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.
ISIS Global Project
This project addresses ISIS in both the Near and Far Abroad.
ISIS’s attack campaign in Europe is expanding despite ISIS’s losses of terrain and senior leadership in the Middle East and North Africa. ISIS continues to plan, resource, and execute attacks from its remaining safe havens in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. ISIS has successfully expanded its coordinated attack campaign in Europe to target the UK and Spain. Rising levels of ISIS-inspired attacks in Sweden and Finland may signal growing online ISIS activity targeting vulnerable populations in those states and receptivity among those populations to the ISIS message. Coordinated attack attempts could follow.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute conducted an intensive multi-week planning exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS has organized a number of external attacks worldwide in the past year, some of which have been thwarted.
ISIS’s network in Europe accelerated small scale attacks in July and August 2015 as part of a deliberate transition to the next phase of its global war between Muslim and non-Muslims. The recent death of ISIS’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the primary architect of ISIS’s global campaign, will likely not suppress this terror campaign.
ISIS pursued its regional and global objectives through multiple large-scale attacks during its Ramadan campaign from June 5 to July 5 despite continued losses in its core terrain in Iraq and Syria. ISIS surged activity during the last week of Ramadan, including attacks in Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, and across Saudi Arabia.
ISIS has two main lines of effort in Turkey. The first is to incite an ethnic war between the Kurds and the Turkish state in order to weaken its opponents in northern Syria and regain freedom of action in southern Turkey. The second is to undermine the Turkish state and punish it for being part of the anti-ISIS coalition through attacks against western targets in Turkey.
Four ISIS-linked Salafi-Jihadi groups in Philippines released a video on June 21, 2016 including an official logo for ISIS in Philippines, implying direct affiliation with ISIS. The four groups in the video are the Abu Khubayb Brigade, the Jundallah Battalion, the Abu Sadr Battalion, and the Abu Dujana Brigade.
ISIS continued to set conditions for Ramadan by launching attacks within and along the periphery of the Muslim world in order to foster regional disorder and push the boundaries of its caliphate contiguous to non-Muslim lands. The group is expanding its footprint to the edges of non-Muslim lands, as shown by arrests in Ingushetia, Russia and escalating attacks in majority-Muslim areas in Bangladesh and the Philippines and in Pakistan. ISIS is likely preparing to launch new affiliates in Bangladesh and the Philippines during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins on June 6.