Jennifer Cafarella

Director of Intelligence Planning


Jennifer Cafarella is the Director of Intelligence Planning at the Institute for the Study of War, where she is responsible for shaping and overseeing the development of ISW’s detailed plans and recommendations on how to achieve U.S. objectives against enemies and adversaries and in conflict zones.  As a former Syria Analyst at ISW, she has written on ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, tracking their efforts to consolidate power in eastern Syria, while at the same time connecting their Syrian-Iraqi northern fronts. Ms. Cafarella served as a coauthor on ISW’s recent Planning Exercise for a U.S. Grand Strategy to defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda including; Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe, Competing Visions for Iraq and Syria: The Myth of an Anti-ISIS Grand Coalition, and Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS: Sources of Strength. In addition, she has written on and researched various opposition groups in Syria, particularly focusing on the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and their military capabilities, modes of governance, and long-term strategic vision. 

Ms. Cafarella’s essays have been published by The Hill and Fox News, among other outlets. She has appeared extensively in the media. Her analysis has been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, NPR, Voice of America, the BBC, and USA Today. In 2015, she participated in a multi-week assessment mission in the Middle East focused on the conflicts in Iraq and Syria at the invitation of senior U.S. Army commanders. She has also designed and led briefings and simulation exercises for various U.S. military units deploying overseas.  Jenny is a graduate of ISW’s Hertog War Studies Program and was ISW’s first Evans Hanson Fellow. The Evans Hanson Fellowship draws from the outstanding alumni of the ISW Hertog War Studies Program and helps develop the next generation of national security leaders. Ms. Cafarella received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Global Studies with a focus on the Middle East. She is proficient in Arabic.