Defeating ISIS in Iraq: An Analysis of the Counterinsurgency Strategy Used to Liberate the City of Tikrit




Blizinski, Meghan Grace

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The Department of State released the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide under the Bush Administration. The guide’s main purpose was to define what constitutes a powerful counterinsurgency strategy, and how it should be implemented in certain situations. During 2014, the Iraqi Government, along with U.S.-led coalition forces, the US Air Force, and Iranian Shiite militias, battled with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to regain land and control of the population in Tikrit. This offensive was intended to stop ISIS from capturing more territory in northwest Iraq. The counterinsurgency strategy used was a success, with Tikrit being liberated by the end of March 2015. The end goal of any successful counterinsurgency strategy is for the government to regain and maintain control. It is considered “effective,” if the government can establish, consolidate and transition authority over the territory and human population to the legitimate government. The counterinsurgency strategy used in Tikrit will be analyzed, in order to conclude how it was successful in defeating ISIS. This thesis will assess the counterinsurgency strategy used in Tikrit, paying particular attention to specific components from the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide. This assessment will focus on information gathering, use of security forces, and implementation of political and economic/development strategies. Success of the counterinsurgency strategy used in Tikrit rests on very unique circumstances specific to that city and country. One factor was the difference in religious views of the Shiite Iraqi government and the Sunni population of Tikrit; because of this, the military and political efforts of the offensive were calculated not to aggravate and increase the risk of sectarian and religious violence. A second factor was the involvement of the United States and Iran; while both worked with the Iraqi government for liberation of Tikrit (influencing the Iraqi government’s counterinsurgency strategy), their political motivations simultaneously hampered counterinsurgency efforts. The assessment of the implementation of these components in Tikrit will conclude if the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide is effective in defeating insurgencies. Furthermore, the following analysis will answer the question if the guide could be used to combat other insurgency conflicts, whether in Iraq, or other countries facing ISIS insurgency.



Tikrit, U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide, ISIS, U.S. foreign policy, Middle East, Iraq, counterinsurgency, Honors College


Blizinski, M. G. (2016). Defeating ISIS in Iraq: An analysis of the counterinsurgency strategy used to liberate the city of Tikrit (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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