Remarks by General John Allen at the Coaliation Communications Conference

October 27, 2014

Kuwait City, Kuwait

GENERAL ALLEN:  I’d like to thank Under Secretary al-Jarallah and the Kuwaiti Government for all that it has done to bring us together this morning for this very important gathering.  Highnesses, Excellencies, it is wonderful to see so many friends and partners gathered here for this important, important moment.  As-salamu alaykum, wa sabah el-kheir.

I’d like to thank you all for the warm welcome that we have received, and I’m so happy to be back once again in Kuwait.  We would want to thank His Highness the Emir and the government for hosting this important meeting.  And I’d like to congratulate Kuwait for the important contributions it has made to date to the humanitarian dimension of the coalition, and the logistics support that it has provided to the coalition and in particular the military operations.  Thank you so much for that.  We could not be where we are today without that important support.

Today’s conference provides an opportunity for us to discuss and coordinate efforts to counter the messaging of Da’esh, and to synchronize our work combating violent extremism in the region and beyond.  This is one of the five lines of effort, along with supporting military partners, cutting off Da’esh access to financing, stopping the flow of foreign fighters, and providing humanitarian assistance, which together will ultimately end Da’esh’s reign of terror.  And I can assure you that this line of effort, the reason that we have gathered here today, is vital – perhaps it is central –  to defeating Da’esh and ensuring that it can no longer threaten the region and the global community.

As President Obama’s Special Envoy, my task is to consolidate the coalition, to integrate its contributions, and to coordinate the efforts of more than 60 global coalition nations to counter Da’esh.  In all my meetings with coalition partners and potential partners, I am emphasizing that the great threat posed by Da’esh will require a holistic, coordinated approach at the international, at the regional, and at the local levels, combining military, law enforcement, intelligence, and economic and diplomatic tools.

It’s useful to imagine Da’esh existing in three spaces.  First, in the physical space, or, if you will, in the battle space.  And make no mistake:  Da’esh will be defeated militarily.  It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.  The combined efforts of the coalition partners supporting Iraq and the moderate Syrian opposition forces on the ground will continue to eliminate the targets of Da’esh, degrade their fighting capabilities, and ultimately push Da’esh out of the territories it controls today, defeating it.

Just this weekend we saw encouraging operations by Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga, and the effective raids of the Lebanese Army against Da’esh sympathizers.  Many of the countries here today are already playing a critical role in these military efforts, and the United States strongly welcomes your contributions.

The second space in which Da’esh operates is the financial space.  We must choke off the oxygen that gives Da’esh life, –  its money, and its resources –  and do so through targeted sanctions, stopping the oil smuggling, and ending their access to the global financial marketplace.

But we are all here today to talk about the third area in which Da’esh operates – the information space.  For it is here that Da’esh celebrates its horrendous brand of warfare, and here where Da’esh recruits and perverts the innocent.  And it is only when we contest Da’esh’s presence online and deny the legitimacy of its message – the message that it sends to vulnerable young people – and as we expose Da’esh for the un-Islamic, criminal cult of violence that it really is – it is only then that Da’esh will be truly defeated.

Da’esh’s online messengers present themselves as the true and victorious representatives of Islam.  They seek to portray themselves as winners, true leaders worthy of financial support that attracts and radicalizes foreign fighters.  I believe every coalition partner, every one, has a unique and a vital role to play in striking down this image – this image within the context of our respective cultural, religious, and national norms.  In essence: each of our roles is unique, and each of our voice reaches a different audience, but our unity together will strike down this message.

In my meetings with the Arab League leadership in Cairo a few weeks ago, we discussed ways to strengthen moderate voices and decry and expose Da’esh in a manner similar to the leadership being exerted by the GCC today.  And already, influential, political, and religious leaders from across the region and around the world have issued statements rejecting Da’esh’s ideology.  In September, over 120 Islamic scholars issued a letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his fighters denouncing Da’esh militants and refuting Da’esh’s so-called religious foundations.  And Grand Muftis from across the region have called on Muslims to spread peace and tolerance, and made clear that there is no place for such violence and such behavior within the faith of Islam.

And so as we seek to expose Da’esh’s true nature, we must also tell a positive story, one that highlights our respect – our profound respect for Islam’s proud traditions, its rich history, and celebration of scholarship and family and community.  We must work with clerics and scholars and teachers and parents to tell the story of how we celebrate Islam, even as we show that Da’esh perverts it.

As President Obama has said, it is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of the world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source.  It is incumbent on all of us as leaders not just to expose the realities of Da’esh, but to offer alternatives.  Where Da’esh would want our children to be suicide bombers, we see a future for them as students and as businesspeople, as community leaders, and as patriarchs of their own families.

Excellencies, Highnesses, dear friends:’ this will be a generational and a global challenge.  But it is also an opportunity to reclaim our youth, our human capital for the betterment of all our peoples.  It is time for the world to clearly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like Da’esh that seek to enflame sectarian tensions, incite hatred, and terrorize in the name of religion.  We must do this together, united as a coalition and as partners.  So as we fight Da’esh in the battle space and as we fight Da’esh in the marketplace, we must fight its ideas in the information space.

Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism needs to come from within.  No external power can transform the hearts and minds at home.  But the United States will be a constructive, respectful, and committed partner in this effort, as we seek to take a leading role in building an architecture of a comprehensive mechanism that will ultimately defeat Da’esh.

At this conference, this is an opportunity to begin this important work, and I strongly encourage all of us, the participants, to set forth tangible work plans that will directly and rapidly counter Da’esh’s propaganda in the cyberspace and in the media.  Our responses must be agile. They must be flexible. And they must be tailored to quickly evolving events on the battlefield, and in the social and political spheres where Da’esh challenges all of us as coalition members.  And our plans must empower the most influential members of our respective communities to speak the truth about Da’esh’s efforts to undermine peace and stability, while also telling the story of the region’s long struggle to free itself from extremism.

Excellencies, Highnesses, dear friends: the United States is proud to partner with everyone here on this shared opportunity to defeat one of the great challenges of our age, while also enhancing our bilateral ties and community relations.  In this, we will hope to build greater trust and to celebrate our mutual respect for each other.

And in the end, we will be successful because we – the people in this room – will have joined together to defeat the most powerful weapon of this enemy: the idea of Da’esh.  Only when we have defeated its idea will Da’esh truly be defeated.  Shukran Jazilan.  Shukran.