Press Briefing with Ambassador Nathan Sales – Mobilizing Law Enforcement Efforts to Defeat ISIS

العربية العربية

Africa Regional Media Hub
State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator
Via Teleconference,
Washington, D.C.
March 1, 2018


OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Mobilizing Law Enforcement to Defeat ISIS conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session; instructions will be given at that time. If you should require assistance during the call, please press * then 0. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Brian Neubert. Please go ahead.

MODERATOR: Thank you and good afternoon to everyone from the United States Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I’d like to welcome our participants dialing in from across the world and thank you for joining today’s conversation. We’re very pleased to be joined from Washington, D.C. by Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator, who will provide a brief overview of the International Conference on Mobilizing Law Enforcement Efforts to Defeat ISIS, as well as discuss the State Department’s new terrorist designations.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Sales, and then we will turn to your questions. We will get to as many of them as we can in about 45 minutes. At any time during the call, if you would like to ask a question, press *1 on your phone to join the question queue. If you’d like to join the conversation on Twitter, we’re using the hashtag #CTBrief. You can also follow us @StateDeptCT and @africamediahub.

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, Ambassador Sales, sir.

AMB. SALES: Thanks very much and thanks to everyone who made time to participate in this call today. This week, the State Department hosted a conference on Mobilizing Law Enforcement Efforts to Defeat ISIS. In coordination with INTERPOL as well as the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta, we welcomed about 90 countries and organizations here to Washington to address what we think is an important issue and is going to be one that is increasingly going to require the attention of world leaders.

As we defeat ISIS on the battlefield, the group is adapting to our success. The fight is by no means over – it’s simply moving into a new phase: from military solutions to law enforcement solutions. Increasingly, we’re going to need to supplement our military efforts to defeat ISIS with civilian measures that can ensure the group’s enduring defeat.

I opened the discussions at the conference by sharing an overview of what the United States is doing to counter ISIS in the law enforcement arena. Let me give you a summary of three of the key tools that we highlighted: terrorist designations, Passenger Name Record data, and biometrics.

First of all, I announced Secretary Tillerson’s decision to designate seven ISIS-affiliated groups and two ISIS-affiliated leaders. The groups are ISIS West Africa, ISIS Somalia, ISIS Egypt, ISIS Bangladesh, ISIS Philippines, the Maute Group, and Jund al-Khilafah Tunisia. The two individuals are Mahad Moalim, who’s a leader of the ISIS affiliate in Somalia, as well as Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who’s active in ISIS’s West Africa affiliate.

These terrorists have spread ISIS’s bloody campaign to all corners of the globe. Let me give you just a few examples. In December of 2016, ISIS Egypt bombed Cairo’s Coptic Christian cathedral, killing 28 people. ISIS Bangladesh murdered 22 in a July 2016 assault on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka. The Maute Group is responsible for the siege of the Philippine city of Marawi and the September 2016 Davao market bombing, which killed 15 people and wounded 70 others.

This week’s designations join the eight ISIS-affiliated groups that we’ve previously listed. We’ve designated these groups and individuals to illuminate ISIS’s global network, and to emphasize the need to continue our campaign against ISIS. These designations will deny the ISIS network the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks around the globe. As we address this evolving threat, it’s important to recall: we don’t just want to stop the bomber. We also want to stop the moneyman who buys the bomb.

At the conference we also discussed Passenger Name Records, or PNR. PNR is the information you give an airline when you book a ticket – contact information, the seat assignment, your frequent flyer number, and so on. Now this is an incredibly powerful counterterrorism tool. PNR can help analysts identify suspicious travel patterns, flagging threats who otherwise might have escaped notice. It can also illuminate hidden connections between known terrorists and their unknown associates.

Here’s an example. In December of 2009, a U.S. citizen by the name of Faisal Shahzad received explosives training in Pakistan from people affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban. In February of 2010, Shahzad arrived at JFK on a one-way ticket from Islamabad. He was referred to secondary because he matched a PNR targeting rule. Customs interviewed him and then released him.

