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House ruines es in Mosul, Iraq.

House ruines es in Mosul, Iraq., © UNDP Irak

23.03.2021 - Article

Today (23 March) marks the second anniversary of the liberation of Baghuz, which is located on the Iraqi-Syrian border and was the last stronghold of the terrorist organisation Islamic State (ISIS).

Its capture, however, did not mark the end of the fight against ISIS. Germany is supporting the stabilisation of liberated areas in Iraq and Syria.

For two years now, ISIS no longer holds any territory – neither in Syria nor in Iraq. Yet tremendous challenges await in the heart of the Iraqi and Syrian areas that were formerly held by ISIS; these can only be overcome through a joint effort involving the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS, international and local partners, such as the Government of Iraq, as well as with support from the local population.

Syria: Post-ISIS engagement remains crucial

Even though ISIS no longer holds any territory, the terrorist organisation remains active in Syria. In recent months, it has even expanded its activities and continues to carry out attacks. It has been able to rebuild as an underground organisation. Its extremist and radical fighters are holding fast to their barbaric ideology and still attempting to spread their views through propaganda. The Global Coalition, a broad alliance to defeat ISIS that meanwhile comprises 83 countries and organisations, is therefore continuing its targeted action against these structures, using both civilian and military instruments.

The German Government is working within the Global Coalition to give people in these areas a prospect for the future, thereby helping to prevent them from being radicalised again. Ever since the liberation of areas in north-east Syria from ISIS control, Germany has been supporting efforts to detect and clear ordnance and improvised explosive devices, rehabilitate critical infrastructure and restore basic services. In addition, Germany supports efforts to improve the living conditions of the local population, so that they can earn their own living.

De-radicalisation and providing prospects

Since mid-2020, special emphasis has been placed on projects that serve to reintegrate Syrian families into their home communities – including those families that were influenced by ISIS. This includes projects that focus on de-radicalisation, overcoming trauma, and providing education and vocational training, especially for women and children who are particularly in need of support. The aim is to give families, some of whom have spent several years in refugee camps, with new, peaceful prospects for a better life. To promote mutual confidence and rebuild social cohesion, the German Government is also supporting civil society, participation in civic life, security in local communities and efforts to come to terms with the crimes committed by ISIS. In addition to its engagement in the context of the Global Coalition, Germany is the largest donor to the Syria Recovery Trust Fund, which promotes, among other things, projects to rehabilitate important basic services such as electricity and water supply.

With contributions totalling more than 10 billion euro in the spheres of humanitarian assistance, stabilisation and development aid for projects in Syria and its neighbouring countries since the conflict in Syria began in 2012, Germany is the second-largest donor country. With contributions amounting to 140 million euro since 2017 to promote the stabilisation of territories formerly held by ISIS, Germany is the second-largest donor in this sphere, as well.

Iraq: Preventing a resurgence of ISIS

The two attacks carried out on 21 January 2021 in the centre of Baghdad that claimed the lives of more than 30 civilians and injured more than 100 showed that ISIS is still active in Iraq and that it knows how to use its underground networks to target civilians with horrific attacks. In 2020, pressure on the terrorist organisation in Iraq eased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That did not last, however. Since last summer, the Government of Iraq under Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi has increasingly been successfully targeting both ISIS cells and leaders with its own counter-terrorism operations.

The German Government works closely with the Government of Iraq, both bilaterally and in the context of the Global Coalition. By employing both civilian instruments and military assets, the German Government is helping to bring long-term stability to the country.

Enabling the return of internally displaced persons

A particular priority of civilian engagement is promoting the return of more than six million Iraqis who were internally displaced during the ISIS reign of terror. These efforts include, among other things, clearing ordnance and improvised explosive devices and rehabilitating infrastructure and basic services. Not least thanks to wide-ranging support from the German Government and its partners, 4.8 million people have so far been able to return to their native regions. Now, a stronger focus must be placed on enabling the return and reintegration of the remaining internally displaced persons, as well as on supporting host communities.

Stabilisation in Iraq: Germany’s special role

Germany has earned international recognition for its lead role in this sphere, as it is together with the Government of Iraq in charge of the Baghdad-based Stabilization Task Force that was established for coordination purposes. Another way that ISIS is to be prevented from regaining a foothold in Iraq is by promoting social cohesion through stabilisation.

Since the beginning of the fight against ISIS in 2014, Germany has provided a total of some 2.5 billion euro to the people of Iraq through humanitarian assistance, stabilisation measures and development cooperation. More than 500 million euro alone have been invested in stabilisation efforts, which includes financial means for the Funding Facility for Stabilization of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

Support for the Iraqi armed forces

At the same time, and in addition to Germany’s military support for the Global Coalition, Germany is contributing to capacity-building for the regular Iraqi armed forces and security forces, in the context of the Global Coalition and NATO Mission Iraq, with the aim of establishing sustainable security structures.

The fight against ISIS remains crucial

In addition to the core territories that were held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist network also formed offshoots in other regions of the world, in particular in Africa. At today’s (23 March) virtual meeting of the members of the Global Coalition’s Working Group on Stabilization, which is being held at the invitation of the German Government and is being co-chaired by Germany, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, the focus will be on the threat posed by ISIS in Africa. The Working Group will jointly develop ways for the international community to use targeted support to prevent both a resurgence of the terrorist organisation in Iraq and in Syria, and to keep it from gaining a stronger foothold in Africa and other places.

Joint stabilisation efforts will also be the at the top of the agenda of the next meeting of Foreign Ministers in what is known as the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS on 30 March. The members will hold a virtual meeting at which they intend to renew their commitment to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and to permanently dry up support for ISIS through their comprehensive efforts.

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