Airpower Against the Islamic State: A Diagnostic Assessment of Operation Inherent Resolve

U.S. Air National Guard. An F-22 Raptor supports Operation Inherent Resolve in May, 2018. This aircraft was assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base.

ARLINGTON, VA (April 6, 2021) — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Mitchell Forum short paper series, “Airpower against the Islamic State: A Diagnostic Assessment of Operation Inherent Resolve” by Benjamin S. Lambeth.

Viewed in hindsight, the more than four-year-long effort against ISIS that CENTCOM launched in August 2014 turned out to have been another success story enabled largely by U.S.-led airpower, which was the deciding factor in providing an essential asymmetric edge to those indigenous troops who conducted the brunt of hard fighting on the ground. Yet, as Benjamin Lambeth writes, by wrongly assessing ISIS as just a reenergized Islamist insurgency rather than as the emerging regional proto-state that it actually was, and by insisting on excessively stringent rules of engagement (ROE) rather than by concurrently attacking the movement as aggressively as possible in its most vulnerable center of gravity in Syria from the very start, U.S. leadership needlessly prolonged the campaign by as much as two years.

The Forum presents innovative concepts and thought-provoking insight from aerospace experts here in the United States and across the globe. The views expressed in this series are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. This Forum Paper is an excerpt from Benjamin S. Lambeth, Airpower in the War against ISIS (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2021), published in coordination with the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. It remains largely unaltered from its original source, aside from minor stylistic and formatting elements. The Mitchell Institute reprints it with permission from the author and publisher.

For more information on the book and how to acquire it, please visit

For media inquiries, email our publications team at

Copies of all Forum Papers can be downloaded at

Download Paper
Share Article