Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on ISIL/Da’esh

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 19, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. Today’s meeting is an important opportunity to discuss the ISIS threat and actions we’re all taking to prevent and counter terrorism. And our thanks to Under-Secretary-General Voronkov, Assistant Secretary-General Coninsx, and Mr. Moradian for your informative briefings today. I would also like to thank the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, and other United Nations entities that contributed to this report.

Today, I’d like to discuss the current state of the threat posed by ISIS, and everything we can do to counter that threat – especially by undercutting its finances.

To start, we’re deeply worried by the Secretary-General’s assessment that ISIS continues to expand throughout Africa, especially in various parts of West Africa and the Sahel, in addition to Central and East Africa. To neutralize that expansion, the United States is providing critical counter-terrorism assistance to disrupt, degrade, and respond to terrorist activity perpetrated by ISIS. Our tactical training, mentorship, and equipment strengthens the capacity of the law enforcement, judicial sector, and communities in our partner nations to respond to this growing threat.

In June, ISIS-Khorasan attacked a HALO Trust camp in northern Afghanistan, killing ten and injuring 16. This attack on a humanitarian group, working to rid the country of landmines, shows the barbarity of ISIS-Khorasan and its efforts to undermine the Afghan people’s security. Given the ongoing events in Afghanistan, we’re monitoring this situation very carefully. And as President Biden has stressed, we will hold the Taliban accountable for its commitments not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil. And as I said earlier this week, we all, we must all work together to ensure Afghanistan cannot ever, ever again be a base for terrorism.

And while these threats are real, there is good news. The Secretary-General’s report notes that ISIS financial reserves are on a downward trajectory. This is, in part, thanks to the hard and valiant work of the United Nations, in cooperation with other multilateral bodies. We must continue those efforts. Undercutting the financing of ISIS and other terrorist organizations is one of the most effective ways to defeat them. So, let us sharpen our focus, and strengthen our efforts, to go after terrorist financiers and financial facilitators, including virtual currencies and new payment methods.

To this end, the United States continues to believe in the strength of sanctions and the unique role of the 1267 ISIS and al-Qaida sanctions regime. It is the most effective global tool to proscribe specific ISIS branches, members, and support entities. And as it has since its creation in 1999, the 1267 sanctions regime must continue to evolve to ensure it remains a credible counter-terrorism tool. But that evolution can never come at the expense of dulling its ability to apply effective pressure on ISIS and al-Qaida.

As we apply this financial pressure, we must remember that the most successful counter-terrorism approaches incorporate perspectives and voices beyond those in the national and local governments. We need to listen to people affected by terrorism on the ground. That includes women, youth, civil society, religious leaders, educators, the private sector, victims of terrorism, and affected communities. And some of the people and organizations closest to the threat, they understand it better than anyone.

To bolster this kind of 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 and to violent extremism.

Finally, let’s address the difficult issue of the approximately 2,000 foreign terrorist fighters in detention centers. About 60,000 of their associated family members, mostly women and children, are stranded in displaced persons camps. This includes tens of thousands of innocent children. And no child should suffer for their parents’ crimes. This situation is untenable. It is a humanitarian crisis, human rights crisis, and a security crisis.

The United States believes that the repatriation and prosecution, as appropriate, of those foreign terrorist fighters is the best way to hold individuals accountable for their crimes and prevent their uncontrolled return to countries of origin or elsewhere. To be clear, we do not exclude ourselves in this call – we are repatriating our own as well.

The Secretary-General’s report provides a stark outline of the shifting ISIS threat. But it offers hope and a way forward, too. Together, we can stop the spread of ISIS in Africa, counter their presence elsewhere, and undercut their finances. We can listen closely to civil society. We can address the humanitarian crises caused by foreign terrorist fighters. And together, we can work towards stamping out the ISIS threat once and for all.

Thank you.