Globally there are between 13,500 to 23,500 individuals who have been captured for engaging in terrorist activity in pursuit of a jihadi ideology. Many have been released and more will be in coming years. Much attention has been focused on their possible recidivism because of the occasional headline-grabbing news that a released detainee from Guantanamo Bay is back with al-Qaeda. More than a dozen countries have in the last eight years embarked on what is loosely termed ‘terrorist rehabilitation programmes.’ Their announced recidivism rate for participants varies from zero to 10%. Such statistics imply that a large number of extremists can be persuaded to walk away from terrorism. Should rehabilitation of extremists thus be a crucial plank in global counterterrorism efforts? Current research in this area is inconclusive as there has been no independent evaluation of the effectiveness of existing programmes and various objectives are in play. Based on field research into three national programmes, this article argues that the success of intervention programmes to reduce the risk of violent extremism should be measured against how well they meet larger strategic goals specific to the needs of the national community. Some lessons and useful practices are drawn from these field studies.
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