The United States government has adopted new approaches to counter violent extremist organizations around the world. “Soft security” and development programs include focused educational training for groups vulnerable to terrorist recruitment, norm messaging through local radio programming, and job creation in rural communities. This article evaluates the effectiveness of one set of these multi-vectored, community-level programs through analysis of data from 200 respondents in two similar, neighboring cities in northern Mali, Africa. The data show that residents in Timbuktu who were exposed to the programming for up to five years displayed measurably altered civic behavior and listening patterns in comparison with their counterparts in the control city of Dire which had no programming (controlling for potential covariates including age, ethnicity, and political and socioeconomic conditions). However, there was little measurable difference between the groups in terms of their cultural identities and attitudes towards the West. This article suggests that the process of “winning hearts and minds” can be effective at certain levels but may require extended time and dedicated resources to have higher-level results.
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