The Political Directors of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group, met today in Paris at the invitation of French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian to reaffirm our determination to continue the fight against Daesh/ISIS in the post-liberation era and to create conditions for an enduring victory against the terrorist group through a durable, multifaceted effort. Building both on the Coalition’s Guiding Principles adopted in Kuwait City in February 2018, and on the statement released by the Ministers of the Coalition in February 2019, we offer these guidelines as our vision for future Coalition engagement following Daesh/ISIS’s territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq.
The final liberation of all territories once held by Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria was announced on March 23, 2019. This important milestone in the fight against terrorism was the result of more than four years of military and civilian actions to liberate Iraq and northeast Syria from Daesh/ISIS’s grip. At its peak, Daesh/ISIS controlled nearly 110,000 square kilometers of territory, including major cities in both Iraq and Syria and attracted more than 40,000 foreign terrorist fighters. Today, Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and more than 7.7 million people have been freed from its control. Equally important, the Coalition has encouraged partners to raise approximately $20 billion in humanitarian and stabilization assistance in support of the Iraqi and Syrian people and trained and equipped more than 210,000 security and police personnel to ease suffering and stabilize local communities. This success has come at tremendous sacrifice: tens of thousands of local partners in Syria and Iraq have died while fighting Daesh/ISIS, and at least 46 Coalition service members gave their lives in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
We congratulate the Iraqi forces, our local partners on the ground, and our armed forces for their bravery in helping the Coalition to reach such an important milestone which is essential to the international security as well as the stability of Iraq and Syria.
Nevertheless, Daesh/ISIS’s territorial defeat does not represent the terrorists group’s eradication or the end of the terrorist threat it poses. While it continues to inspire terrorist attacks through active propaganda efforts, Daesh/ISIS has also proved its resilience and adaptability, continuing to conduct lethal attacks. It has used its active cells in the region to attack our partners and the civilian populations both in Iraq and in Syria where we have recently seen an increase of Daesh/ISIS attacks in the Levant. This is a major concern for the entire Coalition, as it puts at risk key military gains and the stability necessary for recovery. The territorial defeat is achieved, but the job to ensure a lasting defeat of Daesh/ISIS is still to be done.
In such a key moment, with our hard fought military gains at stake, the Paris meeting has underlined the need for further Coalition engagement. The Coalition must remain united and determined in its mission to degrade and defeat Daesh/ISIS through a comprehensive approach that includes military, humanitarian, stabilization, communications and political commitment in the period to come.
We must maintain the appropriate level of military engagement in the Core to support the Iraqi government and our local partners in Syria in their ongoing efforts against Daesh/ISIS’ clandestine cells. Taking into account the uncertain security situation on the ground, it is particularly important that Coalition military forces remain in the Levant to provide the necessary support to our partners on the ground. These forces will continue to build the capacity and capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces, in close coordination with other involved international actors such as NATO and the European Union.
We must also maintain close coordination to prevent Foreign Terrorist Fighters, including those detained, hiding underground, or sheltering beyond Coalition control, from returning to the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, or relocating elsewhere and plotting attacks overseas. Sharing information among all partners about Daesh/ISIS FTFs and their movement is key to effectively counter the FTF’s phenomenon, including through INTERPOL, as agreed during the sixth review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Moreover, we must adhere to all UNSC resolutions prohibiting the provision of any form of support, directly or indirectly, to facilitate the movement of Daesh/ISIS FTFs.
We must continue to increase our humanitarian and stabilization financial contributions dedicated to the liberated areas. The Paris meeting has provided an opportunity for numerous partners to pledge for additional contributions to address the identified financial gaps. This renewed commitment underscores the Coalition determination to address the challenges ahead as well as to tackle the root causes of the crisis. Regarding Iraq, the Paris meeting has given an opportunity to discuss how to work with the Government of Iraq in adequately addressing the humanitarian and stabilization needs. We continue to support the Government of Iraq, in close coordination with the United Nations and other international organizations and partners, in order to help local populations to recover, to prevent a Daesh/ISIS resurgence, and pave the way for an inclusive Government of Iraq-led reconstruction process, in the wake of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq. In northeast Syria, we continue to focus on providing humanitarian and stabilization assistance to improve the lives of vulnerable populations, setting the path for sustainable recovery from Daesh/ISIS occupation. Our work should include gender analysis to make sure we target our efforts to the needs of the whole population.
We remain fully engaged in support of political efforts necessary to foster regional stability. In Iraq, the Coalition commends the success of last year’s democratic elections and the ongoing efforts of the Government of Iraq to put the country on a positive reconstruction track. In particular, the Coalition should continue to support inclusive governance and initiatives promoting community-based reconciliation, as well as livelihood perspectives to ensure that Daesh/ISIS can never return. In Syria, the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a genuine political transition based on UN Security Council 2254, aimed at establishing an inclusive, non-sectarian government that represents the will of all Syrians, and upholding the unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Syria. In northeast Syria, the Coalition must support all initiatives aiming at promoting inclusive and representative governance. It is also important in this context to underline the inclusion of women in political decision making and reconciliation processes in both Iraq and Syria.
Beyond the tremendous effort still ahead in the Levant, Daesh/ISIS and its affiliates have proved their ability to strike Coalition members and allies around the world. The recent Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka and subsequent statements by Daesh/ISIS leader al-Baghdadi reflect a renewed Daesh/ISIS focus on branch and network activity as a result of the loss of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. By inviting Sri Lanka, Mali, and Burkina Faso to participate as observers in a Coalition meeting, the Paris event has demonstrated the willingness of the Coalition to share its expertise worldwide. To prevent the further spread of Daesh/ISIS’s influence and power, it is critical that the Global Coalition identify where and how it can bring added value in the fight against Daesh/ISIS global branches and networks, without replicating the military-led action implemented in the Levant since 2014. This will require civilian tools: information sharing, border, maritime and aviation security, countering terrorist financing, countering radicalization and recruitment, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning terrorists. To that end, the Coalition could identify projects to help building core capacities in countries threatened by Daesh/ISIS, including through contributions by Coalition members with particular expertise relevant to specific countries and regions. The Coalition must promote the broadest dialogue, political cohesion and unity with all members and other involved organizations in the fight against terrorism beyond the Core to identify and support agreed concrete initiatives in the months to come, this in complementary and in support of existing efforts in each region, and in full consultation with those actors in those regions.
This comprehensive effort is necessary to achieve a full and enduring defeat of Daesh/ISIS. The D-ISIS Coalition is the most inclusive and the most efficient format to sustain such an endeavor. The 80 members, the four working groups, the political-military consultations, and Coalition implementing efforts have put together a unique mix of military and civilian expertise regarding counter-terrorism issues. This is to be preserved and harnessed in the months to come, both in the Core and in the efforts to limit the threat of ISIS Global branches and networks.