Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 8, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Voronkov for your briefing, especially because this is your first briefing on this threat since the UN Office of Counterterrorism was created last year. The United States looks forward to our continued cooperation with you and your team to help Member States fight terrorism.

When you look at the maps of ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria, they tell a powerful story. In 2013 and 2014, ISIS was on the march. ISIS had seized large portions of Syria and Iraq for their self-proclaimed caliphate of terror. Some of the region’s largest cities, like Mosul, had fallen to ISIS. In the areas ISIS controlled, these terrorists committed unspeakable human rights abuses against the people of Iraq and Syria, while they used their safe haven to plan attacks around the world. Today, in 2018, the maps tell a different story. The territory ISIS controls has collapsed. Iraq has been liberated from ISIS.

The United States led a decisive coalition of Member States that has helped to significantly weaken ISIS, together with partners across Syria and Iraq. Our resolve for an enduring defeat of ISIS will not falter. We will continue this fight until the maps no longer show ISIS territory at all. But even then, our work will not be done. That is because ISIS is adapting its tactics. ISIS is losing its so-called state, but its remaining fighters will try to undermine stabilization and reconstruction in Iraq and Syria. Foreign terrorist fighters from ISIS will also try to return to their homes and take their fight to new fronts. Together with Al-Qa’ida, ISIS cells and affiliates present a grave threat to expand the spread of terror to communities around the world.

We see these despicable attacks happening already. Just a few weeks ago, ISIS claimed responsibility for a cowardly attack in Afghanistan against Save the Children, a humanitarian NGO that helps more than 700,000 Afghan children. Last fall, in Egypt, ISIS claimed responsibility for a despicable attack against a mosque that reportedly killed more than 300 people in the middle of prayers. So even as we roll back ISIS on its core territory, the need for all of us to be vigilant, and to work together to defeat this evil, is obvious.

As the fight against ISIS enters a new phase, much of the work will fall to our dedicated law enforcement and intelligence professionals, who will need to pool their resources and their information to stop attacks from happening in the first place. There is no time to waste in looking for ways to deepen our cooperation on that front. We have introduced vital tools here at the UN that can help these efforts.

First of all, Member States must step up their efforts to crack down on the sources of financing for ISIS and Al-Qa’ida. In the coming months, we fully expect that ISIS will try to infiltrate legitimate businesses in Iraq and Syria to look for new ways to raise money. All Member States have an obligation to freeze the assets of all terrorists on the 1267 list, including ISIS and Al-Qa’ida. Member States must take that obligation seriously and implement their obligations comprehensively. The United States will exercise maximum vigilance to locate and disrupt the funding networks for ISIS and Al-Qa’ida.

All of us also need to enhance our efforts to disrupt the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders. These terrorists are constantly looking for ways to break our defenses and evade capture. That is why Security Council Resolution 2396, which we adopted in December, is so important. This resolution includes crucial measures aimed at strengthening border security and information sharing, as well as provisions to improve judicial and law enforcement cooperation. Resolution 2396 sets high standards for how states should improve their border control tools. The resolution also strongly encourages governments to develop prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration strategies, alongside civil society, to help break the cycle of terrorism. The United States urges all Member States to implement their obligations under this resolution as soon as possible, and for UN counterterrorism bodies to be prepared to assist Member States in this task.

There should be no doubt about the need to use all the tools we have established under this Security Council to fight ISIS. To that list, we should also add Resolution 2379, which established an investigative mechanism to document crimes of ISIS in Iraq. Accountability for atrocities committed by ISIS is a crucial part of recovering from the group’s reign of terror. The final deadline for agreeing to the terms of reference for this ISIS investigative mechanism is coming up tomorrow. We hope that Iraq and the UN can reach agreement so this resolution can be fully and rapidly implemented.

The United States is proud of our steadfast effort to stand up to ISIS and rally a global response to defeat this threat. It is true that the threat posed by ISIS is adapting in new and dangerous ways. When we look back at what our campaign has achieved so far, we should use that success to strengthen our resolve for this new chapter. When we all looked at those maps of ISIS expanding in 2014, it was hard to imagine that three years later, we would see such a dramatic change for the better. Through the strength of our collective will, we have turned the tide. We will do the same in the years to come, until ISIS is defeated for good and consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs.

Thank you.