The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC; Arabic: التحالف الإسلامي العسكري لمحاربة الإرهاب) is an intergovernmental counter-terrorist alliance of countries in the Muslim world, united around the War against the Islamic State and other counter-terrorist activities. Its creation was first announced by 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 Kenya joined on 1 September 2022. On 6 January 2017, the Former Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan General 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
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 the then Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, 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 September 2022, there are 41 member countries with the joining of Kenya on 1 September 2022.
Prospective additional members
At the time of the original announcement, more than ten other Islamic countries, including Indonesia (the world’s largest Muslim populated nation), had expressed their support for the alliance, and Azerbaijan was discussing joining the alliance. In 2018, however, former deputy defense minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin [id] remarked that Indonesia’s non-alignment barred the country from joining a military alliance, adding that Vice President Jusuf Kalla had disagreed with Indonesia’s accession.
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.