An international gathering took place in Doha, Qatar, from 30-31 October 2018, bringing together a consortium of experts, practitioners, senior intelligence and counterterrorism officials and policy-makers to address the global challenge of returning foreign fighters. Organized by The Soufan Center, Georgetown University in Qatar, Qatar University, and the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies, the Forum on Returning Foreign Fighters: Policies and Actions to Address the Threat and Protect Vulnerable Communities served as an opportunity for a multi-disciplinary network to come together to address the foreign fighter phenomenon and its effects on vulnerable communities and global security. 

Hosted By

The keynote address was provided by His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al- Thani. “Terrorism cannot be confronted and eliminated unless the international community unites its efforts,” underlined H.E. Sheikh Mohamed. “Strong cooperation among all states, international and regional organizations, civil society organizations and academic and research entities is essential in the exchange of intelligence, and the prevention of terrorist threats as part of the international strategy to combat terrorism,” he stressed.

#ForeignFightersForum 

Other key speakers included His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs of Qatar, and His Excellency Panos Kammenos, Minister of National Defence of Greece.

Among the experts in attendance were Major General Abdul Aziz Al-Ansari, Chairman of National Counter-Terrorism Committee of Qatar; Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator; Fionnuala Ni Aolain, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism; Fabrizio Carboni, Regional Director for the Near and Middle East, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Colonel Sean Ryan, Spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve; Nicholas Rasmussen, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in the U.S.; and Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst. The event moderators included Steve Clemons from The Atlantic, Charlie Savage from The New York Times, and Bobby Ghosh from Bloomberg.

Led by David Scharia, Chief of Branch of the United Nations Security Council Counter- Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the conference hosted events by CTED The Global Research Network. The conclusions of the forum will be shared with the United Nations to support Member States’ implementation of Council resolutions and other work on this topic.


Panels – Workshops

PANEL I — Exploring the Threat: Regional Landscape and Global Terrorism Trends 

Workshop with the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) 

PANEL III — Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Policy Tools, Designation, and Financing 

PANEL IV — Legal Considerations, Law Enforcement, and Societal Cohesion: Striking a Balance 

PANEL V — Challenges to Progress: Technology and other 21st Century Stressors 

PANEL VI — Collaborating Across Sectors: Whole of Society & Returnee Flows of Men, Women & Children 

Image Gallery

The conference also featured two screenings. Acclaimed Italian journalist and film-maker Francesca Mannocchi screened her documentary Isis, Tomorrow. The Lost Souls of Mosul, revolving around the fate of children of the so-called Islamic State fighters left behind in Iraq after the organization was swept out of the country at the end of 2017. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2018.

Q&A with Francesca Mannocchi


A screening of Hulu’s The Looming Tower also took place, followed by a discussion with Pulitzer-prize winning author Lawrence Wright.

Exclusive Interviews

Interview with Dr. Elisabeth Kendall at the Foreign Fighters Forum

Interview with Fionnuala Ni Aolain at the Foreign Fighters Forum

Interview with Matthew Levitt at the Foreign Fighters Forum

Interview with Nicholas J. Rasmussen at the Foreign Fighters Forum

Media Coverage

For more information, please contact

events@thesoufancenter.org