Strengthening the Counter-ISIS Strategy
January 4, 2017
President-elect Trump has stated his intention to strengthen the U.S. approach to defeating the Islamic State (ISIS). However, the precise way in which his administration will pursue this objective is still taking shape. While ISIS has inspired attacks and spawned a number of affiliates globally, the central and immediate challenge resides in Syria and Iraq, at the heart of ISIS’ so-called caliphate. Iraqi security forces, supported by the anti-ISIS Coalition, have succeeded in removing ISIS from 56 percent of the territory it occupied there in 2014, and U.S.-backed Syrian opposition forces have further constricted ISIS in northern Syria. Yet, the burgeoning campaigns to retake ISIS’ strategic strongholds in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria will be hard-fought. Harder still will be consolidating the gains of these campaigns to ensure that ISIS—or likeminded groups—are unable to regrow, and enabling enduring political solutions in Iraq and Syria to prevent future terrorist groups from taking root. The United States will need a strategy that synchronizes the right mix of military forces and non-kinetic tools to achieve this outcome.
Americans have no interest in perennial military interventions in the Middle East. The United States has competing geostrategic objectives in Europe and Asia and demands for resources at home. However, the United States has compelling reasons to not only defeat ISIS but also to address the broader factors that have enabled ISIS’ rise. Additionally, the United States has to contend with intertwined regional realities that could challenge its ability to negotiate and influence outcomes to its advantage. Among these reasons are: countering terrorists and the roots of terrorism, which threaten the U.S. homeland and our allies and partners; preventing military confrontation with Russia and Iran while limiting the long-term, subversive influence they could have in the region; and stemming conflict emanating from Syria and Iraq from further destabilizing neighboring states and Europe.
Americans have no interest in perennial military interventions in the Middle East… However, the United States has compelling reasons to defeat ISIS and address the broader factors that have enabled ISIS’ rise.
Photo credit: STAFF SGT. ALI E. FLISEK/United States Forces Iraq/Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/7TESH1)