Despite the demise of its leader and the loss of its self-proclaimed caliphate, Islamic State remains deadly threat.
That was the message Thursday at a meeting of the global coalition to defeat ISIS, where U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the fight had shifted from the Middle East to Africa.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, SAYING:
"Recently we agreed at the working level that West Africa and the Sahel would be preferred initial area of focus for the coalition outside of the ISIS core space, and with good reason. ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional government and international partners to address that threat."
Earlier this month Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on army base in Mali that killed 53 soldiers.
This week the leaders of Africa's so-called G5 - Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania - met in Paris and requested more help from the international community to maintain security in the region.
(SOUNDBITE) (French) PRESIDENT OF CHAD, IDRISS DEBY, SAYING (NOVEMBER 12, 2019):
"The question that we ask: why are the joint forces of G5 of the Sahel not yet operational? [FLASH] All the more so, when other forces are better equipped than our armies. There you see the difference."
Groups claiming affiliation with ISIS stretch from Afghanistan to Nigeria. Pompeo's warning about the continued threat comes a day after President Donald Trump crowed about his success in defeating the group.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING (WEDNESDAY):
"When I became president, ISIS was all over the place. I had no idea to the extent. In fact, it was shown to me about a month ago. We came in, it was a mess. We took over 100 percent of the caliphate. And last week, as you know, we killed its leader and its founder. And we're very proud of that fact."
Despite Trump's assessment, the campaign against ISIS hit a setback last month when Turkish forces attacked Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The Kurds were holding thousands of captured Islamic State militants, including their families, some of whom were able to escape during the fighting and have yet to be recaptured.
Some of the ISIS captives are from Europe and the U.S. Pompeo on Thursday said it was now crucial for coalition partners to repatriate captured ISIS members and their relatives.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, MIKE POMPEO, SAYING:
"Coalition members must take back the thousand of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities that they have perpetrated."
He also said partner nations needed to contribute funds to help restore infrastructure and services in Iraq so that millions of citizens displaced by fighting can return home.