US Believes al-Qaida, IS Shaken by Management Losses 

Regardless of lingering doubts in regards to the usefulness of so-called decapitation strikes, U.S. operations to kill senior terrorist leaders are paying dividends, in response to one in every of Washington’s prime 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 yr, Nationwide Counterterrorism Middle Director Christine Abizaid stated Thursday.

Islamic State, specifically, she stated, has been compelled to refocus following the demise 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 demise as a “vital blow,” an evaluation that has been borne out in the best way IS has carried out operations in current months.

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

“It is that he’s the final in an extended line of leaders who’re now not making an attempt to assault america and making an attempt to rout Syria and regain territorial management in a method that, I believe, has actually mirrored a significant expertise loss in ISIS senior management,” Abizaid stated, utilizing one other acronym for the phobia group. “[It] has brought on them to give attention to sort of department enlargement that has subtle the risk and, once more, made the give attention to america 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 necessary it was not only for the risk that he posed, however for the tie that he created throughout the al-Qaida community,” Abizaid stated. “That tie is weaker right this moment as a result of he isn’t 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 mirror a shift in U.S. pondering, particularly in the case of 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 protracted insurgency whereas rebuilding many key capabilities which might be more likely to increase its international attain and the risk it poses to U.S. and Western pursuits.”

However current 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 yr is now estimated to be fewer than 10,000.

The U.S. and its allies have additionally pointed to a sequence 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 current 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 impression on its operational well being.”

In the meantime, there are rising questions in regards to the capability 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 informed VOA following al-Zawahiri’s demise, talking on the situation of anonymity to debate current 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 doubtless successor, Saif al-Adel, in the meantime, is believed to be in Iran together with the subsequent most senior al-Qaida official, and there are questions as as to whether Tehran will allow them to go away.

Al-Qaida’s different prime leaders are primarily based in Africa, and intelligence officers say they might be extra within the fortunes of their specific associates than within the broader issues of the phobia group.