The Legacy of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
For exactly one month now, Islamic State, ISIS, has struggled without its charismatic leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed during a U.S. military operation in a northwest Syrian village of Barisha on October 26, 2019. The main question now is whether it will meaningfully undermine the popularity of the ISIS Takfiri ideology or was this simply the death of a symbolic leader who played only a role in the evolution of Sunni Jihadism?
The month after al-Baghdadi’s death
As subsequent events have shown, the violent ideology of Salafi-Jihadi groups has not undergone significant changes. Moreover, ISIS has used al-Baghdadi’s death to strengthen its position and has appealed to its supporters to continue the apocalyptic battle with polytheists and other enemies. On October 31, 2019, the al-Furqan Media issued a statement of the Islamic State’s new spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, who confirmed the death of the group’s previous leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and prior official spokesman, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir. He also went on to announce the appointment of a certain Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as the new “commander of the believers and caliph of the Muslims.”
An analysis of this statement by ISIS showed that the main engine of contemporary jihadism is not a specific person, even if he was Caliph himself, but the idea about building the new Caliphate, the fight against idolaters and the idea of achieving the rule of Islam throughout the world. The attractive force, which caused thousands upon thousands of Islamists from all over the world to rush to Syria and Iraq, was not the figure of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rather it was the idea of the Islamic Caliphate. It must be recognized that the professional propaganda machine of the Islamic State has skillfully used Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death and eulogized him as a martyr who gave his life for Allah.
Abu Hamza quoted the Qur’an, Surah al-Nisa’, “God the Blessed and Exalted has said: ‘So let those who sell this worldly life for the Hereafter fight in the path of God and whoso fights in the path of God and is killed or overcomes, We will grant him a great reward’ (al-Nisa’ 74).”It is likely that the ISIS spokesman quoted the Surah al-Nisa’ with the aim of qualifying the death of “the mujahid Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (may God Almighty accept him)” as ‘Shaheed’ (Martyr).
To die a Shaheed in the path of Allah in the Islamic faith is one of the greatest honors. The concept of Shaheed constitutes the basis of the militant ideology of the Salafi-Jihadi movement. ISIS statement leads to the logical conclusion that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi fellShaheed on the path of Allah. He was eulogized as a great mujahid, who with the authority of Allah “revived the jihad,”established the Caliphate and the laws of the religion that had been impeded by the “Tawagheet,”(impurity),of the “Arabs and the non-Arabs” and “protected the honor of the Muslims”. He was described as a warrior of Allah who “…was steadfast on his religion, going forth and not turning back in flight, a mujahid against His enemies.”
Then, the new ISIS representative characterized the new Caliph Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as “the knowledgeable, worshipping, working and God-fearing Sheikh,” an indication that he is a connoisseur of the Islamic Fiqh. The statement conveys that he fulfills “…the symbols of the jihad and amir (leader)of war,” who fought against the protector of the Cross-America – and inflicted on it woes upon woes.”
Apart from this short characteristic from the Quraysh’s tribe, to the general public nothing is known about the new Caliph. Analytics and scholars of Islam cannot yet appreciate his ideological views and theological knowledge without his audio or video performances during the Salaat-ul-Jumu’ah. In the midst of this situation, President Trump has tweeted intriguing information, “ISIS has a new leader. We know exactly who he is!”
Abu Hamza claims the decision of the Caliphate’s Shoura Council about the appointment of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as the caliph was taken “after consultation of their brothers and implementing the counsel of the Caliph of the Muslims (may God accept him).” That is, when appointing the new caliph, the testament (wasiyya) of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi himself was also taken into account. The Islamic State’s chief mouthpiece wrote, “O Muslims everywhere, rush to pledge bay‘a to the Amir al-Mu’mineen and gather around him.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s “Spiritual Gift”isstill strong
As subsequent events showed, the Islamic state skillfully used the “transition period” to expand its harsh ideology of Jihadi-Salafism (al-Salafiyya al-Jihadiyya). The call for Bay‘a toa new caliph was heard by supporters of the Islamic state around the world. In early November, almost all the wilayah (provinces) of the Islamic state, which are located in different regions of the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caucasus, swore allegiance to Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.Islamic State supporters around the world are publishing their pictures of the bay‘a campaign on the Pro-ISIS Telegram Channels almost daily.Also, the Caliphate’s official weekly Al-Naba widely published the process of Bay‘a in different countries, which means that the group attaches great importance to the process of “legalizing” the new caliph.The bay‘a campaign intended to illustrate the legitimacy and unanimous acceptance of the new leader.
