Sunday, November 9, 2014

Global Impact: US, Coalition Airstrikes Hardly Can Be Described as Neutralizing IS, al-Baghdadi Injured

According to The Associated Press, Iraqi officials said Sunday (November 9) that an airstrike wounded the leader of Islamic State (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such a strike or al-Baghdadi being wounded.

Iraq's Defense and Interior Ministries issued statements saying al-Baghdadi had been wounded, without elaborating.

An Interior Ministry intelligence official told the AP that al-Baghdadi was hit during a meeting Saturday (November 8) with militants in the town of Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province. 

Both officials said the operation was carried out by Iraqi security forces. Neither knew the extent of al-Baghdadi's apparent injuries.

COMMENT: One can only hope that the less-than-formidable airstrikes by US and coalition partners will eventually  bear fruit.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant believed to be in his early 40s, has a $10 million US bounty on his head. 

Since taking the reins of IS in 2010, he has transformed it from a local branch of al-Qaeda into an independent transnational military force, positioning himself as perhaps the preeminent figure in the global jihadi community.

The reclusive leader is purported to have made only one public appearance, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul, as seen in a video posted online in June. 

Al-Baghdadi's purported appearance in Mosul came five days after his group declared the establishment of an Islamic State caliphate, in the territories it holds in Iraq and Syria. The group proclaimed al-Baghdadi its leader and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.

Since then, part of IS' core strategy has been to establish administration over lands that it controls to project an image of itself as a ruler and not just a fighting force. In parts of Syria under its control, the group now administers courts, fixes roads and even polices traffic. It recently imposed a curriculum in schools in its Syrian stronghold, Raqqa, scrapping subjects such as philosophy and chemistry, and fine-tuning the sciences to fit with its ideology.

A US-led coalition has been launching airstrikes on IS militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria for months as part of an effort to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a more effective offensive. IS has gained ground across northern and western Iraq in a lightning advance in June and July, causing several of Iraq's army and police divisions to fall into disarray.

US President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more US troops to bolster Iraqi forces, including into Anbar province, where fighting with IS militants has been fierce. The plan could potentially boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 US troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized.

As soon as media organizations can corroborate the extent of  al-Baghdadi's injuries can be confirmed, this report will be updated.

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