Jennifer Cafarella

Jennifer Cafarella is the Chief of Staff and inaugural National Security Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Her work focuses on US defense strategy including how the United States must adapt to current and future threats, with particular depth on Syria, jihadism, and the Middle East. Her expertise has been recognized through fellowships at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London as well as George Mason University’s National Security Institute.

Ms. Cafarella is also responsible for leading ISW’s simulation exercises as well as its efforts to develop detailed recommendations on how to achieve U.S. objectives abroad. Ms. Cafarella has conducted such exercises for various U.S. military units deploying overseas. In 2015, she participated in a multi-week assessment mission in the Middle East focused on the conflicts in Iraq and Syria at the invitation of senior U.S. Army commanders. She regularly briefs military units preparing to deploy on a range of subjects including Syria, ISIS, and Russia.

Ms. Cafarella led ISW’s Syria team from 2014-2017 before becoming ISW’s Director of Intelligence Planning from 2018-2019. She is a graduate of ISW’s Hertog War Studies Program and was the Institute’s first Evans Hanson Fellow, which sponsors outstanding alumni of the War Studies Program and seeks to help build the next generation of national security leaders. Ms. Cafarella received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Global Studies with a focus on the Middle East.

Ms. Cafarella has written extensively on Syria, Iraq, Al Qaeda, and ISIS. Her essays have been published by Foreign Affairs, The Hill, and Fox News, among other outlets. She has appeared extensively in the media, including on C-SPAN, CNN, Fox News, and others. Her analysis has been cited widely in print media including by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, NPR, Voice of America, the BBC, and USA Today.

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