4th November – The killing of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi – Implications

On 27th October President Trump of the United States announced the killing of Al Baghdadi and claimed that his was a bigger achievement than that of a similar capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Origins of the ISIS –

  • The IS is only a part of the Islamic extremism that originated in the Arab world, primarily as a response to the domination of the West in general and more specifically of the U.S.
  • As a matter of fact, Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda, emerged as a charismatic leader in the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan not only because of his innate leadership qualities but also because of the active support he got from the U.S. intelligence agency, the C.I.A.
  • In 2003, the U.S. invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime. He was a Sunni ruling over a society with Shia majority. The post-Saddam Hussein governments tended to be sectarian and the Sunnis felt deprived. 
  • t was the Al Qaeda of Iraq (A.Q.I.) that spearheaded the Sunni resistance to a pro-Shia government in Baghdad, supported by the U.S. that provided the seed for the I.S.
  • As the Arab Spring turmoil began in 2011, the authority of Syrian President Assad rapidly eroded. The A.Q.I., by now renamed as Islamic State of Iraq (I.S.I.) and later as I.S.I.L. (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), moved into Syria in 2011-12 and found a base in Raqqa from where it expanded in both Syria and Iraq.

Rise of ISIS –

  • When Raqqa fell to I.S.I.L., and became its de facto capital in 2014, the U.S. intelligence concluded that it was a favourable development as it marked the decline of Assad’s hold on his state and Washington might be able to use some time in future the I.S.I.L. as an asset against Assad. That is the reason for Obama’s not taking military action to prevent the I.S.I.L. forces led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from taking over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in June 2014. The battle lasted for six days from 4th June.
  • The Pentagon had enough ground and air assets in Iraq and could have easily come to the rescue of the demoralised Iraqi troops in that city. The troops were from the Shia community and hence were unwelcome in a predominantly Sunni city.
  • Instead of assisting Iraq in fighting the I.S.I.L., Obama made the fatal mistake of using the situation to put more pressure on Prime Minister Al Maliki to reach out to the Sunni insurgents and the Sunni community. The Prime Minister had aggravated the Sunni insurgency by his sectarian action.

Fight against ISIS –

  • President Obama, who permitted the fall of Mosul changed his mind as the I.S. expanded, and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan where the U.S. companies have a sizeable presence, appeared to be in danger.
  • By August 2014, the Pentagon started air attacks in Iraq and extended them to Syria the next month. The anti-I.S. coalition brought together U.S. and Iran, the Europeans and the Arabs, and, above all, Russia.

Is it the end of ISIS?

  • By no means Al Baghdadi’s death marks the end of I.S. The territorial I.S. in Syria and Iraq is over, but the I.S. has a cyber presence and even more importantly, it has active cells in Africa, South East Asia, Western Europe and elsewhere.
  • The group Boko Haram in Nigeria, and even some elements of Taliban in Afghanistan have proclaimed allegiance to I.S. Groups.
  • Such cells might not be demoralised by the death of Al Baghdadi and might think of taking revenge. Even in Iraq, after the fall of Mosul, reconstruction has been slow, and the Sunni discontent is growing. Above all, we should remember that I.S. is highly decentralised.

Conclusion –

In short, it is premature to erect a stone reading R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) over the buried I.S.

SourceVIF India

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