Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to spend time with such a distinguished group of national security strategic thinkers here at the National Defense College this morning. I am Chargé d’Affaires David Greene; I stand on the existing protocols and note that it is an honor to be here among alumni of U.S. international military education training programs, including Major General Undiandeye, Rear Admiral Olotu, Rear Admiral Musa, Commodore Ayuba, and Mr. Hampton.
I also want to highlight the efforts of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and George C. Marshall Center Nigeria Alumni Chapter and commend them for supporting this event, the first of its kind in Nigeria! This symposium would not have happened without your leadership. I also want to acknowledge our hosts, the National Defense College – thank you for allowing us to use your facilities today and for all the work that you do in equipping strategic leaders with knowledge and analytical skills to respond to security challenges, a task whose importance has been made clear in Nigeria’s demanding regional and internal security environment.
The Chapter’s alumni have chosen an important theme for this two-day symposium: “Challenges and Innovations in Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Strategic Approaches.” We all know there is no magic solution to addressing a “wicked problem” such as terrorism and violent extremism. Frankly, both of our countries have spent the past two decades employing different methodologies to address this transnational challenge, yet with limited long-term success. Terrorists and extremists ignore national borders and geographic boundaries, complicating the response and requiring interagency and international coalitions to be built to address local population needs.
The United States learned a key lesson over the past twenty years: countering violent extremism requires a comprehensive approach that addresses not only military aspects, but a whole of government effort focused on social, economic, and ideological dimensions. Countering violence with violence is not a productive long-term solution. Our approach must focus on making extremist ideology unattractive by improving economic opportunities and providing places for ideological exchange and discussion for all citizens, not only targeting key leaders in military operations.
Countering violent extremism is only possible through community engagement, empowering local leaders, educators, and civil society to challenge extremist narratives. It cannot be done overnight, but I am confident that constant focused engagement at the grassroots level will have a positive effect.
This two-day seminar will provide an opportunity for us to learn from one another’s experience. Addressing the challenges in countering violent extremism, both from Nigeria and other countries’ experiences, offers a mechanism to discuss innovations and new approaches within Nigeria and the region. Events such as this symposium ensure that lessons learned are disseminated among practitioners; we all are part of the solution.
I am confident that the strength of our shared democratic values and determination will ultimately overshadow the forces of extremism, leading to a brighter future for Nigeria and the region. Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts. Please enjoy the discussion over the next two days; I look forward to hearing from my colleagues about the innovations developed by this group of leaders.