Who We Are
We are on the front lines of military thinking.
The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.
We believe ground realities must drive the formulation of strategy and policy. In pursuit of this principle, ISW conducts detailed, open-source intelligence analysis to provide the most accurate information on current conflicts and security threats. ISW researchers spend time in conflict zones conducting independent assessments and enhancing their understanding of realities on the ground. Through reports and timely events, our research educates military and civilian leaders, reporters, and the public to enhance the quality of policy debates.
2017 Impact Highlights
The Institute for the Study of War’s 10th anniversary provides a valuable moment to reflect on our history and our vision for the future. Click here to download ISW's 10th Anniversary Report from 2017!
Dr. Kimberly Kagan founded ISW in May 2007, as U.S. forces undertook a daring new counterinsurgency strategy to reverse the grim security situation on the ground in Iraq . Frustrated with the prevailing lack of accurate information documenting developments on the ground in Iraq and the detrimental effect of biased reporting on policymakers, Dr. Kagan established ISW to provide real-time, independent, and open-source analysis of ongoing military operations and insurgent attacks in Iraq. General Jack Keane (U.S. Army, Ret.), the Chairman of ISW’s board, also played a central role in developing the intellectual foundation for this change of strategy in Iraq, and supported the formation of the Institute in 2007.
Dr. Kagan published her first Iraq Report in March 2007, introducing the Washington policy community to ISW’s flagship research product. Since its formation in 2007, the ISW Iraq Project has remained the premier source for unbiased analysis on the changing political and security dynamics affecting progress in Iraq.
Building upon the success of the Iraq Project, ISW launched the Afghanistan Project in April 2009 in response to growing demand to better understand the war in Afghanistan. Research from this project has focused on insurgent groups such as the Haqqani Network, political corruption, and coalition operations. In addition, ISW has used its unique access to military commanders to launch a Best Practices in Counterinsurgency series that aims to capture the most important lessons from today’s wars in order to speed the way in which these lessons are applied the formulation of new military strategy.
ISW has built a reputation for its accuracy and ability to translate complex military concepts and specialized information into formats accessible to a more general audience. In 2010 alone, ISW analysts and fellows spent more than forty weeks deployed to theater. ISW analysts deployed again in 2011, and Dr. Kagan spent over 200 days in 2010 and 2011 in Kabul . In July 2011, she was awarded the Department of Defense Civilian Service Award for her efforts.
In November 2011, ISW added to its Afghanistan and Iraq projects with the broader Middle East Security Project. This new research program will study the national security threats emerging from the Arabian Gulf and wider Arab World, identify ways the United States and Gulf States can check Iran’s growing influence and contain the threat posed by its nuclear ambitions, explain the shifting balance of power within the Middle East, and assess responses the United States and Arab states take to address these changes as they emerge. Leading up to this project launch, ISW began tracking the conflict in Libya in March 2011, publishing daily and weekly Libya updates and an in-depth look at the first six months of that conflict called the Libyan Revolution.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education.
We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.
ISW was founded on the principle that a healthy democracy requires civilian leaders who are well versed in military affairs. The abandonment of military studies at America's colleges and universities since the Vietnam War poses a serious challenge to civilian control of the military and to the well-being of our nation. Therefore, ISW seeks to strengthen civilian leadership and the electorate by making the important study of military operations available to the public.
We also believe that the formulation of strategy and policy must be driven by the realities of current conflicts and threats. In pursuit of this principle, ISW conducts detailed open source intelligence analysis to provide the most accurate information on current military operations. Our research educates practitioners, policy makers, members of the media, and the public to enhance the quality of policy debates. ISW conducts regular briefings with Members of Congress and the executive branch and hosts timely events for a wide-ranging and influential audience to facilitate the exchange of ideas. Military and civilian leaders have come to rely on ISW as an unbiased and invaluable resource.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact- based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW does not advocate the adoption of legislation to implement its findings.
ISW’s research is made available to the general public, practitioners, policy makers, and members of the media by any suitable means, including oral or written presentations, provided that the communications are not limited to or directed toward those interested in only one side of a particular issue. ISW respects the benefits provided by the active participation of civilian leaders in the formation and development of military affairs policy, including congressional oversight, and believes that an enhanced understanding of military affairs among civilian leaders results in significantly better policy.
"Nonpartisan analysis and research" is defined as an independent exposition of a particular subject matter. The analysis may conclude that legislation is appropriate to achieve a particular objective if it contains a sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts to enable the public or an individual to form an independent opinion or conclusion. ISW’s research agenda is determined by the ISW President in consultation with the Research Manager. The content of ISW’s publications are determined by the research staff through their in-depth, independent, and fact-based research.
ISW’s research methodology relies on both primary and secondary sources, enabling its researchers to develop the comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground. In order to analyze military and political developments in any given area, researchers must wholly understand the systems of enemy and friendly forces. They must also understand the population demographics, physical terrain, politics, and history of that area. This lays the analytical foundation for understanding the reasons for particular developments and fulfilling their assigned research objectives. Using both primary and secondary sources, our researchers compile data and analyze trends, producing a granular analysis of developments in areas of research, producing an accurate, high-resolution, timely, and thorough picture of the situation. ISW’s research methodology guarantees its success and commitment to improve the nation’s ability to execute military operations, achieve strategic objectives, and respond to emerging problems that may require the use of American military power.