorists, Victims and Society: Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism and its Consequences. Edited by Andrew Silke. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Accessed April 2, 2016. EBSCOhost

Humphreys, Macartan, and Jeremy M. Weinstein. 2007. "Demobilization and Reintegration." The Journal of Conflict Resolution 51, no. 4: 531-67. Accessed October 27, 2016.

Johnston, Amanda. 2009. “Assessing the Effectiveness of Deradicalization Programs on Islamist Extremists”. Thesis for Naval Post Graduate School. Accessed April 20, 2016.

Kare11. 2016. Three Sentenced for Supporting ISIL. Website.

Karnowski, Steve. 2016. Minnesota Terror Sentences Expected to Set National Pattern. Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Website.

Koehler, Daniel. 2016. Phone interview by author. September 9.

Koumpilova, Mila. 2016. “Minnesota officials envision probation program for people facing terror charges.” Minnesota Star Tribune. Accessed April 21, 2016.

Lewis, Hugh M. 2015. Radical Actor’s Guidebook to the Theater of Terror: Methodological Reference to Violent Radicalization in Reference to Military Cultural Intelligence. Fort Huachuca: Lewis.

Manning Ruth and Courtney La Bau. 2015. In and Out of Extremism. UK: Quilliam Publications. Accessed April 13, 2016.

Mastroe, Caitlin, and Susan Szmania. 2016. Surveying CVE Metrics in Prevention, Disengagement and De-Radicalization Programs. Accessed October 31, 2016.

Montemayor, S. and M. Koumpilova. 2016. Terror Suspects Will Test Deradicalization Program. McClatchy - Tribune Business News. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Mullins, Samuel. 2010. “Rehabilitation of Islamist terrorists: Lessons from Criminology.” University of Wollongong. Accessed April 10, 2016. EBSCOhost.

Noricks, Darcy. 2009. “Disengagement and Deradicalization.” Social Science for Counterterrorism. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

Oxford Bibliographies. Edited by Robert Agnew and Heather Scheuerman. Accessed April 102016. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0005.

Porges, Marisa L. 2011. Reform School for Radicals. The American Interest. Accessed April 20, 2016.

Pliner, Joanna. 2013. Intellectual and Motivational Intervention Approaches. Scientific Approach to Finding Indicators of and Responses to Radicalisation. Accessed August 8, 2016.

Rabasa, Angel, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeremy J. Ghez and Christopher Boucek. 2010. Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists. Santa Monica, US: RAND Corporation. Accessed April 2, 2016.

Ramalingam, Vidhya and Henry Tuck. 2014. The Need for Exit Programs. Institute for Strategic Dialogue Accessed April 13, 2016.

Romaniuk, Peter and Naureen Chowdhury Fink. 2012. From Input to Impact. Evaluating Terrorism Prevention Programs. Accessed April 2, 2016.

Schulhofer-Wohl, Jonah and Nicholas Sambanis. 2010. Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs: An Assessment. Folke Bernadotte Academy. Accessed October 27, 2016.,%20Demobilization,%20Reintegration%20Programs_%20An%20Assessment.pdf

Silke, Andrew. 2014. Jihadis Cannot Be Turned Unless They Are Ready, Professor Warns. The Telegraph Web-Site. April 27, 2016.

Silke, Andrew. 2011. Disengagement or Deradicalization: A Look at Prison Programs for Jailed Terrorists. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Southers, Erroll. and Hienz, J. 2015. Foreign Fighters: terrorist recruitment and countering violent extremism (CVE) programs in Minneapolis-St.Paul. National Center for Excellence for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), University of Southern California. Accessed November 1, 2016.

Speckhard, Anne and Ahmet S. Yayla. 2016. ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Mclean: Advance Press.

Speckhard, Anne and Ahmet S. Yayla. 2015. "Eyewitness Accounts from Recent Defectors from Islamic State: Why They Joined, What They Saw, Why They Quit." Perspectives On Terrorism 9, no. 6: 95-118. International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference.

Speckhard, Anne. 2012. Talking to Terrorists. Mclean: Advance Press.

Speckhard, Anne. 2010. “Prison and Community Based Disengagement and De-Radicalization Programs for Extremists Involved in Militant Jihadi Terrorism” in Ideologies and Activities in Protecting the Homeland from International and Domestic Terrorism Threats: Current Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives on Root Causes, the Role of Ideology, and Programs for Counter-radicalization and Disengagement. Air Force Research Lab. Accessed November 2, 2016.

Stern, Jessica. 2010. “Deradicalization or Disengagement of Terrorists, Is It Possible?” Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Accessed April 2, 2016.

United Nations. 2016a. United Nations Peacekeeping. Web-Site. Accessed April 2, 2016.

United Nations. 2016b. Report of the Secretary-General on the Threat Posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to International Peace and Security and the Range of United Nations Efforts in Support of Member States in Countering the Threat. Accessed April 24, 2016.

United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. 2016. UN CTITF Database. Accessed August 13, 2016.

United Nations. 2015a. Analysis and Recommendations with Regard to The Global Threat from Foreign Terrorist Fighters. Accessed April 24, 2016.

United Nations. 2015b. Implementation of Security Council resolution 2178 (2014)by States affected by foreign terrorist fighters. Accessed April 24, 2016.

United Nations. 2010. Second Generation Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Practices in Peace Operations. Office of Peacekeeping Operations.

Accessed August 8, 2016.

US Government. 2016. Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Accessed October 27, 2016.

US Government. 2015. “Terror Inmates: Countering Violent Extremism in Prison and Beyond.” U.S. House of Representatives Committee On Homeland Security, Subcommittee On Counterterrorism and Intelligence. One Hundred Fourteenth Congress, First Session. Lecture Notes. Accessed April 2, 2016.

US Government. 2011. Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Vidino, Lorenzo and Seamus Hughes. 2015. ISIS in America. George Washington University Program on Extremism. Accessed April 2, 2016.

Vidino, Lorenzo. 2011. “Counter-radicalization in the United States” in Jihadi Terrorism and the Radicalisation Challenge. edited by Rick Coolsaet. Abingdon, Oxon, GB: Routledge. Accessed October 31, 2016. ProQuest ebrary

White, Stephen and Kieran McEvoy. 2012. Countering Violent Extremism: Community Engagement Programmes in Europe. The Qatar International Academy for Security Studies.

Accessed October 31, 2016.

Whitehead, Tom. 2014. British Jihadis to be forced to Attend Deradicalization Programs, Says Cameron. The Telegraph. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://

Williams, Michael. 2016. Phone interview by author. September 15.

Williams, Michael, John Horgan and William P. Evans. 2016. Evaluation of a Multi-Faceted, U.S. Community-Based, Muslim-Led CVE Program. National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. Accessed October 27, 2016.

Williams, Michael and Stephen Kleinman. 2013. A utilization-focused guide for conducting terrorism risk reduction program evaluations. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 6(2), 102-146. doi:10.1080/19434472.2013.860183

Wijn, Remco. 2013. What Matters in Deradicalization. Scientific Approach to Finding Indicators of and Responses to Radicalisation. Accessed August 8, 2016.