GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – Professionals from 61 countries have gathered at one of the Department of Defense’s regional centers here to share ideas about countering violent extremism across the globe.
With attendees from four combatant commands, the Senior Executive Seminar titled “Beyond Al Qaeda: How to Understand and Counter Violent Extremism” at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies started Sept. 5. The event gathers 98 ministers, parliamentarians, general officers and other senior leaders from around the world.
This is a unique opportunity for senior policy makers to seek common understanding to a problem that doesn’t recognize borders according to Marine Col. Philip Lark, deputy director for the seminar.
“Participants are engaging in candid discussion of violent extremist ideology and activity. The seminar is facilitating a comprehensive, cooperative approach to the problem,” Lark said.
With 25 lecturers over eight days, including Supreme Allied Commander Europe Navy Adm. James Stavridis, the agenda is a busy one. Lark said the idea was to gather as many diverse points of view on the topic 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, director of the Marshall Center, 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.”
They won’t work alone. Helping them barrel toward success with be the members of the International Senior Enlisted Seminar. About 80 NATO-country based senior enlisted advisors will work along side the SES participants, including the Fleet Master Chief Roy M. Maddocks Jr. from U.S. European Command and the Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard T. Small from NATO Allied Command Operations.
Also amongst the attendees are 10 general officers from the National Guard and Air National Guard via the State Partnership Program sponsored by U.S. European Command.
The Marshall Center staff conducts two Senior Executive Seminars each year. The seminar in January dealt with “Arab Spring” and revolution across the Middle East. Like that previous seminar, Lark said this seminar revolves on real-world happenings. The event’s lectures and smaller group studies bring them into sharp focus.
“Everything within the seminar is designed to deepen our understanding of the linkages between extremism, radical violence, globalization, and religious and cultural differences. 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,” he said.
Lark said the goal of SES 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.