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Any Review of Syria and Iraq Strategy Needs Realistic Reappraisal

by Brian Michael Jenkins

September 28, 2015

Источник: http://www.rand.org/blog/2015/09/any-review-of-syria-and-iraq-strategy-needs-realistic.html

As the fighting continues and refugees flood Europe, many in Washington are calling for a fundamental review of U.S. strategy in Syria and Iraq. That must begin with a realistic appreciation of the situation.

The continued fighting has seen the diminishing strength of Syria’s secular rebels and the ascent of its most extreme jihadist component, represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since the American-led coalition bombing campaign began a year ago, ISIS has suffered some military setbacks and lost territory, but it also has been able to capture several more key cities in Iraq and Syria, and, despite the bombing, continues to attract a large number of foreign fighters. The threat they pose — along with ISIS’s continued exhortations to supporters abroad to carry out terrorist attacks — has security officials in Europe and America on edge.

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq seem to be at a stalemate. Towns may fall or be recaptured, but “front lines” move marginally. Insurgents in Syria and Iraq will likely not be able to overthrow the governments in Damascus and Baghdad, but neither will the Syrian nor Iraqi governments be likely to restore their authority throughout their national territories.

National armies in both countries have failed. Power has shifted to militias capable of defending ethnic and sectarian enclaves but limited in their ability to conduct strategic operations beyond their home ground. This shift will, in turn, weaken future central government authority.

Syria and Iraq are now effectively partitioned. These partitions are likely to persist. With U.S. backing, ethnic Kurds have been effective fighters against ISIS and have consolidated their traditional territory in northern Syria and Iraq. Turkey worries that the Kurds are laying the foundation for a future independent state, although no such intention has been announced. Although the Kurds fight forcefully when supported by coalition bombing, they are unlikely to advance into traditional Sunni areas.

The Syrian government has largely abandoned the Sunni areas of the country and is increasingly devoted to defending Damascus and its sectarian bastion in western Syria. Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated government has not been able to win over many of Iraq’s Sunnis, and that will impede its ability to recapture the cities and towns now held by ISIS.

It remains to be seen whether ISIS, despite the bombing campaign, will be able to consolidate its Islamic State and make it the primary political expression of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq. Alternatively, we could instead see the emergence of a Sunni badlands where warfare between armed rivals continues indefinitely.

Easier to forecast is that the fighting is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Sectarian and ethnic divisions are now driving the conflicts, making the contest more existential for its participants. Yearnings for peace may be universal, but none of the belligerents appears able to imagine surviving under rule by their foes.

Foreign powers in the region and beyond have significant stakes in the conflicts. This is now complicated by the military intervention of both Turkey and Russia, but absent large-scale direct military investments, which can easily backfire, none of the foreign powers can guarantee the triumph of their local allies or ensure the defeat of their foes. Moreover, the interests of the external powers compete with, rather than complement, each other.

Foreign fighters continue to head for Syria to join jihadist fronts, mainly ISIS, which recruits by advertising the opportunity to build a so-called “authentic” Islamic State and opportunities for unlimited violence. Foreign fighters will continue to pose an additional layer of threat to neighboring states and their countries of origin. The volume of individuals wanting to join ISIS or returning from Syria and Iraq is overwhelming authorities in Europe.

The conflict in Syria has produced millions of refugees on a scale approaching that of Europe during World War II. As long as the fighting continues — which is likely — these refugees will not be able to go home, nor can so many be absorbed by the surrounding countries. They are the new Palestinians and will remain an international burden and a source of regional instability.

Although these stark conclusions hardly sound controversial, they are antithetical to American policy. The very idea of a military stalemate lasting years — or decades — defies America’s sense of progress. Secular, democratic governance and religious tolerance are deeply held American values. The United States operates on the presumption that the sectarian and ethnic divisions can be bridged; that Iraq’s national army can be rebuilt into an effective fighting force; that the Bashar Assad regime in Syria can be replaced by a more inclusive government; that the Sunnis can be won over and the jihadists can be isolated, contained and defeated; that peace and national unity can be restored, enabling the refugees to return; and that this can be achieved without the commitment of large numbers of combat forces or even with the commitment of American combat forces.

Unquestionably, these are noble aims, and diplomats are required to be optimists. Nonetheless, national objectives must be based upon realistic assessments of the situation. Here, the distance between presumed aspiration and reality seems great.

The Terrorism Threat to the United States and Implications for Refugees

by Seth G. Jones

Testimony presented before the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on June 24, 2015.

Источник: http://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT433.html

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The Enemy You Know and the Ally You Don’t

Sunni tribal fighters stand guard near a school used as a shelter for displaced people in the city of Ramadi

by Benjamin Bahney, Patrick B. Johnston, Patrick Ryan

April 11, 2015

Источник: http://www.rand.org/blog/2015/06/the-enemy-you-know-and-the-ally-you-dont.html

In the weeks since the Islamic State captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi, a loud and diverse chorus of voices, including the New York Times editorial board, has called for the Iraqi government and the United States to arm Sunni militias to fight the extremist group’s advance. The administration increased the number of U.S. trainers last week, adding an additional 450 as early as this summer to the 3,100 American troops already in Iraq. Regardless, current political and military dynamics on the ground may merit giving arms to Sunni fighters if the Islamic State can’t be pushed back soon.

But the decision to hand weapons over to the Sunni militias also poses risks. Before directly arming more ethnic- or sectarian-aligned militias, both U.S. policymakers and the public should have a deeper understanding of our potential allies’ past and their possible future interests. And what the unintended consequences of arming these Sunni militias might be.

Newly declassified documents from the Islamic State’s predecessor, captured during a U.S.-Iraqi raid in 2010 and published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, suggest that some of Iraq’s most prominent Sunni politicians collaborated with the Islamic State’s predecessor in 2009, when the group faced its darkest hour. Some of these senior figures may have worked with the Islamic State to benefit themselves, some to benefit the Sunnis, and some to weaken the hand of the Kurds in Iraq’s ethnically mixed areas in the country’s north. While the threat of the Islamic State has moved these dynamics to the back burner today, they will likely reemerge if and when the security environment improves. And now some of these same politicians are lobbying the United States to send money and weapons to the militias from their territories.

While most of the U.S. public hadn’t heard of the Islamic State before its breakout last summer, the group declared an “Islamic State of Iraq” back in 2006 and maintained a presence in the northern city of Mosul through the U.S. military’s withdrawal in 2011. Conventional wisdom says that the Islamic State’s place in Iraq’s sectarian political strife rose out of the disarray that followed the U.S. withdrawal. It was at that moment that Iraq’s Sunnis were left to fend for themselves against the domineering, Shiite-oriented central government. The Islamic State’s resurgence in Iraq in 2013 and 2014 came at a time when the country’s Sunni minority was ripe to accept the group as a bulwark against political marginalization and crackdowns at the hands of then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

In this telling, which has dominated U.S. media and policy circles, Maliki and his Shiite allies in the Iraqi government bear the brunt of the blame for inciting the renewed sectarian tensions that enabled the Islamic State to reemerge and unleash the brutal campaign that has arrested the world’s attention.

