In 2015–16, the department led Australia’s whole-of-government response to the threat posed by Daesh, facilitating our military contribution in Iraq and Syria and helping shape political outcomes to promote a more stable regional and global environment.
During the reporting period local forces, with support from the counter-Daesh coalition, made steady military gains and reclaimed territory. But long-term stability requires both military outcomes and progress in addressing the underlying political conditions that enabled Daesh’s rise. Recognising this, we stepped up our efforts in three key areas:
- our advocacy raised the importance of political strategy in coalition decisionmaking and led to improved coalition coordination on cross-cutting political and military issues;
- we pushed for more strategic and joined-up coalition advocacy on political reconciliation in Iraq. By better aligning our diplomatic efforts with key partners, we were able to amplify our outreach on the fundamental political issues Iraq must address to build the conditions for long-term stability and avoid the emergence of another Sunni insurgency once Daesh is defeated; and
- we secured membership of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). The Foreign Minister attended an ISSG ministerial meeting for the first time in May 2016 where she pressed at the highest levels for improved humanitarian access and compliance with the cessation of hostilities—key issues underpinning peace talks in Geneva and priorities for Australia.
Iraq and Syria are challenging environments where progress will be incremental and difficult to measure. Our efforts have helped to ensure focus remains on the important political issues that ultimately hold the key to bringing a sustainable end to the conflicts in those countries.