The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS debated how to expedite the military campaign in 2016, as they were evicting ISIS from their strongholds in the Euphrates valley in Iraq. Finally, the coalition decided to increase its military involvement in support of the Iraqi forces, introducing new tools that were dubbed “enablers” and “accelerants” and would prove instrumental in driving ISIS out of Mosul the following year. Newly released is the operational history of Operation Inherent Resolve, which details these contributions in detail.
This report highlights the importance of U.S. ground forces in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, which is often overlooked. In doing so, we disprove the popular belief that the United States military does not engage in direct ground combat when it relies on local allies to prosecute ground fighting (a strategy known as “by, with, and through”).
Rather, it shows that the liberation of territory, kilometre by kilometre, was the key to defeating ISIS on the ground. While the majority of the frontline fighting was done by Iraqi proxy forces, the United States was also conducting ground operations that aided in the eventual defeat of ISIS. Recognizing the value of such contributions is essential if we are to draw useful conclusions about operations like Inherent Resolve and then apply those conclusions appropriately to future irregular conflicts.