Riyadh, November 28, 2017 – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened the first Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) summit in Riyadh on Sunday with a vow to root out terrorism from the region and beyond.
Addressing the meeting of high-profile security officials and defence ministers from 40 of the 41-member coalition the Crown Prince said: “We will not allow such elements to tarnish the image of Islam.” He condemned the recent terrorist attack on worshippers at a mosque in Sinai in Egypt and condoled the kith and kin of the victims, citing it as an example of why terrorism must be wiped out from the face of the Earth”.
“In the past, terrorism had been functioning in all of our countries with no coordination” among them, he said in his keynote speech. “This ends today, with this alliance.”
The defence ministers representing the coalition unanimously cited the coalition as a symbol of their determination to fight the scourge. It’s not just necessary but also urgent, as the stakes are too high.
General Raheel Sharif, the military commander of the coalition, pointed out that almost 70,000 terror attacks took place over the past six years, killing 200,000 people. About 70% of those attacks took place in the Islamic world.
The coalition, he said, would work mainly in four domains: countering terrorist ideology, blocking terror financing, capacity building for different coalition countries to enable them to effectively counter terrorism and intelligence sharing among partner nations. At the same time, “we also need to counter Islamophobia,” said Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan.
Asked about the conspicuous absence of Syria and Iraq, two of the major victims of terrorism, as well as Iran, Lt General Abdulelah bin Othman Al Saleh, the Acting Secretary General of IMCTC, pointed out that this was, above all, the first meeting of the coalition, whose main objective is to launch the operations in all domains. “One of the pillars of this coalition is inclusion – inclusion of Muslim and other nations. That’s because the whole world is affected by terrorism,” he said. “Muslim countries have decided to collectively fight terrorism. And they will fight in an organised manner that will guarantee results.”
He expressed hope that these countries will join the coalition at some point as it will benefit everyone.
The first meeting will result in the approval of a blue-print of the coalition’s operation strategy. Even though the budgetary issues have not yet been finalised, Lt General Al Saleh said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to a certain amount of operational budget, which is about 400 million riyals for the first year. “But then the structure of the coalition is such that it allows all nations to contribute, be it financially or technically,” he said. “The coalition will only be healthy when all member nations collaborate and cooperate. That’s why the governance of this coalition is built around multitudes of initiatives. These initiatives will be evaluated under specific criteria.” Lt General Al Saleh categorically stated that the coalition will not deal with regional political issues.
He acknowledged that regional politics could stand in the way of fighting terrorism, but he said that the coalition had opted for a “sophisticated governance that would be hopefully able to manoeuvre around these challenges. The style of governance will help this coalition to avoid, in a constructive manner, any political differences. Our objective is to create a platform for legitimacy, be it cultural or political, to cooperate and exchange knowledge among member countries and other nations in our fight against terrorism under one umbrella”.
Lt General Al Saleh justified that even though the coalition will fight terrorism on a broader level – cultural, ideological and educational – it is primarily military coalition because military is usually the most effective organisation in every country. “Nobody recognises the complexity of fighting terrorism more than the military. Military men sacrifice their lives fighting against enemies of nations. However, the military coalition recognises that terrorism cannot be fought militarily alone, but it has to have a multi-pronged approach. The ministers of defence represented here are members of their cabinets. They will be effectively recruiting the capabilities of those countries into the fight. So we are gaining in every way.”