Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The final push

Washington is gearing up to drive the Islamic State group from Syria and Iraq. It is a vital battle, but so too is preventing it from rising again from its own ashes, writes Hussein Haridy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The international coalition against Daesh (the Islamic State group), in close coordination with the Iraqi government, is preparing the ground for the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. The two battles will be fierce and bloody and will call for the mobilisation of all assets and resources of the member countries in the coalition.

In this context, the United States hosted a ministerial meeting in Washington, DC on 21 July that was attended by the ministers of foreign affairs and defence of coalition member countries. It was clear that the US administration is determined to garner the international support needed to win the coming battle. It is a battle that the coalition must win and it will. This ministerial meeting was preceded the day before by a donors’ conference for Iraq in the American capital, the purpose of which was to raise funds for the stabilisation of Iraqi cities liberated from Daesh control. The conference saw pledges amounting to $2.1 billion.

In his introductory remarks, US Secretary of State John Kerry touched on the significance of the expected military showdown with Daesh. He said that the members of the coalition are engaged in an “historic effort”. He was right in pointing out that the challenges that faced the world in the last century were mostly defined by states vying for territory or power, but that the war waged against Daesh is targeting a terrorist group that challenges the state itself. He called upon the coalition to prepare carefully “and move ahead relentlessly” in order to defeat this terrorist organisation in Mosul and Raqqa, and “the points in-between”.

He called on the international community to do all it could “to wage a holistic campaign against the root causes of violent extremism”. In this context, he referred to the fact that in some member countries of the coalition the youth represents more than 50 per cent of the total population. Mr Kerry added that one day they will need jobs, and that if “they don’t have jobs, if their political space is confined, then all those things can feed extremism”. The US secretary of state summed up the situation by emphasising that coalition members “need to work to protect each other’s security by investing in each other’s futures”.

However, there will be a downside for pushing out Daesh out of Mosul and Raqqa; namely, a change of strategy on the part of Daesh that would aim at building a global network of terror, whether directly affiliated to the organisation, or consisting of people inspired by its nihilistic ideology. The good news is that a US organisation called the United States Global Engagement Centre indicated that anti-Daesh content on the Internet “now far exceeds pro-Daesh content”. Undoubtedly, this is a good omen. One of the most effective weapons at the disposal of Daesh, at least in 2014 and 2015, was its ideological messaging on the Internet that allowed its leaders to disseminate their ideology of hatred far and wide, and to recruit foreign fighters.

The Washington ministerial heard from US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter who laid out the three objectives of the military campaign: namely, to destroy the “parent tumour” of ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, combat ISIS’s metastases everywhere they emerge around the world, and finally to support “our national governments’ efforts to protect our homelands and our people”.

He said that the United States updated its entire military campaign in January to meet these three objectives. That is why the campaign was brought under one command, headed by Lieutenant General Sean Macfarland.

The Washington ministerial succeeded in marshalling the support and resources needed to wage the final push against Daesh in Mosul and Raqqa. It is expected that the fighting to liberate the two cities will be costly in terms of human lives and the destruction that will accompany the battle. There is no denying that this liberation will spell the end of this terrorist organisation in Iraq and Syria. The next challenge facing the coalition will consist of preventing Daesh from coming back. That will be more difficult than chasing it out of Iraq and Syria. The other challenge, once it is defeated, is what to do with Daesh in Libya? There will be no point in defeating Daesh in Mosul and Raqqa only to leave it to expand in Libya and beyond.

In the long run, in order to eradicate the roots of extremism, the West — and particularly the United States — will have to help the most vulnerable countries in the Arab world overcome their economic problems and challenges. Egypt is a case in point.


The writer is former assistant to the foreign minister.


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