Over the past two years, due to the shrink and loss of territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has chosen the tactics of building and expanding its regional branches, the so-called wilayah. As is well known, for the time being, besides Iraq, ISIS now claims to have wilayah in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Chechnya, Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Turkey. Also, local Islamists in Bangladesh and Tunisia conduct their terrorist activities under the flag of ISIS and the announcement of the wilayat there is a matter of time. The Bay‘a campaign had given the Islamic State’s wilayahs and underground cells an opportunity to once again assert itself, to update its rigid and hard-line ideology and to launch terrorist attacks in some places.As a sign of revenge for the murder of Baghdadi, ISIS supporters conducted terrorist attacks in Tajikistan, Mozambique, Iraq, Algeria, Syria, Mali, DR Congo, and Nigeria during the month after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death.
The hopes of some ideologists of al Qaeda and its offshoot, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), that the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the anonymity of the new caliph, could undermine the morale of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s supporters in the world and inflict a serious blow on the Islamic State’s prospects did not materialize. It seems one of the al-Qaeda ideologists, prominent Salafi cleric Abdullah al Muhaysini, who called al-Baghdadi’s death “a glorious night in Muslim history” and urged ISIS supporters to join al Qaeda, was deeply disappointed by the rise of a new wave of al-Dawla al-Islamiyya’s(Islamic State) ideology in the world.The Bay‘a campaign has now demonstrated the truth, that the death of Al Baghdadi raised to a new level the long-standing competition between ISIS and al Qaeda, the two main Sunni militant groups, for the soul of Islamists in the world.
The new Caliph was challenged not only by al-Qaeda and HTS but also by internal opponents who left the Islamic State and have now become vocal critics.On November 22019, the al-Wafa’ Media Agency published two essays under the titles “The Pincers Tearing Apart the Illusions of the Caliphate’s Claimants” and “The Collapse of the Fiction” in response to the appointment of al-Hashimi. The authors are Nasih Amin and Ibn Jubayr, who, according to the fellow of the Yale Law School, Cole Bunzel, were former Islamic State scholars.The authors questioned the legitimacy of the appointment of the new Caliph due to his anonymity and they denounced the Islamic State as wayward and illegitimate.They ridiculed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi, calling him, “secluded paper caliph” (al-khalifa al-kartuni al-mutasardab).
Indeed, according to the Hadiths, a future caliph is traditionally expected to meet seven qualifications, including being Muslim, male, free (not a slave), a descendant of Quraysh, just, sound of mind and learned, or capable to rule the Caliphate.Both writers decried the Islamic State’s new leader for the appointment as caliph a one who is “an unknown nobody” (majhul ‘adam).It should be noted that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was also criticized when in 2014 he declared himself a caliph. Then the prominent ideologists of the modern Salafi-Jihadi movement Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filistini issued written statements against giving bay‘a to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and strongly called on the Mujahideen in Syria to abandon him. Their calls did not, however, stop the wave of Islamists in different parts of the world who swore allegiance to him, accepted the ISIS Takfiri ideology and made Hijrah (migration) to Iraq and Syria. This time, as the post-Baghdadi period showed, cruel criticism and disqualification of al-Hashimi from the point of view of Islamic law, did not stop the flow of the Bay‘a campaign.
What’s the Future of ISIS without Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
The post-Baghdadi time once again demonstrated that the Islamic State has become a franchise organization with allegiance to a set of aims and ideas, rather than to a hierarchical organization centered upon a single charismatic individual.Therefore, optimistic forecasts should not be built that the bloody path of jihad will stop after the death of the Caliph. Judging by the new wave of the Bay‘a campaign, heated disagreement among prominent ideologists of Jihadi-Salafism about Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi did not particularly concern the ISIS supporters in the world. Islamic State’s ebbs and flows introduced important new ideas to jihadi ideology, most importantly that the ideas of holy jihad are not founded on men, but on creed. Baghdadi’s death has further strengthened this idea, and future ideologists of Salafi-Jihadism will likely invoke the Islamic State’s background to unite militants around the Jihadi’s creed.
