The International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) hosted its 15th Terrorism Analyst Training Course (TATC) from 24-28 July 2023 at the York Hotel, Singapore. As the Centre’s principal capacity-building programme, TATC seeks to provide the latest analyses on terrorism and radicalism trends by leading academics and senior practitioners. The annual event also serves as a networking platform for counter-terrorism analysts and researchers and law enforcement officials.
The theme of 2023’s TATC was “Global Terrorism: Diversity, Complexity and Evolution”. Over 50 participants from law enforcement, security agencies, and private sector entities around the region had the privilege of hearing from 17 specialist speakers based in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States. In his opening address, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS and Head of ICPVTR, elaborated on this year’s theme by highlighting the varied and fluid facets of the current threat landscape emanating not only from Islamist extremism but also, increasingly, from far-right extremism, geopolitical machinations, and societal polarisation, exacerbated by ever-expanding digitalisation. In light of this, Amb Ong underscored the need to enhance community resilience as a bulwark against extremist narratives.
Over the course of the week, the specialist speakers provided valuable insights into country-specific developments in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Other experts discussed the challenges in repatriating and rehabilitating foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), the value of all-source intelligence in identifying and disrupting security threats, and the double-edged role of social media and emerging technologies in processes of radicalisation to extremism, as well as in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE).
Some key takeaways from the briefings included the strategic patience of jihadist outfits such as Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, the infiltration of political processes by extremist groups across the ideological spectrum, the persistent threat posed by self-radicalised lone actors, and the exploitation of online subcultures by far-right extremist elements for propaganda, networking, and recruitment, among others. Moreover, running through the various presentations were common threads on the need to remain vigilant even as counter-terrorism (CT) is deprioritised amidst heightened great power rivalry; the paramountcy of creative CT and P/CVE strategies in addressing complex and fluid threats; and the importance of intra- and inter-state cooperation and intelligence sharing to effective CT efforts.
TATC 2023 participants also paid a site visit to the Singapore Police Force’s post-blast investigations facility and took part in an AI-facilitated tabletop exercise created by ICPVTR’s researchers and facilitated by Dr Omer Ali Saifudeen of the Singapore University for Social Sciences. Additionally, on the last day of the event, participants were given the chance to share what they had learnt and discussed throughout the week via group presentations. The event wrapped up with closing comments by Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, Dean of RSIS, and a certificate presentation ceremony.