Thank you, Morgan,
I won’t repeat the significant accomplishments Secretary Pompeo highlighted in his announcement, but I do want to emphasize a few key points from the 2019 report. In short, the United States and our partners took major strides last year to defeat and degrade international terrorist organizations.
In Iraq and Syria, we destroyed ISIS’s so-called caliphate and eliminated its leader. Now we’re taking the fight to ISIS affiliates around the world, while intensifying our efforts against al-Qa’ida’s global network.
We’re particularly focused on Africa. In 2019, ISIS-affiliated groups were active across the continent, including in the Sahel, the Lake Chad region, and East Africa. As for al-Qa’ida, its African affiliates are among the world’s most active and dangerous terrorist groups, including al Shabaab in the Horn and JNIM in the Sahel.
The United States is working closely with our partners, particularly France, to address these evolving threats in Africa. We expect the global Defeat ISIS Coalition to apply its hard-won expertise in this continuing fight.
It won’t be a surprise that Iran remained the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism in 2019. Through the malevolent actions of the IRGC and terrorist proxies like Hizballah in Lebanon and Kata’ib Hizballah in Iraq, Iran continued to use terrorism as a basic tool of statecraft in the Middle East and around the world.
As the Secretary noted, we continue to lead the world in the fight against Iranian terrorism. In April 2019, we designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization – the first time we’ve ever applied such a designation to part of another government. And throughout the year, countries in Western Europe and South America joined us in designating all of Hizballah as a terrorist group.
That effort continues: Germany just banned Hizballah in its entirety a few months ago, and the Austrian parliament recently enacted legislation calling for tougher action against the group.
Let me briefly highlight a few more significant accomplishments from 2019:
- In September, President Trump issued an order enabling the State and Treasury Departments to more effectively sanction the leaders of terrorist organizations and those who train for terrorism. It was the most significant expansion of our terrorism sanctions authorities since 9/11.
- Another major effort was the repatriation, prosecution, and rehabilitation of ISIS fighters and family members to prevent them from ever returning to the battlefield. The United States has led by example, bringing back our citizens and prosecuting them for any crimes they’ve committed. As of December 2019, the United States had repatriated a total of 23 Americans from Syria and Iraq – eight adults and 15 children, with six of the adults facing criminal charges.
- The United States also played a major role in building our partners’ capacity to detect, disrupt, and dismantle terrorist networks. We provide capabilities that no other government can match, and we want to be the security partner of choice. Our ultimate goal is to enable governments on the front lines to address the terrorist threats they face without needing to rely on the U.S. for assistance.
Early in this administration, we identified key priorities and lines of effort to synchronize, strengthen, and expand the actions needed to counter terrorism using all tools of national power, civilian and military. The resulting successes are clearly reflected in this year’s Country Reports on Terrorism.
With that brief summary, I’d be happy to take your questions.