Center for Strategic Communication

John Allen, Press Briefing  – Washington, DC

October 15, 2014

“..the five lines of effort …: supporting military operations and training; stopping foreign fighters; cutting off access to financing; humanitarian relief; and de-legitimizing ISIL and degrading its messaging. “

The Coalition

“.. this is a robust coalition. It’s made up of many diverse actors, all seized with the reality of degrading and defeating ISIL as a global challenge.”

“….all agreed that while the military side is important to the outcome, it’s not in – it is not sufficient in and of itself. And there’s a strong consensus across this coalition about our shared goals and the objectives on all the lines of effort and a strong commitment to work together closely.”

“it operates, as we see it, is in the physical space, in the financial space, and in the information space.”

“A number of the partners have expressed their desire to participate in advising and assisting and building partner capacity and working in security sector reform.”

“… we have some partners that will be interested in providing what we call building partner capacity – so helping to refurbish the Iraqi Security Forces – and we’ll have some partners that will be interested in security sector reform, which will be to assist the ministries in becoming more effective in supporting their operating forces in the field. But we’ll also have partners that are interested in participating in the development of the free Syrian echelons that are going to be trained in the training camps also in the region.”

“So much of this can occur simultaneously or concurrently. It doesn’t have to be sequential.”


“I can’t stress enough how much we discussed confronting and contesting ISIL’s messaging in the information space and disrupting their recruitment and their radicalization of foreign fighters.”

“Every country and partner we met with has a unique and vital role to play in this within the context of their particular cultural, religious, or national norms.”

“For many partners there was a very sharp and often troubling intersection of the susceptibility of the citizenry of their countries to extremist messaging and the ISIL narrative, and a willingness to become a foreign fighter as a result of that narrative.”

“… influential political or religious leaders from the region and around the world have issued statements rejecting ISIL’s violent and divisive ideology. I’d particularly note the 22-page letter issued in late September by 120 Islamic scholars to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his fighters denouncing ISIL militants and refuting its religious underpinnings.”

“Each one of the countries that we spoke to were …. outreaching to their populations and helping them – the populations themselves, the tribal structures within those populations, the elders, the clerics, the mothers, the teachers, all of the folks who are enormously important and influencing the direction of their youth – to reach out into those communities to assist them in dealing with the radicalization that occurs through social media and the internet and so on.”

“ they voiced not only their concerns in reaching out to those communities, but they also in most cases voiced the concerns of the communities themselves and how they sought a partnership with the leadership in those countries to try to get after this growth and explosion, horizontal explosion through the social media, of access to extremist messages and radicalization.”

“the foreign fighter piece of this, which ultimately is the result, was very closely paired with the conversation about attacking and contesting the ISIL message in the information sphere, the information space.”

“ what was important was each of those countries saw the populations themselves as the first line of defense. And as they conducted their community outreach to those population groups and the influencers who I mentioned before, their hope was to try to have that first line of defense be the mechanism by which we can start to defeat the ISIL message as it is poured into the ears or into the eyes of those young children who sit in front of a computer or who listen to social media of some form or another.”

Foreign Fighters

“ We’ve already seen many countries take action on particular issues associated with foreign fighters. “

“.. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have declared it illegal for its citizens to fight abroad. And Bahrain and Kuwait both announced that it would monitor ISIL sympathizers.”

“Saudi Arabia arrested and convicted several Saudi nationals on terrorism charges, including an arrest of multiple individuals with alleged ties to al-Qaida in September.”

The financial space

“ The EU and NATO partners have already made great strides on this area, and on my trip next week to the Gulf region, we’ll look to build even more important progress into disrupting financing and foreign fighter lines of effort.”

“Several Gulf states have taken steps to enforce their counterterrorism laws more effectively, including Kuwait’s newly created financial intelligence unit, Qatar’s new law regulating charities that includes the establishment of a board to oversee all charity work and contributions, and the UAE’s new CT law in August that tightens counterterrorism financing restrictions and clearly defines terror-related crimes and penalties.”

