Thank you, Ambassador Kupchyna and good day everyone. Let me start by thanking the OSCE and Sweden, as Chairperson-in-Office, for bringing all of us together today. Thank you also to my fellow panelists for their respective sides’ contributions to the shared battle against terrorism.
The OSCE is a steadfast partner in our collective counterterrorism efforts, and we appreciate the opportunity to gather virtually to share best practices and expertise. I particularly applaud the efforts of the OSCE Action Against Terrorism Unit (ATU), led by Georgia Holmer, to build communities resilient to the appeal of violent extremism and to provide “off-ramps” to those already indoctrinated.
I want to provide a few insights on how the United States views the current terrorism challenges and how we intend to continue working with partners to address them, including through the OSCE.
First, we are clear-eyed about the terrorist threats facing the United States and our partners.
ISIS and al-Qa’ida and their affiliates remain adaptive and keenly focused on identifying relatively ungoverned spaces where they can establish safe havens from which to organize, radicalize, recruit, and plot operations against our people and our countries.
As mentioned by previous panelists, this threat has metastasized outside Iraq and Syria, particularly in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.
My second point is that this is a threat we cannot tackle on our own.
To echo U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s words last month, “…we must expand our ability to address transnational threats. These challenges are so vast – and the measures needed to address them so far-reaching – that tackling them must be integrated into virtually everything we do and coordinated across a wide array of partners.”
A successful counterterrorism approach is one that includes partners, allies, and friends from around the world.
Third, with respect to northeast Syria, the repatriation, rehabilitation and prosecution, as appropriate, of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) is the best way to prevent a resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, to hold individuals accountable for their crimes, and to keep terrorists off the battlefield.
Thousands of FTFs and their family members remain in detention facilities and displaced persons camps in northeast Syria. Repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of family members is vital for mitigating further radicalization of these individuals – including thousands of children – a affording them a chance at a real life.
We remain willing to assist with repatriation efforts, and recognize the efforts to help build partners’ civilian counterterrorism capacities. We also recognize the importance of acknowledging gender in these efforts and applaud the UK Chair of the Security Committee for highlighting this issue in its March 15 meeting.
We commend the work of the Global Community Engagement & Resilience Fund (GCERF) in developing rehabilitation and reintegration processes and programs in source countries, while continuing to address root causes of terrorism.
Many of your governments here today are funders of GCERF, and I would like to thank you for your continued support. GCERF turns 5 this year and will soon launch its replenishment campaign. The United States will continue its support to GCERF and urges other donors to maintain their support as well.
Fourth, domestic violent extremism and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, or REMVE, is a serious concern that requires close attention. As you will have all seen, the new U.S. administration is currently undertaking a review of U.S. policy in this area. One of the things that has already become clear is that domestic and foreign REMVE actors are connected to an unprecedented degree, often – but not only – in digital space.
The United States is committed to the appropriate use of its counterterrorism-related designations authorities to limit the ability of foreign groups or individuals linked to acts of terrorism to obtain resources and support, regardless of their ideologies or motivations. The April 6, 2020 designation of the Russian Imperial Movement, or RIM, and members of its leadership as Specially Designated Global Terrorists – the first time in history that the State Department has designated a white supremacist group – reflects that commitment.
REMVE will continue to be a top priority for the United States in the years ahead. We were pleased to host a side event on this topic this morning, and we are encouraged the ATU has engaged with participating States on this critically important issue, and look forward to focusing on it together.
Finally, I note that the next session invites us to analyze the UN Global CT Strategy and the tools it offers all of us to address the root causes of violent extremism and radicalization that leads to terrorism. In the coming months, we look forward to working closely with all UN Member States, civil society, and other non-governmental actors to seek to adopt by consensus a balanced, updated UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy resolution that continues to underscore the importance of whole-of-society and whole-of-government approaches, while respecting human rights and the rule of law. I echo other panelists to note the OSCE has a vital role to play.