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State Department Program Seeks 'Rehabilitation and Reintegration' for 'Violent Extremist Offenders

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Iran Deal on August 11, 2015 in New York City. The U.S. Congress has until September 17 to approve a bill either supporting or rejecting the deal. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The State Department is seeking help for a program for the “rehabilitation and reintegration" of "violent extremist offenders" as a means of preventing them from returning to the battlefield.

The top priority of the United States remains the prosecution of terrorists, a State Department official told TheBlaze, but in some cases, foreign fighters will serve only short sentences in their home countries, and many countries have limited resources for law enforcement. Thus, the United States, with the help of civil service groups, is seeking to prevent less-threatening offenders from returning to battle abroad.

The goal will be to “de-radicalize and rehabilitate them, and to prevent them from spreading violent extremist ideology," the official said.

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Friday will be the final day for nongovernmental organizations to apply for a program through the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, or CT, to assist in “returning foreign terrorist fighters into communities."

“The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism announces a notice of funding opportunity for organizations interested in strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists offenders and the reintegration of returning foreign fighters,” a government notice says.

The program should not be characterized as casually returning terrorist or terror suspects to society, the State Department official added. Rather, it’s a consideration of the limited law enforcement resources many countries have.

“The proposed project is not about reintegrating terrorists or terrorist suspects, but about building the capacity/partnerships of civil society organizations who are involved in rehabilitation work to work with governments in this effort,” the official said. “The project will enable NGOs around the world engaged in this type of work to share information and best practices in this critical area.”

The funding notice says the Bureau of Counterterrorism's objectives are to “build the capacity of civil society actors for the purpose of reintegrating violent extremist offenders and returning foreign terrorist fighters into communities; facilitate relationships of trust among civil society actors and governmental civilian and security sector authorities as concerns reintegration and the creation of supportive interpersonal networks; draw upon civil society capabilities to counter.”

Varying countries differ on how they will handle returning terrorists fighters, the State Department official said.

“Some countries are developing rehabilitation and de-radicalization programs for low-risk individuals, while other countries have adopted primarily law enforcement and intelligence approaches to this problem,” the State Department official said. “Every country has its own criteria for determining how to handle individual violent extremists, including whether and how to assist in rehabilitating and reintegrating this individual back into the community. This is a very complicated issue, and countries consider a range of factors in making these decisions, including the risk posed by the individual, the strength of the evidence in law enforcement cases, and whether any renunciation of violence is deemed to be genuine.”

The program comes as the Obama administration continues to talk about closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and questions about where to locate the 115 terror suspects remaining there. Asked if President Barack Obama was confident he can close the prison by the end of the year, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday, "He's going to try."

The topic was featured on this week's episode of "Pure Opelka" on TheBlaze Radio Network. (Begin listening at the 50:40 mark.)

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