Joint Statement by Foreign and Defense Ministers of the Expanded Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL / Daesh

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
July 21, 2016

The Foreign and Defense Ministers of the Counter-ISIL (Da’esh) Coalition Small Group, Military Coalition and members that have made major non-military contributions met today in Washington at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to build momentum and accelerate the multi-front campaign to defeat Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition Small Group also refined its common approach to Da’esh’s affiliates in Libya and other regions of the world, reinforcing the shared determination to disrupt its global terrorist ambitions. This is a key moment in the campaign to put Da’esh on a lasting, irreversible path to defeat. The attacks in Nice, Baghdad, Dhaka Rukban, Istanbul, Qaa and others before them have only cemented our common resolve to destroy Da’esh and the toxic ideology that inspires its followers and sympathizers.

We welcome the steady progress Iraqi forces and moderate opposition forces in Syria have made in denying Da’esh’s access to territory, supply routes and resources. Backed by Coalition air operations, Iraqi forces have steadily advanced up the Euphrates River Valley, liberating Fallujah and Hiit, and capturing Rutbah to secure the economically important highway between Iraq and Jordan. Iraq has launched simultaneous operations up the Tigris River Valley, recapturing strategically important areas near Qaiyara, putting Da’esh on warning that its hold on Mosul will not last. Syrian Arab Coalition forces have made significant advances into and around Manbij and liberated other towns in the area. Clearing the Manbij area of Da’esh remains an essential task for the Coalition, requiring sustained assistance to the Syrian Arab Coalition and moderate Syrian opposition forces, including those in the vicinity of Mara’a. Moderate Syrian opposition forces have advanced south of Shaddadi, driving a deeper wedge between Da’esh strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul. Da’esh is also under pressure west and south of Raqqa, struggling to cope with offensives against it from all sides. The momentum necessitates even more military pressure against this strategic target.

To ensure that military victories lead to Da’esh’s irreversible defeat, we are committed to an integrated, comprehensive approach to the campaign. Training and assistance of Iraqi and Syrian partner forces are essential elements of this approach. We also seek to reduce the impact of military operations on civilians, while preparing for humanitarian challenges and laying the ground work for rapid stabilization of liberated communities. As military operations expand and intensify, we call for redoubling efforts to protect civilians in conflict zones and those who flee conflict zones, securing safe routes, and preventing any abuses during and after hostilities, in full compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights principles. Popular Mobilization Forces and similar groups operating in Iraq should be under the firm control of the Iraqi government. Every effort must be made to prevent arbitrary detention and irregular screening procedures, while holding violators to account. We support Prime Minister Abadi’s decision to establish a committee to investigate reported crimes against civilians fleeing liberated areas and the government’s determination to bring those responsible to justice. In preparation for advances into Mosul, Coalition members stand ready to support an Iraqi-led planning process on military operations, humanitarian assistance, stabilization programs and post-liberation governance that involves key stakeholders from the Iraqi government, local communities and relevant international organizations.

Da’esh continues to be degraded in other significant ways. It has lost leaders at a high rate and lost large numbers of fighters. The flow of new recruits has dropped to its lowest level since the conflict began. Its resource base is shrinking, as it loses territory and as Coalition air strikes reduce its oil production and destroy tens of millions of dollars it has stored in bank vaults and other locations. Under increasing financial pressure, Da’esh has cut its fighters’ pay by half in some areas and turned to increasingly arbitrary “taxation” and extortion, further undermining its credibility and reducing its attractiveness to recruits. Da’esh increasingly resorts to conscription to fill its ranks and is constrained in its ability to mount military operations.

We continue to be deeply concerned about the growing humanitarian needs in areas affected by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. We welcome the generous response of host communities in neighboring countries, along with donors at the February 2016 London Conference and three earlier conferences hosted by Kuwait, all of which have helped address the overwhelming humanitarian needs of Syrians. We will continue to demand full and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to all parts of Syria. The urgent needs of civilians in Iraq, as set out in the United Nations 2016 Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan, also call for principled, life-saving funding and renewed efforts to guarantee protection and humanitarian access. The situation of besieged communities and hard-to-reach areas still demands a concerted international response. We call on all members of the international community to continue addressing Iraq’s humanitarian assistance challenges in 2016, in keeping with the extraordinary contributions made at the 20 July 2016 Pledging Conference. We note with concern that military operations to liberate Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city – and the possible displacement of up to one million people as a result, could increase humanitarian needs even beyond the recently pledged resources.

We acknowledge the need to stabilize quickly the areas devastated by Da’esh. Public safety and immediate stabilization in liberated communities are top priorities for our Coalition. With the recent military advances, the number of people needing help with recovery is growing, particularly in the populated areas of Iraq. Welcoming the vital contributions by many Coalition members at the 20 July Pledging Conference for Iraq, we urge continued support for the UN’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization and its new Funding Facility for Expanded Stabilization, intended to help local partners improve conditions for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of residents and to promote the economic revival of their communities. We will continue our support for the program to train additional Iraqi police, led by the Government of Italy, recognizing the crucial need to provide for a substantial increase in the number of trainees from its current level. We recognize that clearing war debris in liberated areas, training police forces to secure local communities and understanding the varied needs and roles of local women, men, children, youth and aged are prerequisites for the return of displaced populations and sustainable recovery. Legitimate, inclusive local governance is also essential for stability.

