FORUM - Don't Kill the Caliph! The Islamic State and the Pitfalls of Leadership Decapitation

Haroro Ingram, Craig Whiteside

    Research output: Other contribution

    Abstract

    The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has endured significant territorial losses since its peak a year ago. Additional coalition deployments, an improving information campaign, a resurgent Iraqi army, targeted financial sanctions, and tireless diplomacy have set the stage for the eventual reduction of the self-proclaimed caliphate. Concurrent with these efforts is a large manhunt to bring Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, its leader, to justice. While this is an important consideration, defeating this movement is a much more pressing and daunting task. The best way to defeat ISIL in the long term is to leave Abu Bakr in place – as the caliph who lost his kingdom. Don’t take our word for ISIL’s struggles; its spokesman Mohammad al Adnani admitted as much last week when he warned that the loss of movement leaders, past or future, would not deter the “soldiers of the state” from continuing the fight as insurgents, much like they did prior to 2013. Adnani, as dramatic as ever in this latest speech, does offer a point that we should consider. The specific targeting of this group’s leadership (via a decapitation campaign) has had mixed results in the past. In fact, it was the killing of Abu Musab al Zarqawi that probably saved what eventually became the Islamic State of Iraq in late 2006.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationWashington D.C.
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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