The new documents published by the CTC suggest the need to approach this conventional wisdom with caution. They have important implications for understanding Iraq’s sectarian schism and for informing the ongoing policy debate on how to stabilize the war-torn country.

A key document sent to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who preceded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the group’s leader, suggests that the Islamic State established cooperative relationships with key Sunni politicians by 2009 that gave it access to extortion opportunities, kickbacks, and other revenue-generating activities in and around Mosul. Assuming the document is authentic — for the moment, there is no evidence to suggest it is not — these revelations should give pause to those recommending that the Iraqis train and equip local Sunni forces under the auspices of the provincial governments in Nineveh and Anbar. Reporting from Mosul indicates that similarities between Sunni government officials and the Islamic State likely continued after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, and Maliki’s government began to intensify its repression of Sunni political leaders.

It is impossible to know the specific motivations of these officials — Sunni politicians may simply have been buying themselves protection in an environment where no other party was able or willing to provide it. But what is clear is this: For the Islamic State, these relationships enabled the group to access tens of millions of dollars to finance its operations in 2009 and after, some of which may have been diverted from Western reconstruction aid through political favors and phony contracts. The Islamic State likely used these funds to expand its extortion and intimidation networks in Mosul even prior to the 2011 U.S. withdrawal. This would go far in explaining how it had become so rich, even before it seized over $400 million from Mosul’s bank vaults last June.

One document dated August 2009 — when the Islamic State was regrouping in Mosul following military defeats in Anbar and Baghdad — sent from a senior Islamic State operative known as “Hatim” to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, provides evidence that the group remained active in Mosul throughout the period by financing itself through project-skimming and extortion of contractors. In one example of these arrangements, the Islamic State claimed a $4 million profit from a construction contract in east Mosul. The expected revenues from these deals ranged from $7 to $34 million each.

The operative’s report on this special project describes how Islamic State agents established relationships with the Iraqi central government and with high-level Sunni politicians in Nineveh province, which forms the northern tip of the so-called Sunni triangle. Several Sunni politicians, according to the operative, had agreed to give the group access to lucrative contracting and extortion opportunities. As the author describes it, the Islamic State sought to “infiltrate the infidel government administratively, for the purpose of directing some of the economic and financial decisions issued by the apostates … also to benefit from the possibility of recruiting individuals from the infidel government as sources of information.”

These opportunities would have been a significant boon to the Islamic State during a period after senior U.S. intelligence officials declared the group “essentially defeated.”

To be sure, some uncertainty remains about how far the Islamic State went toward exploiting these opportunities. The author of the key document, likely a high-level Islamic State operative in Iraq, was making a direct entreaty to the Islamic State’s top leaders to allow the group to move forward with more deals after many months of internal bureaucratic bungling, inertia, and poor communication. It is possible that the Islamic State cut these deals short to avoid being a party to Sunni politics — the group’s radical version of Islam views democratic politics as idolatrous — but this raises the question of why the group’s third-in-command, a Swedish extremist of Moroccan descent called Abu Qaswarah, purportedly directed these activities in the first place.

These arrangements could have also affected the course of Iraq’s sectarian politics by increasing mistrust of the Sunnis by Iraq’s Shiites and Kurds and contributing to sectarian political conflict, which further marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis. The Islamic State operative’s report names several individuals, including some of Iraq’s most prominent Sunni politicians: Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Nineveh; Dildar al-Zibari, the former deputy chairman of the Nineveh Provincial Council; Faruq Abd al-Qadir, the former Iraqi minister of communications; and Hajj Riyad, the director of the office of then-deputy Prime Minister (and later Minister of Finance) Rafi al-Issawi.

At least two of these figures, Qadir and Zibari, wittingly aided the Islamic State, according to the report. Qadir had reportedly placed two Islamic State operatives in official government positions in the Ministry of Communications. Other officials were reportedly more reluctant to collaborate, but eventually capitulated. Hajj Riyad and Qadir, who was also head of the Nineveh Reconstruction Council at the time, had initial hesitations about collaborating with the Islamic State but buckled under additional pressure, according to the documents.

Fast forward to today: Several figures described in the document remain key players in Iraq’s Sunni political landscape. Atheel al-Nujaifi, governor in absentia of Nineveh and the brother of Iraqi Vice President Usama al-Nujaifi, continues to try to build a 3,000-man local security force to fight the Islamic State after he was sacked in May, when a majority of Iraqi MPs voted to fire him for corruption and complicity in the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State. Even if such a security force ostensibly fell under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s National Guard, Nujaifi has indicated that he would continue to “work as a politician in the governorate and will be a fighter in the liberation process.”

In September of last year, Nujaifi paid (PDF) $300,000 of his own money to a Washington consulting firm to help rally support among influential foreign-policy elites and policymakers in the United States for his plan to arm a state militia for Nineveh. This May, Nujaifi and Issawi met with key players in Washington’s foreign-policy circles and gave a talk at the Brookings Institution. In the talk, Issawi emphasized the dire security situation and pleaded for help, arguing that the Shiite militias are nearly an equal threat to the stability of Iraq as the Islamic State is. Issawi also noted that he and Nujaifi were two of the few Sunnis to participate in politics since the beginning of the new Iraqi state, as others boycotted politics for years. The sidelining of such key Sunni politicians diminishes the chances that successful political reconciliation between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite groups will occur.

If members of Iraq’s Sunni leadership indeed had ties to the Islamic State, it raises serious questions about these figures as reliable long-term partners and as stewards of their own security forces. The U.S. strategy in Iraq hinges on putting in place a power-sharing agreement based on a willingness by all parties to set aside narrow sectarian agendas. However, none of the major political blocs — Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd — appear likely to change their zero-sum calculus. Political leaders on all sides have demonstrated a willingness to do whatever it takes to advance their sectarian agendas. And in the case of Sunni leaders, this has likely included direct cooperation with the Islamic State.

These sectarian gambits have failed everyone involved — except for the Islamic State. On the Sunni side, Issawi and Nujaifi fled the Islamic State’s military onslaught last year for exile in Iraqi Kurdistan. On the Shiite side, the Islamic State’s 2014 breakout cost Maliki his position as prime minister. Meanwhile, the Islamic State’s organization gained significant military capability, financial resources, and popular support within Iraq.

The Islamic State’s recent victories against government troops in Syria and against Iraqi security forces in Anbar are alarming signs of its growing power and influence. In this context, proposals to arm and support Sunni-led provincial forces are compelling. But policymakers also must consider the prospects for eventual demobilization. Arming provincial militias will increase the power of Iraq’s governors, which would complicate eventual disarmament and could even spark new fighting among Iraq’s factions. Disarming tribal militias would prove easier, but the tribes have been weakened in the years since they joined U.S. forces to fight al Qaeda, and some now openly back the Islamic State. If Iraq needs more security forces, the United States should help to reform and strengthen the troops Iraq already has. Going around them is only asking for trouble.

