Every major operation or campaign that the U.S. military conducts usually has an operational name. The current campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Levant (ISIL) has been named Operation Inherent Resolve. ISIS emerged as a big threat in the summer of 2014. [1] It grew rapidly, feeding on the discontent of the Sunni populations of Syria and Iraq with their respective governments. In both countries, ISIS hijacked the rebellious anti-government movements by gaining popular support of Arab Sunnis or intimidating the population with terror tactics.

Operation Inherent Resolve

The United States and other countries were slow to respond to this threat – taking only measured, incremental responses that did not contribute to a diminishing of ISIS’s capabilities or ability to capture major cities in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, the government security forces folded when attacked by ISIS; notably along the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys and the major city of Mosul. The ISIS advance in Iraq was finally halted by a combination of Kurdish forces (in the north), Shia militias (with some support from Iranian fighters), Iraqi SOF units, and U.S. airpower. In addition, the ability of ISIS to advance into areas where there were significant Shia residents was problematic.

Two years later it appears that ISIS is being dealt some significant setbacks – of note is the recapture of Ramadi and Fallujah by Iraqi government forces, once again led by Iraqi SOF aided by Coalition airpower and supported by Shia militia. In Syria, the government forces (fighting both ISIS and anti-regime groups) are making limited headway against the Islamic State, when they are not too busy attacking anti-regime forces. Certainly Coalition and Russian airpower, Hezbollah fighters, Kurdish forces (in northern Syria), Iran, and others are helping in the anti-ISIS fight in Syria. However, the anti-ISIS effort in Syria is far from coordinated. Syria, Iran, and Russia do not share the same interests as the U.S.-led Coalition – their main focus is fighting the anti-Assad forces.