Since losing ground in Syria and Iraq, and killing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during the last few months, ISIS is likely to change its tactics and strategy of global jihad. Now, it had already started focusing on building and developing its regional wilayahs and underground cells. Its decentralization tactic might divert efforts from the attacks on the West. This does not mean that the menace of ISIS sleeper cells and lone-wolf terrorist attacks in Europe and America has ended.
Additionally, further strengthening of the ideological struggle between ISIS and al-Qaeda could be expected. Today both groups are approximately in the same starting conditions, which existed in 2012-13.The ideology and objectives of the group are similar. The audience, faith environment and potential supporters of both groups are almost the same. Disputes over the timeline of the Caliphate’s creation, which al-Qaeda considered premature, turned both Salafi-Jihadi groups into sworn enemies. The fierce competition for leadership among the Sunni-Jihadi movements could only lead to further waves of deadly violence in the world. In reality, al Qaeda and its affiliates remain a threat to the U.S. and its allies in Europe, while the Islamic State attacks are aimed at the Middle East and U.S. interests in Caliphate’s wilayahs area.
The ideological legacy of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has already become a spiritual tool for Sunni terrorist groups.It will undoubtedly be used to spread the worldview of militant Takfirismand inspire a new generation of jihadists to new attacks. His heritage carries the banner of terror, caliphate, and jihad.His ideology propagates inter-Muslim war, interfaith hatred, and killing of murtads (apostate) and munafiqs(infidel). Al-Baghdadi’s legacy teaches us that ISIS Salafi-Jihadi ideology cannot be defeated with bombs alone.
How Al-Qaeda’s Recent Growth in Africa Poses a Threat to Global Security
Al Qaeda’s ideology is based on the belief that the West is at war with Islam, and jihad is the only way to defend Muslims and their lands. The group has been weakened in recent years by military and intelligence operations, In 2022 a Leader of Al Qaeda Aiman Al zawahiri killed by American drone strike in Kabul , but it continues to pose a threat to global security.
Al-Qaeda has been a global terror organization for several years, and it is notorious for its involvement in several deadly attacks. Recently, Al-Qaeda has been making headlines in various news outlets due to its apparent expansion and development.
The primary focus of Al-Qaeda’s recent growth and development seems to be the African continent. While it is hard to determine if Al-Qaeda is expanding, it is clear that its activities in Africa are increasing. The organization is working to establish a stronger presence in the region, and it is attempting to recruit more members from various African countries. It has also been reported that Al-Qaeda is working to secure more funding from wealthy donors in the region.
Al-Qaeda’s recent activity in Africa is concerning, given the region’s political instability and weak security infrastructure. The organization’s presence could destabilize the region further, and its involvement would make the fight against terrorism in Africa even more challenging.
Al-Shabab fighters have attacked a military base housing Ugandan forces of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, according to the East African country’s contingent and a Somali captain.Al-Shabab has claimed in a statement that it carried out suicide bomb attacks and killed 137 soldiers.
The attack by Al-Shabab on the military base housing Ugandan forces of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia could lead to a destabilization of the region. The Somali government, along with its allies, will need to take immediate action to ensure the safety of civilians and prevent any further attacks by extremist groups. Additionally, the attack may undermine efforts to bring stability to the country and lead to a setback in the fight against terrorism in the region. It is crucial for all parties involved to come together and work towards a peaceful resolution.
The attack on the military base may have several other impacts, including:
- Loss of life and property: The attack may lead to the death of soldiers, civilians and destruction of property, causing immense suffering to the people in the area.
- Displacement of people: The attack may cause the displacement of people living in the area, leading to a humanitarian crisis.
- Political instability: The attack may lead to political instability in Somalia, further complicating efforts to establish a stable government.
- Increase in extremist activities: The attack may embolden extremist groups, leading to an increase in their activities in the region and beyond.