Iran’s Role in Iraq

Room for Cooperation?

by Alireza Nader

Источник: http://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE151.html

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The rise of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has led to arguments in favor of U.S.-Iran cooperation in combating the group, as immediate American and Iranian interests in Iraq are very similar: Both countries view ISIL and the broader Sunni jihadi movement as major threats to their national interests. American and Iranian military forces in Iraq are fighting the same enemy and, on the surface, U.S. air power seems to complement Iran’s on-the-ground presence in Iraq. While the United States and Iran ultimately have divergent long-term goals for Iraq, and face disagreements on many other issues, limited tactical cooperation in weakening ISIL in Iraq may be possible.

This paper examines Iranian objectives and influence in Iraq in light of ISIL’s ascendance. In particular, the paper focuses on Iran’s ties with Iraqi Shi’a parties and militias and the implications of Iran’s sectarian policies for U.S. interests. In addition, the paper examines the role of specific Iranian actors in Iraq, especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in addition to the clergy and the Rouhani government. Finally, the paper concludes with policy recommendations for the United States.

Key Findings

Explicit U.S. cooperation with Iran in Iraq may help weaken ISIL, but it is unlikely to solve the region’s increasing insecurity, which is due in part to Iran’s sectarian politics.

Beyond tactical cooperation in the fight against ISIL, it is difficult to see a fundamental shift of behavior in Tehran that could lead to long-lasting U.S.-Iran cooperation.

  • For now, Iran’s fight against ISIL has short-term tactical benefits, but Washington should not expect a broader détente between the two countries as a result of common interests in fighting ISIL.

Recommendations

  • U.S. efforts to find a political solution to the multiple crises roiling the region must take Iranian influence into account. While the United States may find broad cooperation with Iran to be problematic, it nevertheless should explore discreet political agreements with Iran. Such agreements should be aimed not to fundamentally change the relationship with Iran, but help find ways to defuse and deescalate sectarian-driven warfare in Iraq, Syria, and the wider Middle East.
  • U.S. policy toward Iran should not be based on normalization of relations or alliance-building, as the two countries are likely to remain rivals for years, but instead should focus on finding spaces in which the two countries can tolerate each other’s respective influence while striving for some modicum of regional stability.

 

Containing Middle East Terror

Measures to Reduce the Threat Posed By Foreign Fighters Returning from Syria and Iraq

by Brian Michael Jenkins

Источник: http://www.rand.org/pubs/testimonies/CT427.html

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Testimony presented before the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on March 17, 2015.

Wanted: a U.S. Strategy for Syria and Iraq

By Melissa Dalton

Nov 16, 2015

Источник: http://csis.org/publication/wanted-us-strategy-syria-and-iraq

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Fifteen months since the U.S.-led coalition began its campaign against the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), ISIS remains a formidable force in both countries. Although coalition airstrikes and local forces have taken back some territory in the northern regions, ISIS maintains military momentum, continues to lure recruits internationally, and retains control of substantial areas in Syria’s north and east and Iraq’s west.

 

Creeping Incrementalism: U.S. Strategy in Iraq and Syria from 2011 to 2015

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Nov 9, 2015

Источник: http://csis.org/publication/creeping-incrementalism-us-strategy-iraq-and-syria-2011-2015

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President Obama’s decision to allow up to 50 Special Forces to deploy in northern Syria has triggered an almost inevitable debate over crossing the threshold from train and assist into deploying combat personnel. So far that debate has taken three forms. One has focused on the president’s past statements about not sending “boots on the ground.” The second has focused on the risk this could be the start of a major combat presence and lead to serious U.S. casualties. The third has focused on whether this step—and the other small increments in the U.S. effort announced after General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of staff, visited the region in October 2015—will still fall short of the levels necessary to have meaningful results.

The first form of this debate is political and irrelevant in military terms. It does not judge the merits of the decision and implies that a president should not react to changing conditions – the kind of “gotcha” issue that suits the politics of what have become election years. It is totally dysfunctional in national security terms because it assumes that the president can predict the future and make pledges regardless of how things change and the need to act in ways that serve the national interest.

The second form of the debate touches on a valid strategic issue: whether the United States should send major land combat units back to Iraq and/or into Syria. However, it focuses on an option the United States rejected long ago—a decision that seems even more valid today. Thrusting U.S. land combat units into the middle of the sectarian and ethnic quarrels and fighting in either Iraq or Syria seems almost certain to create new enemies and more divisions in both countries, and confront the U.S. with having to take sides in their internal struggles.

The third form of the debate is all too relevant. Deploying 50 Special Forces forward in Syria is probably a useful step, but it is scarcely a meaningful game changer. Ever since 2011, the United States has failed to develop any grand strategy for either Iraq or Syria, to cope with the emerging civil war in Syria and growing sectarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq, or to take decisive enough military action to make a major impact. The United States has not shown strategic patience. It has instead reacted to events with creeping incrementalism that is largely focused on ISIS and almost exclusively focused on security.

Once one looks beyond the conceptual rhetoric that the administration has issued with each new crisis in Iraq and Syria, it is remarkably hard to see anything approaching an effective level of execution. U.S. actions have never addressed the key issues involved in any meaningful way or shown the United States has a credible overall strategy for Iran and Syria other than simply degrading and destroying ISIS.

Any grand strategic success has to bring lasting security and stability to both Syria and Iraq. It has to go beyond security, and deal with the fundamental problems in politics, governance, economics and demographic pressures that have made both Iraq and Syria failed states.

So far, neither the United States nor anyone else has given an indication it has a strategy for looking beyond security and the use of force. The Obama Administration has focused on fighting ISIS in ways that have done little more than partially contain the “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has had some reversals in Iraq and Syria but still advances in other areas, and increasingly competes with Al Qaeda on a broader regional level.

When it comes to the sectarian and ethnic conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the United States has not developed a clear path to creating a solution to either state’s worst security problems. And, as the later portions of this analysis show, it is far from clear that any measures that have come out of Chairman Dunford’s visit to the region – 50 Special Forces notwithstanding – will be anything more than another step in creeping incrementalism on a military level.

These issues are addressed in depth in a new analysis by the Burke Chair at CSIS entitled Creeping Incrementalism: U.S. Strategy in Iraq and Syria from 2011 to 2015.

The analysis includes the following major sections, as well as detailed maps, figures, and operational cost tables.

The “Impossible” American Grand Strategic Objective: Iraqi and Syrian Stability and Security: Addresses the fact that U.S. strategy and action — as distinguished from conceptual rhetoric — has focused almost exclusively on the security dimension of degrading and destroying ISIS rather than the broader grand strategic objective of bringing stability and security to Iraq and Syria.
It has failed to address both the sectarian and ethnic divisions that have brought both states to civil war, and the political, governance, economic and demographic dimensions of the conflict.

