Press Release: ISIS's Global Strategy: A Wargame


 Contact: John D. Lawrence

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The Institute for the Study of War Releases

ISIS’s Global Strategy: A Wargame

ISW wargame shows ISIS will “expand regionally and project force

globally in the medium term”


WASHINGTON, DC - On July 15, the Institute for the Study of War released a new report on the global ambitions of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL). The report details the construction and key findings of a wargame set in Libya that tested international responses to ISIS's expansion.  Analysts, military planners, and others from ISW and the U.S. Army War College met twice in early 2015 to "discover the diplomatic and military opportunities and pitfalls likely to arise in the coming months of the counter-ISIS fight.

This report was written by ISW's Counterterrorism Analyst Harleen Gambhir, author of The ISIS Regional Strategy for Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the ISIS Global Intelligence Summary, among other publications.  Gambhir warns that, with the current anti-ISIS focus on Iraq and Syria, the United States and its anti-ISIS allies risk "strategic surprise" resulting from ISIS's activity in what she calls the Near Abroad and Far Abroad - representing the greater Middle East and North African region and the remainder of the globe, respectively

The creators of the wargame accurately forecasted actions by ISIS such as multi-continent attacks during Ramadan, the creation of an ISIS affiliate in Russia's Northern Caucasus, and attacks on Western tourists in the Mediterranean.  Such geographically disperse violent events by ISIS affiliates and supporters "may distract and divide the U.S.'s allies and resources." Gambhir also warns that "a strategy focused on ISIS alone likely will allow other radical actors to thrive," namely al-Qaeda and its affiliates worldwide

ISW's President, Dr. Kimberly Kagan, said, "This wargame and Harleen's work should put policymakers on notice that ISIS needs more serious and rigorous examination.  If the global threat is ignored or not fully understood, repeated attacks could increase the tolerance of widespread violent attacks creating opportunities for U.S. adversaries, including ISIS, al-Qaeda, and others."

Read the full report here.