Anti-ISIS Campaign in 2021
On June 25, the State Department briefed reporters on the anti-ISIS campaign by the U.S.-led coalition under the Biden administration. Secretary of State Antony Blinken then participated in a ministerial for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Rome on June 28. The following are excerpts on the status of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and globally.
State Department Briefing on June 25, 2021: “Since complete territorial defeat of ISIS in 2019 and the end of major combat operations, our work has continued steadily. ISIS remains a determined enemy. There is still much work to do in Iraq and Syria, where ISIS continues to conduct attacks and sow fear among local populations.”
“We continue to strengthen our efforts to counter ISIS’s global network of branches and affiliates, as well as its twisted ideology and capability to plan terrorist attacks.”
“The Biden administration is committed to carrying forward the important mission to defeat ISIS. The 83-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS remains critically important to our efforts to ensure ISIS’s lasting defeat.”
Iraq: “The coalition’s mission in Iraq is to support the Government of Iraq’s efforts to secure the enduring defeat of ISIS. We are committed to working with the Government of Iraq to target remaining ISIS cells, deny ISIS sanctuary, and to eliminate ISIS media, finance, and facilitation networks. This includes providing support to Iraqi counterterrorism operations and continued support to the Government of Iraq’s development of a professional and capable Iraqi security force. Our deep political and military partnership with the Government of Iraq has been essential to our recent successes and will be key to any future successes.”
“In addition to security, we must also address remaining humanitarian stabilization and early recovery gaps to help victims of ISIS atrocities and others impacted by the conflict recover and thus minimize ISIS’s recruitment and resurgence capability. As part of the civilian effort, ensuring ISIS members are held accountable for their crimes and promoting community-based reconciliation will be critical to countering ISIS messaging and combating ISIS’s depraved ideology.”
“Accountability efforts must be accompanied by support for survivors of ISIS atrocities to increase their access to legal and psychosocial services needed for their journey to healing, but also to amplify their voices in all discussions on justice and the future of Syria and Iraq. We will continue to provide targeted assistance to bolster justice and accountability efforts and provide survivors of ISIS crimes with the support they deserve.”
“While we have succeeded in facilitating the safe and voluntary return of over 4 million Iraqis to their homes, 1.2 million remain displaced. Some of those will need to be reintegrated into local communities; others will need resolution of complex political and security challenges before they are able to safely return home.”
“The coalition will continue to press the Government of Iraq to do more in support of recovery, reconciliation, and increased decentralization in liberated areas to address this challenge.”
Syria: “In Syria, working ‘by, with, and through’ the Syrian Democratic Forces, the coalition effectively secured the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria at an exceptionally low cost and with a very small number of casualties for coalition forces, though we must recognize the toll paid by the SDF, which is over 11,000 killed in action and tens of thousands more wounded.”
“President Biden has expressed support for maintaining our small number of U.S. forces in northeast Syria to support local partners and prevent an ISIS resurgence.”
“We are continuing to monitor ISIS activity throughout the country and assess that ISIS has continued its efforts to regroup and carry out attacks, but has been able to do so more effectively in non-SDF-controlled areas, particularly in the Badiya Desert. We continue to advise and support counterterrorism operations against ISIS remnants in the northeast and conduct strikes on ISIS and al-Qaida targets across Syria. We also rely on the SDF to ensure the security necessary for the delivery of humanitarian and stabilization assistance in the northeast, which is needed now more than ever to support locals’ needs amid the northeast’s struggling economy, and stabilize liberated areas to allow IDP returns.”
“Two key areas of concern in the northeast remain the 10,000 captured ISIS fighters in makeshift SDF detention facilities and tens of thousands of women and children in humanitarian camps subject to significant security issues and ISIS efforts to exploit the camps.”
“On detainees, the coalition is working to ensure that 2,000 foreign terrorist fighters and 2,000 Iraqis in SDF custody are ultimately returned to their countries of origin and face accountability. U.S. and coalition support to SDF detentions is critical, but this should not be misunderstood to be the long-term solution. Repatriation, then prosecution or rehabilitation, as appropriate, is the only long-term solution for the non-Syrians.”
