Why are extremist groups like ISIS and others gaining ground in Africa? US Official

    The US declared the creation of a sizable global coalition to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on September 10, 2014. At a ministerial meeting in Riyadh on June 8, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that “for all our progress, the fight is not yet done.”

    “Last November, the United States and Nigeria convened a coalition meeting with representatives of West African states to discuss countering the ISIS threat in West Africa and the Sahel,” Mr. Blinken said, providing an update on the coalition’s activities to a D-ISIS meeting on June 28. Additionally, we’ve had informal discussions with the coalition’s members about the serious ISIS threat in northern Mozambique.

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    In a one-on-one conversation with Pearl Matibe, White House correspondent for PREMIUM TIMES, Deputy Special Envoy (DSE) Ian McCary discussed the international coalition.

    An excerpt from the conversation is provided below, lightly edited for length and clarity:

    Matibe, Ms. On this fourth day of the High-Level week at the 78th UN General Assembly, thank you, Deputy Special Envoy McCary. You started working at the Bureau of Counterterrorism of the US Department of State last year. The international coalition’s efforts to fight ISIS are a hot topic. Since the Global Terrorism Trends and Analysis Centre (GTTAC) and the Terrorism Transnational Crime and Corruption Centre (TraCCC) collaborated, the statistics I’ll be using today are based on the GTTAC data at the top. A research facility within TraCCC?

    Most people think that ISIS-CORE, which is based in Syria and Iraq, has no more power and is a defeated organization. However, 645 ISIS occurrences were listed in 2021 in the State Department’s annexe of statistical data. It was 535 in 2022, according to GTTAC data.

    And as I already mentioned, this information was retrieved yesterday, September 2023, from the GTTAC Record of Incidents Database (GRID). How would you rate the war against ISIS given the significant number of ISIS incidents and fatalities reported in these attacks? ISIS has reportedly been vanquished, in your opinion.

    John McCary No, I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed that ISIS is a vanquished force. It undoubtedly still causes issues and presents difficulties in northeast Syria, Iraq, and a number of other countries. However, it’s important to consider how far the fight against ISIS has come. The difference between where they are now and where they were, say, in 2015 or 2016, is stark.

    Naturally, they ruled over a considerable portion of the land back then, which extended from Mosul to Ar Raqqa, down to Tadmur, into Baghdad, and into Fallujah. And as of right now, they have no land under their direct control in that area. They’ve been soundly trounced now, Stabilization and managing the ongoing humanitarian issues are the key challenges at the moment.

    We are primarily concerned with implementing stabilization projects, reestablishing community infrastructure, helping displaced families rebuild new lives, reestablishing services in the communities they were ejected from, and assisting as many individuals as we can who have been residing in these displaced persons camps to leave the camps, return to their original locations, and begin new lives. To assist in achieving those objectives, we collaborate closely with the government of Iraq and other international partners.

    Matibe, Ms. ISIS has therefore established regional branches connected to organizations after falling from power in Syria and Iraq. In 2022, these organizations were responsible for more than 1300 terrorist incidents. As I previously stated, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS believes that the ISIS branches in the Sahel, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, and Nigeria are the most vicious and aggressive. Which regional ISIS branches, especially in Africa, require a closer inspection and a magnifying glass?

    John McCary Yes, we are undoubtedly concentrating on each of the topics you highlighted. We are especially concerned about the situation in the Sahel and West Africa, where, as you correctly said, we have seen in recent years a lot of criminal gangs and organizations, as well as sort of ad hoc militias, openly accept the ISIS philosophy and attempt to exploit that brand to improve their own status.

    Therefore, working closely with our African partners, we have established a focus group of stakeholder countries within The Global Coalition, primarily with an emphasis on African states themselves, to assist them in developing their own counterterrorism capabilities so they can protect their citizens and defend their sovereignty from threats posed by violent extremist organizations, including some self-identified affiliates.


    Matibe, Ms. And, as you correctly pointed out, we certainly observe how jihadist organizations vie with one another to represent ISIS or Al Qaeda in Africa. For instance, Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique and Allied Democratic Forces in the DRC are currently ISIS’ regional affiliates in an effort to increase resources and gain from the organization’s popularity. These two organizations are currently on the US FTO list as a result of their violent acts. Do you believe that states in Africa, which struggle with pervasive corruption and a lack of government resources, can successfully combat ISIS regional branches? What actions should The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS do to counter the group’s expanding influence and presence in Africa?

    John McCary South Africa? Let’s be honest, I guess. Many regions in Africa face significant governance issues. Furthermore, the effective delivery of public services is not a given in many African nations and regions. And from what we’ve observed in these places, this leads to circumstances in which there is a lack of efficient government as well as situations of economic hardship and other elements. We watch as different players enter the scene and try to fill that gap. So, that is undoubtedly a contributing factor in the emergence or expansion of these groups in the regions you named.

    Therefore, providing schools, hospitals, basic infrastructure, roads, energy, and working with governments to improve their capacity to deliver services to their inhabitants is plainly important and similar things; is undoubtedly a component of the long-term fix. That represents a greater obstacle than The Global Coalition can overcome on its own. The Global Coalition is specifically focused on assisting African states in increasing their CT capacities, but we also continuously coordinate with other US government departments and development organizations in other regions – or in other partner countries – to see what we can do to address the more general issues.


    Matibe, Ms. I sincerely appreciate that, Deputy Special Envoy McCary. Thank you very much for your time today. Do you have any last observations or do you believe there is something that isn’t being discussed enough or that should be discussed more?

    John McCary Sincerely, Pearl, I can’t come up with a particularly intelligent conclusion. I would cite the earlier points I stated. This coalition is big—it’s called the Global Coalition. We have 87 members who each provide a variety of skills. The threat is evolving, and so are we. We are concentrating on the threat as it materializes and changes around the world. To successfully address this situation, we are utilizing the strengths of our many coalition partners in each location.

    Ms Matibe: Thank you so much, Deputy Special Envoy , and thank you for your time today.

    Mr McCary: Thank you. It’s a great time talking to you.

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