This paper was produced in support of the Strategic Multi-layer Assessment (SMA) of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) led by Joint Staff J39 in support of the Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT). The paper leverages and melds the latest thinking of academic and operational subject matter experts in fields of organizational and social dynamics, network analysis, psychology, information operations and narrative development, social media analysis, and doctrine development related to aspects of maneuver and engagement in the narrative space.
Syria and its ongoing civil war represent an operational environment (OE) that includes many of the characteristics illustrative of the complexities of modern warfare. Now in its fourth year, the civil war in Syria has lured a variety of threat actors from the Middle East and beyond. What began as a protest for improved opportunities and human rights has devolved into a full-scale civil war. As the Syrian military and security forces fought to subdue the civil unrest across the country, these protest groups responded with increasing violence aided by internal and external forces with a long history of terrorist activity. Ill-suited for the scale of combat that was unfolding across the country, Syrian forces turned to their allies for help, including Hezbollah and Iran. The inclusion of these forces has in many ways transformed the military of President Bashar al Assad from a conventional defensive force to a counterinsurgency force.
This Tactical Action Report (TAR) provides information on the capture and subsequent recapture of Sinjar, a town at the foot of the Sinjar Mountains. The Nineveh Offensive, of which Sinjar was a key target, led to the capture of a large part of northern Iraq and included the occupation of Mosul. ISIL pushed Peshmerga forces from the area and threatened Erbil, the government seat of the KRG in 2014. A growing humanitarian crisis developed as ISIL began purging villages in the Sinjar area of the minority group known as Yazidis. Thousands were killed, kidnapped, or forced to flee their homes. Many Yazidis retreated to the Sinjar Mountains where they were besieged by ISIL fighters. These circumstances led to President Barack Obama ordering air strikes to protect Erbil, where US military advisors were headquartered, and to relieve the displaced Yazidi civilians. Over a year later Peshmerga fighters, with the help of other Kurdish factions, pushed ISIL forces out of Sinjar and other surrounding areas and severed a key supply route connecting ISIL-held Raqqa, Syria, with Mosul, Iraq.
Our history is replete with examples where both Guard and Active forces were employed to respond to our Nation’s disasters. In the recent era, the defining disaster was Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 hurricane that forced the breach of levies and the subsequent massive flooding of New Orleans. It rapidly overwhelmed the capabilities of Louisiana that saw the C, NGB send upwards of 50,000 Guardsmen from other States and the President send in the 82nd Airborne Division. There have been other similar incidents in our lifetime: Hurricane Andrew (1992) where President Bush sent 2,000 to 5,000 Troops from Ft Bragg, Hurricane Hugo (1989) where over 3,000 Service members were sent in support, and the 1988 Yellowstone Fires where approximately 1,000 active duty Soldiers and Marines provided direct fire line support as part of JTF Yellowstone. These show that there are those potential catastrophic disasters (New Madrid Seismic Zone, Cascadia Subduction Zone, Cyber Attack, or even an Improvised Nuclear Detonation) that can hit the United States where the President will not hesitate to call upon Federal Forces.
ATP 3-07.6 discusses the importance of civilian protection during unified land operations and presents guidelines for Army units that must consider the protection of civilians during their operations. Protection of civilians refers to efforts to protect civilians from physical violence, secure their rights to access essential services and resources, and contribute to a secure, stable, and just environment for civilians over the long-term. ATP 3-07.6 describes different considerations including civilian casualty mitigation and mass atrocity response operations.
This publication is for soldiers holding military occupation specialty (MOS) 98G and their trainer/first-line supervisor. It contains standardized training objectives in the form of task summaries that support unit missions during wartime. Soldiers holding MOS 98G should be issued or have access to this publication. It should be available in the soldier’s work area, unit learning center, and unit libraries. Trainers and first-line supervisors should actively plan for soldiers to have access to this publication. It is recommended that each 98G soldier be issued an individual copy.
During FY 2014, the SOCCENT Commander requested a short-term effort to understand the psychological, ideological, narrative, emotional, cultural, and inspirational (“intangible”) nature of ISIL. As shown below, the SMA1 team really addressed two related questions: “What makes ISIL attractive?” or how has the idea or ideology of ISIL gained purchase with different demographics; and “What makes ISIL successful?” or which of the organization’s characteristics and which of the tactics it has employed account for its push across Syria and Iraq. The effort produced both high-level results and detailed analyses of the factors contributing to each question. The central finding was this: While military action might degrade or defeat factors that make ISIL successful, it cannot overcome what makes ISIL’s message and idea attractive.
This publication identifies multi-Service tactics, techniques, and procedures (MTTP) for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). At the tactical level, it assists military planners, commanders, and individual Department of Defense (DOD) components employing military resources and integrating with National Guard Civil Support activities while responding to domestic emergencies in accordance with United States (US) law.