Three months later, on May 1, 2010, a car bomb failed to detonate in Times Square in New York City. Investigators tied Shahzad to the car; it was a Nissan Pathfinder that he bought through Craigslist. Customs then placed an alert for Shahzad in its system. When he booked a flight to flee the country, the system flagged it, and he was arrested at JFK as he attempted to travel to Dubai. He was convicted for his crimes, and he’s now serving a life sentence.

The PNR system that the United States pioneered and has been using for years is now an international obligation. UN Security Council Resolution 2396 – which was adopted late last year and which the United States spearheaded – requires all UN members to develop the same kind of system. We’ve used this week’s discussions here in Washington to urge other countries to implement this obligation as soon as possible.

Finally, the conference discussed biometrics. Biometrics are a critical tool for verifying that travelers really are who they say they are. Terrorists will try to mask their true identities in any number of ways – fake passports, aliases, and so on. It’s a lot harder for them to fake their fingerprints. For that reason, the United States collects biometrics from visitors to this country. We take fingerprints and facial scans to validate identities and travel documents. We also check this data against our watch lists of known and suspected terrorists.

Here’s just one example. A few weeks ago, authorities arrested a man in Oklahoma who was suspected of trying to join al-Qa’ida. They were able to identify him because his fingerprints matched those taken from a document retrieved in Afghanistan. It was an application for al-Qa’ida’s Farooq camp – a camp where four of the 9/11 hijackers were trained.

Again, thanks to Resolution 2396, this is now a global norm. The resolution requires all UN members to collect biometrics to spot terrorists if they attempt to board planes or cross international borders. And again, we’re urging our partners to implement this new obligation as quickly as possible.

Our discussions this week were wide-ranging, focusing on developing a shared understanding of the threat ISIS faces, the nature of the organization as it evolves, and the tools that are best-suited to meet this adaptive threat. ISIS is changing; we need to change, too. And even though the capital of Raqqa has fallen, even though the false caliphate has been more or less destroyed, that doesn’t mean that we can let up the pressure on this global terrorist network. Instead, we need to keep up the pressure on these terrorists by invoking and deploying all the instruments of national power, including civilian and law enforcement authorities.

And with that, I’ll thank you very much for your time and I look forward to your questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador Sales. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. If you’re called on, please state your name and affiliation and we ask that you limit yourself to one question. And again, if you would like to join the question queue, you press *1 on your phone. For those of you listening to French, Portuguese, and Arabic, you can send your questions to us in English via the email [email protected]. We have received some of your questions in advance.

I’ll ask one of those, Ambassador Sales, from Jeff Antiporda at The Manila Times in the Philippines. He asks about a statement by Australian authorities that a terrorist group that laid siege to the city of Marawi city, the Philippines, is reportedly regrouping to strike again. Can you comment on that group and can you comment on what is being done about returning Islamic State fighters to Southeast Asia, including the Philippines?

AMB. SALES: Well, thanks for the question. I defer to the Australian government, who can provide more information on the reports that they issued, or the statement that they issued. But let me speak to the threat that we in the United States have seen directed at the Philippines.

As you well know, ISIS Philippines was one of the ISIS network’s most ambitious affiliates, sieging territory in the southern portion of the country and carrying out a campaign of terror. Through a close partnership between the United States and the Philippines, we were able to liberate that territory from the ISIS affiliate in the country. And that partnership, it should be understood, doesn’t just include military assistance. It also includes law enforcement assistance and border security assistance and information sharing. I think those civilian tools are going to be increasingly important as ISIS’s elements in the Philippines and throughout all of Southeast Asia look to regroup after the losses they suffered. It’s important for us to be able to spot these people as they attempt to cross international borders. That’s why things like PNR, Passenger Name Record data, are so important. It’s important for us to be able to prosecute ISIS members who may have committed crimes under the laws of the countries of Southeast Asia. And that’s why here in Washington today we’ve hosted this conference to mobilize international support to take those steps. Thank you for the question.