Overall, the attack underscores the need for increased security measures and surveillance to prevent similar attacks in the future. It also highlights the urgency of resolving the conflict in Somalia to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region.
It is also worth noting that Al-Qaeda’s recent development is not just limited to Africa. The organization is attempting to rebrand itself and distance itself from its past. Recent propaganda released by Al-Qaeda seems more focused on portraying the organization as a force that is fighting for the oppressed and against oppressive governments. It is possible that this rebranding effort is an attempt to attract new members and supporters.
Although Al-Qaeda’s recent development may be a cause for concern, it is important to note that the organization’s capabilities are not what they once were. Due to relentless efforts to dismantle the organization, Al-Qaeda is not as powerful as it once was. Nevertheless, it remains a significant threat to global security, and countries and international organizations must continue to work together to fight against terrorism.
However, Al-Qaeda’s growth is a matter of concern for global security. While the world’s superpowers may be busy dealing with other geopolitical challenges, Al-Qaeda’s activities should not be ignored. The organization has a long history of perpetrating violent attacks on civilians, and its recent resurgence in Africa could destabilize the region further. Al-Qaeda’s growth could not only put African countries at risk but also pose a threat to global security. As such, it is crucial that international efforts work collaboratively to combat terrorism and prevent groups like Al-Qaeda from gaining a foothold in vulnerable regions.
In conclusion, Al-Qaeda’s recent development is something that must be monitored closely. The organization’s expansion into Africa must be curbed, and international efforts must continue to dismantle the group. At the same time, it is crucial to recognize that the fight against terrorism is a global one, and it must be fought strategically and systematically to ensure the safety and security of people worldwide.
From Extremism to Insurgency: The TTP’s Ideology and Strategy
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an insurgency group operating in Pakistan that has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in the country. The group emerged in 2007 as a merger of several Pakistani Taliban groups and has since carried out attacks on civilian and military targets, including schools, mosques, markets, and security forces.
The TTP’s origins can be traced back to the Pakistani Taliban movement, which emerged in the early 2000s as a response to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. The movement aimed to establish an Islamic state in Pakistan and was initially focused on fighting against the Pakistani government and its security forces. The movement gained strength in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where it established a parallel system of governance and carried out attacks on military and civilian targets.
In 2007, the TTP was formed as a merger of several Pakistani Taliban groups. The group was led by Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2009. Since then, the group has been led by several leaders, including Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2013, and Mullah Fazlullah, who was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan in 2018.
The TTP has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including suicide bombings, targeted killings, and kidnappings. The TTP’s attacks have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in Pakistan, and the group has been designated as a terrorist organization by the Pakistani government, the United States, and other countries.
The TTP’s tactics and strategies have evolved over time. Initially, the group focused on carrying out suicide bombings and other high-profile attacks. However, as the Pakistani military launched a series of operations against the group, the TTP shifted its focus to guerrilla warfare and targeted killings. The group has also used propaganda and social media to spread its message and recruit new members.
The Pakistani government has launched several operations against the TTP over the years, with varying degrees of success. The most recent operation, Zarb-e-Azb, was launched in 2014 and aimed to eliminate terrorist groups in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The operation was largely successful in disrupting the TTP’s networks and reducing the number of attacks in the country.
However, the TTP remains a threat to Pakistan’s security. The group continues to carry out attacks, and its networks have shifted to other parts of the country, including urban areas. The TTP’s attacks have also inspired other extremist groups, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, to carry out attacks in Pakistan.
The TTP’s insurgency has also had broader implications for Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors, particularly Afghanistan. The TTP has used Afghanistan as a safe haven, and there have been concerns about the group’s links to the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. The TTP’s activities have also led to tensions between Pakistan and the United States, which has carried out drone strikes against the group.
The TTP’s insurgency has also had broader implications for Pakistan’s society and economy. The group’s attacks have deterred foreign investment and tourism, and they have also had a negative impact on the country’s social and economic development. The TTP’s activities have also contributed to the spread of extremist ideology in Pakistan and have made it more difficult for the government to implement social and economic reforms.
One of the major challenges facing Pakistan in its fight against the TTP is the group’s use of safe havens in Afghanistan. The TTP has been able to operate from Afghanistan, where it enjoys the support of the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist groups. This has made it difficult for Pakistan to eliminate the group’s networks and disrupt its activities.
