Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials have warned that the killing of Daesh leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in a US raid on 26 October did not undermine the group’s capabilities and threats.
The officials indicated that the group maintained the cohesion and integrity of its organisational structure and the leadership and control system within it. In addition, many of its branches are still practicing their military and security activities in several countries.
Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi replaced Al-Baghdadi, and the forces fighting Daesh depend on what is being rumoured about Al-Qurashi’s ineligibility to lead the group in the post-Al-Baghdadi period, and the continuing splits affecting the first row of the group’s leadership, which witnessed “systematic” differences between two intellectual trends after Al-Baghdadi failed to reconcile them before his death.
To some extent, the group still enjoys relative freedom of movement through “mobile groups” that continue to launch low-level attacks in fragile security areas of Iraq and Syria, compared to its deadly attacks before taking control of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq in 2014, then its expansion to large areas in the two neighbouring countries, Iraq and Syria.
There are US doubts about Al-Qurashi’s ability to carry on the activities of the group’s fighters with an impressive momentum that draws the attention of the world to their presence and failure to defeat them, maintain the cohesion and unity of the group’s structure and prevent its disintegration.
In August 2018, the Pentagon reports indicated that Daesh still has at least 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.
However, some figures released by US counterterrorism officials stated that the group still has at least 14,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, after losing control over Al-Baghuz area in the Deir ez-Zor countryside, near the Syrian-Iraqi border in March 2019.
Other figures indicate that there are still more than 18,000 Daesh fighters, a few months after the group lost control over that area, which is the last region of its control in Iraq and Syria, after the events of Mosul in 2014.