Politics, Terrorism

Al-Baghdadi killing — the eight year counter-terrorism cycle

The news echoed on Europe 1 in the car radio, that Donald Trump claimed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. That he died like a dog, like a coward. It brought back memories of 2nd May 2011, as I received, on my way home, a text from my classmate, with whom we were out clubbing the night before. The message is still there on my phone –

“Osama hunted down – killed”.

As we breathe a sigh of relief on the news of the assassination of the heinous criminal, who spread his reign of terror for nearly a decade, other thoughts cloud in mind. We are nearly at the end of 2019. A new US presidential election is due next year. Do you remember the year of the capture of Saddam, and assassination of Osama bin Laden? It’s 2003 and 2011. Yes, eight years apart, as is the year al-Baghdadi is killed. A year before the US presidential election. Also note, that nothing happened in 2007, or 2015, in terms of a breakthrough in fighting terrorism.

  • 2003 Capture of Saddam Hussein

  • 2004 George Bush Jr. re-elected

  • 2011 Osama bin Laden assassinated

  • 2012 Obama retains office

  • 2019 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi terminated

  • 2020 New presidential election. Trump holds office?

This raises a question – whether the main threats to western civilisation are only killed off or captured on the year before the US presidential election, to help a president hold the office through re-election? The dates uncannily give you a déjà vu feeling. Remember the famous starting line for Obama in 2012 electoral speeches? “Osama bin Laden is dead”. Trump is many degrees less suave than Obama, and he brashly claimed, “He died like a dog”. Were they mere coincidences, or, irrespective of the political spectrum, did the previous US presidents always knew the whereabouts of America’s Most Wanted criminals? Perhaps they either turned a blind eye in the name of diplomacy or they waited until the encounters would have benefited them personally? And perhaps due to this reason, in 2007 or 2015, the previous US presidents, who were completing their full-term, did not bother?

One would rejoice to the fact al-Baghdadi is dead, considering how much blood was shed in Syria and Iraq by his jihadist supporters. On top of it, like al-Qaeda, Daesh managed to take their atrocities into Europe and beyond. Not only did their fanatical deeds cause loss of many lives, but they also made lives of Muslims, the people they were purported to be helping, more marginalised elsewhere. Sadly, the word terrorism is redefined to be Islamist terrorism these days, and Muslims are bearing the brunt of white supremacists in the US and Europe alike. It’s worse in the US, but Europe will soon follow suite. We’ll never know if that was a calculated move from the jihadist groups, to instil more anger in the Muslim communities against the state. If it was, their tactic did work, but benefiting far-right groups than Muslims, when we see a polarised Europe with the context of Islam.

So, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. Is he actually dead? He probably is. Is his legacy dead? We’ll soon find out. His rabid supporters are now busy butchering Kurdish fighters in Syria. Once the dust has settled, we’ll know what has happened to Daesh. Does this mean anything for the extremely complicated and sensitive situation in the Middle-East? Probably it doesn’t. Al-Qaeda is still active eight years since their leader was killed. So my guess is Daesh will continue their horrific killing spree, but now that the link to the Caliphate is erased, there will be less funding. And fewer volunteers to affiliate with them. But there will probably be another leader with another group spewing their propaganda of hate and bloodbath. Daesh fighters will probably join the new group and carry on their jihad. And again, we’ll be waiting for eight more years before the US hunts the leader down. Unless, we see a decent president in the White House, who would break this eight-year jinx.

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