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White House Opens Summit on Countering Extremism

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb ahead of a summit on countering violent extremism in Washington, Feb. 17, 2015.

A conference bringing together spiritual leaders, police and representatives from more than 60 countries got underway Tuesday in Washington, where President Obama hoped to come up with ways to counter violent extremism.

At a White House roundtable that included officials from Belgium and the Netherlands and local police from across the U.S., Vice President Joe Biden called for an approach that goes beyond airstrikes and invasions.

“We’re here today because we all understand that in dealing with violent extremism, we need answers that go beyond a military answer. We need answers that go beyond force,” he said.

Obama administration officials said reaching into America’s toughest neighborhoods was key to discrediting the appeal that terrorists might have, and to preventing young people who want to escape marginalization and isolation from turning to extremist ideologies.

To that end, the White House invited police from Los Angeles, Boston and Minneapolis, whose youth outreach programs are models for ones Obama would like to set up nationwide.

Biden noted Minneapolis’ efforts to engage members of the city’s Somali-born population. In a light remark, Biden compared the inclusion efforts to those of his home city of Wilmington, Delaware, which also has a community of Somali immigrants.

"If you ever come to the train station with me, you'll notice that I have great relationships with them because there's an awful lot of them driving cabs and are friends of mine — for real," he said.

To some analysts, the remark illustrated the goodwill that exists, but also the work that needs to be done in assimilating America’s recent Muslim immigrants.

While the question of how to prevent extremism at its roots is too large to answer in a three-day summit, analysts said the meeting was an important first step in finding a solution that goes beyond leading wars on terrorists.

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