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The Battle for Popular Support: An Analysis of America's Efforts in the Struggle Against ISIS

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In its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham ISIS, the United States has developed five lines of effort LOEs provide military support to our partners impede the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS stop ISISs financing and funding address humanitarian crises in the region and expose ISISs true nature. A much addressed question in the media as well as scholarly analyses is whether these LOEs will be effective in defeating the ISIS insurgency in Iraq, or whether the United States primary reliance on airpower to attack ISIS is likely to result in further sectarian discord between Sunnis and Shia in the region. To explore this question, this thesis uses a systems-theory model that analyzes insurgencies according to how actions affect popular support among the host nations population. It begins by analyzing, the Hukbalahap insurgency in the Philippines and counterinsurgency efforts in Vietnam from 1964-1968 to determine the validity of the systems-theory model. It then explores ongoing operations against ISIS from the perspective of the United States. The analysis suggests that Americas current strategy is unlikely to have an appreciable impact on Sunni popular support for ISIS. Ineffective US State Department communications and ISISs media savvy have ceded the initiative in the strategic narrative to Americas enemies. As a result, many Iraqis believe that the United States created ISIS and is directly supporting the terrorists. Instead of focusing on tactical battlefield success, the United States generally, and its armed forces specifically, must view the conflict through the lens of propagating just government rule in the region to reduce Sunni popular support for ISIS. Even if it has to halt its air campaign in support of anti-ISIS efforts, the United States should compel the Iraqi government to arrest its sectarian practices. Without such bold action, the United States may stop ISISs genocide against non-Sunnis only to see Shia militias enact

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Government and Political Science

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