Biden Claims Credit for ISIS Leader’s Death, But It Will Do Little Damage to Terror Group

Photograph Source: Maryland GovPics – CC BY 2.0

President Biden was swift to claim credit for the killing by US Special forces of the Islamic State leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, in northwest Syria. As with his more famous predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi two years ago, he is reported to have died in a house in the anti-Syrian government enclave of Idlib, close to the Turkish border.

Islamic State (IS) is much reduced from the all-conquering force it was for several years after 2014 when it had surprised the world by capturing the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. It went on to seize an area the size of Great Britain in western Iraq and eastern Syria, but lost all this territory between 2016 and 2019. The fact that al-Qurayshi was killed so far from previous IS strongholds may indicate that the movement no longer has any bases that it considers secure.

But as a guerrilla group that no longer tries to hold territory, it has recently shown renewed strength with an attack on a prison in Hasakah, a Kurdish controlled city in north east Syria. IS leaders who had escaped the prison were at first believed by locals in Idlib to be the target of the US raid.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).