ISIS continued to pursue its regional campaign objectives of establishing affiliates and increasing disorder throughout historically Muslim lands. ISIS is preparing for a global surge of activities before and during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which will take place between June 6 and July 5, 2016.
Russia continued to aggressively posture against NATO in the Baltic and Black Sea regions while presenting itself as a responsible regional actor and victim of alleged western provocation. The first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since June 2014 failed to make concrete progress, and the Russian Minister of Defense accused NATO of provocative troop deployments in Eastern Europe. Russia continued to conduct a campaign of information warfare against the Baltic States paired with political pressure and military provocation.
Iraq faces a major political crisis that threatens to collapse the current government and exacerbate political unrest. Political stability in Iraq is critical to the ability of the U.S. to continue anti-ISIS operations, not only to defeat ISIS but also to prevent its reconstitution. This page provides a comprehensive collection of ISW reporting and analysis of this political crisis, which ISW has covered since it began. As the crisis continues, ISW’s analysis and reporting will continue.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced his decision to deploy 250 additional Special Operations Forces to northern Syria, raising the total number of U.S. personnel in the country to 300. Obama emphasized that the new forces will “not be leading the fight on the ground” but instead work to recruit, train, and assist Sunni Arab fighters within the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in preparation for future operations to isolate the ISIS stronghold of Ar-Raqqa City.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies have set the stage for an imminent offensive to complete the encirclement of Aleppo City. If successful, this could deliver a decisive blow to the powerful armed groups in Aleppo City that drives the opposition towards radicalization and a merger with Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
Russia has raised concerns after reportedly redeploying artillery units and personnel to the vicinity of Aleppo City, according to senior U.S. officials. The deployments come amidst a major breakdown in the Geneva III Talks to end the Syrian Civil War as well as a corresponding nationwide 'cessation of hostilities'. Meanwhile, the Syrian Kurdish YPG and its affiliated Asayish internal security forces engaged in heavy clashes with pro-regime forces in Qamishli in Hasaka Province following an altercation at a pro-regime checkpoint.
The U.S. announced additional “accelerants” in the fight against ISIS, reporting on April 18 that it would deploy 217 additional train-and-advise personnel to embed at the brigade and battalion levels with attack helicopters and an additional High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
Russia actions raised concerns after reportedly redeploying artillery units and personnel to the vicinity of Aleppo City, according to senior U.S. officials. The deployments come amidst a major breakdown in the Geneva III Talks. Meanwhile, the Syrian Kurdish YPG and its affiliated Asayish internal security forces engaged in heavy clashes with pro-regime forces in Qamishli in Hasaka Province following an altercation at a pro-regime checkpoint.
Since the publication of ISW’s last ISIS sanctuary map on March 31, 2016, ISIS lost terrain in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) recaptured the city of Hit in Anbar Province, western Iraq from ISIS on April 14 as part of ongoing operations to secure the Euphrates River Valley. Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) forces also continue to contest ISIS's control in the Makhoul Mountains, north of Baiji.