August 06, 2015

Flournoy and Fontaine Author New Policy Brief on Combatting the Islamic State

Washington, August 6 – Michèle Flournoy, CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and Richard Fontaine, President of CNAS, have authored a new policy brief, An Intensified Approach to Combatting the Islamic State. In the brief, Flournoy and Fontaine argue that “current efforts to counter ISIS are not adequate to the task” and that American efforts thus far “convey a sense of creeping incrementalism.”

The authors make 11 recommendations for actions the United States and its partners should take to make their efforts to counter and ultimately destroy the Islamic State more effective. The recommendations include:

  • Intensify U.S. diplomacy behind an integrated political-military plan for Iraq;
  • Provide arms directly to Sunni tribes and the Kurdish peshmerga;
  • Embed U.S. military advisors at the battalion level in Iraq and deploy forward air controllers to call in close air support;
  • Eliminate key restrictions on aid to the Syrian opposition;
  • Employ a “tourniquet strategy” around Syria while setting conditions before any attempt at political settlement there;
  • Adopt a conditions-based approach to U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2016 and beyond; and
  • Counter ISIS’ narrative on social media.

Please find the full policy brief here:

Please find the policy brief’s introduction here:

In the 11 months since President Barack Obama committed the United States to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), the group has expanded its international reach, metastasized to form offshoots across multiple regions, and increased its perceived momentum. Although U.S. government officials cite a reduction in the overall size of the group’s sanctuary in Iraq and Syria and the killing of thousands of ISIS fighters, the fall of Ramadi and much of Anbar province to the Islamic State served as a wakeup call that current efforts to counter ISIS are not adequate to the task. Meanwhile, the threat posed by the terrorist group to Americans at home and abroad appears to be growing, as ISIS-inspired individuals conduct attacks targeting Westerners around the globe, including here in the United States. And the U.S. intelligence community reportedly assesses that despite almost a year of airstrikes, the Islamic State remains no weaker and no smaller in number than it was at the campaign’s outset.

While President Obama has articulated a fairly comprehensive strategy against ISIS, the United States and the 60-nation coalition it has formed to fight ISIS have not translated the president’s words into an effective campaign on the ground. The military dimensions of the strategy have been under-resourced, while many of the non-military lines of operation remain underdeveloped.

The policy brief explores the threat posed by the Islamic State, assesses the administration’s efforts to date, and offers recommendations for the United States and its partners to make their efforts to counter and ultimately destroy ISIS more effective.