Saudi Arabia hosts the first meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
Vowing to “pursue terrorists until they are wiped from the face of the earth,” Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, assembled leaders from 41 nations in November 2017 to launch a counterterrorism alliance stretching from North Africa to Southeast Asia.
The aim of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) is to coordinate ideological, communications, military and financial strategies to thwart violent extremism. Prince Mohammed announced the multinational alliance in 2015, and the late 2017 gathering was the first of many meetings of counterterrorism leaders.
Counterterrorism efforts have been taking place in all of the coalition countries, but with no coordination among national authorities, Prince Mohammed said in his keynote speech at the conference in Riyadh. “This ends today, with
Just two days before the prince’s speech, terrorists murdered more than 300 worshipers in an Egyptian mosque in North Sinai province, an outrage not lost upon the assembled defense ministers and other leaders in Riyadh.
“Terrorist thought is alien to the message of Islam, and this coalition will root out terrorism,” said Dr. Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League based in Mecca.
Reiterating its commitment to confronting terrorism, Pakistan sent Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to Saudi Arabia.
Retired Pakistani Gen. Raheel Sharif was enlisted as commander in chief of the military branch of the IMCTC.
Gen. Raheel described the IMCTC’s “meaningful” and “historic” comprehensive strategy to defeat terrorism. He suggested member states mobilize and coordinate resources, exchange information and help each other expand counterterrorism capacity.
“We all have different strengths. For example, the Jordanians are great in urban counterterrorism. The Pakistanis are well-versed at operating in rural, less developed areas. Thus, resourcing will be key,” he said. “Using the resources of militaries which have enough — such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] — to help out nations with less, such as those in Africa, will optimize the coalition. Of course, intelligence sharing will be the key building block of our operational capacity and will also translate into greater gains, like ending the war in Afghanistan.”
Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs Dr. Mohammad Al Momani discussed the importance of effective communications in countering terrorist propaganda. The coalition should produce content that is not just factual and well-researched, but engaging enough to attract a wide audience.
“One of the most important roles that media outlets in Islamic countries should assume is to refute the false allegations that terrorist groups use to justify their crimes,” he said.
In the realm of counterterrorism finance, Dr. Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey, chairman and governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, promoted legal, regulatory and operational means to detect, block and seize illicit money transfers to violent extremists. Much of that cooperative work of depriving terrorists of money is done through the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force.
Representatives from nations throughout the Middle East extended support to the newly launched counterterrorism coalition.
Maj. Gen. Tawhid Tawfiq Abdel-Samie, Egypt’s assistant minister of defense, explained that terrorists are no longer content to make political statements through violence, but aim to destroy sovereign states.
Then Kuwaiti Defense Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah, vowed to “tighten the noose on terrorists all over the world” and prevent sectarian strife that threatens regional security.
“We send a vociferous message that no part of our society has been spared this plague of terrorism,” Sheikh Mohammad said.
Bahraini Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Yousef al-Jalahmeh reported how extremists supported by hostile nations were intent on destabilizing his country through terrorist violence.
The UAE delegation was headed by Minister of State for Defense Mohammed bin Ahmad Al Bawardi. Lt. Gen. Ali Mohssen Saleh was Yemen’s lead representative at the Riyadh conference.
Pakistani Gen. Raheel stressed that the coalition wasn’t singling out any one nation for scrutiny, but rather aimed to take a universal approach to opposing violent extremism.
“This coalition is against terrorism,” he said. “It is not against any country, sect or religion.”
Prince Mohammed spoke about recommitting a coalition of nations to stop terrorism.
“Over 40 states are sending a major signal that they are working together and will work in close cooperation in supporting each other’s efforts,” he said.
Proposed IMCTC Operations Span Four Counterterrorism Domains
- Promote the essence of Islamic principles, teachings, culture and heritage.
- Align and correct the understanding of religious principles.
- Undertake a grassroots approach that promotes the Islamic value of moderation, welcomes diversity and values human life.
- Achieve a wide range of positive effects on intellectual, psychological and social levels related to terrorism throughout the Muslim world.
- Counter the media discourse and appeal of violent extremists and terrorist organizations.
- Showcase the richness and cultural and intellectual diversity of Islam by promoting the moderate values of Islam.
- Promote and support credible influencers throughout the Islamic world to propagate the moderate values of Islam.
Counter terrorism Financing (CTF)
- Promote best practices and build coalition member countries’ capabilities in countering terrorist financing.
- Promote a supportive environment to enable sharing of CTF-related information among member countries and international organizations.
- Support CTF competent authorities in member countries to possess required procedures and mechanisms for prevention, detection, reporting and prosecution operations related to CTF.
- Develop and operationalize legal, regulatory and operational frameworks related to CTF in member countries.
- Promote and build an effective system to discourage terrorist organizations and stop their attempts to cause harm to nations, communities and individuals.
- Strengthen and fill in critical gaps in counterterrorism military capabilities in member countries.
- Integrate military efforts with ideological and media campaigns.
- Provide assistance and support to coalition members in coordinating military operations to combat terrorism.
- Develop a framework to assist in military capacity building, training and knowledge sharing programs to counter terrorism in member and supporting nations.
- Provide a platform to member countries to seek military assistance in counterterrorism capacity building and military support from partners and supporting nations.