More than four years on, the Islamic State group has been forced from Mosul and no longer occupies towns or cities anywhere in Iraq or Syria. But its brutal legacy remains, under mounds of rubble, in ruined homes and fields.
Although the next leader of the Islamic State group has yet to be announced, New Lines has obtained detailed information about the likeliest candidate to replace Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, who blew himself up on Feb. 3 in an effort to evade U.S. Special Forces as they raided his house in northern Syria. The details we obtained about Sumaidai’s life, never published before, have been gathered from people who knew him personally and from Iraqi authorities.
The next leader of the Islamic State will most likely come from this cabal of Afaris, a network we might call the Qaradashians.
The Islamic State may have been defeated in the field, but they have not been defeated in Iraq. What actually happened was that their fighters retreated from Mosul and Hawija, before slowly melting back into the Sunni Arab villages — and storing their weapons in the nearby caves — and prepared for war once again. What lies across from me are the most fanatical and hardcore: Those who have hung on, who refuse to surrender or flee. And they will stay there until they win or die.
The 19th century saw a spate of forgeries by European Orientalists of letters claiming to be from the Prophet Muhammad himself. Sultan Abdul Majid bought one for the equivalent of a staggering 73 pounds of gold. Over 100 years later, the Islamic State used the seal on this fake for its own logo and infamous flag, tricked by the wiles of expert entrepreneurs.
Contrary to how some understand the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan, the lesson extremists are taking from the Taliban’s success is not simply that jihad works, but that diplomacy and engagement are a necessary part of the process, which includes reassuring the West about external threats emerging from their areas.
If the evacuation of Afghanistan tested U.S. partnerships in ways that revealed something short of solidarity, building and sustaining an allied strategy for political transition in Syria can provide the corrective.