Operation Inherent Resolve and the Islamic State: Assessing “Aggressive Containment”
Operation Inherent Resolve was originally conceived as a strategy to defeat the Islamic State by containing it territorially and degrading it through attrition or what is referred to as “aggressive containment.” While Operation Inherent Resolve has changed tactics and is now beginning to make significant territorial gains against IS, long-term strategies of aggressive containment have been ineffective in the past because they fail to address IS as a territorial insurgency and transnational network. As such, aggressive containment has two key drawbacks. First, this long-term strategy allowed IS time and sanctuary in Iraq and Syria that has enabled it to retain control, suppress moderate Sunni opponents, generate revenues and legitimacy, and expand regionally and internationally. Second, because the strategy has not successfully established political solutions or built moderate Sunni forces required for a lasting victory, there is an increased likelihood that IS will survive as a traditional or regional insurgency or be succeeded by other extremist groups.