Beating the Islamic State: Selecting a New Strategy for Iraq and Syria
Technical Report,01 Jan 2016,31 Aug 2016
RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA United States
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As of late 2016, the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi Army was seeing progress in the fight to push the Islamic State IS out of Iraq, but at the same time, the group continued to plan and conduct international terror attacks. While losing ground in such places as Sirte, Libya, IS retains control of the core terrain of its so-called caliphate in Syria. IS continues to inspire young men and women around the world to conduct spontaneous acts of violence, unsettling Western democracies and threatening American national security. New options are needed to defeat IS, stabilize the Middle East, and reestablish a sense of domestic security in the United States and Europe. To that end, this report presents findings from research on the strategy to counter IS. It offers three options for a new strategic design and recommends a long-term approach that seeks to defeat IS by establishing legitimate governance in Iraq and Syria. Success against IS can best be achieved by removing the political, social, and physical space that it needs to survive. There is little hope for immediate resolution of this complex problem or for the rapid emergence of good governance in Iraq or Syria this strategy will necessarily entail a long-term commitment to both countries. IS is a hybrid insurgent and terrorist group that, as of mid-2016, controlled significant territory in Iraq and Syria. It also has global reach, with affiliates and close connections to extremist groups in over 40 countries. But the groups capital is in Syria it places great religious significance on territory in Syria and its origins and leaders are primarily Iraqi. Current U.S.- led military operations seek to defeat IS in both Iraq and Syria, while U.S.-led counterterror operations seek to destroy IS worldwide.
- Unconventional Warfare