Geopolitical Insight – Has ISIS been stopped dead? – Tonio Galea
The order by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw troops supporting the Kurdish fighters in Syria has been his most criticized foreign policy decision so far. But with the killing of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi he also achieved his greatest triumph yet.
The discussions and political implications surrounding this killing will be long debated. Same as has happened with his predecessor Barack Obama when Osama bin Laden was killed. Trump and Obama, however, are two different characters and so were Baghdadi and bin Laden.
Bin Laden was well-known to American security officials. Coming from a prominent Saudi family, he made a name for himself during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980’s when he was fighting the Soviet forces with U.S. help. Baghdadi, on the other hand came out of nowhere. He was relatively unknown in what is considered to be his homeland, Iraq, and U.S. security forces were just as much unfamiliar with him when he took the helm of ISIS after the killing of his predecessors Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
ISIS and al-Qaeda are also two different organisations, although they are both terrorist organisations linked to fundamentalist Islamic teachings. While al-Qaeda is more political, ISIS is a creature of the Internet age and is more of an ideology. Therefore, analysts warn that even with Baghdadi’s removal, ISIS will not easily go away.
It still operates in West Africa, in Libya, in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, in Afghanistan, in the Philippines and other territories. ISIS has become a sort of a diffused organisation with each local branch operating on its own. With the elimination of Baghdadi, the symbolic head was removed, but the organisation and its ideology is still there.
Many countries have made it a main objective to thwart the group’s ideology and with the announcement of the unknown new leader – Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi – he will inherit the difficult task of leading a frayed organisation that has been reduced to sleeper cells scattered around the world.
Baghdadi’s demise is undoubtedly a big blow for the terror group, which has faced increasing pressure in recent years, and went from ruling a territory estimated to be around the size of Great Britain to controlling only small strips of land in Syria. But ISIS is far from over, especially seeing the way it harnessed the internet to spread its ideology instigating lone wolf attacks.