Alexandra Gutowski is a Counterterrorism Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War where she focuses on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in its core terrain of Iraq and Syria. She recently completed a Fulbright Scholarship in the United Kingdom where she obtained a Master's in Defense, Development, and Diplomacy at Durham University and conducted research on Shi’a insurgent groups. While in the UK, she advised companies on Middle East market entry for KPMG's London advisory practice and taught the firm's open source intelligence course.
ISIS Global INTSUM Project
ISIS is executing a sophisticated global strategy that involves simultaneous efforts in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the wider world. ISW and the U.S. Army War College conducted a wargame early this year to discover the diplomatic and military opportunities and pitfalls likely to arise in the counter-ISIS fight.
ISIS’s most complex ground assault outside Iraq and Syria to date occurred in northern Sinai on July 1, suggesting the expansion of ISIS’s ground warfare to the Near Abroad. Previously ISIS’s attacks patterns across the region had primarily featured notable spectacular attacks.
ISIS’s affiliates gained new terrain in Libya and Afghanistan, while launching significant attacks in Yemen, Egypt, and Kuwait. ISIS also declared a new governorate in Russia’s North Caucasus. These gains allow the organization to offset territorial losses in Libya and northern Syria and maintain its claim that it is “Remaining and Expanding” a year after the declaration of the Caliphate.
ISIS lost control of its primary Libyan stronghold in the eastern city of Derna on June 12. Local Islamist groups expelled ISIS from the city following ISIS’s assassination of a local leader. The loss of Derna is unlikely to affect ISIS’s military strategy in Libya, as the organization controls other cities along the central coast.
ISW assessed in early June 2015 that one of ISIS’s most likely courses of action during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan would be to declare a governorate in Russia’s North Caucasus. ISIS indeed announced the creation of a new governorate, called Wilayat Qawqaz (Caucasus) in the region on June 23, 2015, after several senior militants in the area pledged allegiance to ISIS.