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

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 11, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Under-Secretary-General Voronkov and Executive Director Coninsx for your briefings. We also thank the Secretary-General, the 1267 Monitoring Team, and the staff of the UN Office of Counterterrorism and the Counterterrorism Committee Executive Directorate, whose work underpins UN efforts to defeat ISIS.

Mr. President, the latest report on the threat posed by ISIS demonstrates the hard-won progress that we’ve made over the past several years. It highlights that ISIS attacks have decreased significantly from 2017 to 2018, and that the group has suffered significant military setbacks across the board, notably in Iraq, Syria, and the Southern Philippines.

These are successes that are a testament to the work of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, who just met in Washington last week. Coalition operations have liberated all of the terrain that ISIS once controlled in Iraq and more than 99 percent in Syria, including key cities in both countries.

The Global Coalition has also severely degraded ISIS’ ability to raise funds and finance its operations through destroying ISIS-controlled energy assets and removing key ISIS commanders responsible for finance.

The Coalition is committed to preserving the successes we’ve achieved. To date, Coalition partners have pledged over $1 billion in stabilization programming in Iraq and over $325 million for stabilization assistance in Syria. These projects are key to securing military gains and restoring peace.

The Coalition is helping Iraq’s local security forces make their cities safe for the local population. We’re helping to clear neighborhoods of mines and explosive remnants of war, and to restore basic municipal services.

In Syria, we’re working to relieve the suffering of ISIS’ victims. The United States is the largest single-country humanitarian donor to the Syrian people, providing $9.1 billion in humanitarian assistance since the start of the crisis for those displaced inside Syria and throughout the region.

All that said, much more work remains to be done to defeat ISIS. ISIS is seeking to survive, reconstitute, and ultimately reemerge in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is also coordinating with affiliates to plan attacks elsewhere, including Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.

As ISIS evolves, we must adapt to the changing threat. To do this, the United States is working to identify and stop foreign terrorist fighter travel and to disrupt ISIS’ global network of affiliates.

We now have information-sharing arrangements with over 60 countries to identify and track the travel of suspected terrorists. Approximately 70 countries have laws to prosecute and penalize foreign terrorist fighter activities, but we need many more on board.

These efforts complement the work taking place more broadly at the UN on foreign terrorist fighters. Thanks to CTED and the UN Counterterrorism Committee, Member States now have comprehensive guidance on how to address returning terrorist fighters through the recently adopted Addenda to the Madrid Guiding Principles. We urge countries to use that guidance now.

We strongly support OCT’s efforts as well, including their role in providing technical assistance to Member States as they implement obligations under Resolution 2396. OCT’s new project on enhancing the capacity of Member States to detect foreign terrorist fighter travel – via the use of advanced passenger information and passenger name record data – is one we particularly hope will make a positive impact.

We strongly encourage the UN to continue guiding and enabling Member States to comprehensively prosecute, rehabilitate, and reintegrate foreign terrorist fighters and those associated with them, including children. The UN’s work on this and more broadly on counter-terrorism and on preventing violent extremism must include civil society participation, and we expect OCT to continue to mainstream civil society into the core of its work. We also expect CTED to continue their important work on civil society, human rights, and integrating a gender perspective as cross-cutting issues vital to their mandate.

Our collective successes against ISIS have demonstrated what we can accomplish when we bring all of our tools to bear. We cannot relent in this fight. The United States will continue to work with our partners to pursue, degrade, and ultimately defeat ISIS and al Qaida. I thank you.