Over the summer, the United States worked hard to persuade former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down from office in Iraq in the hope that a new national unity government could be formed to elicit greater support among Sunni Arabs and Kurds. It also carried out a number of airstrikes to prevent the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (or ISIL, otherwise known as ISIS or simply IS) from seizing territory in Iraqi Kurdistan or massacring certain minority communities in the parts of Iraq that ISIL now controls. Starting in September, a broad and growing coalition began launching air strikes against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, and the U.S. Congress approved a half billion dollars in funding to train and equip some 5,000 fighters in a moderate Syrian opposition.
How well is this strategy succeeding to date? Will it work? If not, what more needs to be done?
On October 8, experts from the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Center for Middle East Policy and Brookings Doha Center attempted to answer these questions. Senior Fellows Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack gave their perspectives on how the strategy is evolving from a U.S. perspective, and Salman Shaikh shared his perspective based in part on extensive field work with the Syrian opposition. The event also marked the launch of Kenneth Pollack’s new analysis paper, Building a Better Syrian Opposition Army: How and Why. Michael O’Hanlon also moderated.