“For better long-term security, we continue to encourage repatriations and support IDP returns via stabilization assistance. Humanitarian agencies are providing basic psychosocial support to some camp residents with a focus on more than 40,000 children. But more in-depth psychosocial support, child-focused services, protection, and education activities, especially in the areas that Syrians leaving al-Hol return to, are needed as a foundation for any future disengagement and reintegration efforts.”
“We are working with our partners to consider how they might support humanitarian agencies providing to these populations. These issues are exceptionally complex and span counterterrorism, security, and humanitarian imperatives. We will continue to work diligently with our partners on the breadth of issues raised by this challenging problem.”
Globally: “Despite territorial setbacks in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is actively expanding globally. We are keeping our focus on the continuing efforts in the core, but simultaneously putting increasing pressure on ISIS’s global networks. It has worked to make its branches and networks more resilient and continues to exploit areas of local instability and conflict to recruit and train new generations of terrorist fighters.”
“The coalition is going to discuss new challenges ISIS is posing in Africa, with a focus on West Africa and the Sahel. Not one of its branches has renounced its allegiance to ISIS, despite its territorial setbacks. These branches have also served as trans-regional enablers, providing support to organize, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, produce media, maintain local terrorist activities, and plan operations.”
“While each branch remains unique, with local and opportunistic motivations, coalition information and intelligence sharing, as well as the exchange of expertise and lessons learned from Iraq and Syria, are maintained and encouraged between coalition partners and through select working groups to address ISIS’s threat at the global level.”
“The 83 members of our global coalition will continue to draw on all elements of national power – military, intelligence, diplomacy, economic, law enforcement, and the strength of our communities to defeat this brutal terrorist organization, while acknowledging that there is no single approach to the global defeat of ISIS; indeed, most approaches will not mirror the military-centric efforts in Iraq and Syria.”
Afghanistan: “ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, is something that we’ve remained focused on for some time. They remain one of the more lethal and active ISIS branches that are in Afghanistan. You can be assured that the attention of the administration through our continuing security partnership with the Afghan Government is going to remain focused on making sure that ISIS-K is not able to conduct attacks and threaten populations in Afghanistan.”
Libya: “We remain closely focused on all ISIS branch and network activity worldwide. And suffice to say it is of particular concern – the ISIS branch and network threat across West Africa, to include portions of North Africa, including Libya. That’s something that we and our partners, particularly our Western European partners are particularly focused on. That clearly encompasses our continued and growing concern with the ISIS branch and network threat across West and Northern Africa.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 28, 2021: “Since this coalition was created in 2014, our joint efforts by, with, and through our local partners have been a critical element in achieving ISIS’s territorial defeat in Iraq and in Syria. Millions of civilians have been able to return to their homes. The movement of foreign ISIS fighters from – into Syria and Iraq has virtually ceased. And key ISIS leaders have either been captured or killed. These achievements are significant and a reflection of what’s possible when we come together in common cause with a shared commitment.”
“But there is still more work to be done, and let me briefly outline what the United States sees as our top priorities now. I think it will sound very familiar because it’s very much on track with what Luigi just said. First, remaining ISIS elements in Iraq and Syria, though severely depleted, still aspire to conduct large-scale attacks, as we saw with January’s twin suicide bombings in Baghdad. To sustain our military gains, we must reaffirm our commitment, including to Operation Inherent Resolve, the complementary NATO mission in Iraq, and to civilian-led counterterrorism capacity building.
“Second, we must renew coalition support for stabilization assistance across Iraq and Syria, as Luigi said, to ensure that ISIS doesn’t have a resurgence in these countries. Our stabilization assistance will address critical needs that the Syrians themselves have prioritized, deal with vulnerabilities previously exploited by ISIS, close gaps in local authorities’ capacities. Those needs are particularly acute given the drought and economic downturn in Syria, which ISIS is seeking to exploit.
