Building International Support to Counter ISIL
The ISIL Threat: a Global Challenge
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has dramatically undermined stability in Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East, and poses a threat to international peace and security. ISIL continues to commit gross, systematic abuses of human rights and violations of international law, including indiscriminate killing and deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions and extrajudicial killings, persecution of individuals and entire communities on the basis of their identity, kidnapping of civilians, forced displacement of Shia communities and minority groups, killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence, along with numerous other atrocities. ISIL presents a global terrorist threat: it has recruited thousands of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria from across the globe and leveraged technology to spread its violent extremist ideology and for incitement to commit terrorist acts. As noted in UN Security Council Resolution 2170, terrorism can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all states.
Following ISIL’s initial advances in January, the United States ramped up its military assistance to Iraq and fast tracked the delivery of Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi Security Forces. Since the ISIL offensive in Mosul in early June, the United States rapidly expanded its already robust military and counterterrorism partnership with Iraq. These efforts included a surge in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; establishment of joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil; and a field assessment of Iraqi and Kurdish forces. These steps established a baseline to ensure that any additional U.S. measures would be taken with precision and effectiveness.
In parallel, the United States, consistent with our commitments under the Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, encouraged Iraqi leaders to unite against ISIL and form a government on the timeline set forth in the Iraqi constitution. On September 8, this process culminated with the approval of Haider al-Abadi as the new Prime Minister of Iraq, together with an inclusive cabinet that committed to implement a national program aimed at addressing longstanding political grievances that have divided Iraqi communities. This peaceful and democratic transition of power to a more broadly supported government was another essential building block for effectively taking the fight to ISIL, pursuant to the President’s comprehensive and long-term approach.
As this political process advanced, the President authorized limited missions against ISIL along two lines of effort: to protect U.S. personnel and to prevent humanitarian catastrophes. These missions protected American personnel and facilities, eliminated ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces, fighting alongside one another in unprecedented fashion, to reclaim key territory. They also helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
On September 10, 2014, the President announced the United States would assemble an international coalition to degrade and destroy ISIL. The President authorized U.S. airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Iraq and Syria to deny ISIL safe haven and clear the way for Iraqi forces to go on the offense. In coordination with our international partners, we will also redouble efforts to cut off ISIL’s funding; enhance intelligence collection; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into its ranks. Additionally, the President committed to working with our international partners to continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. The United States will also continue to work to help prevent mass atrocities, particularly against vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities.
Airstrikes by the U.S. and international partners over time also will help Syria’s opposition go on the offensive against ISIL inside of Syria. As part of our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL, Congress this week authorized a program that will allow the U.S. Department of Defense to train and equip vetted elements of Syria’s opposition. This program will be hosted outside of Syria, in partnership with regional countries. This will help the Syrian opposition defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces in Syria, while creating the conditions for the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.
We have not acted alone. Over 50 countries and organizations have already contributed in various capacities to the effort to combat ISIL in Iraq, the region and beyond. In August, United States, United Kingdom and Italian aircraft airdropped life-saving aid to civilians trapped by ISIL on Sinjar Mountain. Later, the mission to break ISIL’s siege of the Iraqi town of Amerli and deliver emergency humanitarian assistance to its residents was conducted with military forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and France. Contributions of humanitarian assistance to Iraqis displaced by ISIL’s violence have been equally important, including a critical contribution of $500 million by Saudi Arabia.
More than a Military Effort
More than a dozen countries have contributed to the military effort, either by providing arms, equipment, training, or advising. Countries in Europe and in the Middle East region have offered to contribute to the air campaign against ISIL targets. International contributions, however, are not – and should not be – solely or even primarily military contributions. To the contrary, the effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL will require reinforcing efforts across multiple lines. On September 5, at the NATO Summit, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel set forth five mutually reinforcing lines of effort at a meeting with counterparts from the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland, and Denmark.
These lines of effort included:
- Military support to our Iraqi partners;
- Stopping the flow of foreign fighters;
- Countering ISIL's financing and funding;
- Addressing humanitarian crises; and
- De-legitimizing ISIL's ideology.
All the countries agreed to return to their capitals and develop specific proposals in one or more of the strategic areas.
The NATO Summit was followed by a historic meeting in Jeddah, convening the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Lebanon. The warm welcome Iraq received marked a positive development and a sign of the broader cooperation that will be needed to combat ISIL. In the Jeddah Communique issued after the meeting, participants “agreed to do their share in the comprehensive fight against ISIL, including: stopping the flow of foreign fighters through neighboring countries, countering financing of ISIL and other violent extremists, repudiating their hateful ideology, ending impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice, contributing to humanitarian relief efforts, assisting with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of communities brutalized by ISIL, supporting states that face the most acute ISIL threat, and, as appropriate, joining in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign against ISIL.”
Additional countries joined the discussion at a conference in Paris on September 15, bringing together 26 countries, the Arab League, United Nations, and European Union in a common cause to support the new Iraqi government and confront ISIL. More than 40 countries have joined to participate in today’s UNSC Ministerial Debate, which will discuss the important work that has been done to date. This session, chaired by Secretary Kerry, will demonstrate unified international support for the new Iraqi government, including for its fight against ISIL, its commitments to govern in the interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and its efforts to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
A Global Effort to Support Iraq and to Defeat ISIL
The breadth and diversity of countries and organizations making contributions across one or more of the lines of effort demonstrate the global and unified nature of this fight. Below are some of the partners that have made contributions and commitments to date. This is an ongoing effort, and we expect the number of countries to grow.
Just the Beginning
This is only the beginning. ISIL poses a global challenge and the international community must form a united front to counter this threat. On September 12, the President appointed retired General John Allen as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. General Allen will work closely with our partners to coordinate international efforts over the coming days and weeks, traveling to capitals to discuss specific contributions along our multiple lines of effort. We hope to engage in wide ranging discussions with countries that are not traditional U.S. partners about the shared threat from ISIL, while emphasizing that any activities from contributing countries – including all of those countries and organizations listed in this statement – should be consistent with international law and with full resect for Iraqi sovereignty.