On Wednesday 11 May, the Kingdom of Alaoui will host the ministerial summit of the Global Coalition against Daesh, a common front created in 2014 as a result of the rise of the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, to assess the evolution of the terrorist threat in the Maghreb, the Middle East and Afghanistan, areas that have again been affected by this phenomenon in recent months.
Marrakech will host a meeting organised by Morocco and the United States, which is expected to be attended by the foreign ministers of the 84 member states of the coalition, which includes countries such as Spain, Italy, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. The head of Moroccan diplomacy, Nasser Bourita, will preside over a meeting that the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, will not be able to attend after testing positive for COVID-19. He will be replaced by the Under Secretary for Political Affairs of the State Department, Victoria Nuland.
It will also be the second visit by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, to Morocco since Madrid and Rabat put an end to the protracted diplomatic crisis with the meeting in April between the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and King Mohammed VI. So far, however, it has not yet been confirmed whether Albares will hold a bilateral meeting with his Moroccan counterpart in the framework of the summit.
Three sessions are planned, focusing on the regions of Africa, Syria and Iraq, and Afghanistan. A note published by the Moroccan foreign ministry adds that the coalition ministers "will review stabilisation actions in the areas previously affected by Daesh, in the field of strategic communication against the radicalisation propaganda of the terrorist group and its affiliates, and the fight against foreign terrorist fighters".
The coalition announced a few months ago the creation of the 'Africa Focus Group', a space for reflection to combat the emerging terrorist threat on the continent, concentrated in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and North Africa, an area where Morocco plays a key role. "As host country of this meeting, and as co-chair of the Africa Focus Group, this meeting confirms Morocco's leadership role at regional and international level in the fight against terrorism and support for peace, security and stability in Africa," the statement issued by the Moroccan government said.
The summit of the Global Coalition against Daesh comes at a critical time, marked by the jihadist group's resurgence in the regions where it emerged eight years ago and, above all, by its growing presence in the Sahel and the rest of West Africa. In March 2022, the African continent suffered more than 100 terrorist attacks, the vast majority perpetrated by Daesh and its regional affiliates, killing some 600 people, including military personnel and civilians, according to the International Observatory for the Study of Terrorism (OIET).
The death on Saturday of 11 Egyptian soldiers in an attack in Bear al Abd, north of the Sinai Peninsula, was the latest sign of the jihadist group's expansionism into Africa. For Daesh has never entirely disappeared. Following the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, at the hands of the United States in 2019, the group resumed attacks in its traditional strongholds of Iraq and Syria, while its affiliates prepared offensives from Africa to Afghanistan.
The recent death of al-Baghdadi's successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, in another US operation in the Syrian province of Idlib, and his replacement as head of the jihadist group, will also be one of the points to be discussed at the Marrakesh ministerial meeting. However, attention will also be focused on Afghanistan, where the security situation has worsened considerably following the abrupt withdrawal of Western forces led by Washington.
The Daesh-affiliated militia in the country, the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K), represents an emerging regional threat despite its deep rivalry with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Their goals, however, are shared, including the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Moreover, the jihadist group has doubled in size since August and now numbers just over 4,000 members.
The challenge for the coalition is daunting, but the coalition has also been adding to its ranks in recent years. In 2021, Central African Republic, Congo, Mauritania and Yemen became part of an organisation that, beyond the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, is committed to "addressing Daesh's funding and economic infrastructure, preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders, supporting the stabilisation and restoration of essential public services in areas liberated from Daesh, and countering the group's propaganda".