Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at the Meeting of Ministers of the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS
WashingtonGood morning, everyone. What a glorious group to see assembled, and thank you all for traveling here to Washington for this important meeting. Over the course of the last year, five partners have now joined the coalition, which is now 79 nations strong. To our newest members, Kenya and Fiji: Welcome to the fight.
We also recognize today the new Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Ambassador Jim Jeffrey. Jim, welcome. Jim is also serving as our special representative for Syria, and we are lucky to have him on the team.
And finally, I want to also welcome Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan. Pat, good to see you. Welcome.
You all know why we’re here. ISIS remains a menace, one that is our generation’s responsibility to stop. President Trump has called ISIS, quote, “bloodthirsty killers,” end of quote, because it’s true. Public lashings, crucifixions, and slavery. Stoning women and forcing 13-year-old girls to marry. We’ve heard so many stories. We’ve almost become numb to how outrageous these stories are.
The good news for all of us, and thanks to all of you, we’ve made real and significant progress. Our efforts have liberated more than 110,000 square kilometers of territory, freed more than 7 million men and women from tyranny, and allowed more than 4 million displaced people in Iraq to return home. Those are the numbers. That’s the good work which we’ve done.
Behind the numbers, behind the data, are real-life stories like that of a Yezidi girl named Yasmeen. She, along with her parents and eight siblings, fled their village when ISIS came to town. Her father was killed; his body was never found. But now, five years later, Yasmeen is safe; she’s back in school. She can sleep at night. She can dream. People like Yasmeen are why we’re here today. We should never forget that.
We all know – and it’s why we’re here today – we all know that there is more work ahead of us. The recent suicide bombing in Manbij incident shows that ISIS remains a dangerous threat in territory it does not control.
I want to talk about the four main objectives that we all must embrace today, that we outlined in a joint statement that we put out. But I want to walk through them with you.
First, we must recommit ourselves to the goal of permanently defeating ISIS. For our victory to be final and enduring, ISIS must no longer pose a threat to our respective homelands or function as a global network. There must be no more safe havens from which it can operate. And it must be unable to spread its message, and brainwash new generations with their sickening ideology.
To make sure that happens, we must attack ISIS’s residual networks and operations. We’re entering an era of “decentralized jihad,” so we must be nimbler in our approach as well. The nature of the fight is changing. We all need to bolster our ability to share intelligence and information with each other.
In this new era, local law enforcement and information sharing will be crucial, and our fight will not necessarily always be military-led. That’s why President Trump’s announcement that U.S. troops will be withdrawing from Syria is not the end of America’s fight. The fight is one that we will continue to wage alongside of you. The drawdown of troops is essentially a tactical change – it is not a change in the mission. It does not change the structure, design, or authorities on which the campaign has been based.
It simply represents a new stage in an old fight. The drawdown will be well-coordinated, and our policy priorities in Syria have remain unchanged.
In addition to this coalition’s laser-like focus on defeating ISIS, we’re committed to the following series of things. First, a political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The removal of all Iranian-led forces from Syria.
Our mission is unwavering, but we need your help to accomplish it, just as we’ve had over these past months and years. To that end, we ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue. And those requests are likely to come very soon.
Our second objective must be to reaffirm our support for the Government of Iraq in its fight against terrorism.
I would like to personally welcome Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim to our ministerial. Let’s give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
Today, this coalition recommits and renews our commitment to Iraq and to the Iraqi Security Forces, which have made huge progress in their ability to conduct operations against ISIS. That’s really good news.
The bad news in Iraq is that recent headlines show that ISIS retains a real presence there and is trying to mount a clandestine insurgency. Our coalition must continue to support the Government of Iraq in its efforts to secure the liberated areas of that country. Mr. Foreign Minister, we’re with you.
Our third objective is to chart a path forward for 2019 and beyond.
As the organizational structure of ISIS continues to evolve, it’s critical we find new ways – new effective ways – to attack it. That means implementing the action plans developed by our coalition’s four working groups. It means supporting humanitarian assistance, the clearance of land mines, and stabilization efforts inside of Syria. And in order to assist communities to remove rubble and restore essential services in Iraq, we must secure stabilization funding there, which is facing a roughly $350 million shortfall.
We’ve all agreed that this is a critical national security and humanitarian priority, so now is the time for all of us – not just America – to put our money where our mouth is. Everyone should contribute.
Members of this coalition must be willing to take back foreign terrorist fighters, prosecute them, and punish them.
To disrupt the flow of weapons and sensitive materials, we will need to continue building strategic border security, sharing intelligence, and targeting terrorist financial networks wherever we find them. And to counter the spread of a radical Islamist ideology, we need to continue partnering with organizations like the Middle East Broadcasting Center and the Sawab Center.
Our fourth and final objective is to promote justice for victims, and ensure that ISIS is held accountable for the atrocities it has committed. At lunch today we will hear from two people working hard for that goal:
One is Nadia Murad, the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize; and the other is U.N. Special Adviser Karim Khan. They both have important lessons, important stories, important facts for each of us to consider.
