I would like to extend my gratitude to Morocco and Foreign Minister Bourita for hosting us here today. Morocco has played a critical role at the forefront of our global counterterrorism efforts. It is co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, has provided F-16s in support of Coalition activities over Iraq in the earliest and most difficult days of our campaign, established a field hospital in Jordan that has provided care for thousands of Syrian refugees, and as the Foreign Minister just mentioned, with the guidance of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, has led efforts together with Saudi Arabia and so many others in this room to counter the hateful ideology of ISIS/Daesh and other similar groups.
We are thankful for your leadership, and I know you all have a busy week here in Morocco with the GCTF, this meeting today, and the visit of our Deputy Secretary John Sullivan coming into town over the coming days.
So I think it is a signal that the United States is not only fully engaged here in Morocco, but also across the African Continent. In that regard, I want to thank the members of our Coalition for being here once again, and also extend a welcome and thanks to the observer nations and international organizations joining us here today. This is truly an extraordinary gathering with so many delegation including our entire Coalition Small Group, and 24 members from the African continent. So we are very pleased to see all of you here today and we look forward to the discussion.
This meeting here in Morocco is the first high level gathering of the Coalition since we met in February in Kuwait, where our foreign ministers affirmed the Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles made clear that our Coalition � now nearly four years old � will continue to grow and endure. We are committed not to quick wins, but to the enduring defeat of ISIS. An enduring defeat means more than simply the collapse of the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. It means a holistic defeat in the ideological and media space, combatting foreign fighters as they move around the globe, uprooting financial networks, and supporting local forces, military and police, to defend their homelands.
ISIS has not limited itself to Iraq and Syria and, therefore, neither have we. This meeting itself is an indication of our ongoing commitment to finish the job in Iraq and Syria and ensure that ISIS cannot regenerate elsewhere, particularly here on the African continent.
Let me first address the situation in Iraq and Syria, what we know collectively as the core. In Syria, the military campaign is on track. On May 1 Syrian Democratic Forces resumed offensive operations against what is now the last 2 percent of ISIS held territory.
If you look at that map which has just been projected, everything that is in green on that map, all the green used to be controlled by Daesh. Nearly 7.7 million people were living under Daesh, they were generating about $1 billion every year, and their expansion looked to be unchecked. Since then, everything in green has been retaken from Daesh, thanks to the support of this Coalition and our partners on the ground. The light green was what was retaken up until early 2017, and the dark green what has been taken since 2017, over the last year and a half. What is in red, the two areas in eastern Syria, that is all that remains, and that is what we are focused now with the military campaign.
So we commend the cooperation here in those operations on the border between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces. They are ensuring that ISIS remnants have no escape as we accelerate operations into these remaining strongholds. And while it looks small on the map, these are very difficult areas and we anticipate that operations have about 4-5 months to conclude.
Military gains are only enduring, as we know, with stabilization work behind the lines. As a Coalition we are proud of the fact that ISIS has not reclaimed any areas that it has lost to Coalition supported partners. This is due to our stabilization work, where even in the most difficult environments, such as Raqqa, Coalition supported partners are clearing mines, removing rubble, restoring electricity, delivering water, and creating the conditions to return home. In Raqqa for example, over 130,000 residents have returned home since the ISIS terrorists were defeated there. This is a direct result of our life-saving work.
These stabilization programs however are now in a bit of jeopardy. As a Coalition we look to raise about $300 million as soon as possible to ensure stabilization projects can continue across the nearly one-third of Syria that we have helped liberate from ISIS. Since April, we have been pleased that Coalition partners have contributed nearly $90 million, a sum that we are announcing today and I know that this is only a start. We are hopeful that your governments will find a way to contribute to these programs and we can provide you, of course, with detailed information as to the projects that are shovel-ready and ready to be funded.
We have three mechanisms for Coalition partners to contribute, either bilaterally with the U.S. government to support our teams on the ground, through UN resiliency programs, or through the well-established Syria Recovery Trust Fund. And our team again can provide whatever information you need and we have set a target to fill this gap before the NATO Summit, where we can announce today Secretary Pompeo will convene Coalition foreign ministers to discuss the counter ISIS campaign. So, I call on all of us to rise to this challenge and I look forward to the discussion today.
Before leaving Syria, I also just want to commend the work that we have done with our NATO Ally and Coalition partner Turkey to deescalate some tensions, particularly around the flashpoint town of Manbij. We concluded a Roadmap with Turkey and our discussion with them have been fruitful and productive and we look forward to those to continue. We are grateful for that cooperation.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces with our support continue to conduct near daily area-wide security operations and counterterrorism operations. While the conventional fight is over, the ISIS threat remains and our Iraqi partners remain vigilant with our continued support. As a Coalition, we will continue to operate in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq, and with full respect for Iraq sovereignty. We commend Iraq on its holding national elections on May 12 and look forward to working with the current government and then the new government as it forms over the coming months. Again, with our activities grounded in the bedrock principle of Iraqi national sovereignty and consent.
