The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) entered its 10th Anniversary year empowered by its unique role within the U.S. national security community. America confronts a growing and increasingly complex set of threats and challenges abroad while managing a government transition at home. This environment has already generated important opportunities that ISW has seized.
Opposition groups backed by Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield seized full control over Al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province as well as two neighboring towns, ending more than three months of heavy clashes. Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura opened the Geneva IV Talks with the goal of reaching a political solution to the Syrian Civil War.
ISIS Wilayat Khorasan may be developing a regional powerbase in northwestern Afghanistan. Former Taliban militants operating in the name of ISIS executed international aid workers and held others captive in a prison in Jowzjan Province in February 2017, a step change in ISIS’s operations in Afghanistan.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) launched operations to retake western Mosul on February 19. The ISF has not yet begun operations inside western Mosul city, focusing instead on isolating ISIS in Mosul by cutting off exits routes west of the city and setting conditions to breach the city limits through the southern airport.
Baghdad witnessed serious breaches of security from February 11 to 16 due to both escalating protest movements and ISIS attacks.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan reiterated that the “ultimate goal” of Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield is the establishment of a five-thousand square kilometer ‘safe zone’ that includes Al-Bab, Manbij, and Ar-Raqqa City in Northern Syria. Meanwhile, preparations continued for the next round of Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War scheduled to begin on February 23.
The U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Syria is in jeopardy as Turkey threatens an offensive against the U.S.’s primary partner force on the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey has stated its intent to shift its focus from ISIS to the Syrian Kurds after the seizure of the ISIS-held town of al Bab in Northern Aleppo Province, which ISW forecasts is likely in the coming weeks.
Security conditions have decreased in Mosul and Salah al-Din and in the southern provinces due to revived militant attacks and election-related violence, respectively, from February 2 to 10.
Early indicators suggest that a post-ISIS Sunni insurgency may be forming in Iraq and al Qaeda (AQ) is trying to gain traction within it.
Iranian military cooperation with Russia in Syria is dramatically increasing Tehran’s ability to plan and conduct complex conventional operations.