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  • Author: Marisa Sullivan
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Hezbollah's deepening involvement in Syria is one of the most important factors of the conflict in 2013 and 2014. Since the beginning of 2013, Hezbollah fighters have operated openly and in significant numbers across the border alongside their Syrian and Iraqi counterparts. They have enabled the regime to regain control of rebel-held areas in central Syria and have improved the effectiveness of pro-regime forces. The impact of Hezbollah's involvement in Syria has been felt not just on the battlefield, where the regime now has momentum in many areas, but also in Lebanon where growing sectarian tensions have undermined security and stability.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Anbar is not the only front in Iraq on which Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), now operating as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), is fighting in 2014. ISIS has also established a governorate in Diyala. Its spokesman has named the province the central front in the sectarian conflict he has urged. The security situation and sectarian tension in Diyala province are grave. ISIS has returned to fixed fighting positions within Muqdadiyah, Baqubah, and the Diyala River Valley. Shi'a militias are now active in these areas as well. Increasing instances of population displacement demonstrate the aggregate effect of targeted violence by both groups. It is important to estimate the effects of this displacement and the presence of armed groups within Diyala's major cities in order to understand how deteriorated security conditions in this province will interfere with Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections. Furthermore, violence in Diyala has historically both driven and reflected inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian violence in other mixed areas of Iraq, including Baghdad. Diyala is therefore a significant bellwether for how quickly these types of violence will spread to other provinces.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Charles C. Caris, Samuel Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The Islamic State's June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS's political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance. This grand strategy proceeds in phases that have been laid out by ISIS itself in its publications, and elaborates a vision that it hopes will attract both fighters and citizens to its nascent state. The declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, however, raises the question: can ISIS govern?
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Ahmed Ali, Kimberly Kagan, Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Escalating violence in Iraq crossed a new and very dangerous threshold this week. Al Qaeda in Iraq launched a concentrated wave of car-bomb and other attacks specifically against civilian Shi'a targets in and around Baghdad. Shi'a militias are mobilizing and have begun a round of sectarian killings facilitated by false checkpoints, a technique characteristic of the 2006-2007 period. Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki has taken a number of steps to demonstrate that he remains in control of the situation. The expansion of Shi'a militia activity, however, is likely to persuade many Iraqis that he is either not in control or is actively abetting the killings. The re-mobilization of Shi'a militias in Iraq coincides with the formal announcement by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of his organization's active military participation in the Syrian civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq's sectarian mass-murder attacks coincide with the announcement by AQI's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al Nusra, that attacking Hezbollah is that group's primary target henceforth. The stage appears to be set not merely for the collapse of the Iraqi state into the kind of vicious sectarian killing and sectarian cleansing that nearly destroyed it in 2006 and 2007, but also for the expansion of that sectarian warfare throughout both Mesopotamia and the Levant.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Jessica Lewis
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) announced "The Soldiers' Harvest," a new campaign on July 29, 2013, immediately after the Abu Ghraib prison attack. AQI then declared that event the conclusion of the "Breaking the Walls" campaign, which apparently achieved its goals: to stoke sectarian violence by targeting Shi'a communities; and to reconstitute the veteran AQI fighting force by breaking former members out of Iraq's prisons. ISW has assessed that AQI has reconstituted as a professional military force. It is therefore crucial to examine the first 60 days of the new "Soldiers' Harvest" campaign for indications of what AQI means to accomplish this year. Initial indications suggest that AQI will seek to establish control of key terrain in Iraq while targeting any Sunnis who work for the government. The campaign name, "The Soldiers' Harvest," refers in particular to the intimidation and displacement of the Iraqi Security Forces, especially through the destruction of their homes.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Joseph Holliday
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The rebels will have to rely on external lines of supply to replenish their arms and ammunition if they are to continue eroding the regime's control. The emergence of al-Qaeda-linked terrorist cells working against the regime poses risks to the United States and a challenge to those calling for material support of the armed opposition. As the militias continue to face overwhelming regime firepower the likelihood of their radicalization may increase. Moreover, the indigenous rebels may turn to al-Qaeda for high-end weaponry and spectacular tactics as the regime's escalation leaves the rebels with no proportionate response, as occurred in Iraq in 2005-2006. Developing relations with armed opposition leaders and recognizing specific rebel organizations may help to deter this dangerous trend. It is imperative that the United States distinguish between the expatriate political opposition and the armed opposition against the Assad regime on the ground in Syria. American objectives in Syria are to hasten the fall of the Assad regime; to contain the regional spillover generated by the ongoing conflict; and to gain influence over the state and armed forces that emerge in Assad's wake. Therefore, the United States must consider developing relations with critical elements of Syria's armed opposition movement in order to achieve shared objectives, and to manage the consequences should the Assad regime fall or the conflict protract.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, United States, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Germany, Syria
  • Author: Jeffrey Dressler