Mission “Possible?” — Relying on Creeping Incrementalism for Security Aid: The mission of helping Iraq and Syria is less challenging, but as the following sections show, the United States has pursued a de facto strategy of minimizing most of its military efforts, reacting after the fact, and making each increment of additional action come too little and too late.
Strategic Incrementalism on the Ground: The United States has never attempted to create the kind of train and assist mission that is needed to develop effective combat capability, has put keeping costs and casualties before effectiveness, and acted in ways that may ultimately increase the level of tension between Arab and Kurd, and possibly sectarian tensions as well. It is unclear how the United States intended to come to grips with the fact that the land operation in Iraq cannot be separated from those in Syria.
Strategic Incrementalism in the Air: The United States has deployed significant air combat forces, but these too have made incremental increases in combat activity that seem largely reactive, and lacking in any public explanation of the strategic rationale for such operations, their impact on air-land operations, and how operations in Iraq and Syria are structured to produce some unified concept of operations.
The Lack of Meaningful Data on the Effectiveness and Ineffectiveness of Strategic Incrementalism: The administration and the Department of Defense have provide only limited largely meaningful data on the overall patterns and effectiveness of land and air operations. Some of these data are questionable at best and seem to deliberately exaggerate what has been accomplished to date.
No Land-Air Effectiveness Data: Just are there is no clear strategy for joint land and air warfare, there are no systematic effectiveness data tying air operations to program on the ground.
Creeping Incrementalism May Be Cheaper, But Is Anything But Cost-Effective: The cost data provided by the Department of Defense raise serious questions about their accuracy, and even more serious questions about the impact of limiting short terms costs in ways that may serious raise the total cost of operations.
The Need for a Broader Strategy for Defeating ISIS and Post-ISIS Security and Stability: This section highlights changes needed in the land and air aspects of U.S. military efforts, and the need to make a start at creating an international effort to help Iraq and Syria recover and build at the political, governance, economic, and demographic levels.
So far, a de facto U.S. strategy of creeping incrementalism has at best partially contained ISIS, has done nothing to reduce the growing internal divisions in either Syria or Iraq, has left Syria open to Russian intervention, and has failed to integrate U.S. security efforts effectively with those of Turkey and U.S. Arab allies. It has proved to be so reactive that events have consistently outpaced every new increment in U.S. military activity, and it at best addresses only part of the strategic challenge –leaving Iraqi and Syrian politics and governance to fracture, and corruption, the economy, and the impact of population pressures and the youth “bulge” to grow worse in both states.

If there are merits to creeping incrementalism, they largely consist of negatives. Creeping incrementalism is no worse than the strategies and actions of any of Iraq and Syria’s neighbors, it is less threatening to Syria’s people than that of Russia and Iran, and has been limited more by the internal divisions in Iraq and Syria than by the shortfalls in U.S. efforts.

One can also argue that it is far cheaper in the short-term than the cost of major military and civil intervention in Iraq from 2003-2011, or the ongoing intervention in Afghanistan. However, reducing the short-term cost of failure is no guarantee regarding future costs, and a cheaper form of failure is scarcely a metric of success.

This does not mean that leaping from creeping incrementalism to massive intervention and “shock and awe” is likely to be any more successful. Throwing massive amounts of U.S. ground forces into deeply divided Arab states, in the face of Iranian hostility, and in the middle of a major struggle for the future of Islam is no more likely to be successful in the future than it was in Iraq. The last few years have also made it all too clear are no good short-term solutions to the broader problems in Iraq and Syria.

The administration does not need to deploy major combat forces, but it does need to articulate a meaningful overall security strategy for air-land operations, for both Iraq and Syria, and for dealing with its allies in the region. It needs strategic communications to explain this strategy credibly and publicly to the American people, the Congress, and our allies. It needs to establish a clear level of conditionality for its military and aid efforts, but also to treat Iraq and its regional allies as real partners. It needs to accept the fact that the most it can hope for in dealing with Russia and Iran is a troubled coexistence and confront them as necessary.

Deconstructing Syria: Towards a regionalized strategy for a confederal country

By: Michael E. O’Hanlon

June 23, 2015

Источник: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/06/23-syria-strategy-ohanlon

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U.S. policy towards Syria since the Arab spring uprisings of 2011 has been a litany of miscalculation, frustration, and tragedy for the people of that ill-fated land. The ascendance of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the major element of the opposition to the Bashar al-Assad regime may not amount to an imminent threat to American security; indeed, very few Americans have died to date at the hands of ISIL or affiliates. But ISIL’s rise does place at much greater risk the security of Iraq, the future of Syria itself, and the stability of Lebanon and Jordan. It could jeopardize the safety of American citizens as well, given the possibility of attacks by “lone wolves” inspired in their western home by ISIL propaganda, or by westerners returning from the Syrian jihad to carry out attacks at home. Massacres on a par with the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, or worse, could easily occur in the United States. The potency of the al-Nusra organization, al Qaeda’s loyal affiliate, within the Syrian opposition is also of considerable concern.

This paper makes a case for a new approach to Syria that attempts to bring ends and means more realistically into balance. It also seeks to end the Hobson’s choice currently confronting American policymakers, whereby they can neither attempt to unseat President Assad in any concerted way (because doing so would clear the path for ISIL), nor tolerate him as a future leader of the country (because of the abominations he has committed, and because any such policy would bring the United States into direct disagreement with almost all of its regional allies). The new approach would seek to break the problem down in a number of localized components of the country, pursuing regional stopgap solutions while envisioning ultimately a more confederal Syria made up of autonomous zones rather than being ruled by a strong central government. It also proposes a path to an intensified train and equip program. Once that program had generated a critical mass of fighters in training locations abroad, it would move to a next stage. Coupled with a U.S. willingness, in collaboration with regional partners, to help defend local safe areas using American airpower as well as special forces support once circumstances are conducive, the Syrian opposition fighters would then establish safe zones in Syria that they would seek to expand and solidify. The safe zones would also be used to accelerate recruiting and training of additional opposition fighters who could live in, and help protect, their communities while going through basic training. They would, in addition, be locations where humanitarian relief could be provided to needy populations, and local governance structures developed.

The strategy would begin by establishing one or two zones in relatively promising locations, such as the Kurdish northeast and perhaps in the country’s south near Jordan, to see how well the concept could work and how fast momentum could be built up. Over time, more might be created, if possible. Ultimately, and ideally, some of the safe zones might merge together as key elements in a future confederal arrangement for the Syrian state. Assad, ISIL, and al-Nusra could have no role in such a future state, but for now, American policymakers could otherwise remain agnostic about the future character and governing structures of such an entity.

Iraq and Syria: The Problem of Strategy

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Jun 19, 2015

Источник: http://csis.org/publication/iraq-and-syria-problem-strategy

The United States has now been actively at war with terrorism movements since 2001. Throughout that time, it has struggled to find ways to develop some form of meaningful strategy, measure its progress, and give that progress some degree of transparency and credibility to the Congress, the American people and our strategic partners, and the media.

