March 22, 2017

CNAS Press Note: The 68-Nation Counter-ISIS Ministerial

With representatives from 68 nations set to meet in Washington today to discuss efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the areas ISIS controlled after they have been liberated, Center for a New American Security Bacevich Fellow Nicholas Heras has written a new Press Note, “The 68-Nation Counter-ISIS Ministerial.”
Heras and Ilan Goldenberg, Director of the CNAS Middle East Security Program, recently provided analysis on the upcoming meeting:
Please find the full Press Note below:
The Trump administration is convening this week’s 68-nation Ministerial summit in Washington at an inflection point in the U.S.-led international coalition campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Despite the successes of the Coalition campaign, there remains no overarching strategy to stabilize the areas conquered from ISIS to ensure that the local population is governed by a credible alternative authority to ISIS that is resilient against its re-emergence. With the impending fall of ISIS’ Iraqi capital of Mosul, and the imminent start of the campaign to conquer ISIS’ Syrian capital of Raqqa, the need for a “day after ISIS” stabilization plan is urgent.
Although the Trump administration may be tempted to withdraw the United States from Iraq and Syria after ISIS is conquered, without strong U.S. leadership to support local partners in both countries there is a great risk of ISIS returning to reclaim its Caliphate. ISIS is planning for the days after it loses Mosul and Raqqa, preparing to implement a strategy of rural insurgency and urban raids and terrorist attacks to weaken the local authorities that succeed the group. Both Iraq and Syria will demand a continuing and active U.S. role to support and coordinate the post-ISIS stabilization effort with military, diplomatic, and humanitarian assistance tools.
The U.S. has leverage in both Iraq and Syria and direct influence over the future of the areas of both countries where ISIS will try to re-emerge. The Trump administration will need to actively leverage the renewed and building U.S. influence on the ground in eastern Syria and western Iraq through the counter-ISIS campaign to address the coming grey zone between peace and war that will challenge post-ISIS stability. If the administration does not begin now to leverage American influence on the ground in Iraq and Syria into a comprehensive stabilization mission by, with, and through local and international partners, the it will not defeat ISIS.

Heras is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at [email protected] or 202-457-9409.


  • Nicholas Heras

    Former Fellow, Middle East Security Program

    Nicholas A. Heras is a former Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Middle East Security Program. His work focused on the analysis of complex...