Anti-extremist coalition looks to future role after Daesh defeat
Anti-extremist coalition looks to future role after Daesh defeat
Eager to avoid a repeat of 2011, when America completed its troop withdrawal from Iraq only to watch in horror as Daesh later overran swathes of the country, the coalition is focusing on what it must do to stop a extremist re-emergence.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently told reporters the mission now is shifting toward stabilization and making sure an “ISIS 2.0” can’t pop up, using an alternate acronym to refer to the extremist group.
Already, the Pentagon has said it will stay in Syria “as long as we need to.”
“The longer term recovery is going to take a lot of effort and a lot of years after what (Daesh) did, because they forcibly kept innocent people in the midst of the combat zone, and that meant the residential areas took damage, the public areas — everything took damage,” he said, adding that a most pressing need is to clear cities and terrain of innumerable bombs, mines and booby traps.
America hastily convened a coalition in 2014 after Daesh swept across vast tracts of Iraqi and Syrian territory, terrorizing residents and leaving a trail of murder and atrocity in their wake.
The US military began bombing them that summer with the immediate goal of stopping Daesh from reaching Baghdad after they’d seized a string of major cities including Mosul and Tikrit.
Today, the coalition boasts 70 nations as well as international organizations like NATO and Interpol.
Though some alliance members are there in name only, bigger countries like Britain, France, Canada and Australia are helping in the skies and on the ground.
A State Department official said some coalition members can play an increased role now that the main campaign is over, including by countering Daesh propaganda, sending in police trainers and providing funding.
Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said that ideally, “you are going to have different partners taking on many different aspects of the stabilizing mission, the part that they do well.”
With Daesh now cleared from 98 percent of the terrain they once held, nations like France and Australia have begun pulling some military assets — including planes and artillery — from Iraq and Syria, and the Pentagon has said the tapering off of bombing missions means it has more resources to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But the coalition is keeping an indefinite presence to help Iraqis get the support and training they need, and to protect a Kurdish-Arab alliance who fought against Daesh in Syria.
“If we were to repeat the mistakes that we made when the Iraq War came to a close then we are very much likely to see a repeat of the tragedies that followed,” warned Steve Warren, a retired Army colonel who was top spokesman for the coalition between 2015 and 2016.
“They need to morph into a stabilization force, there’s no question.”
America has about 2,000 troops in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq, augmented in both countries by coalition members who have provided commandos and military trainers.
But where Iraq now has a cohesive military and some degree of political stability, Syria is mired in civil war and President Bashar Assad is working with Russia and Iranian militias to maintain control of areas once in the hands of rebels or Daesh.
That means the US must keep boots on the ground in Syria to protect fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces who it backed to fight Daesh.
“Unless we want to cede eastern Syria to the Iranians, (the coalition) needs to be there,” Warren told AFP.
“Not necessarily the US — it’s other partners who have skin in this game, which includes every country in Europe,” he added, referring to the refugee crisis that has gripped the continent in part because of Syria.
Additionally, extremist groups the world over are rebranding themselves under the Daesh banner, meaning the anti-Daesh coalition will have a role beyond the Middle East, including in African nations.
Last year, four new African nations signed up to the coalition: Djibouti, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
“Pre-existing terrorist organizations like in the Philippines, like in Bangladesh, like in the Sinai and Afghanistan, they have basically rebranded themselves and started flying the ISIS flag in order to gain attraction and resources,” the State Department official told AFP.
US military officials stress the fight against Daesh is not over, and warn of the extremists in Iraq and Syria returning to a more traditional insurgency.
“Their repressive ideology continues. The conditions remain present for Daesh to return, and only through coalition and international efforts can the defeat become permanent,” coalition commander Lt. Gen. Paul Funk said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
Pay raise not enough for Egypt’s angry civil servants
- The recent austerity measures are part of an economic reform program designed to meet the terms of a three-year $12 billion loan Egypt secured from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in late 2016
- Gasoline prices have risen by an average of about 34 percent
CAIRO: Egyptian civil servants have warned the government that increases in their salaries will not help them avoid the devastating impact of tough new austerity measures.
Earlier this month the national Parliament approved a draft law giving state employees a 7 percent raise in their basic earnings and an additional irregular bonus of 10 percent.
But while civil servants welcomed the increases, they told Arab News that huge rises in the prices of essential commodities including fuel, electricity, piped drinking water and public transport will still leave them struggling to make ends meet.
One 45-year-old who works at a government notary office in Cairo and requested anonymity said, “It’s better than nothing but definitely still not enough. It can help alleviate the effects of just one item out of the many items of which the state has decided to increase the cost.
“For example, I can now bear the additional costs of drinking water but what about electricity, what about transportation, what about everything else?”
The recent austerity measures are part of an economic reform program designed to meet the terms of a three-year $12 billion loan Egypt secured from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in late 2016.
In recent weeks, the authorities have increased metro fares by up to 250 percent and the price of cooking gas from 60 Egyptian pounds to 100 Egyptian pounds ($3.3 to $5.6) per cylinder. The cost of piped drinking water has risen by up to 45 percent and electricity by 26 percent. Gasoline prices have risen by an average of about 34 percent.
Abdel-Rahman, a government employee who refused to give his full name, told Arab news: “I earn 1,200 pounds and I have three children. The salary increases they usually announce every year barely make any difference.
“My salary needs to be at least doubled if I’m to survive such dire economic conditions. Life has become too hard and the few pounds they throw at us every year are almost useless.”
Egypt is not the only Middle Eastern country to face a public backlash over a tough austerity program. In January, demonstrations erupted across Tunisia after the IMF told the government there that it needed to take “urgent action” to reduce its deficit.
Earlier this month protesters in Jordan forced the Prime Minister Hani Mulki to resign and King Abdullah to roll back a fuel-price increase in an attempt to quell some of the worst civil unrest the country has seen in years.