Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
Current logo of the IMCTC
|Formation||December 15, 2015|
|Headquarters||Riyadh, Saudi Arabia|
|English, Arabic, French|
|Raheel Sharif (Pakistan)|
The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) (Arabic: التحالف الإسلامي العسكري لمحاربة الإرهاب), and also formerly referred to as the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), is an intergovernmental counter-terrorist alliance of countries in the Muslim world, united around military intervention against ISIL and other counter-terrorist activities. Its creation was first announced by the then Saudi Arabian defence minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, on 15 December 2015. The alliance was to have a joint operations center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
When the coalition was announced there were 34 members. Additional countries joined and the number of members reached 41 when Oman joined in December 2016. On 6 January 2017, the Pakistani former chief of Army Staff, General (retd.) Raheel Sharif was named the IMCTC's first commander-in-chief. Most of its participants are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
History and objectives
The IMCTC has stated that its primary objective is to protect Muslim countries from all terrorist groups and terrorist organizations irrespective of their sect and name. The IMCTC affirmed that it would operate in line with the United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) provisions on terrorism.
At the press conference to launch the IMCTC, Mohammad bin Salman said it would "coordinate" efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan. He said, "There will be international coordination with major powers and international organisations ... in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq."
To date, all members are countries with Sunni-dominated governments. The alliance does not include any countries with Shia-dominated governments, such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. According to a Euronews report, some analysts see formation of the alliance as part of Saudi Arabian efforts to take the leading role in the Middle East and the Muslim world, in rivalry with Iran.
In March 2016 it was reported that Saudi Arabia had asked General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, to become commander-in-chief of the Islamic Military Alliance once he had retired from the Pakistan Army at the end of 2016.
Saudi Arabia's original announcement of the alliance on 15 December 2015 listed 34 countries as participants, each also a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and forming about 60% of all OIC member states. As of November, 2017, there are 41 member countries.
|Country||Membership announcement||Military roleα||Supporter||References|
|Afghanistan||18 October 2016||Yes||Yes|||
|Oman||28 December 2016||Yes||Yes|||
|United Arab Emirates||Original||Yes||Yes|||
- ^α These countries have offered to provide military assistance if needed.
Prospective additional members
At the time of the original announcement, more than ten other Islamic countries, including Indonesia (the world's largest Muslim nation), had expressed their support for the alliance, and Azerbaijan was discussing joining the alliance. By January 2017, Azerbaijan said that joining was "not on the agenda". Tajikistan's ambassador to Saudi Arabia confirmed that Tajikistan was seriously studying the possibility of joining.
|Force commander||Nationality||Start of tenure||End of tenure|
|General Raheel Shareef||Pakistan||6 January 2017||Incumbent|
- Bangladesh: Bangladesh was one of the early members to join the alliance doing so on 15 December 2015. The country confirmed its membership in a joint statement by the founder nations that stated "a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent."
- China: China has expressed its willingness to cooperate with the alliance to fighting terrorism and appreciated Saudi efforts to create alliance.
- Germany: Germany's defense minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the alliance against terrorism but also stressed that it should be a part of the Vienna process involving all countries fighting against IS like the U.S., Europe, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, but also including Iran and China.
- Malaysia: Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein expressed support for the alliance, but ruled out any military support from Malaysia.
- Pakistan: After initial ambiguity Pakistan welcomed the initiative; its government confirmed its participation and stated that the country is waiting for further details in order to decide the extent of its participation in the different activities of the alliance. Although the Commander in Chief of the IMCTC, Gen Raheel Sharif only agreed to command upon the condition that Iran must be the part of this Alliance.
- Turkey: Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called it the "best response to those who are trying to associate terror and Islam".
- United States: The new alliance has been welcomed by the United States, with then U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter saying, "We look forward to learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition. But in general it appears it is very much in line with something we've been urging for quite some time, which is greater involvement in the campaign to combat ISIL by Sunni Arab countries.
- Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order: Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri the leader of the Naqshbandi Army released a statement in 2016 praising the alliance and calling on what he called Mujahideen to fight Shia militias in Iraq backed by Iran, while also saying "We consider everything that is happening in Iraq from Iran, its agents, militias, and its security apparatus, is the responsibility of the United States". He added: "If it [U.S.] did not move to save Iraq and its people from Iran's hegemony, control and occupation, and to stop bloodshed, destruction, burning and the changing demographic, then Iraqi people should resist [the occupation]."
Due to the dominance of the alliance by states having majority Sunni Muslim populations, it has been called "a sectarian coalition" by Hakeem Azameli, a member of the Security and Defense Commission in the Iraqi parliament.
However, Oman, an Ibadi-dominant country and friend of Iran has joined the alliance. Lebanon has also supported the alliance. Other countries who are part of the alliance or support it that have cordial or friendly relations with Iran include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan and Indonesia. More likely, the absence of Iran and Iraq from the alliance is due to the political tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
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- Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (official website)