So far, its success has been erratic at best. On most occasions, the U.S. has issued policy statements that set broad goals, but did not really amount to a strategy. There was no real assessment of the situation and the reasons for selecting a given course of action, there was no real plan and set of milestones to measure progress by, there were no real details as to the required resources, and any supporting measures of effectiveness have often added up to little more than political justification and spin.

The United States has had particular problems in describing its counterterrorism strategy in Iraq and Syria, and members of Congress have quite correctly called for a far more explicit statement of what U.S. strategy is, its justification, and some measures of effectiveness. On June 17, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey attempted to respond by outlining the Department of Defense’s counterterrorism strategy in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

To put it politely, they failed. In fact, if one grades their efforts by the increasingly partisan standards of todays U.S. politics, Democrats in Congress could at best give them a D minus, Republican no higher grade than an F plus, and any mythical moderate could not go higher than an F.

The Outline of a Strategy is Not a Strategy

A summary of Secretary Carter’s testimony issued by the Department’s news service focused on nine key areas of action – most of which were little more than a paraphrasing of the same generalities the White House had issued in its fact sheet on November 7, 2014:

The United States will not let up until it has destroyed ISIL and al Qaida affiliated terrorists that pose dangers to the homeland, friends and allies in the region, the secretary said…Today, 35,000 U.S. forces are postured in the region, allowing the military to «strike ISIL and al-Qaida terrorists and check Iranian malign influence.»

U.S. core interests also assure Israel’s «continued qualitative military edge, and why we’re working with our Gulf partners to make them more capable of defending themselves against external aggression,» he added.

Those interests also are why the United States is supporting efforts for political settlements to crises throughout the region, from Yemen to Libya to Syria, the secretary said.

ISIL presents a «grave threat» to U.S. friends and allies in the Middle East and around the world, from Africa and Europe to parts of Asia…because of its «steady metastasis.» It also threatens the U.S. homeland, he added, based on its avowed intentions to strike and recruit in the United States.

President Barack Obama’s counter-ISIL strategy draws from all U.S. national security agencies to degrade and defeat ISIL…The strategy and military campaign make up a global coalition that reflects a worldwide consensus to counter the ISIL threat. The counter-ISIL strategy is based on nine lines of effort that reflect the «breadth of this challenge and the tools needed to combat it,»

  • First, the crucial political effort to build more effective, inclusive, multi-sectarian governance.
  • Second and third are the DoD-led efforts to deny ISIL safe haven and build partner capacity in Iraq and Syria. DoD, alongside coalition partners, is conducting a bombing campaign from the air, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces on the ground, and training and equipping trusted local forces.
  • Fourth is enhancing collection of intelligence on ISIL.
  • Fifth is disrupting ISIL’s finances.
  • Sixth and seventh are to counter ISIL’s messaging and disrupt the flow of foreign fighters to and from the extremists.
  • Eighth is providing humanitarian support to people displaced by or vulnerable to ISIL.
  • Ninth is protecting the homeland by disrupting terrorist threats.

As Secretary Carter testified, the “effective execution of all nine of these lines of effort by the United States and its coalition partners is plainly necessary to ensure overall success.”

In a separate DoD news report, Chairman Dempsey was quoted as saying, “The nine lines of effort should be considered in the aggregate…This campaign focuses on building partners who are taking responsibility for their own security. As I’ve said before, this is an Iraq-first strategy, enabled by the coalition, but not an Iraq-only one. And, again, certainly not a military-only one.”

The news report went on to say that, “The chairman stressed the need for patience several times in his testimony. He said the U.S. military is at the beginning -of a complex, nonlinear campaign that will require a sustained level of effort over an extended period of time to promote durable regional stability over the long term.’”

There is no indication that Dempsey explained what this broader campaign would be. If anything, the Department of Defense reporting on Dempsey’s testimony seemed to indicate that he was calling for a strategy where the critical effort consisted largely of unilateral changes in the policies and actions of regional states:

We seek a region that is inhospitable to our enemies and that promotes and protects our core national interests…It’s my military judgment that an enduring victory over ISIL can only be accomplished by those nations and stakeholders in the region who have as much and actually more to gain or lose than we do…

The U.S. military has responsibility for just two of what are a total of nine lines of effort, he noted: bombing ISIL targets in support of indigenous ground forces and training and equipping Iraqi security forces.

In all nine areas of action there seem to important areas where the U.S. still has no strategy and/or has little credible chance of effective execution of an action plan.

  1. The crucial political effort to build more effective, inclusive, multi-sectarian governance

The key problem with the “crucial political effort to build more effective, inclusive, multi-sectarian governance” is that simply setting a broad goal is not a strategy. It is not clear what action that United States. is taking to create “more effective, inclusive, multi-sectarian governance” in Iraq.

The DoD press release stated that Carter’s testimony focused on the following points,

Despite the challenges, positive signs exist, the secretary said, noting that he has met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani, and last week with Speaker Salim al-Jabouri of Iraq’s parliament. «They fully understand the need to empower more localized, multi-sectarian Iraqi security forces and address persistent organizational and leadership failures,» the defense secretary told the House panel.

Because a sovereign, multisectarian Iraq is more likely to seal a lasting defeat of ISIL, the United States must continue working with and through the Iraqi government in all actions, including Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces support, he said.

U.S. efforts must reinforce inclusivity and multi-sectarianism and not fuel a reversal to sectarianism, which would make the lasting defeat of ISIL harder, not easier, Carter noted.

…Syria’s battle with ISIL extremists is more complex, Carter said, citing the lack of a legitimate government partner and many competing forces in that country.» Our train-and-equip mission in Syria has been challenging…but the requirement for a capable and motivated counter-ISIL ground force there also means we must persist in our efforts.»

… Despite the challenges, positive signs exist, the secretary said, noting that he has met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani, and last week with Speaker Salim al-Jabouri of Iraq’s parliament. «They fully understand the need to empower more localized, multi-sectarian Iraqi security forces and address persistent organizational and leadership failures,» the defense secretary told the House panel.

Because a sovereign, multisectarian Iraq is more likely to seal a lasting defeat of ISIL, the United States must continue working with and through the Iraqi government in all actions, including Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces support, he said.

U.S. efforts must reinforce inclusivity and multi-sectarianism and not fuel a reversal to sectarianism, which would make the lasting defeat of ISIL harder, not easier, Carter noted.

Like the other statements by senior U.S. officials to date, the Carter and Dempsey testimony did not come close to presenting a comprehensive strategy for Iraq. It did not address the lack of progress in bringing Arab Sunnis back to support of the government, the tensions between Kurd and Arab, the role of Shi’ite militias and Iran, the problems Abadi and al-Jabouri face in taking effective action, the need for supporting civil and civil-military activities by the United states. and other outside states, any conditionality in U.S. aid, or any other key aspect of U.S. action.

