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ISIS shifting tactics

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Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

How ISIS’ Strategy Is Evolving

What the U.S. Can Do to Counter the Group’s Shifting Tactics

In order to remain militarily relevant, ISIS increasingly prefers to conduct isolated suicide attacks and hit-and-run operations. In early January, the group’s official media wing published a list celebrating nearly 800 such attacks in 2017, including ones against the Iraqi military (nearly 500), Kurdish forces in Syria (136), and the Assad regime and its allies (120), as well as a few dozen against moderate opposition groups in Syria. Although many of these attacks occurred during operations to liberate Mosul and Raqqa, it’s clear that ISIS leaders view this type of strike as the group’s best battlefield option for the foreseeable future. Indeed, the early January ISIS drone attack on Russian military facilities in Syria is another concrete example of the group’s desire to inflict as much pain as possible on its enemies while avoiding large-scale direct military engagement. Even ISIS itself recognizes that the days of seizing and holding cities are behind it.

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