“We’ve made good progress toward our 2021 fundraising goal for stabilization efforts in Iraq and northeast Syria. We set out to raise $670 million. I think we’re at close to $507 million now, so let’s keep going till we meet our goal. Additionally, I can announce today that the United States will provide another $436 million in humanitarian assistance to Syrians and the communities that host them, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis to nearly $13.5 billion. Together we must stay as committed to our stabilization goals as we did to our military campaign that resulted in victory on the battlefield.
“Third, 10,000 ISIS fighters remain in SDF detention in Syria. This situation is simply untenable. It just can’t persist indefinitely. The United States continues to urge countries of origin, including coalition partners, to repatriate, rehabilitate, and, where applicable, prosecute their citizens. Several countries have done good work on these fronts. Kazakhstan has repatriated more than 600 fighters and family members and has enrolled many returnees in rehabilitation programs. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic have repatriated foreign terrorist fighter family members from Iraq, and in the case of Uzbekistan, from Syria and Afghanistan as well. Several Balkan countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia have also repatriated foreign terrorist fighters. And Italy, of course, has distinguished itself as one of the few Western European countries willing to return nationals from the region. Most recently, they repatriated a female foreign terrorist fighter and her children. Finland has also shown leadership in its repatriation of multiple families from Finland originally.
“Fourth, ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS also means effectively confronting ISIS threats outside of Iraq and Syria, in the place where ISIS – places where ISIS has recently focused its efforts. In particular, we’re grateful for support from coalition partners for expanding counterterrorism capacity building efforts for countries on the front lines of the ISIS threat in Africa. And again, I strongly support what the foreign minister said in that regard. Let’s use today’s discussion to try to expand on coalition plans for effectively dealing with the threat in Africa, as well as how we’ll synchronize our efforts with national, regional, and international partners.
“To recap some recent steps the coalition has taken very briefly, last November the United States and Nigeria convened a coalition meeting with representatives of West African states to discuss countering the ISIS threat in West Africa and the Sahel. We’ve also held informal discussions among coalition partners on the pressing ISIS threat in northern Mozambique and the steps that we could take there. Several of the coalition’s working groups are expanding their focus to include Africa. For example, the Communications Working Group recently proposed an Africa framework paper to guide the coalition’s approach to countering ISIS in Africa in the information space by undermining the brand, exposing the recruitment narrative, increasing opportunities for dialogue, sharing positive alternative narratives to ISIS.
“This is a vitally important effort. We are seeing fighters of 13 and 14 years old take up weapons to kill people, and we have to get at this from every possible angle. And information work is vitally important. We urge more coalition working groups – for example, the Counter-ISIS Finance Group – to follow suit and pay additional attention to ISIS and its – the problem it poses in Africa.
“And recent coalition expansion efforts have focused on African nations, with the Central African Republic and Mauritania joining as our 82nd and 83rd members. We’ll continue to encourage key frontline states and regional leaders in Africa to consider becoming members of this coalition.
“On a final related note today, the United States is announcing the designation of Ousmane Illiassou Djibo as a specially designated global terrorist. Djibo is a senior leader and key lieutenant in ISIS Greater Sahara. This designation is part of our continuing effort to counter ISIS financing in Africa.”
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on June 28, 2021: “The attacks in these recent months show that Daesh can still be a threat and attract certain segments of the population. In order to consolidate the results achieved and limit the recruitment possibilities of Daesh and avoid its resurgence, we have to include civil initiatives to de-radicalize and stabilize the freed areas, giving social, economic conditions and opportunities to the local population so as to make them less vulnerable. We are promoting these initiatives bearing in mind the key principles of our international approach, safeguarding human rights and the rule of law being our topmost priorities.
