US takes out ISIS number two in Syria – consequences unknown
Last week the terrorist group ISIS announced the death of its spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani in Syria. According to US officials, al-Adnani played an instrumental role in the Paris, Brussels, and Orlando terror attacks as well as the issuing authority for fatwas worldwide.
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The Pentagon said: “His elimination would be a significant blow to ISIL, a significant blow to ISIL’s leadership and more importantly a dent in ISIL’s ability to conduct external attacks inside Iraq and Syria.”
ISIS has already vowed retaliation for al-Adnani’s death and US officials say they are now worried other ISIS leaders have told terrorist plotters to accelerate their plans to attack the US and its coalition partners.
But what does this mean for America’s war on terror?
While the death of al-Adnani may not signal any noticeable short-term changes, over time, ISIS will have trouble with recruits and training. As a key ISIS advisor, al-Adnani was being groomed to takeover for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, if/when something happened to him.
The death sparked a rare statement from ISIS’ Amaq news agency that confirmed al-Adnani died while reviewing military operations in Aleppo, Syria.
“After a journey filled with sacrifice and fight against non-believers, the Syrian Gallant knight, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, joined the convoy of martyr leaders,” ISIS statement read. “To the filthy and coward (ly) nonbelievers and to the holders of the Christ emblem, we bring the good news, which will keep them awake, that a new generation in the Islamic State … that loves death more than life … this generation will only grow steadfast on the path to Jihad, stay determined to seek revenge and be violent toward them.”
Under Baghdadi, al-Adnani managed ISIS’ external operations and coordinated ISIS fighters’ movement, promoted lone-wolf attacks, and actively recruited new jihadis for the terrorist group.
In one audio recording, al-Adnani provided proof he advocated for violence against the West. “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
Born in Syria in 1977, al-Adnani was the highest-ranked Syrian inside ISIS’ hierarchy. As such, the State Department added al-Adnani to the US terror watch list in August 2014 and put a $5 million reward for his capture or death.
“He was the strategic leader of the organization, especially when it comes to attacks on the West,” said journalist Graeme Wood, Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “To have that voice destroyed is a serious blow to the organization, probably the most significant kill that the enemies of the Islamic State have perpetrated since its declaration of the caliphate.”
Meanwhile, the never-ending war on terror continues to add to the death and injured coffers. According to Antiwar.com, “4,245 people were killed and 658 were wounded during August. In comparison, July’s figures were 2,695 killed and 1,352 wounded. These figures are only estimates. Due to the nature of the conflict, precise numbers are unavailable, and the true numbers may never be known.”
The US military said, “they will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIS leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL’s (military’s term for ISIS) parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world.”
Commander of US Central Command, General Joseph Votel told reporters that al-Baghdadi had told fighters “to fight to the death. They didn’t.” A fact that Votel said, highlighted ISIS leadership may not be in control of its fighters.
In the last six months, the U.S.-led coalition has relentlessly targeted ISIS leadership. Airstrikes have killed their number four finance minister; Haji Iman and ISIS number three, the group’s defense minister, Omar al-Shishani. The death of their number two gives the US military confidence that repeated airstrikes are beginning to take a toll on ISIS.
However, time will be the judge of the effectiveness of this campaign.