A new report released by the non-profit research organisation RAND states the US and its coalition partners are incapable of successfully defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, increasing effort is very much needed.

“The US strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL relies heavily on effective partner forces to combat the group, and clear and hold the extensive territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria,” says study author Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst at RAND. “The partner forces are not yet able to hold territory, which is essential to lasting defeat.”

The author assessed the military and political aspects eliminating the Islamic State and found that more comprehensive training, assisting and advising are needed to help the indigenous forces so they would be more capable of handling their own territory and reclaim their homeland.


Yazidi refugees on Mount Sinjar in August 2014. Credit: UK Department for International Development/Flickr

Apparently, there are not enough advisers at the operational level in Iraq as well as insufficient support to Syrian opposition fighters. Consequently, the indigenous forces have been limited.

Twenty thousand soldiers form the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces as well as 2,000 Iraqi special operations personnel only had 18 months of training. Moreover, the attempt to equip and train Sunni tribes is also dwindling.  The coordination among Syrian forces is also in need of improvement, the report adds.

Robinson also suggests that Iraqis and Syrians must resolve their conflicts through political agreements. This would promote cooperation and unity, says the analyst.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has agreed to decentralisation efforts to resolve various Sunni problems. However, the government does not have enough support from its Shia citizens to enact these.

“In Syria, the only exit from the current zero-sum stalemate is for the United States to embrace a simultaneous campaign to defeat ISIL and put sufficient military pressure on the regime to negotiate Assad’s departure,” Robinson concludes. “That path would mean acknowledging the reality of a two-front war in Syria. The United States can support others in the anti-Assad fight while retaining its leading role in the anti-ISIL fight.”