According to the State Department’s annual terrorism report for 2015, ISIL remained the greatest terrorism threat globally. Despite the losses it sustained in 2015, ISIL continued to occupy large areas of Iraq and Syria. ISIL’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria reached a high point in spring 2015 and began to diminish thereafter. ISIL did not have a significant battlefield victory in Iraq after May of 2015, and by the end of the year, 40 percent of the territory ISIL once controlled in Iraq had been liberated. This number has continued to increase in 2016.
There were two key trends in counterterrorism last year, said Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell.
First was the increased level of international cooperation and coordination to address terrorist threats. The United States led a global coalition to counter ISIL, the Multinational Joint Task Force established by the Lake Chad Basin countries to confront Boko Haram, and the efforts of the Horn of Africa nations to coordinate efforts against al-Shabaab in Somalia are examples of this ongoing cooperation and evidence both of an increased appreciation for the importance of a coordinated effort and of the political will to bring it about.
We’ve seen countries across the international community mobilize to put in place fundamental reforms to address the supply and transit of foreign terrorist fighters attempting to reach the conflict in Syria and Iraq. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, adopted in September 2014, provided the framework for this effort. In line with that resolution, 45 countries have passed or updated existing laws to more effectively identify and prosecute foreign terrorist fighters.
The second key trend was the increased global realization that to succeed in our efforts to wipe out terrorism, governments, the private sector, civil society and religious leaders must work together to address the causes of radicalization to violence and recruitment into terrorist organizations.
“The international community made important progress in degrading terrorist safe havens – in particular, a sizeable reduction in the amount of territory held by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, in Iraq and Syria, as well as the finances and foreign terrorist fighters available to it,” said Acting Coordinator Siberell.
“We will continue to devote resources toward improving counterterrorism capabilities of key partners – countries,… as well as focusing long-term efforts in addressing the underlying causes that contribute to violent extremism.”