More broadly, Carter’s testimony virtually admitted that the United States. had no strategy for Syria. Moreover, it did not address the need to deal with other terrorist and extreme groups like the Al Nusra Front. It did not address the critical issue of Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria, or discuss any aspect of U.S. cooperation with its Arab allies and other states. It did not address the problem of Russia, or deal with the growing humanitarian nightmare in Syria and Iraq and the destabilizing impacts of the fighting and refugees on neighboring states.

Dempsey largely highlighted key problems without describing a strategy or solutions:

The situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria is the result of three converging issues, Dempsey told the panel. The first, he said, is that “several governments are struggling for political legitimacy, because they are not sufficiently pluralistic or they are not sufficiently accountable to their citizens.” The Iraqi government has pledged to create a unity government, he added, but has been unable to do so yet.

“Second, the centuries old Shia-Sunni rivalry has come to the fore,” the chairman said. “Weak states are less able to assert independence amid the tug-of-war between sectarian regional powers.”

Third, there is increasing competition between religiously moderate Muslims and more radical elements, Dempsey said.

“These three challenges, as they intersect, make for an environment that will test the resolve of the region’s security forces,” the general said. “Enduring stability cannot be imposed from the outside in. Stability must be cultivated from the inside out and, importantly, owned by regional stakeholders.”

  1. and 3. DoD-led efforts to deny ISIL safe haven and build partner capacity in Iraq and Syria. DoD, alongside coalition partners, is conducting a bombing campaign from the air, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces on the ground, and training and equipping trusted local forces.

The Carter and Dempsey testimony on “DoD-led efforts to deny ISIL safe haven and build partner capacity in Iraq and Syria, the bombing campaign from the air, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces, and training and equipping trusted local forces was curiously lacking in substance and depth.

It did little more than make some vague claims about airpower, and raise serious questions about the ability to recruit adequate numbers of Iraqis for the train and assist mission. It ignored the lack of progress in the Syrian train and assist mission – an effort that had all of 90 Syrian recruits in March 2015 for a training effort with a goal of training 3,000 to 5,000 in calendar 2015, and that had at most 180 men who had stated training in June 2015 – out of some 6,000 recruits, 2,000 who had been vetted, and 1,500 who had made it through screening.

DoD’s airstrike campaigns in Iraq and Syria have «produced some clear results in limiting ISIL’s freedom of movement, constraining its ability to reinforce its fighters, and impeding command and control,» Carter said. Airstrikes also helped local forces make key achievements, such as the success of anti-ISIL forces that took the key town of Tal Abyad over the weekend…The airstrikes are also buying critical time and space required to carry out DoD’s second line of effort — developing the capacity and capabilities of legitimate local ground forces,» Carter said.

Carter said a combination of disunity, deserters and «ghost soldiers» — who are paid on the books but don’t exist — have greatly diminished the capacity of Iraq’s security forces. Given such challenges, ISIL’s lasting defeat requires local forces on the ground which…the U.S. military will continue to develop and enable.

Putting U.S. combat troops on the ground as a substitute for local forces will not produce enduring results,» he said. Both anti-ISIL campaigns in Iraq and Syria require capable, motivated, legitimate, local ground forces to seize, clear, and hold terrain for a lasting, enduring defeat, he said.

After Ramadi’s fall, DoD and White House officials determined that the existing strategic framework was still the correct approach, but enhanced training of the security forces was needed and the process to equip them was too slow, Carter said.

Essential equipment deliveries, such as anti-tank capabilities and equipment to counter improvised explosive devices have since been expedited to Iraqi security forces and Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces, he said.

…»We also determined that we could enable Iraqi security forces with more tailored advice and assistance, including critical outreach to local Sunni communities»… And based on DoD recommendations, the president authorized deployment of 450 personnel to Iraq’s Taqqadum military base in Anbar province to establish an additional site for advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces, Carter noted.

U.S. forces will also provide much-needed operational advice and planning support to the Iraqi security forces Anbar Operations Center…»We expect that this move will open a new dimension in our and Iraq’s efforts to recruit Sunnis into the fight and to help the Iraqis coordinate and plan the critical effort to roll back ISIL in Anbar province,»

…But the lack of Iraqi security forces recruits has slowed training, the secretary said, adding that while 24,000 recruits were anticipated by this fall, only 7,000 were trained, in addition to 2,000 counterterrorism service personnel…All sectors of the Iraqi government must make a greater commitment to the recruitment and training effort, he said.

Syria’s battle with ISIL extremists is more complex, Carter said, citing the lack of a legitimate government partner and many competing forces in that country.» Our train-and-equip mission in Syria has been challenging…but the requirement for a capable and motivated counter-ISIL ground force there also means we must persist in our efforts.»

Carter vowed to continue airstrikes against ISIL forces in Syria, and to work with Syrian neighbors to impede the flow of foreign fighters into and out of Syria and Iraq. «Success in this campaign can and must be assured…It will take time and require consistent effort on everyone’s part — the entire U.S. government, our entire international coalition, and most importantly, the Iraqi and Syrian peoples.»

As for Dempsey, he was quoted as saying, “We are on path to deliver that which we’ve committed to delivering, which is security forces — not just the [Iraqi security forces], but also the peshmerga and now the Sunni tribes — we are on path to deliver to them the capability to confront ISIL inside of their sovereign territory.” He did not provide any “whens,” “hows,” or “whats” to explain what this meant, or how the U.S. would\ implement this area of action.

Neither Carter nor Dempsey were reported to have provided any indication that meaningful numbers of Iraqi Sunnis could be recruited and trained. They did not show that the United States has a credible approach to limiting or reducing to the tensions between Iraqi government Shi’ite forces and Kurdish forces, or that it has a clear strategy for dealing with Iraq’s dependence on Shi’ite militias and the Iranian Al Quds force. They did not show that there was a clear plan to reequip and restructure Iraqi ground and air forces.

As for Syria, the testimony did not indicate how the United States would “persist” and do in given efforts, to a given end and over some estimate of time. There no projected cost, or indication of what Arab and other outside aid will be provided. There is no indication of what level of capability would be provided relative to what balance of ISIL, Al Nusra, and other violent extremist forces. No mention was made of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, the Arab Gulf states, or the broader Kurdish problem in spite of the fact that United States seems to be providing air support to Syrian Kurdish forces.

Creating the Right Kind of Train and Assist Missions

As for specific problems in the U.S. strategy for the train and assist efforts, Carter and Dempsey did not address two long-standing problems. The first is the fact that the train and assist mission is now sharply limited in character and does not involve direct aid to combat troops.

This cedes a critical aspect of the mission to Iran and ensures longer-term Iraqi government dependence on Shi’ite militias and Kurdish forces. It also ignores the fact that key challenge in making the train and assist mission effective does not lie in providing Iraq with more weapons or with forward air controllers – although both steps are necessary. The U.S. needs to act upon a key lesson from Vietnam – and from all past train and assist efforts. Generating or rebuilding forces in the rear is not enough, and is an almost certain recipe for failure. New or weak forces need forward deployed teams of advisors to help them actually fight.

