Enhanced government security and changing terrorist strategy have resulted in an increased number of terrorist attacks against soft targets. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, al-Qa’ida pursued a strategy that often prioritized hard targets for spectacular attacks, including military facilities, embassies, and aviation. In contrast, ISIL/Da’esh encourages small-scale attacks and its recruitment of a relatively high number of fighters have increased the risk of attacks on soft targets. As evidenced in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Bamako, Ouagadougou, Orlando, Grand-Bassam, and elsewhere, the clear human, economic, and political consequences of these types of attacks demonstrate the need for improved international preparedness focused on soft target protection.
The Soft Targets Initiative, co-led by Turkey and the United States, developed the Antalya Memorandum on the Protection of Soft Targets in a Counterterrorism Context through its inaugural meeting in Antalya, Turkey, and regional workshops held in Singapore, Dakar, Senegal, and Brussels, Belgium. This Memorandum was endorsed at the Eighth GCTF Ministerial Plenary Meeting in New York in September 2017 and informs and guides governments and private industry as they work together to develop policies, practices, guidelines, programs, and approaches in protecting their citizens from terrorist attacks on soft targets.