Should the United States (US) heave a sigh of relief that it eliminated Al Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, ISIS? Should Trump claim credit for it? Are there parallels between Osama and Al Baghdadi? This article answers all these questions and then some.
IS ISIS FINISHED?
Not quite – this is not a central command authority based organization; no one really knows how many were there and now how many are left. When the US vacated the Kurds-occupied territories a few weeks back, news came that at least 100 ISIS prisoners escaped from the jails in that area as all able-bodied personnel were called up for duty to defend the northern border with Turkey. Dana Stroul, a former Pentagon official who is now a senior fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, “Just as Osama bin Laden’s death did not lead to the elimination of Al Qaeda, I would expect that Baghdadi’s removal will not be the final death knell of ISIS — despite its significance.”
The operation was launched from Erbil, Iraq and took place inside Syria, according to a Senior US Administration official.
SHOULD TRUMP CLAIM CREDIT FOR IT?
The answer is not so clear-cut. While the elimination of World’s No. 1 terrorist maybe a victory for Trump, he is also responsible for drawing down the troops from the Turkey-Syria border, leading to violent operations by Turkey. With the recent decision by the Trump administration to locate the US forces to guard the oilfields controlled by the Kurds, this only lends credence to the belief that many hold – the US is only interested in the Near-East and Middle-East for Oil.
PARALLELS BETWEEN BIN LADEN AND BAGHDADI
The parallels are striking – Osama Bin Laden was hiding in plain sight in Pakistan, with the government and its military swearing up and down that he was not in Pakistan. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was moving in and out of Turkey freely and was caught near the Turkish border with Syria in Idlib.
Why was Baghdadi in Syria, and in Idlib of all places? In September, he released a new tape, and in April he appeared on video for the first time in years. Baghdadi rose to fame in 2014, proclaiming himself “caliph” of ISIS in Mosul and leading his group to commit genocide and mass rape of minorities. But after that, he was elusive. Then why did he go to Idlib?
ISIS received many recruits via Turkey and also had more of a presence in Idlib. There are a plethora of other extremist groups in Idlib, particularly Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which was once Al-Qaeda in Syria. Was that why he went – because these groups would act as a buffer around him? Or was he recently moved there, for various reasons, as some ISIS members migrated to Idlib after defeat in the Euphrates Valley?
According to Newsweek, Trump knew of the location where Al-Baghdadi was hiding at least a week back – so when the Vice President Mike Pence and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Turkey, the US knew where Al-Baghdadi was hiding – or was it the other way around? Did the information come to the US from the Turks or was it from the Kurds commander General Mazlum? Did Turkey try and smooth over the wrinkles with the US by giving up Al-Baghdadi’s location? What is the real truth? If Turkey knew Al-Baghdadi’s hiding place, what took them so long to divulge it?
On November 24, 2015, Turkey brought down a Russian plane and relations with Russia nose-dived. Russia demanded an apology and imposed sanctions. By Jul 2016, Erdogan was boxed in bady – he barely survived a military coup that he blamed on the US and Russia was still breathing fire. Turkey apologized to Russia and the two leaders met and decided to continue their old, warm relationship. The US knew this all along and it comes as no surprise to watchers that once Pence/ Pompei left Ankara, Uncle Putin came visiting and another treaty was signed in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, which when the dust settles hints at another effort by Turkey to do ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, with the approval of Russia, now that the US has vacated the area.
WHO IS THE LOSER?
As usual, it is the Kurds. Spread over Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Armenia, there are between 25 to 35 million Kurds who inhabit the mountainous region straddling the borders along the above 5 countries. Despite being the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East, they are yet to get a nation state. Meanwhile Turkey now tangoes with Russia as the US departs to protect “strategic” assets.
 Over 100 ISIS prisoners are on the loose, security officials must act now: Experts – Oct 24, 2019, ABC News
 Baghdadi is Dead, But ISIS Remains Emboldened Since Trump’s Drawdown – Oct 27, 2019, ForeignPolicy.com
 Overnight attack that killed Al-Baghdadi raises many questions –analysis – Oct 27, 2019, The Jerusalem Post
 Russia and Turkey reach deal to push Kurdish forces out of zone in northern Syria – Oct 22, 2019, Washington Post