By ATA Secretary General During The TO BE SECURE FORUM (2BS)
GLOBAL SECURITY AT STAKE – CHALLENGES AND RESPONSES
‘Panel V – Confronting Isil – One Of The Biggest Challenges’
7 May 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start by first thanking the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, its President Dr. Savo Kentera, Ms. Azra Karastanovich and the team of YATA Montenegro for organizing this incredible Forum and constructing this panel with such esteemed speakers.
My name is Jason Wiseman, I am the Secretary General of the Atlantic Treaty Association and it is indeed an honor to be here today to moderate this discussion.
I would like to arrive at the Q+A as quickly as possible so I will begin with briefly introducing the topic and the esteemed speakers here today. I will ask the first question to each speaker who will have 2-3 minutes for their response before opening up the panel to the audience.
The population of Syria when this armed conflict started in 2011 was roughly that of Yugoslavia when its wars began in 1991: some 23 million.
Over the subsequent decade of the Yugoslav wars, more than 140 000 people died and some 4 million were displaced. In took Syria only three years to overcome these same levels of death, displacement and destruction that this region was all too familiar with.
We are now 5 years into the Syrian conflict and we have seen the emergence of something unprecedented, we have seen the emergence of a highly motivated and operationally sophisticated non-state actor that is financially self sustainable, media savy and able to recruit foreign fighters from around the world.
With an estimated strength of at least 80 000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, with thousands more pledging allegiance around the globe, the threat of ISIL continues to grow in size, scope and sophistication.
Since the declaration of the Caliphate in June 2014, ISIL or individuals inspired by ISIL have carried out over 90 terrorist attacks in 21 separate countries, claiming the lives of nearly 1,400 people. The targets are wide ranging and include: Australia, Belgium, France, Indonesia, Russia, Bangladesh, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and the United States.
So what does this all mean for the Balkans, well countries in this neighbourhood now sit at the gates of an active warzone and have become a key transit route where jihadists can rely upon a supporting network that supplies them with financial, operational and logistical support to and from Syria and Iraq.