In parallel, as in Syria we must continue to support stabilization initiatives in Iraq. To date, 25 Coalition partners have contributed more than $800 million to the innovative UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization, what we know as a Coalition as FFS. These are the immediate programs that help people recover and return to their homes. And thanks to this revolutionary program, nearly 4 million Iraqi displaced persons have returned to their homes in areas that were once held by ISIS. This is an unprecedented rate of return in a post-conflict environment. Our work is not finished however, over 2 million Iraqis remain displaced, and our stabilization programs need an additional $575 million over the coming months, including for the vital work in western Mosul. We look to close this gap over the coming months and together I know we will do so.
The United States is also focused on the plight of vulnerable minorities, including Christians and Yezidis who were the victims of an ISIS genocide. As a Coalition we are committed to ensuring that the stabilization projects in Iraq are inclusive of all communities in need, including the minorities ISIS targeted for mass murder and ethnic cleansing. The protection of Iraq’s diversity and its threatened religious minorities is a top priority of President Trump and our administration and the USAID Administrator Mark Green looks to visit Iraq shortly at the direction of the Vice President to conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify and address any impediments in the delivery of aid in those areas. I know that is an objective that we all share.
Turning to Africa, in Africa as a Coalition we are not engages militarily but we are working with partners to support their efforts to deny space to ISIS and other extremist groups. We will continue to work as a Coalition to close facilitation networks and transit routes running through Libya, Sudan, and the Maghreb. Today’s meeting in particular will focus on ISIS in the Maghreb, ISIS in West Africa, ISIS in the Sahel, ISIS in the Horn of Africa. These ISIS affiliates sprung from groups previously affiliated with Al-Qaeda, and other similar extremist organizations. Under the banner of ISIS, they have hoped to gain greater resources from support networks in Syria. It is our job to ensure that they cannot succeed.
On its own, ISIS West Africa is one of the largest ISIS affiliates in terms of estimated strength and territory under its control. As the Foreign Minister mentioned, it conducts attacks against government forces and civilians in the Lake Chad region of Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, which has resulted in deaths of over one thousand people.
ISIS in the Sahel is believed to have a small number but has temporary alliances with other extremist groups. While ISIS in the Sahel is relatively small it is organized and determined, and we have seen what small cells can do if we are not equally vigilant with counter pressure. ISIS in the Sahel continues to aspire to conduct attacks against local interests and security forces across the region. As we have seen in Burkina Faso and Niger, including the October 2017 ambush that killed 5 Nigerian soldiers and 4 U.S. Green Berets.
ISIS in the Maghreb continues to be a hub for training and facilitation of resource movement and ISIS in the Horn of Africa is small but attempting to expand its footprint. We of course are also working closely with our Coalition partner Egypt when it comes to threats emitting from the Sinai.
Given this extraordinary gathering today, with delegations from across the continent we are here as a Coalition to listen to you. I hope this meeting can build on the excellent sessions our military leaders have had over the recent months, led by our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dunford. The networked approach that came out of these meetings is helping to deny space to terrorists, and we want to overlay the same network with integrated counter-finance, law enforcement, and border control measures in line with the laws and political will in our capitals.
So, we look forward to a day of learning from your experience and expertise, and how our Coalition can work together to support your efforts. I know we will hear in particular from France, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania on the extraordinary efforts and success you have had through coordinated and collective action in the G5 Sahel initiative. We laud Burkina Faso’s new communication strategy of sharing more information with the public that encourages the public’s involvement to make life more difficult for extremists and terrorists. And we applaud the efforts of France as one of the leaders of this initiative going back some years and we look forward to hearing about their efforts and how we can build upon them.
So, we hope to see where these and other lessons might apply, to reinforce your success, close gaps that remain elsewhere, and help protect your homelands and ours from this common threat. Some questions we hope to address as we go through the day:
What best practices can we gleam from our lines of effort and utilize here on the African continent?
How might we better harness resources of the Coalition, particularly in counter-messaging, counter-finance, and countering foreign terrorist fighters?
How can we build on existing efforts and strengthen connectivity, including through our Coalition partner INTERPOL, to share information and resources to address threats before they materialize and ensure the terrorists cannot move across borders?
There are never quick and easy solutions to these sets of issues. After all, as we proud as we can be of the successes in Iraq and Syria, they did not happen overnight. They took sustained and persistent effort, pooled resources, and political will across Coalition capitals.
We look forward to share the lessons learned and focusing our collective efforts to the unique challenges confronted here on this most important continent. I think the beginning of our session will focus on the threat that we face here and then we will focus on the response.
So again, thank you again Mr. Foreign Minister in particular for your hospitality and helping to organize really this extraordinary gathering. I look forward to the day so, with that, let’s get started.
Source: U.S. State Department