Insurgents cannot be allowed to have a massive intelligence advantage on the ground, to learn the weakest links in the government forces and their defense, attack them, roll-up the weaker units, expose the flanks and position of the better units, and then force them into what as best is partially organized retreat.

No one can create effective combat leaders and forces from the rear. New and weak units need to have a small, but experienced team of combat leaders embedded with them. New combat leaders and units need months of on-the-ground help in getting the essentials of combat operations right. Modern forward air control is critical, and the use of drones can make it effective far beyond the line of sight, but so are human intelligence, and the constant assessment of tactics, defensive positions, and patrol activity.

Forward deployed train and assist teams – usually Special Forces or Rangers – are necessary to spot good combat leaders and warn against weak, ineffective, or corrupt ones. They are needed to provide intelligence backwards that static or inexperienced Iraq leaders and units can’t. They are needed to be a voice for active patrolling. At the same time, they needed to be a second voice when resupply, reinforcement, regrouping, and relief are truly needed. Someone has to bypass the barriers, rigidities, and sectarian/ethnic prejudices in the chain of command and send the right signals to the top. The Iraqis can’t do this yet.

Forward deployed train and assist teams are needed to encourage effective civil-military action in cases where the Iraqi unit has a different ethnic or sectarian bias or simply thinks in tactical terms rather than how to create a local capability to hold, recover, and build at both the military and civil levels.

These teams are needed now! They have been needed in Iraq and Afghanistan from the start. The same is true of a larger and more aggressive air campaign to support them and the overall efforts in both Iraq and Syria. There are times when support from the rear is enough. Several thousand years of military history is a warning that there are no times when leading from the rear is adequate in actual combat.

Making Effective Use of Airpower

The U.S. has shown that airpower can have a critical tactical effect in some cases in both Iraq and Syria. But, it has failed show it has anything approaching a credible strategy for using air power, and the public data it is providing on the overall nature and effectiveness of its use of air strikes seems to be little more than vacuous spin.

The same DoD news article that describes the Carter and Dempsey testimony references a report on Special Report: Operation Inherent Resolve — Targeted Operations Against ISIL Terrorists .

This report presents two tangible pieces of information. One is a map that has been designed to exaggerate gains again ISIL by drawing lines based on its peak areas of advance and that shows the areas where it has actually consolidated power. As a result, it claims that, “ISIL can no longer operate freely in roughly 25 to 30 percent of populated areas of Iraqi territory where it once could. These areas translate into approximately 13,000 to 17,000 square kilometers (or 5,000 to 6,500 square miles).” The latter part borders on the ridiculous since much of the area is desert and no one controls in on a day-to-day basis because no one is there.

The second consists of damage claims as of May 8, 2015. It has no particular strategic value and does nothing to explain or justify the strategy behind the US use of airpower. It simply reports totals by category: exactly 6,278 targets damaged or destroyed, including 77 tanks, 288 HMMWVs, 427 staging areas, 1,779 buildings, 1,415 fighting positions, 152 oil infrastructure targets, and 2,140 other targets.

These numbers have often been surprising static over time, and it is far from clear what value damaging a building, staging area, or fighting position really has, much less hitting 2,140 “other targets,” which make up more than a third of the total. It has no more value than various claims by U.S. officials that U.S. airpower has killed some 10,000-12,500 ISIL and other extremist fighters—claims that raise serious question when other U.S. background briefings indicate that ISIL only had had some 20,000 to 32,000 volunteers as of March 2015.

AFCENT has separately updated its sortie data to cover the entire air campaign through May 31, 2015. These data show that the U.S. had flown a total of 16,164 strike sorties and 5,578 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties in Iraq and Syria since the start of the air campaign in August 2014. It had also flown 5,872 airlift and air drop sorties, and 10,701 refueling sorties. This is a total of 21,742 strike and ISR sorties, and 38,315 sorties of all kinds.

These data provide a rough picture of total activity, but say nothing about effectiveness and strategy. Moreover, only 3,837 sorties actually released a weapon. This is roughly 1 in 4 strike sorties that actually hit a target, 1 in 6 releases per strike and IS&R sorties, and 1 in 10 ten strikes per sortie of all kinds.

Peak weapons releases have varied sharply by month, but reached a peak of 2,308 in January 2015 and then dropped back to a low of 1,600 in March 2015 before rising back to 2010 in May. The unclassified data on the key targets is uncertain, but most (80 percent or more) seem to have been flown in close support of active ISIL operations in areas like Kobane, Bajii, and the Mosul Dam areas where there was little risk of killing civilians and relatively few seem to have been “strategic” in the sense they struck at ISIL directly.

To repeat points made in earlier Burke Chair studies, the end result is an air campaign whose overall strategy and effectiveness is unclear, and that is strong on total sorties flown (and cost), and weak in terms of both combat power and strategic effect.

It is not the kind of air campaign that can build Iraqi morale, deal with the collapse of weaker units, destroy key ISIL and al Nusra cadres, and cover the period in which Iraqi forces must be rebuilt or provide the kind of force necessary to support a more effective strategy in Syria. If the U.S. wants to limit Iranian influence, increase its influence in Iraq and Syria, buy time for Iraqi force development, and put real pressure on ISIL and Al Nusra, it is going to have to do more.

The U.S. also needs to rethink the steady rise in limits to its rules of engagement, and restrictions on the use of airpower. And, in its strategic communications in describing what it does. The U.S. cannot afford to make avoiding all civilian casualties a strategic objective. It ends in making human shields a constant in every form of irregular and potentially conventional war as well. It also ignores the grim realities of war.

There is nothing humanitarian about saving a small number of civilian lives and opening whole towns and cities up to prolonged occupation by threats like ISIL. There is nothing humanitarian about prolonging wars, producing far higher net casualties, and adding to the massive totals of displaced persons and refugees. The horrors of war are not shaped by a single target or moment in time, but by the cumulative impact of a conflict. There also is nothing cowardly about using force at a distance to strike at forces that butcher minorities, civilians with different religious beliefs, and prisoners of war.

  1. Enhancing collection of intelligence on ISIL

Neither Secretary Carter nor Chairman Dempsey seem to have provided any indication of a strategy for enhancing intelligence collection. Media reporting indicates that the current actual trend may be negative because of problems in maintaining the sorties rates for drones. There is no open source data on Iraqi and Syrian rebel intelligence efforts, or on others aspects of U.S. and allied intelligence efforts to explain this aspect of U.S. strategy.

It is also clear from talking to intelligence experts and officials that there is no coherent guidance to the US defense intelligence community, or the intelligence community in general, as to how to collect intelligence on the ideological efforts of ISIL and Al Qa’ida, or produce net assessments of how the efforts of extremist groups like ISIL compare to the efforts of governments and other rebel organizations and efforts. The focus remains threat oriented around actual hostile activities in a war where strategy requires as much attention to threats posed by the inadequacies and repression of local and host governments, and U.S. misperceptions of the local situation and tactical mistakes, as intelligence about actively hostile movements and forces.

