Tony Blair: world's strategy for countering Islamist extremism flawed

FILE PHOTO: Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister, Great Britain and Northern Ireland speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

LONDON (Reuters) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will warn on Thursday that the threat from Islamist militants is growing and the current approach for tackling the threat will fail unless there is a global strategy to tackle the roots of extremism.

Launching a new “Global Extremism Monitor” by his Institute for Global Change that tracks incidents of Islamist extremism, Blair will say that “security alone will never be enough” and governments need to focus more on prevention.

In a report, his institute found there are 121 violent Islamist groups operating globally and they were responsible for more than 84,000 deaths in 2017, mainly in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Nigeria.

Blair, Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007, said the world spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year on new security at airports and counter-terrorism, but only a fraction of that amount on measures to tackle the underlying ideology.

He instead calls for higher spending on education and development, investing in war-torn states and supporting Muslim leaders working to counter extremism.

“Security measures will be vital. But security alone will never be enough. It will only slow the violence,” Blair said. “Unless there is a global will to meet the depth of the challenges, the ideology of Islamism will grow—and with it, the violence. It is time to act.”

The former prime minister, who led Britain into the Iraq conflict in 2003, has admitted in the past that the invasion was partly responsible for the rise of Islamic State, which until last year controlled large areas in Syria and Iraq.

Blair said Muslims were the main victims of Islamist extremism with two-thirds of all attacks aimed at civilians taking place in Muslim-majority countries.

Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; editing by Guy Faulconbridge