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U.S. Strategy

Home > Conflict with ISIS > U.S. Strategy

The United States Strategy in the fight against ISIS seems to be:

1. Persuade the Iraqi government to be more inclusive of the Sunni population. For the anti-ISIS fight to be successful there needs to be a political solution. Once the Sunnis decide to side with the Iraq government and turns against ISIS then the struggle can be won. If not, then all military action is for naught.

2. Keep Iraq intact as a country. Prevent the succession of Anbar province and other areas to form a Sunni nation. Prevent the Kurds in Iraq from gaining more autonomy or independence.

3. Limit U.S. troop levels, prevent U.S. casualties, and do not commit combat troops to fight ISIS.

4. Build a coalition to fight against the Islamic State. As of September 2014 there were over 40 nations in the anti-ISIS coalition.

5. Use airpower to degrade ISIS; preventing it from gaining more territories and aiding the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces in their offensive operations.

6. Provide training and equipment to moderate anti-Assad armed groups.

7. Contain the ISIS threat so that it does not coalesce into a regional Sunni versus Shia war.

Secretary Kerry on Strategy to Defeat ISIS. On September 17, 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC on the United States Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Some of his statements include "There is no negotiation with ISIL; there is nothing to negotiate"; ". . . we do have a clear strategy to degrade, defeat, and destroy ISIL". Kerry stated that there are two pillars to the comprehensive strategy against ISIL. These are ". . . an inclusive Iraqi Government . . ."  and ". . . the broad international coalition so the U.S. is not alone".

Recommendations for a Revised U.S. Strategy. The United States (as of mid-2015) seems to have a flawed strategy for dealing with the Iraq conflict. Some recommendations for consideration are below:

1. Sunni Participation in Government. Force the Iraqi government to be more inclusive of Sunni participation in the central government. There needs to be a power-sharing arrangement between the Sunnis and Shias in order to pull Sunni support from the Islamic State and other Sunni insurgent groups.

2. Arm the Sunni Tribesmen. The Iraqi military is broke, the Iraqi police corrupt, and Shiite militias fighting for control of Sunni cities and towns is problematic. Arm the Sunni tribes who wish to fight the Islamic State.

3. SF Advisors and JTACs. Provide Special Forces advisors (SF) and Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTACs) down to battalion level with the Iraqi Army. Assign one SFODA or split-ODA per Iraqi battalion. The SF teams have the training and experience to 'train, advice, and assist' at battalion level. Assign one SF LNO cell at brigade level.

Four Tips from General McChrystal on Fighting ISIS. 1) establish a network to defeat a network, 2) killing the leader isn't the only solution, 3) get after the facilitators that get things done, and 4) go after the idea that started the mess in the first place.

Papers & Publications on Strategy Fighting ISIS


CNAS, Defeating the Islamic State: A Bottom-Up Approach, Center for a New American Security, June 16, 2016. The final report of the CNAS ISIS Study Group proposes a strategy based on four key interlocking effors and then describes how these efforts can be applied region by region in western Iraq, eastern Syria, southwest Syria, and northwest Syria.

Cordesman, Anthony H., U.S. Stragegy and the War in Iraq and Syria, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), May 13, 2016.


Friberg, John, Information Paper - Conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), IraqWarNews.info, October 2014. This white paper provides a history of ISIS, current (as of late 2014) operations against ISIS, and recommedations for defeating and/or containing ISIS.


1. For more on "4 tips" see "GEN McChrystal On ISIS: Four Tips From Someone Who Actually Knows How to Fight Terrorists", Havok Journal, September 14, 2014.



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