On July 21, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter convened a meeting with the foreign and defense ministers of the counter-ISIL coalition at the U.S. Department of State. The meeting focused on building momentum and accelerating the multi-faceted campaign to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
At the start of the ministerial, Secretary Kerry underscored the magnitude of this challenge. “We are engaged in an historic effort. Nothing like this coalition has ever before been assembled. And we’re not following a manual on antiterrorist coalition-building, we’re writing it,” he said. “We’re daily working together, sharing ideas, and in fact, learning more each day about a very different kind of challenge. The challenge of the last century defined mostly by state-on-state competition for territory or power. This is non-state actors who are challenging the very foundation of that structure.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (left) and U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk (right), speaks at the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Joint Ministerial Plenary at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C., on July 21, 2016. [State Department Photo]
The Secretary outlined progress that has been made since the coalition was established less than two years ago. “Our coalition and our partners on the ground have driven Daesh out of nearly half the territory it once occupied in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria. Our airstrikes have degraded Daesh’s leadership, put pressure on its supply lines, disrupted its ability to carry out offensive military operations… and we have squeezed Daesh’s revenue streams by hammering its oil facilities, tanker trucks, and cash storage sites.” In the face of such setbacks, he noted, the number of Daesh fighters decreased by at least one third, recruiting efforts have slowed, and defections have increased.
“Today, we can look forward without exaggeration to a time when Daesh is driven completely out of Iraq and Syria,” he said. To reach that goal, Secretary Kerry underscored the increasing need for coalition members to quickly adapt to Daesh’s tactics as they evolve and the terrorist group looks to expand their global network.
One way to adapt to this evolving challenge, he noted, is through continued information sharing. “Information-sharing has always been a big part of what the coalition does and it has played a key role in our effort to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from traveling to Syria and Iraq. But it is also clear now that we have to do more,” he said.
Looking to the future, Secretary Kerry stated, “we have to keep breaking down the structural and the bureaucratic barriers in order to be able to exchange up-to-date information even more quickly and more widely – so that a border guard in Southern Europe has the same data about a terrorist suspect as an airport security officer in Manila, or an FBI agent in Boston, or a domestic law enforcement adviser on the Arabian Peninsula. Our shared purpose has to be to connect the dots as rapidly as possible so that we are able to identify potential terrorists and intervene before they strike.”
Secretary Kerry also reiterated that it is deeply in everyone’s security interests to wage a holistic campaign against the root causes of violent extremism. “We have to do more -- all of us -- to come together on a global basis to help change the future for some of those people and to deprive the violent extremists from the recruiting fields that they infest today. We have to do more to assist countries that need help in providing opportunity for their citizens.”
A photo of the place setting prior to the arrival of the foreign ministers for a working lunch at the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 21, 2016. [State Department Photo]
Following the Ministerial, Secretary Kerry concluded, “The counter-Daesh coalition is going to go forward from Washington today united, more determined, with a clear sense of its mission and its strategy. And we’re going to press on vigorously with our partners in this endeavor, our partners in Iraq and Syria and in other countries.”
He continued, “We’re going to be working with friends across the globe with increasing strategies and increasing commitment and increasing savvy to root out the terrorist networks and to find new and innovative ways ourselves to enhance our communications, to disrupt the enemy, and to safeguard the lives of our citizens. He shared his optimism, adding that our efforts forward will be productive and seen in tangible results on the ground.
For more information:
- Read Secretary Kerry’s remarks at the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Meeting.
- Read Secretary Kerry’s remarks at a press availability after the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Meeting.
- Check out the joint statement by Foreign and Defense Ministers of the Expanded Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL / Daesh.