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A Strategy to Counter ISIL as a Transregional Threat

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Technical Report

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RAND National Security Research Division, International Security and Defense Policy Center Santa Monica

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The debate in the past over counter-ISIL strategies has tended to focus on rather stark alternatives that are based on different ways to employ U.S. military forces disengagement, containment, and aggressive rollback using combat forces. Our strategy seeks to broaden the focus to policies beyond the military dimension. Even though U.S. leverage is limited to affect the political situations in Iraq and Syria, the United States should focus on removing the underlying conditions sustaining ISIL and other violent jihadist groups, i.e., the lack of security, justice, and political representation. In addition, the United States needs to re-evaluate how to balance the aims of the counter-ISIL campaign with future territorial and political ambitions of the Kurds, given the risk of violence between Shia and Kurds in Iraq and Turkey and the YPG in Syria. In the absence of commitments on the part of the Kurds to limit their territorial ambitions, and to avoid fueling conflict across the region, the United States should be cautious in the ways it supports the YPG and peshmerga in its counter-ISIL military campaign.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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