The Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project conducted an intensive multi-week exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to defeat the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. This first report examines America’s global grand strategic objectives as they relate to ISIS and al Qaeda and considers the nature of those enemy groups in depth and in their global context.
The Syrian regime and its allies launched a major, multi-pronged offensive in Aleppo Province on October 15 in order to bolster the regime's foothold in Aleppo City. Both Russia and Iran likely aim to enable Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reassert control over Syria’s largest city given the heavy involvement of their military forces in these operations.
Russia intensified its air campaign against the Syrian opposition in and around Aleppo City from September 20 – 22 following the breakdown of the nationwide ceasefire in Syria. The dramatic uptick in Russian airstrikes coincided with the Syrian Arab Army’s announcement of the start of an offensive to seize the remaining opposition-held districts of Aleppo City.
ISW has produced nearly 60 maps on Russian airstrikes in Syria since they first began on September 30, 2015. The first map appeared less than 24 hours after the Russians began strikes and they continue today as do the strikes despite repeated "cessations of hostilities" and an alleged Russian withdrawal.
ISW's Jennifer Cafarella and Genevieve Casagrande along with Nicholas A. Heras from the Center for a New American Security highlight, in an Op-Ed for Foreign Policy, the danger to the U.S. from al-Qaeda in Syria, particularly the group Ahrar al-Sham.
Russia continued to focus its air campaign against Aleppo City and its environs after opposition groups lifted the siege of the eastern districts of the city on August 6, setting conditions for a potential pro-regime counteroffensive to reestablish the encirclement.
Turkey is unraveling America’s anti-ISIS partner in northern Syria in order to position itself as a major power broker in planned operations to retake Raqqa City. Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) crossed into Syria to seize the ISIS held border town of Jarablus alongside numerous Turkish- and U.S.-backed Syrian armed opposition groups on August 24.
Opposition groups backed by the U.S. and Turkey seize the town of Jarablus from ISIS; the YPG starts withdrawal from Manbij; U.S. SOF relocates from Hasakah City; and more.
Russia launched airstrikes from the Shahid Nojeh Airbase in Hamedan Province in Western Iran following the conclusion of a basing agreement and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces seized full control of Manbij