Expected Council Action
In August, the Security Council is expected to receive briefings from Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, the head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), and Weixiong Chen, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), on the Secretary-General’s 15th strategic level report on the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh).
Key Recent Developments
The 30th report of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team (Monitoring Team) was issued on 11 July. The report says that the threat from ISIL “remains relatively low in non-conflict zones, but is much higher in areas directly affected by conflict or neighbouring it”. The report provides an overview of the threat profile in different regions, noting that the most concerning areas are Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Levant. It also describes ISIL’s general directorate of provinces and the network that it manages.
In Africa, groups with links to ISIL have continued to attack local populations. In Mozambique, for example, Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a (ASWJ) fighters conducted attacks in the Macomia district in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. More than 800,000 people in the area have been internally displaced because of frequent attacks. According to the Monitoring Team’s report, ISIL has recently referred to ASWJ as an affiliate and described it as “ISIL-Mozambique”. Member states in the region, however, have said that there is no clear evidence that ISIL issues command and control orders to ASWJ. The Allied Democratic Forces, a group active in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda that has pledged allegiance to ISIL, has also continued to attack civilians despite a joint military operation by DRC and Ugandan forces against it.
The Monitoring Team’s report also notes that several member states have concluded that ISIL’s Al-Karrar office acts as a financial hub and transmits substantial funds to ISIL’s Afghan affiliate, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan (ISIL-K). The Al-Karrar office is based in Somalia and led by Abdul Qadir Mumin, the emir of ISIL in Somalia.
According to the Monitoring Team’s latest report on the Taliban, which was published on 26 May, ISIL-K is reported to be ISIL’s most prominent affiliate as a result of the 26 August 2021 attack on Kabul airport. ISIL-K’s recruitment has also increased, driven by prison releases, internal tensions within the Taliban and the financial resources of ISIL-K. In April, ISIL-K carried out a spate of attacks in different parts of Afghanistan, including three attacks on 21 April that targeted a Shiite mosque in Mazar-e Sharif, a minibus transporting employees of the Taliban’s civil aviation authority in Kunduz, and a Taliban security vehicle in Kabul. The group also claimed responsibility for firing rockets into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in April, however, both states have denied that rockets reached their territory.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIL remains a resilient and persistent threat with the ability to orchestrate complex attacks, such as the 20 January attack on Ghwaryan prison in Al-Hasakeh in Syria’s northeast. It is estimated to control 6,000 to 10,000 fighters between the two countries and conducted sporadic attacks in Iraq and Syria during the period covered by the Monitoring Team’s 15 July report, including attacks that targeted farmers in Kirkuk and Diyala governorates on 23 May, killing 12 civilians.
ISIL has also sustained significant leadership losses in Iraq and Syria during the last 12 months. In October 2021, Iraqi authorities announced that they had arrested Sami Jasim al-Jaburi, a senior figure among ISIL’s leadership responsible for managing the group’s finances. On 3 February, ISIL’s leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was killed during a pre-dawn raid by the US military in northwest Syria. On 12 July, US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that the US had conducted an unmanned aircraft system strike in northwest Syria that targeted two senior ISIL officials. Maher al-Agal, a senior ISIL leader, was killed during the operation. CENTCOM described al-Agal as “one of the top five [ISIL] leaders and the leader of [ISIL] in Syria” and said he was “responsible for aggressively pursuing the development of [ISIL] networks outside of Iraq and Syria”.
According to the Monitoring Team’s 15 July report, although the overall threat level in Europe remains moderate, ISIL has limited resources for attacks on European soil. Recent attacks in Europe claimed by ISIL largely involved people with mental health problems inspired by ISIL who did not receive material support from the group. The report also notes that radicalisation of inmates and prison-based recruitment continue to motivate the threat posed by ISIL in Europe.
Repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) linked to ISIL and the women and children associated with them remains an important issue for the international community. The 11 July report notes that one member state has estimated that 120,000 people remain in 11 camps and 20 prison facilities in northeast Syria, including 30,000 children under the age of 12 who are at risk of radicalisation by ISIL, and also says that holding people in these circumstances has negative consequences for the global threat landscape over the long term.
Key Issues and Options
Maintaining the flexibility and adaptability required to address the threat posed by ISIL and the overall implementation of the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida/ISIL sanctions regime are both important issues for the Council. In this regard, the interaction between the implementation of the regime and the provision of humanitarian aid is an important consideration. Humanitarian organisations have reported that sanctions regimes can hinder their work, particularly where banks and other financial institutions practice overcompliance or engage in excessive de-risking. Council members could convene an informal interactive dialogue with relevant experts to discuss ideas for overcoming this problem.
In general, counter-terrorism enjoys the support of all Council members. Some differences exist, however, regarding the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which were reaffirmed by the General Assembly on 30 June 2021. The pillars are, first, addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; second, measures to prevent and combat terrorism; third, measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the UN system in that regard; and fourth, measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism. The fourth pillar does not enjoy equal support among all Council members. Some members favour a counter-terrorism approach that is founded on human rights, prevention, and the involvement of civil society, while other members focus more closely on security and law enforcement.
The US is the penholder on counter-terrorism. Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India) chairs the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). Ambassador Trine Heimerback (Norway) chairs the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee. The 1540 Non-Proliferation Committee is chaired by Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico).
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|Security Council Resolutions|
|17 December 2021S/RES/2610||This resolution renewed and updated the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida sanctions regime.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|11 July 2022S/2022/547||This is the 30th report of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.|