President Joe Biden's administration plans to move the State Department's special adviser office, which is charged with running the anti-ISIS coalition, to the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, current and former officials said Foreign policy. The reshuffle reflects how the new government sees the next phase in the fight against the terrorist organization that once controlled vast areas of Iraq and Syria. However, it has sparked debates on how to continue the fight against terrorism while drawing US foreign policy attention to China.
Some officials have spoken out in favor of the change as the Islamic State no longer controls the physical caliphate. However, other officials privately argue that the decision would actually "downgrade" the post to a lower status within the US government, even if the terrorist group threatens a resurgence. They also argue that the move would signal to coalition partners and allies that Washington has downgraded the fight against Islamic State after nearly seven years of diplomatic preparatory work to build a global coalition.
"While we generally do not discuss ongoing internal deliberations, the Biden administration is determined to move forward with the vital mission to defeat ISIS," a State Department spokesman replied. "The 83-member Global Coalition to Combat IS remains vital to our efforts to bring about the permanent defeat of IS," the spokesman said, adding that the US's commitments to coalition members and "local partners in Iraq and Syria." remain steadfast ".
If the plan is carried out, the office of the special envoy to the Global Coalition to the Defeat of Islamic State would be relocated to the existing office of the State Department on Counter-Terrorism and the Biden administration would not appoint a new, separate special envoy for the coalition. Instead, the State Department's counter-terrorism coordinator would permanently assume the dual role of counter-terrorism coordinator and special adviser. In practice, this means that the experts working against the Islamic State would no longer report directly to the secretary of state and instead would report to the counter-terrorism coordinator, current and former officials said.
The proposed move also underscores the divisions within the U.S. government over whether to fully contain the Islamic State threat, even after former President Donald Trump boasted that the Caliphate was 100 percent defeated.
Biden himself expressed concern about the threat posed by a regrouped Islamic state during a speech for the Munich Security Conference on February 19. “We cannot allow ISIS to reopen, group and threaten people in the Middle East, Europe and the US. and elsewhere, ”he said.
"ISIS is included in Iraq and Syria, but the military efforts have done as much as they can realistically and any collapse of the fragile state in both countries could give ISIS an opportunity to rise again," said an outgoing US official. who is familiar with it tells the situation Foreign policy. “The general conditions in the region are really no better than in 2012 or after the fall of Saddam, which led to the rise of [Al-Qaeda in Iraq] and then of ISIS. And it's not clear that these conditions will improve significantly in the short term. "
The plan, which was communicated to Congress officials on January 6, the same day as the US Capitol uprising, is due to be formalized as a congressional notice from the State Department in the coming weeks. Lawmakers and its staff have expressed support for the proposed move after the briefing, but remain concerned about the possible resurgence of Islamic state in the region, according to a congressional adviser who was briefed on the matter.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has given acting Counter-Terrorism Coordinator John Godfrey the power of Special Envoy. This emerges from an announcement from the internal office that was sent and seen by Tuesday Foreign policy.
The Office of the Special Representative was established in the wake of the Islamic State's rapid rise to power in 2014. It coordinated efforts by dozens of other countries to push back the group's caliphate, which at its height controlled territory that spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
Islamic State is still active as a terrorist organization and remains a lingering threat to the region, experts said. However, some former officials see the closure of the envoy's office as a natural step after the group's territorial caliphate was defeated in March 2019 when US-backed Syrian forces recaptured the group's last stronghold in Baghouz, Syria.
"With the defeat of the so-called geographic caliphate of ISIS, it makes sense for the State Department to re-involve the D-ISIS task force in the general counter-terrorism effort," said Michael Mulroy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense of the ISIS Middle East during the Trump- Administration who advised the Biden transition effort and now serves as the ABC News analyst.
The Trump administration had initially outlined plans to fold the defeating Islamic state's efforts into the counter-terrorism bureau, but the incoming Biden administration used to bail out the U.S. special envoy to Syria, a former senior U.S. official said Foreign policy on condition of anonymity.
The coalition's last two special envoys, Brett McGurk and James Jeffrey, both fought pressure from Turkey to cut US military support to the Kurdish-led Syrian democratic forces that played an important role in reclaiming the territory of the Islamic state. US support for Kurdish forces has fueled tensions between Washington and Ankara, who have been waging a low-level war against Kurdish separatist groups for decades.
McGurk resigned in protest after Trump tweeted an early withdrawal from Syria in December 2018. Critics said he had effectively left the United States' Kurdish allies. Biden tapped McGurk to serve as his best adviser to the National Security Council in the Middle East.
The continued presence of the anti-Islamic state offices was also controversial among some who viewed it as a drain on other priorities. In a survey conducted and received by the Pentagon's powerful Policy Shop last May Foreign policyOne employee complained that the task force had outlived its purpose and exceeded its original mandate, and asked the agency to redistribute the organization's staff to other parts of the Pentagon. The Department of Defense officials appointed by Trump later abolished the Pentagon's own "Defeat Islamic State" task force and sacked their top official, Christopher Maier. Maier, a holdover from the Obama administration, returned to the Pentagon in January in a new role overseeing the special forces. Politico reported.
The decision to transform efforts against Islamic State was made when the United States began fighting the terrorist group, which no longer controls Iraq and Syria, but has re-emerged as a hit-staging threat . and-run attacks and bombings in smaller cells.
A general report by a multi-agency inspector released earlier this week said US forces had moved to "advise and empower" forces like the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iraqi Armed Forces. In Iraq, the US force, which was thinned to 2,500 soldiers at the end of the Trump administration, only operates in a few areas: the Green Zone and Baghdad airport, the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province and the populous city from Erbil in the Kurdish-controlled northern areas. About 900 US troops remain in Syria.
However, missile attacks have jeopardized their presence in the past two weeks. On February 15, the Erbil base, which is controlled by the Kurdish regional government, was hit by a missile attack that killed a civilian contractor outside the US and injured nine others, including a US service member. US officials blame Shiite militants for the attack. Another missile attack on Monday targeted the Baghdad Green Zone, but no casualties were reported.
Some experts and former officials said the amalgamation of the envoys office of the Against Islamic State would give the US more flexibility to combat the expansion of Islamic State into new regions like Africa and Southeast Asia.
"You should also use what you have learned to address the global ISIS problem, which is spreading and growing outside of the Middle East," Mulroy said.