With al-Baghdadi death, jihadism is not defeated
The joy of the death of the barbaric IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is justified, Afshin Ellian writes. But, just as with the death of Osama bin Laden, the fight against jihadism is not at all fought.
The son of a shepherd from Samara (Iraq) became the scourge of America and Europe. Previously Osama bin Laden was the tease of two presidents of the United States. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush tried in vain to kill Bin Laden during their presidency. President Barack Obama killed Bin Laden.
Ibrahim Awad al-Badri wanted to be the king of all Muslims
Al-Baghdadi then became President Obama’s tease. The leader of IS has now been helped to get to hell by President Donald Trump. The man who wanted to be the king of all Muslims blew himself up during the raid of the American commandos in his hiding place in Syria.
Ibrahim Awad al-Badri, with the stage name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Qurashi, has become a martyr. It was a very appropriate name series for someone who wants to be the king of all Muslims: Abu Bakr was the first successor of the Prophet Muhammad and the founder of the Islamic Caliphate, Hussein is the little son of the Prophet and the third Imam of Shiites, Qurashi refers to the tribe of the prophet Mohammed.
In 2004, a year after the American invasion of Iraq, American forces captured Ibrahim Awad al-Badri. Then he was 33 years old. He ended up in Bucca prison camp. Ibrahim was not seen as a dangerous man and therefore he was placed in a lighter department. He was released after six months. There the unknown and unimportant Ibrahim made contact with people who would later almost all play a role in an extensive network of jihadists.
After his release, Ibrahim became active in Al-Qa’ida in Iraq. And around 2010 he became the leader of Iraqi Al-Qa’ida. The shepherd’s son went a long way. He became the most famous man from Samara ever. But the leadership of Al-Qa’ida saw him as an unguided projectile. He killed quite a few Iraqi Shiites in a short time.
That prompted Ayman al-Zawahiri, then the second man of Al-Qa’ida, to ask Al-Badri in an open letter to stop calling his organization the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He also had to stop killing Shiites: “Point your arrows at the army of Baghdad, America and America’s henchmen,” ordered Al-Zawahiri. Moreover, the leadership of Al-Qa’ida only required him to operate in Iraq against US troops.
The son of a shepherd wanted to be the shepherd of all Muslims and so he founded the caliphate. From the Al-Nuri mosque in Mosul during a Friday prayer (5 July 2014), he announced the Islamic State, the new Caliphate. Ibrahim al-Badri became the caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Objectively, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was more successful than Al-Qa’ida. He conquered a large area and generated unprecedented enthusiasm in the jihadist networks. His physical caliphate is no longer there. On the other hand, his organization exists worldwide: in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia and even in Sri Lanka, where his followers committed a horrific attack on churchgoers on Easter Monday.
The world is not yet rid of IS. According to the latest report to the United Nations Security Council, more than 30,000 jihadists are active in Syria alone. A large part of that is a member of IS. IS is no longer a caliphate in the physical sense, but a terror network in the true sense. We, the people of Europe, must not underestimate this.
Last Saturday night on October 26 a very daring operation was launched by the American commandos (Delta Force) in the village of Barisha (in the Idlib province of Syria) against Al-Baghdadi. President Trump called him a corrupt, violent man, and he died that way: “Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward running and crying.” Donald Trump referred to the American victims of IS: James Foley, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig. President Trump rightly referred to the genocide of Yazidis, and brutal executions of prisoners of war.
Is the death of Al-Baghdadi a game changer in the war on terror?
I honestly don’t think so. Al-Baghdadi already designated his successor in August: Abdullah Qardash. He was imprisoned in the Bucca camp with Al-Baghdadi. Of course he does not have the charisma of Al-Baghdadi. But everyone can grow in their role. Moreover, there are other jihadists who can also lead the organization. But even if all IS frameworks are killed, we cannot speak of a game changer in the war on terror. This is, after all, an ideological struggle. The death of a jihadist leader has only a temporary significance for the fight against Islamic terrorism. But then the terrorists will recover.
Bin Laden, Al-Baghdadi or Ayatollah Khamenei, they are jihadist interchangeable figures. The ideology of Jihadism will live on after them. Never in modern times did jihadism have so much appeal.
The Islamic paradise is in danger of becoming full of men with caliph ambitions. The death of Al-Baghdadi is unfortunately not the end of jihadism or the Islamic threat.