After the Caliphate: A Global Approach to Defeating ISIS

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Ambassador Sales speaks about U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS at the Brookings Institute.
Ambassador Sales speaks about U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS at the Brookings Institute.

After the Caliphate: A Global Approach to Defeating ISIS

On April 30, Ambassador Nathan A. Sales, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, delivered remarks at the Brookings Institute and yesterday published an op-ed in USA Today, outlining an approach to defeating ISIS globally after the defeat of the so-called caliphate.

The Ambassador emphasized that the liberation of all the territory ISIS held in Iraq and Syria is a great victory enabled by this Administration’s decision over two years ago to take the gloves off. He highlighted that the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and its partners have freed approximately 7.7 million men, women, and children from ISIS’s brutal rule, and more than 4 million displaced people in Iraq have returned home. More than half of these gains have come since January 2017 and reflect the Trump Administration’s strategic decision to accelerate the campaign. 

Ambassador Sales also stressed that work remains in the global fight against terrorism. “ISIS is down, but it’s not out,” he stated. “We need to prevent it from reconstituting itself as a fighting force in Iraq and Syria, and we need to keep it from leveraging its international networks to recover from this crushing defeat.” Ambassador Sales pointed to the horrific Easter attack in Sri Lanka as an example of ISIS evolving to stay alive.

Ambassador Sales outlined the next steps in the fight and what we must do to complete the defeat of ISIS globally. In the next stage of the campaign, the 80-member Defeat-ISIS Coalition will focus on confronting ISIS branches and networks around the world, while consolidating ISIS’s territorial defeat in the core. “To accomplish this,” Ambassador Sales noted, “we must pivot from a strategy that relies largely on military force to one that includes a broader mix of instruments, especially civilian counterterrorism capabilities.” He stated, “We’ve won great victories on the battlefield. Now we need to match them with victories in our courtrooms, at our borders, in our banks, and online.”

We’ll need to prosecute ISIS figures, stop terrorist travel, cut off the flow of money to ISIS’s networks and deny them the resources they need to plot attacks, and combat ISIS’s vile and violent ideology, particularly online. Ambassador Sales underscored that the United States can’t do this alone and will need its Coalition partners to share the burden of this new fight.

Ambassador Sales emphasized, “Each region and every country will require unique approaches to confront unique challenges. But we all, together, need to remain united in our goal – to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.” 

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