On Oct. 11, FRONTLINE Presents “Confronting ISIS”

October 5, 2016

FRONTLINE Investigates the U.S.-Led Fight Against ISIS Oct. 11 in a Two-Hour Special 

Confronting ISIS
Premiering on PBS and online:
Tuesday, October 11, 2016, at 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT | Twitter: @frontlinepbs #ConfrontingISIS
Instagram: @frontlinepbs  | YouTube:

One of the biggest foreign policy challenges America’s next president will face is the battle against ISIS.

Where does the U.S.-led fight against the terror group stand today?

In Confronting ISIS, veteran FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith travels to five countries with key roles in the anti-ISIS fight — Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Turkey — to report on successes, failures and challenges as ISIS loses ground in the region but strikes out with attacks abroad.

“We’ve found that the conditions that helped give rise to ISIS in the first place, including sectarianism, are still prevailing in many cases — and that America’s priorities and those of our allies don’t always align,” says Smith, who has been documenting conflicts in the Middle East for FRONTLINE for 15 years, most recently in Obama at War, The Rise of ISIS, and Inside Assad’s Syria.

Beginning with the fall of Mosul to ISIS in 2014, this two-hour special deeply examines two years of American-led efforts to defeat ISIS, taking viewers step-by-step through a number of initiatives involving different regional players.

Smith gains rare access across the region and beyond. He travels with one of Iraq’s Shia militia groups, as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who are less than a mile from ISIS. He also meets the father of a Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by ISIS, and sits down for candid interviews with leaders including current and former U.S. Secretaries of Defense Ashton Carter and Chuck Hagel, embattled Iraqi president Haider al-Abadi, and Saudi Arabia’s controversial Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz Sheikh.

In the process, he finds a fundamental problem: At times, the White House’s narrow focus on defeating ISIS hasn’t always aligned with the top issues faced by America’s allies — from how to deal with Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to Saudi Arabia’s fears about Iran, to the war in Yemen, to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict.

“The challenge, of course, we’ve had in the Middle East… they all are concerned about ISIL. There is no question about that. But they don’t always rank… their concerns in the same order that we do,” Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to the President, tells FRONTLINE.

Confronting ISIS also explores tension between the Obama White House and the Pentagon about how best to address the ISIS threat, and raises tough questions about the shape of the Middle East once ISIS is defeated.

“You’re not gonna get the buy-in of the region where you have a very narrow tactical objective, and where you don’t have any solution for the day after you destroy ISIS,” Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, tells FRONTLINE.

In the runup to the 2016 presidential election, Confronting ISIS is a deep history of America’s anti-ISIS efforts, an in-depth look at what the next president will inherit — and an important watch before you vote.

Confronting ISIS premieres Tuesday, October 11, at 9/8c on PBS (check local listings) and will stream in full, for free, online at

Confronting ISIS is a FRONTLINE production with Rain Media. The writer, producer and correspondent is Martin Smith. The producer is Linda Hirsch. The executive producer for FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 82 Emmy Awards and 18 Peabody Awards. Visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.

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