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’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.

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.