SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. Welcome.
I first want to thank Secretary General Stoltenberg, Under Secretary of Defense Rood – John – and the representatives of 31 partners for being here today. Thank you all so much for joining us here in Washington.
You all know we must keep taking the fight to ISIS. So do we. The United States will continue to lead the Coalition, and the world, on this essential security effort.
That leadership under President Trump began right after he took office. I had a different job at the time. He went out to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters the very first day, less than 24 hours after he was inaugurated, and he pledged his support for whatever the agency needed to take out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the entire caliphate.
And a few months later, he empowered American military commanders to pursue the fight more aggressively than ever.
Our troops did that, in conjunction with many of you in this room – partners and friends and the Coalition. We did it both on the ground and in the air in Iraq and Syria. The caliphate was 100 percent destroyed in March of this year. We should all be very proud of that.
Our diplomats here at the State Department, too, have worked with you all as members of the Coalition to stabilize liberated areas, get humanitarian relief to its destinations, and make sure that ISIS cannot gain new footholds.
American leadership continues on each of these missions today.
Last month, we achieved what the President talked about that day: We took out al-Baghdadi and his would-be successor. Ask each of them whether there’s a deficit in American leadership countering ISIS.
Today we’re watching the space once occupied by this fraudulent caliphate like a hawk. That’s why we’re maintaining our residual presence at Tanf, in southern Syria, and our capacity to conduct air operations.
We’ve repositioned some of our troops in northeast Syria and in the broader region as well, to make sure that ISIS will never get a second wind and to prevent ISIS from recapturing the oil fields.
We’ve gotten assurances from Coalition partners and our partners on the ground on their responsibility for foreign fighters, and we’ll hold them to account.
We’re also maintaining humanitarian assistance and stabilization programs to ameliorate the conditions in which ISIS would re-emerge.
And we’re continuing to pursue a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian conflict with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 as the guide so that stability can, one day, return to this war-torn land.
I’m proud of the work that my team has done and what the Trump administration achieved. But you all know – it’s why we’re here today – this is not our story alone.
This Coalition – the group assembled here today – has been one of the most successful multilateral undertakings of the century. We beat back a jihadist dream – a would-be terror state in the center of the Middle East – and we saved millions of people from tyranny unlike anything that the world has seen.
And our good work continues with our stabilization and recovery efforts. We’re working with women like Samia, a mother of five and a beneficiary and employee of a Coalition-funded, Iraqi-led stabilization initiative. She and others conduct quick rehabilitation of essential infrastructure, and in one instance, a primary school in Mosul.
Samia is proud to help Iraqis get past the ISIS nightmare. This progress has been possible thanks to the United States and 27 other Coalition partners’ provision of more than $1.2 billion to fund the more than 3,000 stabilization projects in 31 liberated towns and districts across Iraq. Stories like Samia’s show that it is a worthy investment.
But we can’t stop now. We must make sure that ISIS never again flourishes.
That work begins with carrying out justice against those who deserve it. Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities that they have perpetrated.
Our efforts to help displaced Iraqis helped facilitate the safe and voluntary return of more than 4.3 million civilians in – since April of 2015. We want them all to return home. That’s why the Coalition needs to fulfil the significant UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilization shortfall to restore essential services and refurbish critical infrastructure. We’ll all need help in the northeast of Syria as well.
Lastly, there’s a growing concern about the ISIS threat outside of Iraq and Syria.
Recently, we agreed at the working level that West Africa and the Sahel would be a preferred initial area of focus for the Coalition outside of the ISIS core space – and with good reason. ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat.
We’re planning a Coalition meeting that will focus on specific support that partners can provide across that region.
Know this: That work will not – that initiative will not – detract from the mission ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It will complement existing military efforts. And we will develop and coordinate our efforts in close cooperation with countries of the Sahel.
The fight against ISIS is a long-term test of will, a test of civilization against barbarism. I know where we all stand. Let’s work together to make sure that our enemy knows that, too. Thank you, again, for coming and for all your contributions past, current, and future.
And I’d now like to invite Secretary General Stoltenberg to make remarks.
SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much, Secretary Pompeo. And many thanks, Mike, for hosting us all here today and for your leadership in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Let me start by congratulating United States on the successful action of your special forces against ISIS lead al-Baghdadi. I think this is really a milestone in our efforts against international terrorism.
All NATO allies are part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Together, we provide significant support, including with air surveillance and training. The coalition has made significant progress. Millions of people and vast territories have been liberated.
But the fight is not over. ISIS is still a threat. The situation in northern Syria remains fragile and difficult. It is well known that there are differences between NATO allies when it comes to the situation there, but at the same time we agree on the need to safeguard the gains we have made against our common enemy, ISIS, and to support UN-led efforts to achieve a sustainable political solution.
We also agree on the need to continue to build the capacity of partner forces to strengthen the resilience against terrorism. We partner with Iraq to help them build, train, and educate their security forces so they can ensure ISIS does not return.
NATO also contributes to the fight against international terrorism in other ways, not least through our training mission in Afghanistan. We train and advise Afghan security forces to help them fight terrorism and to ensure that ISIS does not gain the foothold in Afghanistan that they lost in Iraq and Syria.
And NATO is also helping other countries, such as Jordan and Tunisia, build their local counterterrorism capacity, because prevention is better than intervention and building local capacity is one of the best tools we have in our common fight against terrorism.
So I look forward to our discussions today and hearing views about how the global coalition can continue to make the world safer. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Jens. At this time, I’d like to ask the press to kindly depart as we move into a closed session.