The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) slowed its advance into western Mosul on March 26 in order to regroup and prepare for an assault on the Old City, the densest part of western Mosul in terms of both population and infrastructure. The U.S. is deploying an additional 240 soldiers to Mosul, likely to support a final push through the Old City. The ISF has also slowed its operation out of continued concerns of civilian casualties throughout the western Mosul operation. Humanitarian concerns flared when local sources claimed that a Coalition airstrike on March 17 killed as many as 200 civilians. Meanwhile, Iran is deepening the role of its proxy Badr Organization in Ninewa Province to influence the post-ISIS security and political structure in the province.
The major events from March 29, 2017 in the theaters and from the trans-national groups that ISW monitors: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and ISIS.
Regional actors are vying to dominate the post-ISIS security structure and political order in northern Iraq.
This update highlights why Russia remains an unfit partner to fight ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is leveraging Russia’s position in Syria to further diminish U.S. influence in the broader Middle East and North Africa. Russia will increasingly constrain U.S. freedom of maneuver in the broader region by expanding its military footprint and its anti-access and area denial zone. Putin advanced his regional strategy from February 27 to March 20, 2017 in three ways. First, he promoted economic relationships with key U.S.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to constrain U.S. freedom of action – not fight ISIS and al Qaeda. Russia’s military deployments at current levels will not enable the Iranian-penetrated Assad regime to secure Syria. Moscow’s deepening footprint in Syria threatens America’s ability to defend its interests across the Middle East and in the Mediterranean Sea. The next U.S.
Conditions on the ground are not set for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War despite diplomatic efforts by regional powers. The third round of Astana Talks on March 14 – 15 failed to generate significant results amidst an opposition boycott. Meanwhile, two major double suicide attacks targeted the Old City of Damascus on March 11 and March 15.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) made significant progress from March 9 to 16, pushing deep into western Mosul and eliminating ISIS’s presence north of the city. ISIS has reopened attack fronts around Tikrit and Baiji, however, underscoring that Mosul’s recapture will not defeat ISIS in Iraq.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute conducted an intensive multi-week planning exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.
This report is part of the series "U.S. Grand Strategy: Destroying ISIS and al Qaeda."