After nearly seven years of establishment, the US-led anti-IS coalition – with the active participation of European allies – has defeated the plot to establish a “caliphate” over the Syrian and Iraqi territories, but has not yet accomplished the goal of “eradicating” this dangerous extremist organisation. After being routed in the Middle East, many IS fighters have “repatriated” to coordinate with “lone wolves” in their countries, creating significant risks to security of the US and Europe and causing unrest in many parts of the world.
The US-led fight against terrorism is at a time of many changes, while the US has adjusted its distribution of forces in the Middle East. The US is gradually withdrawing its forces from Syria and Iraq, which were the “hot spots” for counterterrorism. After cutting the troops stationed in Iraq to 2,500, the Pentagon announced the reduction of troops and air defence units in the Middle East, including removing eight Patriot anti-missile batteries from the area.
However, the US and its European allies are still facing potential security risks. Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 40 attacks against US interests in Iraq. Most recently, three drone attacks were recorded near Erbil City, where the US consulate is located. In response to these attacks, President Joe Biden ordered the US military to launch air strikes on targets in the border area between Syria and Iraq, which accommodates a number of facilities of armed groups believed to be backed by Iran.
Meanwhile, threats from extremists rising in the country have also caused headaches for the US and many European countries. According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the number of domestic terrorist attacks has doubled since 2017. The US government has announced a national strategy to combat domestic terrorism. In Europe, the lower house of the French parliament has agreed to tighten anti-terrorism laws, in the context that the country has suffered a wave of attacks since 2015 that account for more than 250 deaths.
During his meeting with his Italian counterpart, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasised the importance of unity and close relations between the US and Italy. The tight “handshake” between these two countries in particular, and between the US and its European allies in general, plays a crucial role in the fight against the IS, and thus contributing to ensuring transatlantic security.