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Who We Are

Our Mission


The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.
We believe ground realities must drive the formulation of strategy and policy. In pursuit of this principle, ISW conducts detailed, open-source intelligence analysis to provide the most accurate information on current conflicts and security threats. ISW researchers spend time in conflict zones conducting independent assessments and enhancing their understanding of realities on the ground. Through reports and timely events, our research educates military and civilian leaders, reporters, and the public to enhance the quality of policy debates.

Our History


Dr. Kimberly Kagan founded ISW in May 2007, as U.S. forces undertook a daring new counterinsurgency strategy to reverse the grim security situation on the ground in Iraq . Frustrated with the prevailing lack of accurate information documenting developments on the ground in Iraq and the detrimental effect of biased reporting on policymakers, Dr. Kagan established ISW to provide real-time, independent, and open-source analysis of ongoing military operations and insurgent attacks in Iraq. General Jack Keane (U.S. Army, Ret.), the Chairman of ISW’s board, also played a central role in developing the intellectual foundation for this change of strategy in Iraq, and supported the formation of the Institute in 2007.

Dr. Kagan published her first Iraq Report in March 2007, introducing the Washington policy community to ISW’s flagship research product. Since its formation in 2007, the ISW Iraq Project has remained the premier source for unbiased analysis on the changing political and security dynamics affecting progress in Iraq.
Building upon the success of the Iraq Project, ISW launched the Afghanistan Project in April 2009 in response to growing demand to better understand the war in Afghanistan. Research from this project has focused on insurgent groups such as the Haqqani Network, political corruption, and coalition operations. In addition, ISW has used its unique access to military commanders to launch a Best Practices in Counterinsurgency series that aims to capture the most important lessons from today’s wars in order to speed the way in which these lessons are applied the formulation of new military strategy.
ISW has built a reputation for its accuracy and ability to translate complex military concepts and specialized information into formats accessible to a more general audience. In 2010 alone, ISW analysts and fellows spent more than forty weeks deployed to theater. ISW analysts deployed again in 2011, and Dr. Kagan spent over 200 days in 2010 and 2011 in Kabul . In July 2011, she was awarded the Department of Defense Civilian Service Award for her efforts.
In November 2011, ISW added to its Afghanistan and Iraq projects with the broader Middle East Security Project. This new research program will study the national security threats emerging from the Arabian Gulf and wider Arab World, identify ways the United States and Gulf States can check Iran’s growing influence and contain the threat posed by its nuclear ambitions, explain the shifting balance of power within the Middle East, and assess responses the United States and Arab states take to address these changes as they emerge. Leading up to this project launch, ISW began tracking the conflict in Libya in March 2011, publishing daily and weekly Libya updates and an in-depth look at the first six months of that conflict called the Libyan Revolution.