MODERATOR: For the next question, we’ll go to Kevin Kelley, if you could introduce your outlet and ask your question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi, thanks, Ambassador Sales, for doing this today. So I have questions that pertain to Somalia. Can you give us, please, an evaluation of the relative strengths of ISIS and al-Shabaab in Somalia? If you can give figures for the approximate number of fighters, that would be great. And also, the Trump administration has stepped up its air attacks on Shabaab partners and, to some extent, ISIS as well, in Somalia. How do you gauge the impact of those attacks? Do you think you’re turning the tide in defeating both ISIS and Shabaab in Somalia? Thanks.

AMB. SALES: Thanks for the question. As you point out, it’s a very fluid security environment in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has long been one of the preeminent deadly terrorist organizations on the continent of Africa. In recent years we’ve seen an uptick in activity, as you know, by ISIS elements in Somalia as well. The United States has been working very closely with the government in Mogadishu to roll back those terrorist organizations and prevent them from continuing their campaign of bloodshed. As you know, these groups are dedicated to killing innocent men, women, and children, and we’ve seen, regrettably, an uptick in their attacks in recent weeks and months.

What are we doing about it? Well, it’s a multi-pronged campaign. It has a military component to it, as you mentioned. It also has law enforcement components to it, and border security components to it, and aviation security components to it. And that’s where we in the State Department come in. We’ve been working to stand up the capability of crisis response units in Somalia, who can respond to crises as they’re unfolding in real time. We’re working with aviation security authorities to improve the ability of Somali authorities to detect any threats against civil aviation.

These measures will continue, because it’s in the interest of the United States and it’s in the interest of the international community, to stand up the capabilities of countries that have strong political will to take a stand against terrorists, but who need help with the resources and developing those tools to a greater extent. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Mr. Assira Nambatingue; he’s the Chief Editor at the Chadian National Television. He asks, given the international community has faced such a challenge, although they know the geographic location of ISIS, how is it that this has been so difficult? And he wants to know, are there some external powers that have let ISIS develop or have helped ISIS to develop?

AMB. SALES: I think what we’re seeing as the ISIS threat evolves and adapts is a dispersal or a decentralization of ISIS. We’re not just worried about ISIS core, which as we all know has been degraded quite severely in its territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq, but as that territorial core has eroded, we’ve seen an increase in activity by ISIS elements elsewhere in the world. And that’s why the Secretary of State has designated a number of these networks and affiliates.

We’re seeing ISIS increasingly active in Africa, hence the designation of ISIS West Africa. As we all know, ISIS Philippines laid siege to Marawi last year, and that territory was liberated only by extensive interventions by the Philippine military. ISIS Bangladesh. So we’re seeing activity, really, in all corners of the globe. And that’s why it’s incumbent upon us in the United States, with our international partners, to mobilize an international coalition and demonstrate to that coalition that the fight is not over. Just because Raqqa has fallen doesn’t mean that we can pack up and go home. What it means is we need to redouble our efforts to confront this decentralized threat as it fans out across the globe.

MODERATOR: Okay, we’ll go to our next caller in the question queue. Introduce yourself and your outlet, please. Matina, are you still there?

QUESTION: Sorry, I didn’t hear. Yes, I am, sorry I didn’t hear you. Matina Stevis-Gridneff from the Wall Street Journal, calling from Kenya. Thanks for doing this. A follow-up to the colleague’s Somalia question. The U.S. government has a sort of well-established support program for the Somali national army, or parts of it, now. With this call and this new information and the development of the ISIS threat as you’re describing it, Ambassador, can you tell us if the United States is not considering a potential funding of a program to support the Somali police forces, which is part of other members of the international community funding efforts as part of the sort of state-building exercise in Somalia, and if you want more law enforcement involved in defeating ISIS, Somalia’s police forces are quite weak, and in parts nonexistent, should that be a new place for American funding and training?