“Despite the financial context, which has been worsened due to the pandemic, Italy is unswerving in its commitment in 2021. We have planned to increase the resources earmarked for these activities. Furthermore, we believe it is important to assess (inaudible) initiatives in favor of unaccompanied minors in (inaudible) camp, and to this end we are also in touch with players in the field.
“Given the complexity and comprehensive nature of this problem, we need to work together in a joint approach. We have to also take a comprehensive and targeted approach to dry up financial resources in the areas of activity of ISIS and in other parts of the world. This is the aim of the Counter ISIS Finance Group, which Italy co-chairs with the United State and Saudi Arabia.
“Although the Daesh threat in Iraq and Syria is key in our coalition’s commitment, we must also take into consideration its global presence in the African continent and in the Sahel in particular. The stability of this region is crucial for Europe and the broader Mediterranean. I would like to thank the representatives from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mozambique who have accepted our invitation to attend today’s meeting as observers.
“Italy will do its part. It will be committed to promoting peace and sustainable development in this area which is a priority for our foreign policy action. As I confirmed in our – my recent missions in the region, we will continue to reinforce our diplomatic presence, take part in main international missions, and make a contribution for a sustainable approach to migration via capacity building.
“Given the growing threat stemming from Daesh in Africa, I would like to propose to my coalition partners to take into account the possibility of creating a working group or a platform that can focus specifically on Africa. Such an initiative would also enable us to involve all African countries interested in making a contribution to our mutual benefit.”
Joint Communiqué by Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS on June 28, 2021: “The Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS, reconvening in-person after two years, met today in Rome at the invitation of Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio and U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. The Ministers reaffirmed their shared determination to continue the fight against Daesh/ISIS, and to create conditions for the enduring defeat of the terrorist group, which remains the Coalition’s sole purpose, through a comprehensive, coordinated, and multifaceted effort. The Ministers welcomed new members joining the Coalition – Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, and Yemen. Together the Ministers emphasized the protection of civilians as a priority and affirmed that international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as applicable, as well as relevant UN Security Council resolutions, must be upheld under all circumstances.
“The Ministers committed to strengthening cooperation across all Coalition lines of effort in order to ensure that Daesh/ISIS Core in Iraq and Syria, and its affiliates and networks around the world are unable to reconstitute any territorial enclave or continue to threaten our homelands, people, and interests. The Ministers remain firmly united in our outrage at atrocities perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS and in our determination to eliminate this global threat, and stand alongside survivors and families of victims of Daesh/ISIS crimes working for accountability.
“Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and nearly eight million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria, but the threat remains. The resumption in Daesh/ISIS activities and its ability to rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians in areas in Iraq and Syria where the Coalition is not active, requires strong vigilance and coordinated action. This includes allocating adequate resources to sustain Coalition and legitimate partner forces’ efforts against Daesh/ISIS, and significant stabilization support, both to address the drivers that make communities vulnerable to recruitment by Daesh/ISIS and related violent ideological groups, as well as to provide support to liberated areas to safeguard our collective security interests. In this regard, the Ministers noted the 2021 Pledge Drive for Stabilization as an important means to help sustain the recovery of areas liberated from
“Daesh/ISIS and prevent its resurgence. The Ministers reaffirm that Daesh/ISIS will continue to be pressured by curbing its ability to raise revenue, enhancing information sharing on terrorists through bilateral and/or multilateral channels like INTERPOL, and fighting against Daesh/ISIS’ toxic propaganda and denying the group space to exploit social media online.
“The Ministers acknowledged Iraq’s efforts to counter Daesh/ISIS’ remnants and prevent its resurgence, and commended the increased capacity of the Iraqi forces to combat Daesh/ISIS. Appropriate measures to enhance the operational efficiency and coordination of our collective efforts to maintain the necessary pressure on Daesh/ISIS remain essential. The Coalition operates in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq in full respect of Iraq’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and to the benefit of the Iraqi people. The Ministers firmly condemned the continuing attacks against Coalition personnel and convoys, and diplomatic facilities, emphasizing the importance of the Government of Iraq protecting Coalition assets. The Ministers welcomed the incremental expansion of NATO’s non-combat advisory, training and capacity building mission in Iraq based on the requirements and consent of the Iraqi authorities and complementing the Coalition’s efforts. The Ministers also welcomed the EU’s support to the Iraqi authorities through the EUAM Iraq Mission.