  1. Disrupting ISIL’s finances

There are no open source data on the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to disrupt ISIL finances. There is limited media reporting to indicate that ISIL may have growing financing problems but the scale of any such problems is unclear and other reports indicate that ISIL and other extremist movements have found other ways of raising the =funds they need. . The overall U.S. strategy, methods, allied cooperation, and effectiveness are not addressed in the reports on the strategy hearing.

  1. Counter ISIL’s messaging

Media reports suggest that State Department efforts to counter ISIL messaging have had little effect and been disrupted by internal bureaucratic problems. Other reporting indicates that the Department of Defense has done no better. It is unclear that the U.S. has any coherent strategy or effort in this area.

Statements like the testimony of Justin Siberell – the Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism: Budget, Program, and Policies – to the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade on June 2,2015 – deserve far more attention. The current effort is at best evolving far too slowly and under-resourced.

Similarly. A statement by Undersecretary of State Richard Stengel to Secretary Kerry on June 9, 2015 – following a meeting in Paris on international cooperation — warns that fundamental changes are required in both the US effort and international cooperation,

When it comes to the external message, our narrative is being trumped by ISIL’s. We are reactive – we think about “counter-narratives,” not “our narrative.” The external message of Pairs, which was summarized in the press as “stay the course” and “the strategy is working, was not well received…We prepared a playbook going into the meeting for inter-agency use and use by the partners, which said the meeting was not going to be business as usual.” This was not reflected in the meeting itself or its outward messaging.

Once again, a policy goal is not a strategy. There is a lack of clear direction from the White House and NSC, as well as interagency coordination, cooperation, and consistency of effort. Senior intelligence officials lack a clear set of priorities to deal with the ideological threat and challenge, both inside and outside the defense intelligence community.

  1. Disrupt the flow of foreign fighters to and from the extremists.

There are no open source data on the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to reduce the flow of foreign fighters to and from the extremists. There is limited media reporting indicating that ISIL is still able to attract significant numbers of volunteers and that relatively easy transit though Turkey is still a major problem

  1. Providing humanitarian support to people displaced by or vulnerable to ISIL

The United States is a major aid donor and plays a key role in aiding Syrian civilians. It is unclear, however, that it has a strategy for dealing with the rising number of Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni, and other internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, or for post-conflict recovering in such states. UN reporting raises questions about the overall adequacy of international aid funding and support for refugees.

  1. Protecting the homeland by disrupting terrorist threats

It is not clear that present U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq will produce a lasting disruption of terrorist attacks. Some experts believe that U.S. military intervention in Iraq and bombings in Syria – along with UCAV strikes on the leadership of such movements — will stimulate ISIL and Al Nusra Front interest in attacks on the United States but this is unclear.

So is the extent to which U.S. operations in Syria and Iraq have reduced the present and future threat.

Iraqi Stability and the “ISIS War”

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Aug 12, 2015

Источник: http://csis.org/publication/iraqi-stability-and-isis-war

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The events in Iraq over the last month have shown that any success in Iraq requires both the Iraqi government and the United States to go far beyond the war against ISIS, and makes any partisan debate over who lost Iraq as damaging to U.S. national interests as any other aspect of America’s drift toward partisan extremism.

The war against ISIS is a critical U.S. national security interest. It not only threatens to create a major center of terrorism and extremism in a critical part of the Middle East, and one that could spread to threaten the flow of energy exports and the global economy, but could become a major center of international terrorism. It is important to understand, however, that ISIS is only one cause of instability in the region, and only one of the threats caused by spreading sectarian and ethnic violence.

Iraq is a key case in point. No defeat of ISIS can bring Iraq security or stability, or give it the unity and independent strength to resist pressure from Iran and threats based in Syria and Turkey. No military course of action can—by itself – create a stable regime and economy, and reduce the tension between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, and Arabs and Kurds, to workable levels. Like Syria, Libya, and Yemen, military action must be joined to political and economic action and the creation of some form of viable governance.

U.S. policy must also understand that nothing could be more damaging or pointless in serving American interests at this point than a partisan debate that focuses on whether President Bush or President Obama “lost Iraq” by mishandling the U.S. military effort.

The broader civil-military situation in Iraq is less dire than in Syria. It is all too clear, however, that Iraq cannot wait on such a “victory” to deal with its internal problems, and that any such “victory” might well make the tensions between Sunni and Shiite, and Arab and Kurd, worse if it is won in ways that do not offer Iraq’s Sunnis a clear future, and make the defeat of ISIS a real liberation rather than lead to further Shi’ite mistreatment of Sunnis, and a prelude to territory struggles over the size of the Kurdish dominated areas and the powers of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

Iraq also cannot create effective security forces or a meaningful rule of law without addressing the sectarian and ethnic divisions that are tearing apart. No form of U.S. air campaign, train and assist mission, or mix of combat advisors will have lasting success if Iraq remains divided into a Shi’ite dominated military and police, Shi’ite militias, separate Kurdish forces, and a weak mix of Sunni tribal forces that are only active in its west.

The Bush and Obama Administrations must share the blame for part of the political process that divided the country along sectarian and ethnic lines, and led Iraqis to resist continuing a limited U.S advisory and troop presence, as well as empowered Maliki in politicizing Iraq’s forces, dividing the country, bringing it to a state of low-level civil war by 2013, and creating the conditions where ISIS could successfully invade. A full history of these events, however, will show that Iraq’s problems began long before the U.S. invasion, were driven more by Iraqi divisions than U.S. mistakes, and are at least as much the product of the underlying civil causes of Iraqi instability as any fault of the U.S.

It is equally clear that only a far more stable Iraq can limit the role of Iran, create some kind of buffer against what seems likely to be continuing instability in Syria, largely decouple its Kurdish area from Turkish concerns over the Kurds, create favorable relations with the other Arab states, and end the risk of constant power struggles over the control of its petroleum resources and export revenues. Iraqis need to fully “dominate” Iraq if Iraq is ever to become a force for regional stability rather than a threat to it.

The last few weeks have also made it all too clear that the real challenge in Iraq is not to drive ISIS out of Anbar and Ninewa, but to help Iraq with some form of broader security and political and economic stability. It is critical to drive ISIS out of the Sunni areas in Western Iraq, but simply defeating ISIS will not matter if it is not part of a broader effort to find a stable political and economic relationship between Sunni and Shi’ite and Arab and Kurd, give them all security, create a structure of governance that all Iraqis feel serves their interest, and move Iraq back towards a broader economic recovery, and then towards broadly based development.

A new report by the Burke Chair at CSIS address the history that has shaped the civil-military problems that now threaten Iraq’s stability, and the list of security, governance, economic, and ethnic and sectarian issues that the Iraqi government and the U.S. must deal with. It shows just how limited the impact of any victory against ISIS will be unless Iraq adopts a far wider and more effective reform program than Prime Minister Abadi has yet proposed, and that the problems in governance, economics, and dealing with Iraq’s broader problems with its Shi’ites and Kurds are a more serious threat to both Iraq and the U.S. than ISIS.