AMB. SALES: Well, thanks for the question. I can tell you that those are exactly the sorts of programs that the State Department participates in worldwide, but especially in Africa. You know, our Africa partners are very valuable counterterrorism partners. A lot of them have strong political will to take the necessary steps to confront ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and other terrorist groups of global reach, but they often face difficulties when it comes to mobilizing resources. So that’s where the United States comes in. We’re not standing up law enforcement capacity as an act of charity, although the recipients of our assistance certainly benefit from it. Ultimately, it’s in the interest of the United States that our partners in Africa and elsewhere in the world have these capabilities: have the ability to prosecute, have the ability to respond in real time as terrorist acts are unfolding, have the ability to protect judges and witnesses, have the ability to secure their borders. It’s in our interest that our partners have all of these capabilities, because that means they’re able to defend themselves without turning to others for assistance. Ultimately, we see this sort of assistance as a form of investment; we’re investing in our partners so that they reach a point where they no longer see it as necessary to look to others.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. Our next question comes from Conakry, Guinea, Youssouf Bah, Editor with Al Jazeera. He notes that ISIS killing innocents get a great deal of free publicity. Do you believe that somehow blocking this publicity may reduce some of their ability to wreak havoc in the world?

AMB. SALES: I think one of the most important tools that we can use against ISIS is counter-speech, counter-messaging. ISIS uses social media, ISIS uses the internet, to spread their depraved message. Regrettably, some at-risk populations find that kind of bloodshed alluring. It is, I think, incumbent upon the rest of the world to develop narratives to persuade would-be recruits that this is a path to nowhere. Traveling to Syria or Iraq to join the false caliphate is a ticket to nowhere. Signing up to go to Marawi to fight for ISIS is not a choice worth making. What does that counter-speech or counter-messaging campaign look like? Well, it’s going to really depend on circumstances, but I think one important element that State Department has been working very closely on is empowering authentic voices within communities – community leaders, imams, and other respected voices in local communities – who are in a position to know if their neighbors are being enticed by the siren song of radicalism, and who can intervene to deliver a targeted message about why that’s a false ideology and a poor choice.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next we will go to a question from a journalist with Libya. Go ahead sir, introduce yourself and your outlet, please. Hello, do we have…

QUESTION: Is that me?

MODERATOR: …218 Libyan TV on the line?

QUESTION: Yes, thank you very much. I thought that was someone else. Thank you, Ambassador Sales. Following what you said, the defeat of ISIS and Iraq in Syria, you said that reports indicate that ISIS militants were regrouping in North Africa. You mentioned Tunisia. But due to the security and political instability in Libya, how close are you working with the GNA [Government of National Accord], and are there any plans for the U.S. to focus on Libya by enhancing its role there, changing its policy, since so far there is no clear U.S. policy in Libya, away from the U.S.? Thank you.

AMB. SALES: Thank you for the question. Libya’s a very important counterterrorism partner, and we fully support the Government of National Accord. It’s essential for the GNA, the internationally-recognized government of Libya, to be able to gain control of all Libyan territory, because as we know from past history, when terrorists are able to operate in under-governed spaces or when terrorists enjoy safe haven, they’re able to regroup and they’re able to carry out deadly operations – not just in the country where they’re located, but also they can plant external operations. So that is why the United States has strongly supported Prime Minister Sarraj and the Government of National Accord in its efforts to stabilize and bring order to the entirety of Libyan territory.

One of the specific things that we’ve been doing to assist is last year we carried out a training program for Libyan aviation security officials. That took place in Tunis, I believe. And we hope that this will be just the first of a number of engagements that we can use to further strengthen the institutions of the Libyan states to be used against ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and other terrorist groups that might try to be active there.

