Killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hasn’t hurt the terror group’s operations, Pentagon warns

  • The killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October “has not resulted in any immediate degradation to ISIS’ capabilities,” US Central Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency explained to the Defense Department Inspector General.
  • CENTCOM, the report explained, said that “ISIS likely implemented an existing succession plan upon Baghdadi’s death and continued without interruption.”
  • The report explained that while ISIS remains intact and operational, it has not been able to significantly advance its insurgency.
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The elimination of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last fall has not hindered the terror group’s operations, the US military assessed, according to a new Pentagon inspector general report.

US Central Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency “both assessed that the October death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US operation in Syria has not resulted in any immediate degradation to ISIS’ capabilities,” the report explained.

CENTCOM said that “ISIS likely implemented an existing succession plan upon Baghdadi’s death and continued to operate without interruption.”

President Donald Trump announced in late October that the notorious ISIS leader Baghdadi died during a raid by US Special Operations Forces on his position, detonating a suicide vest that killed him and his children.

“The United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said.

“Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations,” he added.

The ISIS leader was eliminated on Oct. 26. Less than a week later on Oct. 31, the terror group announced a successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.

The CENTCOM assessment that Baghdadi’s death has not degraded ISIS’ capabilities is the latest sign that more work remains in the ongoing effort to defeat the terror group and that high-level decapitation strikes may not be effective at eliminating the threat it continues to pose.

Former CIA counterterrorism officer Douglas London recently criticized the president’s obsession with “celebrity” terrorist targets, to include Baghdadi, arguing that it caused him to overlook other potential targets that might further advance the US mission against extremist organizations.

London, who served during the Trump administration before leaving the agency, wrote in a January op-ed for Just Security that “although US efforts to target key ISIS leaders and operatives had preempted what might have been any number of devastating terrorist attacks, the president’s lack of familiarity with their names made such efforts and their accomplishments less consequential to him.” Instead, he argued, the president’s focus was on bringing down Baghdadi.

CENTCOM told the Pentagon inspector general’s office that following the infamous ISIS leader’s death, “ISIS remained cohesive, with an intact command and control structure, urban clandestine networks, and an insurgent presence in much of rural Syria.”

In its effort to defeat ISIS, the US partnered with various international forces, such as the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces which fought to crush the ISIS caliphate at a heavy toll before they were abandoned by the Trump administration. ISIS remnants have been trying to regroup as the organization evolves from an occupying force into an insurgency, one that can carry out attacks locally, as well as incite lone wolf-style attacks in the West.

While ISIS “maintained the pace, scope, and complexity of its operations in SDF-controlled areas,” CENTCOM explained that the terror group “did not significantly advance its insurgency.”