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Understanding the Coalition against ISIS

Updated: May 17, 2018

How many people have been liberated since 2014? What are the main steps to follow in Iraq and Syria? The key questions to understand the fight against ISIS.

Opening remarks at the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS, 2018

What is the task of the international coalition to defeat ISIS?

The Global Coalition against ISIS was created in September 2014 and is unique in its membership, scope, and commitment. It is formed by 75 partners (including NATO, EU and Interpol) which ultimate goal is dismantling its networks, countering its expansion around the globe, disrupting its financing and economic structure, controlling and preventing the number of foreign fighters across the borders, restoring basic public services and combating ISIS’s powerful propaganda, in accordance with and in support of UN Security Council Resolution 2396 (2017). The complexity to combat ISIS lays on this fact: there is no single approach to defeat the terrorist group – each approach has to be tailored to address the specific nature of the threat in each region affected by ISIS.

What is the role of the Coalition in Iraq and Syria?

The Coalition is covering a broad scope of actions: military strikes, joint operations on the ground with the Iraqi government as well as training and equipping Iraqi Security Forces. In Syria the coalition has assisted local partners defeating ISIS on the 95% of the territory controlled. Part of the success in Iraq is thanks to Prime Minister Abadi and the actions of the Kurdish Peshmerga (Kurdish region in northern Iraq).

The Coalition actions have liberated 3.2 million people from ISIS in Syria and 4.5 million in Iraq. ISIS has lost 107.600km2 since September 2014 across Syria and Iraq. The Coalition has trained 12.577 members of the Syrian partner forces and trained 136.000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. ISIS’s oil output has been reduced by more than 10.000 barrels a day.

How does the Coalition work?

The Coalition is basically formed by several working groups:

  • Counter-Finance Working Group (CIFG WG): disrupting ISIS’s revenues and access to international and regional financial systems.

  • Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group (FTF WG): counter-terrorism-related information sharing through bilateral and law enforcement channels (such as Interpol), rehabilitation, law enforcement and legal/criminal justice actions to placate the foreign fighters threat and their families back home.

  • Communications Working Group (C WG): pursuing ISIS’s ideological defeat, degrading propaganda and developing resilience in certain exposed audiences. Share best practices to combat other threats in the future.

  • Stabilization Working Group (S WG): coordinating and supporting international stabilization in Iraq and in certain areas in Syria, aiming at reinforcing non-sectarian governance in support of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2014).

What steps need to be taken in the liberated areas of Iraq?

Stabilize communities liberated from ISIS is the main goal but partnership between the Coalition and the Iraqi Government is essential in conjunction with the United Nations Development Program’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS). There is a huge $300 million shortfall to be covered by FFS (mainly West Mosul, thousands of people displaced) and the long-term reconstruction of Iraq, funded by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Iraqi government. The reconstruction needs a multi-year plan to create a safe environment to encourage private investment. It is necessary keep training Iraqi security forces stressing on intelligence, border protection, counter-terrorism support, logistics, and training.

And in Syria?

Syrian liberated areas need sustained stabilization, mainly life-saving activities: restoration of water, electricity, health and emergency services, eradication of explosives and making those areas safe in order to enable displaced Syrian population to return and take charge of the areas previously occupied and destroyed.

Is the Coalition highly committed to fighting propaganda?

ISIS’s propaganda is one of its biggest success: encouraging individuals to commit terrorist attacks under its name, radicalized online and offline in part due to the very attractive propaganda they offer, especially focused on young people. The Coalition is basing its strategy to combat this narrative on strong messaging and counter-messaging lines of action.

What about the affiliates of ISIS?

The Coalition focuses on ISIS's networks and its affiliates: ISIS won’t be defeated until there is a global network to combat ISIS financing, propaganda and foreign fighter’s network around the world. Cooperation is the key action through data sharing in the countries involved but a higher commitment is required.

The private sector must be involved in the fight against ISIS: removing online propaganda, fighting in the cyberspace. Coalition members, such as the UK, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, have played a remarkable role in this field. UN Resolution 2396 (2017) on Foreign Terrorist Fighters (Returnees and Relocators) requires Member States to develop and implement systems to collect biometric data and to develop watchlists or databases of known and suspected terrorists, including foreign fighters and obliges Member States to require airlines operating in their territories to provide API (Advanced Passenger Information) to the appropriate national authorities and to develop the capability to collect, process, and analyse PNR data (Passenger Name Record).

How is the Coalition after the increasing tensions in the region after the US withdrawal of the Iran nuclear deal on May 8th, 2018?

The tensions in the region are higher now that the US is out of the deal and that strong sanctions will be reimposed. Saudi Arabia, in favor of the US withdrawal, set to pursue nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear program. France, Germany, the UK and all the European Union, among others, regret the US decision. Tensions are increasing and there is no Plan B on the American side.

Coalition in facts

· 9.000 troops from 23 countries are supporting efforts to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

· 4 million people have been liberated from ISIS (2.7 in Iraq and 1.4 in Syria).

· The government of Iraq has isolated 90 banks branches controlled by ISIS, shutting off their access to funds.

· 43.000 names on Interpol database.

· At least 60 countries now provide Interpol with foreign fighter profiles, an increase of 400%.

More information available here.


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