This solution smacks a bit of nation building, but it may be the only way out of this quagmire. I still contend that Syria is not a real country. Rather it is a bunch of tribal fiefdoms that was once held together by a strong man. It needs to revert to a tribal state but policed by someone like Jordan or Saudi Arabia, who would prevent the resurgence of jihadist organizations. In any case we need to go in, destroy, stabilize, and get out.
America’s Way Ahead in Syria
Mar 14, 2017 – Press ISW
This report is part of the series, U.S. Grand Strategy: Destroying ISIS and al Qaeda.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute conducted an intensive multi-month planning exercise beginning in November 2015 to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.
ISW and CTP are publishing the findings of this exercise in multiple reports. The first report described America’s global grand strategic objectives as they relate to the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda. The second report defined American strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria, identified the minimum necessary conditions for ending the conflicts there, and compared U.S. objectives with those of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia in order to understand actual convergences and divergences. The third report assessed the strengths and vulnerabilities of ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria to serve as the basis for developing a robust and comprehensive strategy to destroy them.
This fourth report recommends a course of action (COA) that represents the best possible path forward for the United States that the ISW-CTP team could identify based on an evaluation of American interests, the current political-security dynamics, and forecasts of various actors’ plans. The ISW-CTP team tested 15 different courses of action to destroy both ISIS and al Qaeda without jeopardizing wider American interests or accepting undue cost or risk. Download the PDF to read the full report.
Defining the Problem
The US is fighting the wrong war in the Middle East. ISIS and al Qaeda are waging population-centric insurgencies while we conduct counterterrorism operations by proxy. Defeating these groups requires the US to pursue population-centric counterinsurgency by, with, and through acceptable and viable partners in Syria’s and Iraq’s Sunni Arab communities.
Current US strategy empowers al Qaeda, which has an army in Syria, is preparing to replace ISIS, and exploits a vulnerable Sunni Arab community. The US has delayed defeating al Qaeda until after it has defeated ISIS. But al Qaeda is consolidating in northwestern Syria after withdrawing from Aleppo and is preparing a counteroffensive in Syria