MODERATOR: For our next question we’ll go to Jonathan Edward in Malaysia. If you could introduce your outlet and ask your question.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m with Malay Mail. Has any cooperation with the ISIS affiliates in Africa been identified with groups in the Asia-Pacific region, and besides an attack on civil aviation, what is the focus of this group?

AMB. SALES: Could you repeat that last part? Besides the threat to civil aviation…

QUESTION: Besides the threat to civil aviation, what is their focus? Are they trying to take territory, are they trying to set up bases, or what, exactly?

AMB. SALES: Okay, thank you. I think the ISIS threat is a wide-ranging one. Certainly we are aware of ISIS’s interests in targeting civil aviation, as they’ve done in the past. That’s why, for instance, in Libya we are addressing that with programming to improve the capabilities of our partners to detect and interdict those threats. But the threat is much broader than that. ISIS and its networks and unaffiliated individuals who have been radicalized by ISIS will attack targets of opportunity. Just last week there were public reports of an ISIS threat to Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Fortunately, we were able to disrupt that. In Dagestan, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on a church. In Australia, an ISIS-inspired woman stabbed her landlord in Melbourne. And these are all just within the past several weeks.

So I think ISIS will seek out targets of opportunity, not just civil aviation and not just governmental targets, but also churches, mosques, and individuals. The nature of the threat is one that is so broad that it requires a whole of government response. And so while we use military techniques to destroy their false caliphate in Syria and Iraq, we also must look to law enforcement and border security, and other civilian authorities, who are capable of addressing the full spectrum of ISIS-related threats.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador Sales. As a reminder to participants, you can join the question queue by pressing *1. We’ll turn to a journalist at the U.S. Embassy here in South Africa. Please introduce yourself and your outlet and ask your question. Do we have a question here in South Africa in the queue? Okay, it seems like that one is not going through, so let me turn to Lagos, Nigeria, Tayo Olanipekun. Please introduce yourself and your outlet and ask your question.

QUESTION: Hello, good afternoon.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, sir.

QUESTION: Yeah, good afternoon. I’m Tayo. Can you hear me?

MODERATOR: Go ahead, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, [UNCLEAR]. Thank you for your efforts. I’d like to know if a form of military technique, is there a way [UNCLEAR] can help Nigeria for the rescue of the abducted school girls in Dapchi.  There were ten of them that were abducted February 5th this year [UNCLEAR] be rescued, but is there a way the U.S. can assist Nigeria in this operation? [UNCLEAR]

AMB. SALES: Thank you for the question. I had a little difficulty hearing the question, because I think the line was going in and out, but let me just say the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent kidnappings. We understand there are reports that this operation may have been carried out by ISIS West Africa. As you know, previous kidnappings in the region have been carried out by Boko Haram, and so it looks like this is a technique that ISIS West Africa is copying.

So as I said, we in the United States condemn this atrocity as strongly as possible, and we’re committed to working with our partners in the region to address this. One of the things that we can do is stand up law enforcement capabilities, and as I mentioned earlier, we have robust assistance programming for a number of countries in Africa that we use to increase the ability of local cops to address all forms of crime, including terrorism-related crimes, including crimes committed by transnational criminal organizations. And our hope is that that kind of assistance will pay dividends and that local authorities will be better-equipped with the tools they need to investigate these kinds of atrocities, but more importantly, to prevent them from happening again in the future.

MODERATOR: To our participants who’ve been waiting to ask your questions, I think we’ll get to all of you. Thank you for your patience. There’s a great deal of interest in the call. The next question, Mr. Ambassador, comes from Joey Aguilar with The Gulf Times in Qatar. He’d like to know, in the context of counterterrorism and counter-ISIL, is there an update on the work that the United States is doing in Qatar, with Qatar?

AMB. SALES: Thanks for the question. Qatar has taken very strong steps in recent months to assist the international community and to assist the United States in our campaign against ISIS, al-Qa’ida, and other transnational terrorist groups. We have a number of important initiatives under way with Qatar relating to things like information sharing, related to things like counterterrorism finance. We look forward to continuing to work with our friends in Doha to improve their capabilities, and we look forward to working with other countries in the region as we raise the bar globally on counterterrorism capabilities.