“… the coming weeks, Bahrain will host an international conference focused on identifying counterterrorism-financed best practices and developing an implementation plan.”


“.. our Turkish partners have voiced their support for training and equipping the moderate Syrian opposition, and there is a DOD team on the ground, a joint team from the European Command and the Central Command on the ground in Ankara today, working out operational details.”

“…we had ..very detailed and very constructive conversations with the Turks. They’re old friends and they’re NATO partners, and we talked about a variety of areas where we could work together.”

“ The CENTCOM-EUCOM team that is on the ground is talking about operational details. We have also committed to continued political consultation on the variety of ways that the Turks can contribute to the coalition…..there have already been some commitments by the Turks at this point in areas where they will be of assistance to us with the idea that additional details will come from further consultation later.”

“…. there is a ongoing dialogue with the Turks, and we look forward to that dialogue continuing in context of a political consultation, and we expect that more details will be forthcoming”

“I think we would say that the Turkish objective, and our objective in the end with respect to the regime in Syria, is the same. It’s a political outcome. In our case, it’s without Assad being a participant in that political outcome”


, we’re striking the targets around Kobani for humanitarian purposes. I’d be very reluctant to attempt to assign something, a term like a “strategic target” or a “strategic outcome” for the strategy.”

The FSA and Syria 

“At this point there is not formal coordination with the FSA..”

“The Syrian portion of this strategy is very important. At this point, the intent of the coalition is to build a coherence to the Free Syrian Army elements that will give it the capacity and the credibility over time to be able to make its weight felt in the battlefield against ISIL.”

“It’s going to require a build phase; it’s going to require a training and equipping phase.”

“It’s not just building the additional forces that will go into the Free Syrian Army; it’s also an emphasis …. that they need to begin to build and work together to create a coherent political superstructure within which they will ultimately have a political role to play in the outcome of our strategy overall with regard to Syria, which is a political resolution of this conflict.”

“ when you have a strong political superstructure and it’s tied to a credible field force, which is our hope to build, a field force which ultimately deals with ISIL but in the context of the holistic approach – the political portion and the military portion – creates the moderate Syrian opposition as the force to be dealt with in the long term in the political outcome of Syria.”

“ It’s not going to happen immediately. We’re working to establish the training sites now, and we’ll ultimately go through a vetting process and begin to bring the trainers and the fighters in to begin to build that force..”

Winning this at the Moment

I’d be careful about assigning a winner or a loser.”

“We had come in early along with the intention that the airstrikes were to buy white space to impede the tactical momentum of ISIL. And that in fact has occurred in some areas.”

“…[ISIL] still retain some tactical momentum in other areas, and that’s to be expected. They – we’re only new into this strategy. We’re only new into the use of airstrikes.”

“in some areas – Amirli, Mosul Dam, Haditha – those airstrikes were very helpful. We’re actually focusing, obviously, around Kobani, providing airstrikes to provide humanitarian assistance and relief there, obviously to give some time to the fighters to organize on the ground. “

“in the Anbar province, our hope is to stop or halt that tactical initiative and momentum that they have there.”


“In Iraq, we met with a broad cross-section of government and security officials, tribal leaders, and sheikhs. And in all of those meetings, we not only discussed the transformation of the Iraqi Security Forces but also the formation of the Iraqi National Guard which will seek to connect volunteers and tribal fighters into a formal structure at the provincial and national level.”

“…the emergency in Iraq right now is foremost in our thinking: stabilizing the government, giving Prime Minister Abadi the opportunity to build a stable government that is inclusive.”

“… obviously, ISIL has made some substantial gains in Iraq, and the intent at this juncture is to take those steps that are necessary with the forces that we have available and the air power that we have at our fingertips to buy the white space necessary for what comes next, which is the training program for those elements of the Iraqi national security forces that will have to be refurbished and then put back into the field, ultimately for the Iraqis to pursue the campaign plan, which they’re developing, to restore the tactical integrity of Iraq and the sovereignty of Iraq. And it’s going to take a while.”


“In Amman, we expressed our support for the targeted airstrikes by the Jordanian Air Force in Syria.”

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