From afar, it looks like any gathering of old friends engaged in a time-honored ritual, sipping coffee while the hours slip by in one of this North African city’s many cafes.

But something more serious is going on. The young people around the table are actually participants in a program discreetly backed by the U.S. Embassy to spur serious discussions here on such topics as how groups like the Islamic State exploit social media — and what can be done to stop it.

The program is called “Cafe Talk,” and it may well be the tip of the spear in the Obama administration’s much touted attempt to make so-called “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) initiatives more central to the world’s long-term fight against the terror group also known as ISIS and ISIL.