MODERATOR: Next, we have, patiently waiting, Mike Navallo. If you could introduce yourself and your outlet and your country, please, and ask your question.

QUESTION: Hi Ambassador Sales, this is Mike Navallo from ABS-CBN News in Manila. I’m just curious, Ambassador, if you could provide us a bit more details about the inclusion of ISIS Philippines in the list, or the designation of ISIS Philippines as a terrorist threat. Is there a particular threshold, or what elements did you consider in that sense? And maybe in that sense if you could give us a sense of the evaluation of the strength of ISIS Philippines. Also, what does this mean? Will this mean more assistance and cooperation with the Philippine government? If you could also give details on that. Thank you.

AMB. SALES: Thanks for the question. The reason we designated ISIS Philippines is because they meet the legal standard. The legal standardS that we apply in these cases require us to look at things like does the group engage in terrorism that threatens the national security of the United States? Attacks in Manila, attacks elsewhere in the Philippines by a terrorist organization certainly meet that standard. The Philippines is one of our closest partners in the region; we have a longstanding history of working together in the security space, in the economic space, and so it’s of vital interest to the United States to make sure that a partner like the Philippines is protected against terrorist organizations like the Maute Group, like the local ISIS network.

I think the relationship between Manila and Washington is a very promising relationship. I think it’s headed in a very promising direction, and I think we’re going to see an increased amount of cooperation between our two countries on counterterrorism matters. So it’s not just enough to liberate Marawi city, it’s important for us to address the conditions that can contribute to the rise of a terrorist organization. And so as we move forward with the Philippines, we’ll be looking at other types of partnership to include things like improving border security, improving information sharing, improving law enforcement coordination, and so on.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador Sales, and on behalf of the participants, I’ll note that Ambassador Sales is hopping around the world, covering really a global range of efforts and trends and updates in the counter-ISIS and the effort to defeat ISIS. And we do appreciate that.

Returning to Africa, sir, for the next question, Geoff Hill with The Washington Times noted that Energy Secretary Perry on his visit to South Africa last year, commented that terrorist groups can recruit unemployed men, often because there’s a lack of industrialization, which itself is based on a lack of electricity. So can you comment a little bit on this nexus between development and the attractiveness of these extremist groups, sir?

AMB. SALES: Yeah, thanks for the question. I think development and counterterrorism really go hand-in-hand. Countries that have well-developed industrial economies and coincide with well-developed institutions of democracy have a sort of built-in resilience to terrorism. Developed, democratic, liberal countries provide their citizens with legitimate means of expression and redress. It’s never appropriate to resort to violence to attempt to achieve political objectives, but in a democracy, in a developed country with the opportunity to express oneself at the ballot box, it’s especially inappropriate to resort to violence. And so well-developed countries in economic terms, well-developed countries in democratic institution terms, have that sort of built-in resilience against terrorism. That’s not to say that they’re immune, but it is to say that they are less susceptible. And so I think the Secretary was quite right to draw a link between development and inoculating populations against the false call of radicalism.

MODERATOR: We have a follow-up question from Jefferson Antiporda in Manila. Go ahead, sir, introduce your outlet and ask your question.

QUESTION: Hi, hello. Yes?

MODERATOR: Go ahead, sir, ask your question please.


AMB. SALES: Hello?

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m sorry. I just wanted to know if you have information about the reports of regrouping of ISIS here in Southeast Asia. What’s your update there? And what’s the U.S. doing to somehow protect its allies like the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia against terrorist threats? Thank you.

