Jennifer Cafarella

Senior Intelligence Planner


Jennifer Cafarella is the Senior Intelligence Planner 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 is the author of Likely Courses of Action in the Syrian Civil War: June-December 2015,Syrian Jihadists Signal Intent for Lebanon, and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria: An Islamic Emirate for al-Qaeda. She is also a contributor to ISW’s “Syria Situation Report” product. Ms. Cafarella has dealt extensively with the media acting as a resource for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Voice of America, the BBC, The New York Times, CNN, TimeUSA Today, and others.

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She is a graduate of ISW’s Hertog War Studies Program and is the Institute’s first Evans Hanson Fellow.  This Fellowship is for outstanding alumni of the War Studies Program and seeks to help build 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.

Follow her on Twitter: @JennyCafarella 



Recently from Jennifer Cafarella

Syrian Armed Opposition Powerbrokers

International negotiations to reach a political settlement in Syria have resumed, although serious challenges remain to reaching a political settlement. The talks follow two weeks of a “cessation of hostilities” in which the Russian air campaign in Syria decreased notably, though it did not entirely cease. Putin announced that he would withdraw some airframes from Syria on March 15, incentivizing both Assad and the opposition to engage in Geneva. Major opposition demands such as the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad from office have not been met, however, and Syrian regime officials have not conceded that there should be an immediate release of political prisoners. Reaching a political deal in Geneva under these conditions will therefore be difficult. The conditions in which the Geneva negotiations are taking place still strongly favor the regime, indicating that a transitional government, if formed, likely will fail to reconcile most Sunni armed actors with the government. The result could actually increase the jihadist threat while miring the U.S. and regional states in political turmoil in Damascus. 

Read more here.