The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a significant blow to the global salafi-jihadist movement. Since al-Baghdadi declared himself caliph of IS in the summer of 2014, his name has been used to lure new recruits and to help coalesce the myriad of salafi-jihadist groups to a common cause of forming a caliphate. The vision of a caliphate bestowed power and legitimacy to al-Baghdadi’s cause, inspired online masses, and drew an unprecedented number of foreign fighters all across the globe into its ranks. But al-Baghdadi’s death together with the demise of the caliph, has adversely impacted their cause and makes it more difficult for followers to be inspired to join their movement.
While al-Baghdadi’s death will adversely affect the ideological narrative within the global salafist movement, this does not quell the threat from IS and their associated groups for three primary reasons. First, al-Baghdadi’s death will not impact the core operations of IS. Given that he has been in hiding for many years now, command and control of IS fighters and the group’s affiliates have not been directly dependent on him for their ongoing undertakings. Core leaders of IS still remain operational and while military pressure on IS has made analysis of its leadership challenging, most counter terrorism experts agree that there is a succession plan to put a new leader in place.Continue reading