Pushing back IS
Terrorism cannot be beaten with military means alone. But military means did have to be used to stop the organisation’s brutal advance in 2014/15 in order to create an environment for political engagement and ensure long-term stability in the region. The Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq played a major role in this process, defying IS on the ground. Germany supplied the Peshmerga with around 1800 tonnes of urgently needed military equipment. In addition, German soldiers trained the Peshmerga – and the security forces of the Iraqi army – for the fight against the terrorist group. This back-up, and the Allied air strikes, succeeded in pushing back the terrorist group: IS has now lost about 40% of the areas it had conquered in Iraq.
Stabilising areas where IS has been pushed out
In the areas where IS has been pushed out, Germany is engaged in reconstruction and stabilisation efforts. Indeed, it is co-chair of the relevant working group in the counter-IS coalition. Stabilisation measures include, for example, the construction of schools, work to ensure electricity and water supplies, and building up the police force. The northern Iraqi city of Tikrit is one success story: over 150,000 people – 95% of the population – have been able to return to their homes since the city was liberated from IS.
Improved living conditions
Germany is a co-initiator of and one of the major donors to the Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF), which aims to gain the people’s trust by maintaining and restoring vital infrastructure. Over two million people in Syria have already benefited from SRTF-funded projects. For example, flour mills are providing bread for up to 500,000 Syrians, and over 300,000 people in northern Syria have had their electricity supply restored.
Finally, the most important element of the fight against IS is political engagement in the region. As well as countering extremist ideology, for instance by promoting professional, objective journalism, this includes cooperating with legitimate state actors.
Germany is helping the Iraqi Government with its reform efforts. In this context, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi no less than three times since 2015. In December 2015, Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled both to Baghdad and to the north of the country, holding talks with Masoud Barzani, President of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq, among others. Negotiations are currently underway on a 500-million-euro loan to further stabilise statehood in Iraq.
Political solution for the conflict in Syria
In Syria the climate for political engagement is far more difficult. Nevertheless, the Vienna talks at the end of 2015 and their continuation in Munich in February 2016 did see the first steps in the right direction. The ceasefire negotiated at these meetings allows humanitarian aid to get to the civilian population in the conflict area. On this basis, UN-mediated political negotiations are to begin very soon to find a long-term solution to this conflict which has allowed the cancer of terrorism to spread.