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Meet General Nagata, the Man Leading the Mission to Defeat ISIS

Image: Michael Nagata
Major Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Director for Special Operations Counterterrorism, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2013, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on law of armed conflict, the use of military force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

One of the most senior Asian-American military leaders, Major General Michael Nagata has taken on the unenviable task of figuring out what makes the Islamic State, or ISIS, tick, and how to fight this complex, hybrid terrorist organization and conventional armed force.

To better understand ISIS, Nagata -- commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East -- is noted for putting together a working group of non-traditional experts to consider new angles including neuroscience, marketing and branding strategies, psychological tactics, religious influences, economic controls, and social media use.

“Mike Nagata is as good as we have,” Wade Ishimoto wrote about Nagata’s reputation as a strategist, tactician, and planner in the Japanese American Veterans Association JAVA Advocate. “There is no doubt that if anyone can succeed in this tough task, it will be Mike Nagata.”

The son of an Army colonel, with two uncles who served in the legendary all-Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Nagata has strong roots in the US armed forces. His military upbringing took him around the world, but he calls Pearl City, Hawaii - the birthplace of his parents - home. He told the Honolulu Star Advertiser that he still has fond memories of setting off fireworks on New Year’s Eve, “hot malasadas and Huli Huli Chicken and Ewa Beach – all childhood memories.”

Nagata has spent the majority of his 30-year military career in Special Operations Units focused on counterterrorism, and served in Korea, Okinawa, Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Former colleagues describe him to Daily Beast as someone who “can stand and deliver,” “a straight shooter,” “one of our best special operations warriors,” “a strategic thinker with the tactical skills and judgment of the best leaders we have in our military.”

Image: Michael Nagata
Major Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Director for Special Operations Counterterrorism, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2013, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on law of armed conflict, the use of military force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.Carolyn Kaster / AP file

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