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: The Haqqani Network represents hh a strategic threat to the enduring stability of the Afghan state and U.S. national security interests in the region. The Haqqanis are currently Afghanistan's most capable and potent insurgent group, and they continue to maintain close operational and strategic ties with al-Qaeda and their affiliates. These ties will likely deepen in the future. Unlike the Quetta Shura Taliban in southern Afghanistan, the counterinsurgency campaign has not weakened the Haqqanis' military capabilities significantly. Few of the “surge” resources deployed to their strongholds in Eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network has increased its operational reach and jihadist credentials over the past several years. The Haqqani Network has expanded its reach toward the Quetta Shura Taliban's historical strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the areas surrounding Kabul, as well as the Afghan north. The Haqqanis maintain considerable sanctuary and support nodes inside Pakistan's tribal areas. From their safehavens in North Waziristan and Kurram Agencies in Pakistan, the Haqqanis project men and materiel to resource their terrorist campaign in Afghanistan's southeastern provinces of Khost, Paktika and Paktia onwards to the provinces surrounding Kabul. The Haqqani Network is the primary proxy force backed by elements of Pakistan's security establishment. Pakistan's support for the Haqqani Network has increased, through both facilitating additional sanctuary and providing strategic and operational guidance. The Haqqanis serve Pakistan's interests by dominating key terrain along the border and beyond in Afghanistan's south and east, serving as a Pakistani-influenced “firewall” against national, northern, U.S. and Indian influence. The Haqqanis would also serve Pakistan's interests by being the primary influence in Afghanistan's Ghilzai Pashtun lands, as well as the tribal areas in North Waziristan, organizing these tribal areas in ways consistent with Pakistan's interests. The Haqqanis execute spectacular attacks in Kabul in order to generate a disproportionate psychological and propaganda effect. The Haqqanis have strengthened their presence in Logar and Wardak, surrounding the southern and western approaches to Kabul. They have also expanded into Kabul's eastern approachs in the provinces of Nangarhar, Lahgman, and Kapisa. The network will use these positions to increase their destabilizing attacks in Kabul. The Haqqani Network has increased their presence in Afghanistan's north, through their partnership with the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The Haqqani Network and IMU execute targeted assassinations of northern powerbrokers who are affiliated with the Jamiat-e Islami Party. These assassinations are meant to undermine the Jamiat party and the influence of minority powerbrokers, who are historical rivals to the Pashtuns and the Pakistani state. The Haqqanis are ideologically committed insurgents, and they are increasing their territorial reach. The group also has ties to al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The Haqqanis have never given any indication that breaking ties with al-Qaeda was either possible or in their interests. Consequently, the Haqqani Network is not reconcilable. They also do not fully follow the guidance of the Quetta Shura Taliban, because they maintain a separate power base and leadership structure. Coalition and Afghan forces must conduct a sustained, well-resourced offensive against the Haqqani Network inside of Afghanistan. This campaign would likely require at least two adequately-resourced fighting seasons. Consequently, it is imperative that the U.S. retains force levels at 68,000 troops after September 2012, rather than conducting a further drawdown. Without such a campaign, the Haqqani Network will be a dominant force inside of Afghanistan indefinitely, and the United States woulf fail to achieve its stated objective of preventing the return of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups to Afghanistan. Addressing the threat from the Haqqani Network inside of Afghanistan is necessary, even if further action should ultimately be taken to disrupt the organization in Miramshah. The ANSF are not equipped to deal with the threat from the Haqqani Network in their current state. The Afghan Security Forces lack the intelligence, enablers, and sophisticated command and control required to reclaim the enemy support zones south of Kabul. The Afghan units are also under-filled and wrongly positioned for this fight. American troops in a properly-resourced campaign can help reduce the threat from the Haqqani Network to a level that the Afghan Security Forces can handle. The United States must not abruptly shift the mission of its forces in Afghanistan from counter-insurgency to security force assistance. U.S. forces cannot curtail or cease offensive operations in the areas South of Kabul in Regional Command East in 2012. The United States and its Afghan partners must dismantle the Haqqani Network's strongholds in Khost, Paktika, and Paktia and contain the organization's expansion toward Kabul prior to a shift in mission. Failure to do so will present a strategic threat to U.S. national security interests in Afghanistan.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Terrorism, International Security, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Sam Wyer
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: This report examines the political, religious, and military resurgence of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. Forces, identifying the group's key actors, their present disposition and strategy, and their regional expansion. AAH is an Iranian-backed Shi'a militant group that split from Moqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) in 2006. Since that time, AAH has conducted thousands of lethal explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces, targeted kidnappings of Westerners, rocket and mortar attacks on the U.S. Embassy, the murder of American soldiers, and the assassination of Iraqi officials.
  • Topic: Security, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Wicken
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: On Sunday, Iraqs Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death by hanging after he and his son-in-law were convicted of organizing the murders of a security official and a lawyer. All told, Hashemi is subject to more than 150 charges of terrorism based upon allegations that he used death squads to target his political opponents. The verdict carries distressing implications for short-term domestic security in Iraq and for diplomatic relations with neighboring Turkey, where Hashemi currently resides and has been based since his trial began. While some observers view the case against Hashemi in purely sectarian terms, the targeting of a Sunni politician in a Shiite-led state, the sentence in fact highlights the pernicious nature of personal rivalries within Iraqi politics. Further, it demonstrates the politicization of the Iraqi judicial system under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has commandeered Iraq's legal institutions in order to consolidate power around his inner circle.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism, Armed Struggle, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Sam Wyer
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of War
  • Abstract: Since the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq in December 2011, the rate and lethality of attacks against civilian targets have steadily risen. Most notably, there have been seven major attack waves, defined here as a series of simultaneous and coordinated attacks that target at least 10 cities within one day. The attacks targeted a combination of security posts, government facilities, and Shi'ite shrines and neighborhoods. The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella organization formed in 2006 for many Sunni insurgency groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), has claimed credit for a large majority of these attacks.3 This summer has seen a further alarming development with the announcement of ISI's "Destroying the Walls" campaign.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism, Sectarianism, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East