Another challenge is the TTP’s use of social media and propaganda to spread its message and recruit new members. The group has been able to use social media to reach a wider audience and to promote its extremist ideology. The TTP’s propaganda has also been effective in recruiting new members, particularly young people who are disillusioned with the government and its policies.
To address these challenges, Pakistan needs to adopt a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism. This should include not only military operations but also efforts to address the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. The government needs to work closely with its neighbors, particularly Afghanistan, to disrupt the TTP’s networks and eliminate its safe havens.
The government also needs to address the issue of social media and propaganda. This can be done by promoting alternative narratives and providing young people with opportunities for education and employment. The government also needs to work with social media companies to monitor and remove extremist content from their platforms.
In conclusion, the TTP is a significant insurgency group operating in Pakistan, and its activities have had a significant impact on the country’s security and development. The group’s tactics and strategies have evolved over time, and the government has launched several operations against the group with varying degrees of success. To address the challenges posed by the TTP, Pakistan needs to adopt a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism that addresses the root causes of terrorism, disrupts the group’s networks, and addresses the issue of propaganda and social media. Only then can Pakistan hope to eliminate the threat posed by the TTP and other extremist groups operating in the country.
Revisiting Pulwama: Truth Revealed
On February 14, 2019, an explosive-laden car hit a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in a suicide attack in the Pulwama District of Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) killing 40 personnel and escalating the first air battle between Pakistan and India since 1971. New Delhi claimed that the attack was perpetrated from across the border from Pakistan by Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and retaliated with massive airstrikes in Balakot district of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa KP violating the territorial integrity of its neighbor. Pakistan launched Operation Swift Retort and conducted six massive airstrikes at multiple targets in IOK. This tit-for-tat resulted in the shot down of an Indian jet MIG-21 and the capture of its pilot. However, the air blow could not assuage Indian designs. New Delhi continued prevailing a narrative of ‘Terror-sponsoring’ against Pakistan on several fronts. Notwithstanding, Satya Pal Malik, who was the governor of IOK at the time of the attack, revealed that the attack was an Indian administrative mistake, but the Modi Administration gave the onus to Pakistan.
Malik revealed that CRPF asked for five aircrafts to carry their people since such size of convoys do not move through the land. But the Home Ministry refused to give the aircraft. Malik claims that he conveyed this lack of administrative insight to PM Modi and its National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The BJP administration replied, as Malik asserts, “Keep silence, all such onus is going towards Pakistan”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan has asserted its stance in a press release saying that India again ‘vindicated’ Pakistan’s stance on the attack and under the pretext of terrorism advances its Hindutva agenda for political gains. India’s false narratives are again exposed to the world, the report says. In addition, Islamabad has also demanded an answer from New Delhi on his duplicity.
The ironic revelations signal three dimensions of India’s mischievous conduct towards Pakistan. First, the political will to solve bilateral issues is missing on the part of India. Successive Indian administrations especially of the BJP do not consent to solve the Kashmir issue and play this card for tightening their grip on Lok Sabha. On the other hand, they refuse a third-party reconciliation peace process. As a result, the region remains the most disintegrated part of the earth.
Second, although India claims to be the largest democracy on the earth and propagates to adhere to the global values of mutual coexistence, fair conduct and mutual non-aggression, it follows them in letter but not in the true spirit. In fact, New Delhi is still motivated by Realpolitik and the policies of Chanakaya based on pure calculations of power, deception and bigotry.
Third, India is an irresponsible nuclear power that designs such defamations and conducts cross-border attacks on other nuclear power in disguise of its designs. There is no denying the fact that the Pulwama incident had the full potential to transform into a nuclear escalation. Having said that, these factors widely contribute to the regional escalations and strategic instability.
Thus, given the power diffusion in international affairs in the wake of China, India will continue portraying such behavior in the foreseeable future too using evolving geopolitical dynamics. Therefore, the region must not be left at the New Delhi’s discretion. The international community must break its silence, and assert its stance on Indian duplicity. If not, the regional politics and escalations will have implications beyond the borders.
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