AMB. SALES: Thanks for the question. We’re very concerned about an ISIS presence in Southeast Asia. Of course the most visible example of this was ISIS network in the Philippines taking control of Marawi and holding the city for some months. Fortunately, the Philippines were able to take back, to liberate, that territory, with the assistance of the United States and others in the international community. But that doesn’t mean that the threat to the region is over. ISIS fighters, ISIS ideologues, ISIS recruiters, are still active. Some are active in the Philippines; some are active in other countries in the region. And so the United States and the State Department in particular are looking very closely at what we can do.

We need to stand up the capabilities of our partners in the region, to improve border security. We need better information sharing between countries in the region and between the region and the United States. We need to be telling each other, giving each other our lists of known and suspected terrorists, we need to be better examining travel data for airlines that are flying within the region and from the region to elsewhere in the world. That’s just a few things that we’re currently looking at and currently doing and hoping to expand, and it’s more examples of using civilian tools and law enforcement tools to continue this effort to degrade ISIS and ensure its enduring defeat.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for just two more questions. We have a follow-up question from Dalia al-Aqidi again with 218 Libyan TV. Go ahead and ask your question.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, I’m a political talk show host from Washington. My question, I’m just following up about the U.S. policy in Libya. Is there a new effort from the State Department to change the policies there to enhance its presence, like opening the embassy, etc.?

AMB. SALES: Thanks, we don’t have anything to announce on that front. Our hope is that the security situation in Libya continues to improve to a point where it will be possible to reopen a facility in the country. As you know, now, our diplomats who engage with our Libyan partners are based in Tunis, and our hope is that in the future, the conditions will improve to the point where they can return to Tripoli. But we don’t have anything to announce at this point.

MODERATOR: And for one final question in the queue as we come close to being out of time, Tayo Olanipekun in Lagos Nigeria, your question please.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. This is Tayo from Lagos. [UNCLEAR] asking you now that in Nigeria we have other forms of militancy [UNCLEAR] if your [UNCLEAR] this form of terrorism, this form of attack, is there a kind of classification, because as we have seen here, it is believed that it’s an element of Boko Haram [UNCLEAR]. Is there any information that you have about this?

AMB. SALES: I’m sorry, I had a difficult time hearing the question. Could you please ask it again?

QUESTION: Other sorts of attacks that we have in communities in Nigeria are other the organizations, do you have any information [UNCLEAR] that it is Boko Haram elements that have been [UNCLEAR] northern parts of Nigeria that are carrying out these acts. Do you have [UNCLEAR] attack?

AMB. SALES: I’m sorry, again, I think the line was breaking up a little bit so I couldn’t hear the specific question. Let me just say as a general matter, the United States is very concerned about growing terrorist threats in that part of Africa, in the Maghreb, in the Sahel, and elsewhere in Africa. This is a part of the world where there are overlapping terrorist groups. Not just al-Qa’ida elements, but also ISIS-affiliated networks and others. Because of that group of threats, it’s important for us in the United States and for our partners in Europe and elsewhere in the world to remain engaged. Our goal here is to continually improve our local partners’ capabilities: help them secure their borders, help them investigate terrorist-related crimes, help them prevent terrorist-related attacks from happening, help them respond to attacks when they do take place, in real time. And ultimately, the interest of the United States is ensuring that our partners have those skills themselves and need not turn to outsiders to provide security for them.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador Sales. Before we conclude, do you have any final words you’d like to offer?

AMB. SALES: I’d like to thank you all for participating in this call and giving me an opportunity to share the United States’ perspective on the next stage of the campaign against ISIS. We’ve achieved great success in Syria and Iraq in destroying the so-called caliphate and in liberating millions of people from ISIS’s clutches. Now it’s important for us to pivot and redirect our efforts, to supplement our efforts, with civilian sector tools and law enforcement tools, in coordination with partners around the word. ISIS is an adaptive threat and we need to adapt along with it to keep our people safe. Thank you again for your time.

MODERATOR: Thank you again. Ambassador Nathan Sales is the Counterterrorism Coordinator at the Department of State. That concludes today’s call, thank you all for joining us and participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at [email protected] Thank you.

This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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