FID is participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to its security (Joint Publication [JP] 3-22, Foreign Internal Defense). This publication depicts the integrated theater efforts that include ARSOF and conventional forces roles in joint, multinational, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental organizations working in a collaborative environment. It provides an overview of selected sources of power applied through the instruments of national power brought to bear for supporting FID and the impact and interaction of Army units with the other instruments of national power. In addition, it illustrates how FID is a key component of a host nation’s (HN’s) program of internal defense and development (IDAD), and that the focus of all U.S. FID efforts is to support that IDAD program to build capability and capacity to free and protect the HN from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency.
Today, Strategic Landpower faces a complex and interconnected global operational environment characterized by a multitude of actors with unknown identities. This presents a wider range of possible threats than encountered before. Our operational environment has fewer well-defined friends and foes with most actors presented along a continuum of: unknown to partially known to known, throughout the range of military operations. Many found in the middle are susceptible to persuasion. Each of these actors has an agenda, often at odds with our objectives, those of other actors, and the goals of the existing political order. Besides a broad range of readily available conventional weapons, state and non-state actors can select from an array of affordable technologies, adapting them to create unexpected and lethal weapons. Social media enables even small groups to mobilize people and resources in ways that can quickly constrain or disrupt operations. This complex operating environment continuously evolves as conditions change and test our ability to innovate and adapt. The complexity reconfirms the imperative to understand, plan, and employ Identity processes and capabilities within land operations.
Al Qusayr, a village in Syria’s Homs district, is a traditional transit point for personnel and goods traveling across the Lebanon/Syria border. Located in the southern half of the Orontes valley known as the al Assi basin, its proximity to northern Lebanon has made this region an important logistical area for the rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), in what has become known as the Homs front. A typical border region, the al Assi basin’s inhabitants are multinational as well as multi-ethnic with a complex makeup of Sunni, Shia, Alawi, and Christian religions that claim both Lebanese and Syrian Citizenship. Due to the proximity to the border region, and the main north and south highway from Homs to Damascus, al Qusayr is a pivotal point in the Syrian conflict for both the FSA and the pro-regime SAA.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has risen to prominence as a danger to peace and a regional threat with global impact. This perception comes, in large measure, because of its successes in Syria and then a rapid takeover of northern Iraq. Its military victories are largely due to successful recruiting, intra-insurgent conflict, large cash reserves, and ineffective opponents. There is much to learn from how ISIL is fighting. The ready availability of recruits, many of whom are foreigners attracted to ISIL successes, and large amounts of money for payroll and purchasing war materiel are critical considerations, but it is also important to consider how ISIL is fighting on the ground.
The Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) series consists of a set of case studies and research conducted for the US Army Special Operations Command by the National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The purpose of the ARIS series is to produce a collection of academically rigorous yet operationally relevant research materials to develop and illustrate a common understanding of insurgency and revolution. This research, intended to form a bedrock body of knowledge for members of the Special Forces, will allow users to distill vast amounts of material from a wide array of campaigns and extract relevant lessons, thereby enabling the development of future doctrine, professional education, and training.
FM 3-18 is the principal manual for Special Forces (SF) doctrine. It describes SF roles, missions, capabilities, organization, mission command, employment, and sustainment operations across the range of military operations. This manual is a continuation of the doctrine established in the JP 3-05 series, ADP 3-05, ADRP 3-05, and FM 3-05.
TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 describes how future Army forces, as part of joint, interorganizational, and multinational efforts, operate to accomplish campaign objectives and protect U.S. national interests. It describes the Army’s contribution to globally integrated operations, and addresses the need for Army forces to provide foundational capabilities for the Joint Force and to project power onto land and from land across the air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains. The Army Operating Concept guides future force development through the identification of first order capabilities that the Army must possess to accomplish missions in support of policy goals and objectives.
Special Operations Command Central Multi-Method Assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Early in 2014, as it became clear that the rise of the so-called “Islamic State” was becoming a significant menace to Regional Stability and US Interests, SOCCENT began a dialogue with Dr. Hriar Cabayan and his co-workers regarding a topic that has been at the core of the struggle against Violent Extremism. That question has been, and remains today, a perplexing one for those of us from Western cultures and societies: “What precisely are we contesting, and what is it that fuels the adversary’s power?” The contents of this paper reflect some of the work that Dr. Cabayan and his colleagues are doing to help us understand and comprehend this “intangible power” across a unique enterprise of academicians, scientists, policy intellectuals, current and former Foreign Service, military, and intelligence professionals. Most importantly, their efforts to improve our comprehension will enable us to adjust our efforts, our operations, our investments, and our risk-‐calculations to more effectively contest it and the organization that wields it. I am grateful for their tireless work in this regard, and I commend it to the reader.