Over the past 12 months, ISIS has lost the vast majority of its territory in Iraq and most of the towns it once held in Syria. However, the areas once occupied by ISIS must now be stabilized so the people who have been displaced by the war can safely return.
As ISIS militants fled, they left behind explosive devices to hinder recovery efforts and kill returning civilians to dissuade others from returning home. The U.S. government and its partners on the ground continue to work at great personal risk to meet the immediate needs of Syrians and Iraqis.
They are working to clear areas of these mines and other explosive hazards, as well as educating and warning families about the risks.
In Syria for example, Coalition-supported Explosive Remnants of War efforts have led to the survey and clearance of over 90 priority sites, to include schools (over 20 in Raqqa City), health facilities (including the Tabqa and Raqqa Hospitals), bridges, and water plants, and allow for follow-on stabilization work to begin. Mine risk education is also underway across Raqqa governorate reaching over 30,000 beneficiaries, mostly children and young adults. Clearing the unprecedented amount of explosive hazards emplaced by ISIS is a monumental task, but one critical to the recovery of liberated areas. Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons cannot safely return to communities contaminated with explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices until these deadly hazards are addressed.
So far the U.S. Department of State has allocated over 104 million dollars to this effort, and U.S.-funded partners have cleared about 45 tons of explosive hazards in Iraq and over 1.4 million square meters in Syria. It has provided some 841 million dollars of Foreign Military Financing funding to Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon for military equipment that will help these countries better control their borders, defend their national territories, counter violent extremist organizations andincrease operational training.
Ensuring that ISIS is defeated remains an urgent priority and the United States’ number one priority in the Middle East. The United States will continue to stand with the Iraqi people, the people of Syria, and our partners around the world in our shared fight against ISIS until it is defeated. There is still much work to do.