Global anti-ISIS coalition envoy says group is 'exploiting' Israel-Gaza war

US deputy envoy says counter-ISIS mission aims to expand focus beyond Iraq and Syria and to 'increase our efforts' in 2024

Members of ISIS parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces vehicle in Mosul in 2014. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

ISIS is “exploiting” Israel's war in Gaza to gain international traction, the US warned on Tuesday, as Washington remains “determined” in its mission to defeat the militant group amid increased regional turmoil.

“We do believe that [ISIS] is seeking opportunities to exploit the violence between the conflict between Israel and Hamas for its own purposes … we're determined that we're going to remain steadfast in our operations to defeat [ISIS],” Ian McCary, the US deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, told reporters after an annual coalition meeting hosted by Italy.

Some experts and officials have warned that Israel's sweeping operation in Gaza could help to radicalise local populations.

“As we learnt in Afghanistan, when you are too casual or too permissive about civilian casualties, that ends up being recruitment material for the very terrorist groups you are fighting,” Senator Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last month.

Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip has killed almost 16,000 Palestinians. As Israel resumed military operations this week after a seven-day truce, the UN warned it was impossible to create safe zones for civilians in the enclave.

During the coalition meeting, Mr McCary said representatives from 40 countries emphasised the development of the counter-ISIS mission beyond Iraq and Syria, and a plan to “increase our efforts” in 2024.

“A takeaway from the meeting today is that there in spite of all of the many other challenges that are crowding the global agenda today, there's still a very strong, international will not to be distracted in our efforts to defeat ISIS and to continue to refine our tactics and deploy whatever tools we need to deploy to ensure that [ISIS] can't threaten international security in the future,” said Mr McCary.

That also means an “increased focused” on sub-Saharan African and Central Asia.

A September report from analysts at Critical Threats said that Islamic extremist groups “are thriving in Africa”, which has become the world epicentre of their expansion.

It noted that Somalia's ISIS branch “serves as a node connecting Afghan, African and Yemeni branches to the Islamic State senior leadership cadre in Iraq and Syria”.

“The threat has evolved significantly,” Mr McCary said.

Part of the coalition's expanded efforts, Mr McCary noted, will include increased “regionalisation”, including in Africa, where “the challenges … are so dispersed geographically, that it made sense to break the problem apart and deal with it more piece by piece”.

The developments build on an African Focus Group hosted in Benin earlier this year, in which 38 coalition members highlighted “various counter-Daesh/counter-ISIS initiatives on the continent, facilitated regional-based discussion on the addressing the ISIS threat and identifying gaps in counterterrorism capabilities in the coastal West African states, the Sahel region, East Africa and Central and Southern Africa”, the State Department said.

Mr McCary praised the participation of representatives from Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya and Senegal, “as well as non-member states from Central Asia, including Uzbekistan” in the annual meeting.

Updated: December 05, 2023, 6:52 PM