Preparing for "Post-ISIL" Access Challenges

Robust Basing to Support Operations Against Nonstate Adversaries

by Christopher A. Mouton, Adam R. Grissom

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Research Question

  1. What is the importance of access for U.S. objectives in any region?

Researchers developed an interactive tool, called sequential basing, to identify robust basing options in recurrently changing environments, such as Africa and the Middle East. The tool is premised on the paradoxical constancy of ephemeral access, as driven by the underlying conditions of ever-evolving threats, shifting policy priorities, and other sources of political dynamism.

An example of the tool presented in this report focuses on a post–Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant context, a case in which the underlying conditions are shifting. The output of the tool consists of heat maps that highlight key points of strategic geography.

Key Findings

  • The analysis shows that the time on station against al-Nusrah Front (al Qaeda in Syria), Hizballah, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-Sinai are highly susceptible to loss of access.
  • Northern Saudi Arabia, northeastern Egypt, southern Turkey, Lebanon, or Cyprus would be ideal locations for bases because they would boost robustness against networks in and around Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.
  • A new base in southern Saudi Arabia or Oman would moderately increase robustness against networks in Yemen, particularly against the Houthi network.
  • Lebanon was identified as the single location of greatest benefit to basing robustness.

Recommendation

  • There is a need to strengthen the basing posture against adversary networks in and around Syria and the Sinai Peninsula.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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