Speaking in Riyadh at a ministerial meeting for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the group, now expanded to 86 members, has had marked success since 2014.
“Together we have achieved the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We’ve taken out or captured its leadership. We’ve prevented large-scale attacks. And we’ve invested billions [of dollars] in stabilizing liberated areas and rebuilding the region,” he said.
But the fight is not yet finished. Urgent areas must be addressed to ensure the terror group’s enduring defeat, he said. Among them is stabilization assistance in Iraq and Syria.
“Poor security and humanitarian conditions, lack of economic opportunity – these are the fuel for the kind of desperation on which ISIS feeds and recruits,” said Secretary Blinken.
Secretary Blinken announced the Coalition is holding a Stabilization Pledge Drive of a little more than $601 million, and that the United States is committing $148.7 million to the fund.
Another urgent issue is the need for repatriation of foreign ISIS members and their families from displaced persons camps, like al-Hol in Syria.
“Failure to repatriate foreign terrorist fighters risks the possibility that they could again take up arms and attempt to restore ISIS’s so-called ‘caliphate,’ terrorize communities that we’re working to stabilize and rebuild, and potentially threaten our homelands,” he said.
Secretary Blinken noted that al-Hol now hosts 50,000 displaced persons, most of whom are women and children, half of whom are 12 years old or younger.
“Leaving these children in camps condemns them to lives marked by danger, the denial of basic health care, the denial of education - the denial of hope,” he said.
Another area of focus is the evolving terrorist threat, particularly throughout the Sahel and West Africa. The United States has pledged $130 million to enhance counterterrorism capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, including more than $22 million for partnerships with Coastal West Africa.
Secretary Blinken also called for vigilance regarding the threat that ISIS-Khorasan poses in the region surrounding Afghanistan. The United States is bolstering the Coalition’s collective efforts with more than $30 million in new counterterrorism programs for Central Asia.
“Recent years have demonstrated the progress that we can achieve with steadfast determination,” declared Secretary Blinken. He expressed confidence that the Coalition’s collective commitment to defeat ISIS will “finally eliminate the scourge of terrorism around the world.”