Inaugural Meeting of the Coalition Stabilization Working Group

John Allen
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL 
Berlin, Germany
March 18, 2015

I want to thank both Foreign Minister Steinmeyer and Ambassador von Goetze for their leadership and hospitality in welcoming us to Berlin today. And I want to thank the governments of Germany and the United Arab Emirates for the leadership of this crucial working group.

Germany and the UAE are joined in this commitment by a host of Coalition partners who have dedicated significant resources to Iraq’s success. Indeed, that so many nations have convened in Berlin today should give us confidence as we support Iraq in its challenging effort to stabilize liberated communities.

It is difficult for any of us to conceive of the deprivations that men, women, and children have suffered living under Daesh’s tyranny… The trauma of children whom Daesh has attempted to recruit as fighters; the trauma of men and women who lived for many months in constant fear for their children’s’ lives and of their own execution; the trauma of Iraqis whom Daesh has attempted to turn on one another… Indeed, their trauma is Iraq’s agony.

Two days ago Dr. Hamid, Dr. Turki and I convened a meeting in Baghdad, where I emphasized Iraq’s stabilization efforts will be the most important signal of the intentions of this government towards Iraqis who have been driven from their homes. Stabilization will be an opportunity for the Abadi government to make tangible its goal of rebuilding an Iraq for all Iraqis.

Dr. Hamid and Dr. Turki discussed the progress and status of Iraqi-led stabilization planning. I saw firsthand that Iraq’s government understands the seriousness of these efforts, and the difficulty of the work to come.

In my conversations, it was clear that the Iraqis have started to think through the mechanisms they will need for successful stabilization operations. On the first day of meetings we heard from the Iraqis about the need to plan for IDP returns, support IED clearance, and provide resources and expertise to assist with Stabilization efforts. On the second day a team of experts and Coalition members met with their Iraqi counterparts and discussed Iraqi plans in greater detail.

There is more work to be done in this regard to support Iraqi planning, and begin to identify specific areas where the Coalition can support. We started that process, in Baghdad, and now here in Berlin we must support the Iraqis laying out a plan to support their people. I look forward to our discussion today about the Stabilization Task Force in Baghdad, and how the Coalition can use this mechanism to coordinate efforts with Dr. Hamid and Dr. Turki.

We are in full agreement with our Iraqi partners: for their efforts to succeed and be sustainable, they must be Iraqi-led.

We likewise agree that the sequencing of all these operations is crucial to their success. A successful stabilization effort begins fair treatment during military… or clearing… operations. The Iraqi Security Forces and their partner tribal elements and Popular Mobilization Forces must not commit acts of revenge, recrimination, or abuse against civilians or prisoners. But even as Iraqi military partners are working on these clearing operations, we are encouraging them to work closely with their civilian counterparts on planning and sequencing relief and humanitarian operations.

For as Daesh is defeated in population centers, there will be an immediate need for policing and public security efforts, as well as medical care, water, and electricity. Populations that have fled the fighting will need shelter, assistance, and security until they can return home.

We know from experience that these kinds of essential services are delivered more efficiently and more effectively when they are sequenced and planned early on, with close military and civilian cooperation.

Reconstruction, though vital, must remain a downstream goal as we prioritize immediate rescue and relief efforts. There will of course be urgent reconstruction needs that should be prioritized, like police stations, hospitals, roads, and bridges that have been destroyed.

The UN has offered to host scenario planning with the humanitarian and essential services actors in Iraq to help prioritize and sequence, and identify needs and gaps. We should all welcome this offer… For we have an opportunity as members of this Working Group to determine how and where we can support our Iraqi partners most effectively.

There is no way of getting around it: stabilization operations can be expensive and this will require significant resources. We applaud the inclusion in Iraq’s 2015 budget of $2 billion for recovery funding and support of displaced Iraqis. It will be essential to move resources quickly to the liberated areas most in need.

But it’s worth noting that while $2 billion is in the budget, Iraq’s severe economic difficulties will mean much less is actually available.

As Iraq continues to clarify stabilization and recovery needs, we will work with the Coalition to further develop the concept of a trust fund and find appropriate support. We as a Coalition will work together to assist and support Iraq as we are able, though we do not have the resources to support all Iraq’s needs. Nor can a trust fund, no matter how well-organized, achieve full effectiveness without in-depth and early prioritization, planning, and sequencing for stabilization operations.

That is why in some cases, our support will take the form of providing appropriate technical support and expertise. In others, it will involve actual material assistance.

I know that the Working Group co-leads are eager for partner nations to arrive at a common understanding of what stabilization means for Iraq’s communities. Indeed, it is imperative for us to get the big ideas right early, and arrive at a shared view of what we intend to achieve.

It is my hope that today we can build on this shared understanding to achieve a set of initial standards, benchmarks, and goals, which will serve as a guide for our activities as a Working Group.

There is an immediate need for us to understand how civilian stabilization operations can be synchronized with the military operations they follow.

As I see it, there are four components of the effort that must be synchronized:

First, there is the clearing component, when the Iraqi Army and/or the Popular Mobilization Committee remove Daesh from a town or city.

Second is the security and policing component that deals with crime and provides general security so life can begin to return to normal. This will likely come from a combination of PMC units, local tribes, and police.

Third is the restoration of local governance, which will be difficult because many officials are in exile, were killed, or cooperated with Daesh.

Fourth is the provision of essential services. This includes immediate humanitarian assistance to address life-threatening issues, as well as short-term restoration of services such as health, water, electricity, and rebuilding critical infrastructure.

These four components will be applied differently to the varying circumstances found in each liberated area. It is critical that we account for these differences in the support we provide for Iraq’s stabilization efforts. Now that recovery of Iraqis from under Daesh’s control is beginning in earnest, these efforts must begin with urgency. We are already seeing some early stabilization efforts in Diyala, and hopefully soon in Tikrit.

Today, we need to come together as a Coalition, to listen to the plans of our Iraqi partners, encourage their efforts, and formulate a strategy for how we can support them in the weeks and months to come. Thank you.