Michael Knights is the Jill and Jay Bernstein Fellow of The Washington Institute, specializing in the military and security affairs of Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf states. He is a co-founder of the Militia Spotlight platform, which offers in-depth analysis of developments related to the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.
In early 2017, Iraqi security forces are likely to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State, which has held the city since June 2014. As the event draws near, big-picture questions regarding how Arabs, Kurds, and microminorities can work together have justifiably drawn much scholarly attention, as have immediate challenges such as accommodating internally displaced persons. Less studied has been the critical issue of how security forces should be structured to prevent an IS recurrence. Here, the recent historical record offers unambiguous lessons through two periods: 2007-2011, when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces substantially reduced security incidents in the city, versus 2011-2014, when such incidents steadily rose, facilitating the IS takeover.
In this Research Note, Michael Knights lays out the prerequisites for stability in Mosul, including preventing Kurdish Peshmerga or Shiite militia involvement in the urban battle, integrating the various security forces working in the city, and ensuring a firm U.S. security-cooperation commitment for at least the next three years.
Michael Knights is a Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute, specializing in the military and security affairs of Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and the Gulf Arab states. He has published widely on security issues for major media outlets such as Jane's IHS, and regularly briefs U.S. government policymakers and U.S. military officers on regional security affairs. He has worked extensively with local military and security agencies in Iraq, the Gulf states, and Yemen. Dr. Knights has undertaken extensive research on lessons learned from U.S. military operations in the Gulf during and since 1990.