Let Them Rot: The Challenges and Opportunities of Containing rather than Countering the Islamic State

Clint Watts
2015 unpublished
A year after invading northern Iraq, the Islamic State has built and governed a state under a long professed jihadi vision. To date, international efforts to counter the Islamic State have been incomplete and hesitant, haunted by recent memories of the U.S. effort to conduct regime change in Iraq. Seeking to avoid deploying military forces into Iraq and Syria, the U.S.-led coalition must examine alternative strategies for uprooting the Islamic State's gains. The Algerian government's use of
more » ... ainment in their campaign against the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) during the 1990s suggest an alternative lens for examining how to defeat the Islamic State from internal pressures rather than external military action. An assessment of "Let Them Rot" as a strategy against the Islamic State suggests it may offer several advantages over sustained direct force, but also reveals many gaps in the current U.S.-led coalition's ability to loosen the group's grasp on Syria and Iraq.