US Believes Al-Qaida, IS Shaken By Management Losses  – Eurasia Evaluate

By Jeff Seldin

Regardless of lingering doubts concerning the usefulness of so-called decapitation strikes, U.S. operations to kill senior terrorist leaders are paying dividends, based on one among Washington’s high counterterrorism officers. 

Each the Islamic State terror group and al-Qaida have been compelled to remain in “survival mode” following the deaths of their leaders because of U.S. actions this 12 months, Nationwide Counterterrorism Middle Director Christine Abizaid mentioned Thursday.

Islamic State, particularly, she mentioned, has been compelled to refocus following the dying of former emir Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, also referred to as Hajji Abdallah, following a U.S. particular forces raid in northwestern Syria in February. 

On the time, senior U.S. army officers described Abu Ibrahim’s dying as a “vital blow,” an evaluation that has been borne out in the best way IS has carried out operations in latest months.

“What’s essential about it’s it’s not simply him,” Abizaid instructed an intelligence and safety convention exterior Washington, responding to a query submitted by VOA.

“It’s that he’s the final in a protracted line of leaders who’re not attempting to assault the USA and attempting to rout Syria and regain territorial management in a method that, I believe, has actually mirrored a serious expertise loss in ISIS senior management,” Abizaid mentioned, utilizing one other acronym for the phobia group. “[It] has triggered them to concentrate on sort of department enlargement that has subtle the menace and, once more, made the concentrate on the USA much less acute than we had seen in prior years.”

The U.S. airstrike that killed longtime al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri on the finish of July has, likewise, resulted in a cascading impact on the phobia group. 

“I take into consideration now how essential it was not only for the menace that he posed, however for the tie that he created throughout the al-Qaida community,” Abizaid mentioned. “That tie is weaker at the moment as a result of he’s not on the battlefield.

“And the weaker and the extra diffuse that al-Qaida community is, I believe, the higher for U.S. nationwide safety,” she added.

Abizaid’s evaluation appears to replicate a shift in U.S. pondering, particularly in relation to Islamic State.

For years, even within the aftermath of the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, U.S. and Western army and counterterrorism officers warned that IS and its key associates had structured themselves in such a method that for each key chief who was killed, there was an understudy able to take his place.

And a just lately declassified intelligence evaluation written in Could 2020 predicted IS was “organizing for a chronic insurgency whereas rebuilding many key capabilities which are more likely to develop its international attain and the menace it poses to U.S. and Western pursuits.”

However latest intelligence estimates recommend IS’s maintain amongst its followers in Iraq and Syria could also be waning.

Whereas there are nonetheless areas that function key communication and monetary hubs, just like the al-Hol displaced individuals camp in northeast Syria, the phobia group’s fighters have been dispersed throughout distant areas. And its cadre of fighters, numbering as many as 16,000 final 12 months is now estimated to be fewer than 10,000.

The U.S. and its allies have additionally pointed to a collection of operations following the raid on Abu Ibrahim which have whittled away at IS’s core management, together with U.S. drone strikes and the arrests of senior IS leaders in Syria and Turkey.

A latest report by the United Nations, primarily based on member state intelligence, went so far as to warning that al-Qaida was poised to surpass IS because the world’s preeminent jihadist terrorist group, due partly to “a fast succession of [IS] management losses since October 2019, with an as but unknown affect on its operational well being.”

In the meantime, there are rising questions concerning the potential of the al-Qaida core to stay related and influential with al-Zawahiri gone.

“That is difficult for al-Qaida,” a former Western counterterrorism official instructed VOA following al-Zawahiri’s dying, talking on the situation of anonymity to debate latest intelligence assessments.

These assessments from the U.S., in addition to these from a number of different nations that had been shared with the United Nations, warning there are maybe solely a handful of al-Qaida core officers nonetheless in Afghanistan, lengthy the group’s base of operations.

Al-Zawahiri’s seemingly successor, Saif al-Adel, in the meantime, is believed to be in Iran together with the following most senior al-Qaida official, and there are questions as as to if Tehran will allow them to go away. 

Al-Qaida’s different high leaders are primarily based in Africa, and intelligence officers say they could be extra within the fortunes of their explicit associates than within the broader considerations of the phobia group.