Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Secretary-General’s Report on the Threat Posed by ISIS

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
February 9, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to the briefers for their presentations.

Last week, on orders from President Biden, U.S. troops conducted an operation in Syria against ISIS – consistent with our letter to the Secretary-General dated 23 September 2014 – that resulted in the death of the leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, AKA Hajji Abdallah. Hajji Abdallah had served as the overall leader of ISIS since he was appointed to replace the group’s previous leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who died on October 26, 2019, in a U.S. counterterrorism operation. Under Hajji Abdullah’s leadership, ISIS provided material support to its Afghanistan branch, ISIS-Khorasan, which was responsible for the heinous attack on the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

As we have all seen, ISIS, and those inspired by it, continue to engage in heinous attacks wherever and however they can. The group attempts to exploit humanitarian crises, and recruit and radicalize to violence members of vulnerable populations and attack civilians. The international community must augment the ability of vulnerable populations to reject appeals to violent extremism and to avoid misplaced assumptions about the susceptibility of these populations to such appeals.

We wholeheartedly agree with the Secretary-General’s characterization of the human tragedy resulting from ISIS’ so-called “caliphate” to include approximately 40,000 foreign nationals, including tens of thousands of innocent children, currently residing in displaced persons camps who should not be further victimized because of the activities of others. This situation is unacceptable, and is a humanitarian, human rights, and security crisis. That is why the repatriation, rehabilitation, reintegration, and prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters, as appropriate, is the best way to hold individuals accountable for their crimes and prevent the uncontrolled return or movement of foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin or elsewhere. We are not just calling on others to repatriate their citizens, we are repatriating our own as well. To date, we have repatriated 30 U.S. citizens from northeast Syria: 13 adults and 17 children. The United States stands ready to support any Member State that wishes to bring their own nationals home.

With the recent extension of the CTED mandate, CTED will now facilitate the training and assistance Member States’ need to develop and implement comprehensive strategies to provide for the proper collection, preservation, sharing, and use of battlefield evidence.

Financing continues to be the lifeblood for terrorists. We must bolster our efforts to go after terrorist financiers and financial facilitators, and stymie vital resource streams that exploit weak regulatory oversight in vulnerable jurisdictions.

The United States is especially concerned about the increasing terrorism threat in areas of Africa outlined in the Secretary-General’s assessment. ISIS and al-Qa’ida affiliates have metastasized in pockets across Africa and grafted onto long-simmering conflicts, providing them new volatility and lethality. ISIS-West Africa merits particular focus as the group has grown into the largest numerically and one of the most lethal ISIS affiliates outside the core region. The United States continues to provide our African partners critical counterterrorism assistance to disrupt and degrade ISIS and al-Qa’ida affiliates, underscoring that capable law enforcement and broader security service responses are essential to prevent and counter terrorism.

As the Secretary-General’s report highlights, it is critical that the international community continue the fight to deny safe haven for al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, to include those in Afghanistan. Further, ISIS-Khorasan remains active and continues to orchestrate sophisticated attacks that target civilians, including vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, civil society actors, and others who are risking their lives to improve the lives of Afghan citizens across the country.

As President Biden has stressed, “We’ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.” Globally, promoting good governance, rule of law and accountability, inclusive democracy, and respect for human rights mitigates the conditions and grievances conducive to violent extremism and terrorism used to recruit. The most successful counterterrorism approaches incorporate perspectives and voices beyond governments, to include women, youth, civil society, members of marginalized racial, ethnic, and religious groups, and victims of terrorism. To bolster civil society engagement, the United States provides funding to the Strong Cities Networks, the Global Community and Engagement Resilience Fund, Mother Schools, and many other civil society organizations that work to strengthen community resilience to violent extremism.

In closing, the Secretary-General’s report provides a vivid reminder of the continuing and evolving ISIS threat. Moving forward, we must use this report to shape the collective actions we take to maintain pressure on ISIS.

Thank you, Mr. President.