Delegates Highlight Challenges in Africa, Voice Concern over Plight of Children
The global fight against the ever-shifting threat posed by Da’esh and its affiliates remains a “long-term game” for which there are “no quick fixes”, the senior United Nations counter-terrorism official told the Security Council today.
Valdimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, told the 15-member Council that recent events demonstrate the very real threat still posed by Da’esh, Al-Qaida and their spin-off groups. Outlining the contents of the Secretary-General’s latest report, he also recalled his own recent briefing to the Council on the terrorism landscape in north-east Syria following a Da’esh jailbreak attempt in Al-Hasakah. That event, which resulted in significant clashes and put hundreds of children at risk, was a “shattering and sober reminder of Da’esh’s extreme brutal violence”, he said.
A subsequent targeted attack reportedly resulted in the death of the Da’esh leader, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Salbi, widely known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, he said. While that victory marks perhaps the most significant recent blow to the group’s leadership in years, he warned that Da’esh is known for its ability to re-group and even intensify its activities. “We have learned over the past two decades that counter-terrorism is a long-term game and that there are no quick fixes,” he stressed. Citing the need for both military counter-terrorism operations and more comprehensive measures with a focus on prevention, he urged States to use all tools at their disposal, adding: “As we begin a new decade of counter-terrorism, it is time to ask ourselves difficult questions and search for honest answers.”
Also briefing was Weixiong Chen, Acting Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, who spotlighted a shift by Da’esh to the African continent, as well as efforts to exploit recent developments in Afghanistan. Since 2020, he said, the terrorist threat has intersected with many COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges, with Da’esh and other terrorist groups seeking to exploit fault lines arising from social restrictions, political tension and economic downturns. Many States have been forced to divert counter-terrorism resources to pandemic-related efforts, while terrorists became even more adept at using social media and online platforms to pursue their aims, he said.
Da’esh is the official name of the terrorist group which is also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and ISIS.
As Council members took the floor, most agreed broadly that the threats posed by Da’esh, Al-Qaida and a range of other terrorist factions have not diminished, but instead have shifted to other modalities and other parts of the globe. Many voiced concern about the plight of children caught up in the global battle against terrorism, noting the high numbers of detained children with presumed links to Da’esh in Syria and Iraq. However, speakers diverged over the utility and risks posed by repatriation efforts, as well as over the factors that continue to drive terrorism and allow it to continue proliferating.
Ghana’s representative said more than 170,000 incidents of acts of terrorism have been recorded since 1970, and the estimated annual economic impact stands at $26.4 billion. While gains have been made, more effort is required as the incidence of terrorism has proliferated, and organizations’ networks have become more agile and global in scope. Outlining African regional efforts to push back the threat of terrorism, he went on to call for more international capacity-building assistance, emphasizing the continent’s resource limitations and calling for greater investment in addressing terrorism’s root causes.
Also spotlighting the challenges faced by Africa was the representative of Gabon, who noted that the network of small, shadowy Da’esh cells throughout the continent are diffuse and hard to tackle. Expressing concern over recent attacks by the groups Boko Haram, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Al-Shabaab — all of which claim links with Da’esh — he added that the return and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters pose yet another risk, given the capacity of terrorist groups to carry out attacks remotely. “The face of terrorism is changing,” he stressed, advocating for an adapted global response and more assistance to States that are most vulnerable.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates was among those delegates who spotlighted both the challenges and opportunities presented by technological innovations in the fight against terrorism. Describing online tools as a “double-edged sword”, he called for steps to prevent terrorist groups from exploiting digital tools to finance or carry out operations, while harnessing technology and artificial intelligence to protect societies from extremism and terrorism. “Efforts to bring stability and rebuild the liberated areas in Syria and Iraq must also be intensified,” he said, outlining his country’s support to those ends.
The United States’ delegate agreed with other speakers that the threat posed by the terrorist group has not disappeared. “As we have all seen, ISIS and those inspired by it continue to engage in horrific attacks, wherever and however they can,” he said. Recounting the United States-led attack that killed the group’s leader in Syria last week, he advocated for the repatriation of foreign fighters whenever possible from detention facilities in that country and Iraq, noting that the United States has so far repatriated 30 of its citizens. He also joined others in voicing concern that ISIS and Al-Qaida have metastasized in parts of Africa and grafted onto local conflicts and grievances to further their own aims.
The representative of the Russian Federation — while agreeing that “it is essential that we do not allow Africa to become a caliphate 2.0” — outlined a different view of the drivers of global terrorism. Noting that the failed United States presence in Syria has not contained the threat, he said thousands of women and children remain in appalling conditions in United States-controlled territory, adding that tackling the crisis is a question of “will and intentions”. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the panicked flight of the United States and its allies left huge volumes of modern weapons and technology, which fell into the hands of ISIS and helped increase its capabilities. “The imposition by force of cookie-cutter democratic values could not have brought any good to the countries being experimented on,” he said.
Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Albania, China, Norway, France, Mexico, Ireland, India, Brazil and Kenya.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.