Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters that U.S. airstrikes “have stalled ISIL's momentum” after two weeks of bombarding ISIS positions in Northern Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has not stalled under U.S. pressure. Rather, since the fall of Mosul and despite U.S. airstrikes, the insurgent army has continued a successful and spectacular offensive in Syria. Their gains nearly equal in scale the seizure of northern Iraq in June. The insurgent army’s latest triumph is the capture of Assad’s Tabqa air base in Eastern Syria.
Key Takeaway: Iraq’s incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki maneuvered elite military units in Baghdad overnight on August 10, cutting off entrances to the protected Green Zone, in an effort to secure power by use of force. This is currently serving as a demonstration of force.
The swift collapse of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq in the face of an al-Qaeda-spearheaded Sunni insurgency is a disastrous setback for U.S. counterterrorism and Middle East policies that will have dangerous regional spillover effects. The Islamic State, formerly known the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and before that as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, now poses a rising threat to the United States and U.S. allies.
by Jessica D. Lewis
Many have asked what needs to be done about the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the terrorist organization that recently took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Questions range from the acceptability of airstrikes and the viability of a national unity government in Iraq to the feasibility of a counter-offensive that depends upon the remaining capacity of the Iraq Security Forces. These are important and worthy questions, and timely, because ISIS is growing stronger. But these questions preempt the rigorous analysis that is required in order to determine what the U.S. should do about ISIS and why.
The primary metric in war is attaining one’s strategic aims. In the post-9/11 war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, who is winning? Both the U.S. and al Qaeda have done a lot of killing, but attrition alone is not decisive. The U.S. is now on its third strategy in this war. This strategy seems as unlikely to attain America’s strategic aims as the previous two.
The Institute for the Study of War held a conference on July 11, 2014 to discuss the current state of capabilities between ISIS and the ISF.