“In Syria, the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a lasting political settlement in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The Coalition must continue to be vigilant against the threat of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, to build on the success it has achieved and continue to act together against any threats to this outcome and to avoid security vacuums that Daesh/ISIS may exploit. The Coalition continues to support inclusive local recovery and stabilization in areas liberated from Daesh/ISIS and reconciliation and reintegration efforts to foster conditions conducive to a Syria-wide political resolution to the conflict under the parameters of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
“In a session of the meeting focused on the security situation in other continents and regions, particularly Africa, the Ministers noted with grave concern that Daesh/ISIS affiliates and networks in sub-Saharan Africa threaten security and stability, namely in the Sahel Region and in East Africa/Mozambique. The Coalition is committed to working with affected countries to address the threats posed by Daesh/ISIS in Africa to ensure the enduring global defeat of the organization upon the request and prior consent of the countries concerned, and in full respect of international law and in close coordination with existing initiatives, notably the Coalition for the Sahel and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. The Ministers welcomed the presence of delegations from several African nations as observers to this ministerial meeting. The Ministers discussed that reinforcing civilian state institutions and consolidating the rule of law, including law enforcement capacity, will be an essential component of combatting Daesh/ISIS, and that the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS will seek to have effective engagement on the African continent. The Ministers tasked the Coalition Working Groups to assess ways in which they can contribute to counter Daesh/ISIS efforts in the affected regions. The Ministers also welcomed Afghanistan’s efforts to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-Khurasan (ISIS-K).
“Recognizing the challenge posed by foreign terrorist fighters who are in custody, as well as their family members who remain in Syria and Iraq, the Ministers committed to pursuing existing effective justice and accountability mechanisms in close coordination with the countries of origin. This also includes accountability for fighters who have used sexual violence as an instrument of terror. The Coalition remains committed to promoting efforts to ensure that accused terrorists, including those of foreign nationalities, are treated appropriately and tried consistently with applicable international law obligations, including fair trial guarantees, and urges the custodians of the detained Daesh/ISIS terrorists to treat them humanely at all times, in accordance with international law. The Ministers further recognized that the situation for Daesh/ISIS detainees and family members in northeast Syria is of grave concern and recognized the importance of finding a comprehensive and long-term solution to this serious issue.
“The Coalition reaffirmed its belief that a comprehensive and collective effort remains necessary to achieve a full and enduring defeat of Daesh/ISIS worldwide. The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS has proven that it is a cohesive, responsive tool that has achieved notable successes through military, political, stabilization, counter-messaging, financial, and law enforcement lines of effort.
“The Ministers also reaffirmed their intent to hold the next ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition by June 2022 and to hold a Small Group Political Directors Meeting in Brussels in the fall of 2021, circumstances pending.”
U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet
Since 2014, the Coalition has carried out a comprehensive strategy to destroy and degrade ISIS. Milestones include:
Removing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019 and scores of ISIS leaders;
Destroying 100 percent of ISIS’s fraudulent territorial “caliphate;”
Liberating over 42,000 square miles and supporting the safe and voluntary return of nearly 8 million people from ISIS’s brutal rule;
Addressing the root causes of support for ISIS through targeted justice and accountability assistance to local communities and survivors of ISIS atrocities;
Expanding the Coalition’s global reach to 83 members, adding 4 partners since the last Ministerial - Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, and Yemen.
Coalition Members: 83 members, 78 nations, 5 institutions
Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Tunisia
Americas: Canada, Panama, United States
Asia Pacific: Afghanistan, Australia, Fiji, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan
Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom
Middle East: Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Institutions: Arab League, CEN-SAD, EU, INTERPOL, NATO
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