December 28, 2015 | Quote

ISIS’ Major Loss in Iraq is ‘a Vindication’ for US Strategy Against the Terror Group

ISIS has been steadily losing territory over the past several months as local and coalition forces ramp up airstrikes and coordinate missions on the ground, which could be a signal that the US-led coalition's underlying strategy in the Middle East is gaining steam.

Iraqi Security Forces supported by the US-led coalition retook the city of Ramadi from ISIS, a key victory against the group also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh.

And the Ramadi operation “gives us a sense that a major commitment of ground forces is not necessary,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism analyst and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider.

“The framework of the [US] strategy … is decent in that local partners can handle the push against ISIS. … It's not a complete vindication of the strategy, but it is a vindication of the framework — a framework in which the US has a lighter touch and isn't committing massive amounts of ground forces.”

“There are mixed reports on the extent of the Iranian role” in Ramadi, Gartenstein-Ross said. “… The main thing is how are they treating the population. … The fact that as they've gone in and recaptured territory [in other areas], Shia forces have committed revenge killings against the Sunni population.”

But, for now, it looks like there are sufficient local forces in place to prevent ISIS from recapturing the city, Gartenstein-Ross said. He added that ISIS' loss of Ramadi is significant, considering that the city was the terrorist group's biggest territorial grab over the past year.

“[Ramadi] coupled with the loss of Sinjar certainly puts pressure on the organization,” Gartenstein-Ross said of ISIS. “It really does create risk for them given their strategy that's rooted in momentum.”

ISIS builds support through its message of “remaining and expanding.” So losing territory is significant for the group in that it not only shrinks the size of their so-called “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, but it could also make supporters doubt the group's message.

“People have been drawn to ISIS not especially because of the charisma of its spokespeople but because they’ve been so successful in taking land,” Will McCants, an expert on jihadism and author of the recent book, “The ISIS Apocalypse,” told Business Insider in November.

“The advance against ISIS by its enemies had been stalled for months, so we will see how ISIS responds. … It often tries to retake territory elsewhere in order to offset its losses.”

“They might put a focus on … abroad, building up holdings in place like Egypt and Libya, or they might try to channel resources on attacks abroad,” Gartenstein-Ross said. “There are multiple ways they could pivot.”

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