THE ROLE OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES IN DEFEATING THE ISLAMIC STATE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Johns Hopkins University
This research study examines how Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) performed their core competencies to dismantle and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and why these capabilities were not just applicable to the battlefields of Iraq and Syria but will also have wide reaching application across the spectrum of potential conflicts in the 21st century. The study explains why the Department of Defense (DoD) chose SOF as the primary ground component to accomplish the destruction of ISIS as US officials and DoD planners contended with limitations imposed upon the number of service members and resources that would be available to them. The resulting SOF-centric approach or Strategy of Lightness employed during Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) utilized Special Forces (SF), Civil Affairs (CA), and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) as part of a holistic design that encompassed their Foreign Internal Defense, Support to Governance, and Information Operations competencies. These three SOF branches with their demonstrated core competencies will be increasingly employed in the future, from peacekeeping to Great Power Competition.
SOF, ISIS, Special Forces, Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, OIR, Lightness