In late March 2019, the ISIS terrorist group was defeated in Baghuz, its final stronghold in Syria, by a host of local forces supported by the 83-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The liberation of town Baghuz meant that the group’s self-proclaimed physical caliphate was no more. It was a significant milestone and inflection point, but it clearly did not signal the fall of ISIS itself, said John Godfrey, Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Acting Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
In late 2019, ISIS underwent an internal re-organization “that was designed to delegate decisions and resources to its branches and affiliates around the world,” said Acting Special Envoy Godfrey. “Nowhere has this trend been as alarming as in Africa.”
The terrorist threat, both from ISIS-affiliated and al-Qaida-affiliated groups has not only continued to grow over the past few years, but the pace of that growth has increased. It is one reason why the United States cooperates with partners across Africa on a wide range of counterterrorism activities.
“Our approach not only seeks to address the security side but also … the socioeconomic drivers of the threat, countering ISIS messaging, and providing greater economic opportunity and resilience of the community so that the attraction to violent extremism is lessened,” said Michael Gonzales, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.
Over the last four years, U.S. efforts have been focused on the Sahel, said Acting Coordinator Godfrey. In the east, in Somalia, we have made some progress in blunting the ability of al-Shabaab to plan and execute attacks inside Kenya. In Western Sahel, the United States has partnered with France and other allies to address the drivers of instability there.
Most recently, the United States has taken steps against two ISIS affiliates in sub-Saharan Africa. ISIS-DRC, which operates mostly in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and ISIS-Mozambique, which is mainly active in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado Province, have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The two terrorist organizations and their leaders have also been designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. “Designations are one of the most important tools we have to disrupt the financial and other support networks that terrorist groups need to export violence and carry out attacks,” said Acting Coordinator Godfrey.
“If we are committed to the enduring global defeat of ISIS-– and we are,” he said, “then we have to confront it in Africa.”