We strongly support Prime Minister Abadi and the Government of Iraq as they work to defeat Da’esh and put Iraq on the path to stability and prosperity, including through institutional reforms. We reaffirm our support for Iraq’s government as it works to address governance, improve public services, reduce corruption, decentralize certain federal authorities and ensure the rights of all Iraqis irrespective of their religion, sect and ethnicity. As the campaign against Da’esh progresses, we will continue our support for the Iraqi government’s efforts to accelerate national reconciliation and strengthen the political foundations for the rule of law, security, stability and prosperity of all Iraqis, with full respect for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. To ensure Da’esh’s lasting defeat, we must continue to promote policies of inclusiveness at all levels of the Iraqi government.

We underscore our support for international frameworks – UNSCRs 2178, 2199, 2253 – along with institutions such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum and Financial Action Task Force, to block Da’esh and foreign-terrorist-fighter travel, financing, trafficking and illicit trade. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation, including with INTERPOL, to detect, monitor and interdict foreign terrorist fighters, including those who return from the conflict area, while disrupting facilitation networks. We are likewise determined to disrupt Da’esh’s ability to generate, move and use funds, building on the success of our coordinated efforts to reduce its revenues. We are resolved to keep Da’esh completely cut off from international financial channels and to eliminate any financial links with its affiliates outside Iraq and Syria. We will continue to utilize UNSCRs 1267, 1989 and 2253 as the basis for sanctions against those who support Da’esh. We welcome the innovative communications responses by Coalition partners to challenge Da’esh’s violent ideology and the propaganda that promotes it. We will continue to work proactively together to undermine the Da’esh’s violent world-view and build resilience against its attempts to influence global audiences. In this regard, we encourage members to work with private-sector and community-based entities to counter Da’esh indoctrination and prevent its exploitation of cyber-space to commit acts of terrorism.

Given the complexity of the threat posed by Da’esh, the common desire to seek its lasting defeat, and the growing number of attacks by Da’esh or home-grown terrorists inspired by its ideology, our governments must accelerate efforts to enhance coordination and information sharing with one another and internally. Recognizing the need to work more collaboratively against global terrorist networks, the nations here today have been invited to join a discussion among relevant services to improve information-sharing. Our collective aim is to prevent terrorist attacks, with an immediate focus on the threat that Da’esh poses to our homelands and way of life. In this context, we welcome the addition of INTERPOL to the Coalition. We note the positive steps governments have taken already, resulting in a 400-percent increase in the number of foreign terrorist fighters’ profiles shared through INTERPOL during the past two years. We call on all nations to provide INTERPOL data on foreign terrorist fighters, consistent with national laws.

The Coalition stands with the Syrian people and supports a genuine political transition based on the 2012 Geneva Communique and UNSCR 2254, aimed at establishing an inclusive, pluralistic and non-sectarian government that represents the will of all Syrians. A negotiated political resolution to the conflict is essential to bring about the defeat of Da’esh. Recalling the timeline established by UNSCR 2254 for moving towards a political transition, we urge all parties – especially the Syrian regime – to respect fully the Cessation of Hostilities, reduce violence and focus on ending the conflict. We condemn the indiscriminate violence targeting civilians, whether by the regime, Da’esh, al-Nusra Front or other armed groups. We are united in our demand for an end to the Syrian regime’s indiscriminate bombing and obstruction of access for humanitarian assistance, and we call for its full, immediate and unequivocal compliance with UNSCR 2254 and all other relevant UN Security Council resolutions. These actions are contrary to the international consensus in support of the Cessation and prevent the resumption of the UN-sponsored negotiating process. We call on all the parties to commit constructively to the political dialogue under United Nations auspices as the only means to achieve peace and preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. We are ready to step up preparations for stabilization, rehabilitation and recovery efforts in Syria, as well as the return of Syrian refugees and displaced persons, when the parties reach a political settlement.

In Libya, we stand ready to assist the Government of National Accord at its request and will support its efforts to unite security and military forces under its command in order to defeat Da’esh and establish peace, security and the rule of law for the Libyan people in a united, sovereign Libya. We welcome the success of the GNA in fighting Da’esh and limiting its control of Sirte to a small area. We recognize the necessity of enhanced coordination efforts between legitimate Libyan military and security forces in the fight against Da’esh and other UN-designated terrorist groups throughout Libyan territory, including Benghazi, Dernah and Sabratha, and we welcome the progress achieved in pushing back Da’esh in these areas. We will continue to give our attention to Libya and the threat Da’esh poses to Libya and its neighbors.

Mindful of the many challenges Da’esh poses in diverse regions, we remain committed to sustaining momentum of the Global Coalition and look forward to the next meeting of the Small Group Political Directors, planned for Berlin in November 2016.

(end media note)

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