So those are our four objectives. Working together, I am very confident that we will accomplish each of them.
Just a few weeks ago in Cairo, I reiterated America’s commitment to stamping out ISIS and other terrorist groups. That’s my message again here today in Washington: America will continue to lead in giving those who would destroy us no quarter.
We ask each of your countries to stand with us. And through our efforts and God’s help, the day will come when the permanent defeat of ISIS is a reality. Thank you. Thank you for being with us here today.
I would now like to invite Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim to give some brief remarks as well. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER AL-HAKIM: I’ll deliver my speech in Arabic, so please be prepared. Thank you very much, Secretary, ladies and gentlemen.
(Via interpreter) Allow me in the beginning to extend my deepest thanks to the United States of America for hosting this event and for its well preparation and organization. I would also like to express the gratitude of my government and people of Iraq to all countries that have supported us and continue to support us in our war against terrorism, whether at the level of training, equipment, or consultation to arm security forces of all formations and types. And these have also made the best sacrifices for the liberation of the Iraqi territory from terrorism.
I am delighted to join this great event. I also extend the thanks of Iraq, as people and government, to our brotherly country Kuwait for its support for the reconstruction, for hosting the conference on the reconstruction of Iraq in February 2018, and also to the countries that have joined this effort. I also welcome Ms. Nadia Murad, the envoy of peace, who has also won the Nobel award for her efforts against – to expose the crimes of Daesh and fight its ideology. I also welcome the presence of Mr. Karim Khan and thank him for his efforts in gathering evidence on the crimes committed by Daesh.
Ladies and gentlemen, Iraq gets its support from the unity of its people and the integrity of its territory. It has managed to restore its peace and security with the help of the coalition after a very difficult period in which many bet that it will not be able to overcome. The – Iraq has conducted the first election for – election process, and – which took place at its due time with a – and it is determined to fight corruption and provide the basic services to citizens in all cities of Iraq, and to maintain the prosperity of the economy, and return the displaced to their areas. I call on all countries of the world to help Iraq fight sleeper cells of Daesh all over the country, and to help Iraq restore its stability and return the liberated area to what they’re used – to how they used to be in order for terrorism not to win.
Ladies and gentlemen, today, thanks to our efforts and sacrifices, together we are in a process of moving from military action to security and intelligence operations in order to maintain a safe environment for the return of the IDPs. Our security forces have conducted preemptive security operations in which they have foiled a host of terrorist attacks. Based on that, the government of my country hopes for the international coalition to continue its support for security forces in the area of qualitative training, equipment, and standing by Iraq in its fair war, in which in continues to enter on behalf of the whole world. The security and peace and stability of Iraq is part of the stability and peace in the world.
Iraq welcomes the efforts of the international coalition in Iraq, which has culminated in the defeat of terrorism, and it reiterates the importance of minding the basic principles on which the international – the global coalition has been built – include most importantly the complete respect of the territorial integrity of Iraq and for all operations to take place with the knowledge of the government of Iraq, and in consultation with the Iraqi Security Forces, and with complete respect for the Iraqi constitution and Iraq’s abidance by the UN charter.
In the same context, we stress the importance of intensifying the coalition’s efforts in order to fight terrorism in Syria and ensuring that it doesn’t return, while taking into consideration also the integrity of the Syrian territory in order to maintain the great victory that we have also achieved against transnational terrorism. We also urge sisterly countries to maintain – to respect their pledges during the reconstruction conference that was held in Kuwait in February 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the most important aspects of returning stability to Iraq is to also get – to get rid of mines, landmines, and remnants for equipment. This will ensure the safe return of the IDPs, and this requires coordinated effort and technical support on the part of those concerned. We praise here the efforts of the United Nations, especially UNMAS and NGOs in this regard.
Since a new era has begun after defeating terrorism, Iraq is determined, with the help of the international community, to achieve justice and accountability for the crimes committed by the terrorist organization ISIS against the Iraqi people, especially against ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. According to the international mechanism that the UN Security Council 2379 established in 2017, stability and the defeat of ISIS in Iraq are very important factors in achieving real justice, in addition to the respect of the sovereignty of Iraq and its judicial systems in all stages of criminal justice.
Ladies and gentleman, in this regard, Iraq is coordinating its efforts with the – with Mr. Karim Khan in order to facilitate his mission according to the authorization given to him while respecting Iraq’s legal and judicial system. We call on coalition countries to provide logistic and technical support in order to support local Iraqi efforts to hold Daesh accountable for its actions, which amount to crimes – war crimes and wars against humanity and genocide.
In conclusion, I reiterate my thanks to the United States and to you, Mr. Secretary, for hosting this conference, and to the countries of the coalition for the support they have extended to us. We value the work of all the committees emanating from this event, and thank you very much.