The 5-Step Plan to Defeat the Islamic State

September 5, 2014

The U.S. has formed a coalition with other allies to combat the Islamic State, American officials said on Friday.

On the sidelines of a NATO summit in Wales, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaned on on leaders from nine other countries — Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark — to lend military and financial support to combat the militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, that has been terrorizing Iraq and Syria.

"There is no time to waste in building a broad international coalition to degrade and, ultimately, to destroy the threat," Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a joint statement.

After several behind-the-scenes meetings, U.S. leaders released a five-step action plan on Friday morning to defeat the Islamic State:

1. Provide military support to Iraqi partners

In the statement, the U.S. officials said they would accelerate the provision of training and equipping the Iraqi security forces.

Until now, the Iraqi military and the Kurdish militia known as the Peshmerga have struggled to defeat the heavily armed Islamic State.

2. Stop the flow of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State

The Islamic State now numbers at least 7,000 foreign fighters, about half from North Africa. Many are young men who have been radicalized in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in places like Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. There are also several hundred Chechen and east European recruits, and about 2,000 people from northern Europe, including about 450 radicals from Britain.

The group has also been targeting young recruits from Europe and the U.S. with social media campaigns. A 33-year-old American killed last month while fighting for the group was one of about a dozen other Americans who have joined the Islamic State. This week the U.S. released a video in its own effort to discourage new recruits.3. Counter the Islamic State's financing and funding

In order to degrade the group's influence, the U.S. said it's essential to stifle sources of revenue for the well-funded group. This includes curbing any trade in petroleum products and holding accountable those who trade in illicit oil sales with the radicals. (According to reports, as many as half the members of the Islamic State work on the business side, controlling the illicit sale of oil from Syrian refineries.)

4. Address the humanitarian crisis

Both President Obama and Kerry have accused the group of genocide, and a new Amnesty International report uncovered evidence of what it describes as “ethnic cleansing on a historic scale” in northern Iraq.

The U.S. authorized air strikes against the Islamic State last month to support thousands of members of an ethnic group in Iraq, the Yazidis, who were forced to flee. Thousands of other Iraqis have been forced from their homes and now live in refugee camps. 

5. De-legitimizing the Islamic State's ideology

The Islamic State's core mission is to establish a caliphate spanning across the Middle East.

Online, it is running a successful recruiting campaign which has helped to expand its support and membership.

Harith Hasan, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, told Mashable that “capturing Mosul made the group appear supremely attractive” to new recruits because the militants now seem the most victorious of all the radical Sunni groups. In some ways, the Islamic State “has replaced al-Qaeda as the most prominent Jihadi group,” Hasan said.

"In these turbulent times NATO must be prepared to undertake the full range of missions and to defend Allies against the full range of threats," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

"We have to ensure we have the right forces and the right equipment in place for as long as required," Rasmussen added. "NATO always rises to every challenge, we stand ready to act together."

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