Over the course of 2017, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS made great strides in Iraq and Syria, with the liberation of Mosul, Tal Afar, Hawija, and Raqqa. These successes were made possible by the courage and sacrifices of the Iraqi and Syrian people, and also by the military, political, and financial support provided by the 74 members of the U.S.-led Global Coalition. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM) has contributed to the Department’s overall diplomatic effort in two key ways. In FY 2017, we provided over $800 million in both short- and long-term security assistance to Global Coalition partners. We also allocated over $104 million in regular and supplemental funding to help stabilize recently liberated areas of Iraq and Syria by removing the historic levels of explosive remnants of war (ERW) that were deliberately left behind by ISIS to hinder recovery efforts. This provision of security assistance, and clearance of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance (UXO), has helped to improve the conditions necessary to re-establish essential services, restore the local economy, and facilitate the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Efforts to Remove Explosive Remnants of War from the Areas Recently Liberated from ISIS
Clearing the unprecedented amount of explosive hazards deliberately left behind by ISIS is a monumental task, but one critical to the recovery of liberated areas of Iraq and Syria. Refugees and IDPs cannot safely return to communities contaminated with ERW and IEDs until these deadly hazards are addressed. Since FY2014, the State Department has obligated over $167 million for conventional weapons destruction programs in Iraq and Syria.
Since April 2016, PM Bureau-funded programs in Iraq have cleared over 7.9 million square meters of previously explosive-contaminated land in liberated areas and removed over 45 tons of explosives, including 15,339 IEDs and pieces of UXO. In Ramadi, Mosul, and other smaller towns in northern Iraq, these operations have resulted in improved access to water, electricity, schools, and industrial production facilities. In conjunction with Government of Iraq-led, Coalition-funded, UNDP-implemented recovery programs, these clearance operations ensure that IDPs can safely and voluntarily return to more stable communities with critical infrastructure, essential services, and jobs.
The Global Coalition's efforts to defeat ISIS, alongside other Government of Iraq-led, Coalition-funded, UNDP-implemented stabilization efforts have set conditions to enable over 3.2 million Iraqis to return to their homes. This includes over 564,000 people who have returned to Mosul, including over 97 percent of the East Mosul IDPs. These numbers are even higher in Tikrit, Ramadi, and Fallujah.
In Syria, the U.S.-led Global Coalition is working in Raqqa and Tabqa to clear ERW and IEDs from key critical infrastructure, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, support efforts to establish basic security, and provide early recovery assistance. This effort is being headed up by a multi-agency team led by the State Department, comprised of civilian humanitarian and stabilization experts, which is now working with the Raqqa and Tabqa civilian councils to identify, prioritize, and implement recovery programs.
Coalition-funded teams have conducted risk education to warn area residents and displaced families about potential hazards, surveyed and cleared over 1.4 million square meters in Manbij, Tabqa, and Raqqa from explosive hazards, and trained over 120 Syrians to help build a local mine action capacity. In consultation with the local civilian councils in these cities, we are now clearing sites such as hospitals, power stations, water treatment facilities, and schools as well as prioritizing them for further follow on stabilization efforts.
Security Assistance to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS
The PM Bureau’s Office of Security Assistance oversees almost $6 billion in global annual security assistance funding under State’s Title 22 authorities, including Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) and coordinates joint planning and development and provides concurrence on the almost $10 billion dollars in security assistance funding globally under the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Title 10 authorities. This assistance serves to both build partner capacity over the long term and to provide capabilities that are urgently needed on the battlefield.
In FY 2017, Iraq received $250 million in FMF funds. This was applied to the subsidy cost for a $1.105 billion FMF loan, and is being used to fund a wide range of Iraqi Foreign Military Sales cases, including F-16 sustainment, munitions, and contractor logistical support. This is all critical to ensuring a strong, viable Iraqi military.
Jordan received $470 million in FMF funds to secure its borders, defend its national territory, counter internal threats, participate in Coalition operations, and increase operational training. This includes support for fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, F-16 munitions, vehicles, and night vision devices, as well as significant associated training.
Lastly, Lebanon received $121 million in FMF in 2017, which enhanced Lebanon’s ability to control its borders, counter violent extremist organizations, improve the professionalism of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and obtain needed small arms, munitions, aircraft spare parts, night vision devices, and other essential equipment that has been used in operations against ISIS. The LAF received the first two of six A-29 fixed-wing Close Air Support aircraft on October 31, 2017 that will build the LAF’s precision strike capability.
Collectively, this security assistance is intended to improve border security, diminish the flow of foreign fighters and the trafficking of illicit arms. This assistance also provides critical ground and air combat capabilities.
What’s Ahead for U.S. -- and PM Bureau -- Efforts to Defeat ISIS
As the Coalition approaches military victory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is shifting to unconventional warfare tactics there in an attempt to undermine progress stabilizing liberated communities. ISIS also seems to be enhancing its support to its regional branches and affiliates around the globe, threatening U.S. interests and partners elsewhere. Notable examples include ISIS branches and operations in the Philippines, Libya, Egypt, the Niger-Mali border, and the Lake Chad Region.
The PM Bureau will continue to support U.S. and Coalition efforts by advancing ongoing ERW clearance efforts in liberated areas of Iraq and Syria and augmenting Coalition efforts to build the capacity of security forces in Iraq, as well as other key partners in the region.
The lasting defeat of ISIS requires regional security forces to become more capable, competent, and fiscally sustainable. PM will lead in the application of U.S. security assistance to build long-term professionalization and resilience through the management of security assistance authorities in cooperation with the DoD. From Iraq and Afghanistan to the Philippines and Egypt, the Department of State and DoD, consistent with the Secretaries’ direction, are working together to optimize security assistance to defeat ISIS and address other foreign policy and national security interests and concerns.
About the Author: Andrew Strike serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.