USA – Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan Sales on the Release of the Country Reports on Terrorism 2018

U.S. Dept. of State | Nov. 1, 2019

MS ORTAGUS:  Happy Friday.  Good afternoon.  Okay.  The State Department is releasing its Annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which describes the global counterterrorism landscape in 2017 and fulfills a congressional mandate.  The report allows us to highlight significant terrorist trends and to take stock of how effective U.S. and international efforts were in countering these threats.  It also helps us make more informed judgments and plans about our policies, priorities, and where to place resources.

And now, I’d like to introduce my friend, Ambassador Nathan Sales, who was sworn in as Coordinator of Counterterrorism in August 2017.  Before joining the State Department, Ambassador Sales was a law professor at Syracuse University College of Law.  He was also the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.  He led DHS efforts to draft and implement legislation that strengthened the security features of and expanded the Visa Waiver Program.

Ambassador Sales also served at the Office of Legal Policy and at the Department of Justice, where he worked on counterterrorism policy and judicial confirmations.  At DOJ, he received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the Justice Department’s highest honor.

Go ahead.  We’ll take questions afterwards.

AMBASSADOR SALES:  Thanks, Morgan, for the introduction and thanks to all of you for being here today.

The Country Reports on Terrorism offers the most detailed look that the Federal Government offers on the global terrorist landscape.  Today, I’m going to highlight three key trends that we saw in the 2018 report.

First, in 2018, the United States and our coalition partners nearly completed the destruction of the so-called ISIS caliphate while increasing pressure on the terror group’s global networks.  Second, the Islamic Republic of Iran remained the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism, and the administration continued to subject the regime to unrelenting diplomatic and economic pressure.  Third, the world saw a rise in racially or ethnically motivated terrorism – a disturbing trend that the administration highlighted in our 2018 National Counterterrorism Strategy.

In addition to these three broad trends, I will also highlight some important steps the United States and our partners took in 2018 to counter terrorist threats.

Before getting into the report itself, however, I’d like to give you some overall numbers.  In 2018, most terrorist incidents around the world were concentrated in three regions: the Middle East, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.  These three regions experienced about 85 percent of all terrorist incidents.  The 10 countries with the greatest number of terrorist incidents in 2018 contributed 75 percent of the overall number.

And as for those three broad trends, first, the United States and our partners made major strides to defeat and degrade ISIS.  In 2017 and 2018, we liberated 110,000 square kilometers of territory in Syria and Iraq, and freed roughly 7.7 million men, women, and children from ISIS’s brutal rule.  Those successes laid the groundwork for continued action in 2019, including the total destruction of the physical caliphate and last week’s raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Bahgdadi.