Responding to terrorism – a global challenge

Sunday, 2017-03-26 03:34:06
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks at the Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of IS at the State Department in Washington, the US, March 22, 2017. (Credit: Reuters)
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NDO – Foreign ministers and representatives from more than 60 nations have gathered in Washington capital of the US to discuss comprehensive and multi-dimensional measures to put an end to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).

The meeting took place in the context that the US-led coalition is strengthening pressures to eradicate IS in Syria and Iraq and to expand the war on terrorism to a global scale in an effort to deal with IS inspiring "lone wolves" to carry out attacks throughout the world.

This is the first time the US-led anti-IS alliance has held a meeting since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. The meeting is considered to be a gesture of determination by the US president, who declared that the fight against IS was a top priority in his foreign policy.

The largest meeting of the anti-IS coalition since its inception offered the opportunity for countries to review the situation and the on-field fight against IS, while seeking initiatives to prevent and deal with the terrorist organisation's media campaigns on the internet, as well as campaigns to expand IS's range of operations and recruitment.

In the joint declaration at the event, countries participating in the US-led military alliance reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation in the fight against IS while supporting the stabilisation process in the liberated areas from IS in Iraq and Syria. They also agreed to contribute more than US$2 billion to implement the above plans in 2017.

At the meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasised that defeating IS was Washington's top priority in the Middle East and urged allies to push for military cooperation and financial sharing to accomplish this goal. Tillerson said that it was time for countries to consolidate their common commitment to security, as well as increase their investment in the fight against terrorism.

The meeting took place amidst the US-led coalition encircling IS around Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, the “capital” cities of the extremist group and their last major strongholds in the Middle East.

With support from US-led air strikes, the Iraqi forces have liberated more than 60% of territories captured by IS, making significant progress in the liberation of Mosul. In Syria, IS rebels were also overthrown in more than 30% of the country’s territories and forced to retreat to the entrenchment in Raqqa. The campaigns’ effectiveness has halved the number of IS fighters. It is estimated that IS currently has about 15,000 gunmen in Iraq and Syria.

US President Trump has affirmed his determination several times to eliminate IS. The US is endeavouring to bring the war to an end in Raqqa. In order to prepare for this war, Washington has increased funding for the US-backed local forces in Syria.

With the deployment of about 200 marines and heavy artilleries to Syria, the Pentagon is considering adding some 1,000 US troops to serve in Kuwait as a reserve force for the war against IS in Iraq and Syria. Paratroopers from the US-led anti-terrorist coalition recently landed near the IS-controlled Tabqa in Syria to open a new front in the recapturing of Raqqa.

However, US military officials have warned that, despite achieving the set target of liberating Raqqa, the anti-IS coalition still faces many challenges and estimate that it will be a long battle. Meanwhile, on battlefields in the region, despite anticipating the possibility of failure in all of Iraq and Syria's major strongholds, IS continues to pursue ambitions for a state formation in the Euphrates River Delta where it still holds control in most of this area.

Many countries participating in the anti-IS coalition are facing the fear that terrorists are frequently knocking on European countries. According to experts, as increasingly facing difficulties in conducting formidable and highly influential attacks, IS is tending to promote "virtual planners" who are independent of the jihadist leadership and direct the implementation of "lone wolf" attacks.

Many "lone wolves" are encouraged and led by IS agents to carry out attacks that IS later claim responsibility for. Virtual planners plan attacks through social networks and encrypted messages without the guidance or supervision of IS leaders. Over the past two years, the US has uncovered at least eight conspiracies like this. Recent incidents of "lone wolf" attacks in France and Belgium, and most recently a car attack outside of the UK Parliament which left four dead and 40 injured, have shook the world.

The emergence of more and more "lone wolves" shows that IS has expanded its reach beyond the borders of the Middle East. The battle on the frontline is expected to face many challenges and likely to be prolonged even further.