Overview: In 2015, Georgia, a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), continued its strong engagement with the United States across a range of counterterrorism-related issues and remained a solid U.S. security partner. Following the passage of strengthened counterterrorism legislation in June, the Georgian authorities carried out multiple arrests of individuals on terrorism-related charges, including an alleged ISIL facilitator. In addition, Georgia took steps to improve border security and counter the financing of terrorism. Georgia participated in the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, hosted by President Obama in New York in September.

The Georgian government estimates 50 to 100 Georgian nationals from the Muslim-majority regions of Adjara and the Pankisi Gorge are fighting in Syria and Iraq for either al-Qa'ida affiliates or ISIL. Violent extremists in Georgia increased their use of social media in 2015. In a November 2015 video, Georgians fighting in Syria called on Georgian Muslims to attack "infidels" in their homeland, a shift from previous appeals to either join the fight in Syria and Iraq or attack Russia.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Georgia continued to strengthen its counterterrorism legislation in 2015, and has a substantial legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related offenses. In line with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178, the Georgian government in June changed its Criminal Code and other relevant legislation to criminalize foreign terrorist fighters and the incitement of terrorist acts. These amendments built on the 2014 changes to the Criminal Code that criminalized participation in international terrorism, recruitment for membership in a terrorist organization, and failing to hinder a terrorist incident.

Counterterrorism units within Georgia's State Security Service (SSG) have the lead in handling terrorism-related incidents, and are generally well equipped and well trained. Overall, the Georgian government is largely capable of detecting, deterring, and responding to terrorism incidents, despite challenges to cooperation, communication, and information sharing posed by the split between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SSG in August.

Georgia has improved its overall border security, in part due to its goal of attaining visa-free travel to the EU. However, Tbilisi's lack of control over its Russian-occupied territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia limits the country's ability to secure the administrative boundary lines with its breakaway regions. Georgia has taken steps to strengthen document security, and Georgian law enforcement uses cameras, terrorist watchlists, and Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Records to help detect potential terrorist movement at ports of entry. However, more comprehensive screening and the implementation of standard operating procedures would enhance this capability. With significant U.S. support, the Georgian Coast Guard is better equipped to patrol the country's maritime borders, with the exception of the Russian-occupied Abkhazia's coastline. Georgia shares cross-border terrorism-related information with its southern neighbors – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey – through police attachés and working-level interaction at border crossings.

In June, Georgian authorities arrested suspected ISIL facilitator Ayub Borchashvili of the Pankisi Gorge, along with three individuals who were en route to Syria via Turkey. Another Pankisi native, Davit Borchashvili, was arrested in November for fighting with ISIL after returning from Syria. In late November, the SSG arrested four individuals in the Adjara and Guria regions of western Georgia on suspicion of links with ISIL. Weapons, explosive devices, and ISIL flags were found in their homes, according to press reports.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Georgia's amendments to terrorism financing legislation to address shortcomings highlighted in MONEYVAL's 2012 evaluation came into force in 2015, and the Georgian government was in the process of implementing an action plan for combating money laundering and terrorism financing to further improve regulations and build capacity. In response to recommendations from MONEYVAL and the FATF, the government established the Interagency Commission on Implementation of UNSC Resolutions to coordinate the government's immediate compliance with UNSCR 1373 and obligations under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da'esh) and al-Qa'ida sanctions regime. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: In 2015, the Georgian government primarily directed its efforts at youth in the Pankisi Gorge. The Ministry of Education worked with local schools to improve Georgian language instruction, civic education, and science classes; and the Ministry of Sport has improved gym facilities and set up after-school programs. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is reviewing international best practices to determine those that Georgia could adopt for implementation.

International and Regional Cooperation: In addition to its close cooperation with the United States, Georgia is engaged on counterterrorism issues at the international, regional, and bilateral levels. The country also participates in regional organizations such as the Council of Europe Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism and its amending protocol, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, and the GUAM (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development.


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