ISIS operations appear to be unaffected by death of al-Baghdadi; ISIS attacks in Afghanistan are on the decline while attacks in Central and West Africa are increasing.
A statistical analysis of ISIS claims of responsibility in the wake of the death of former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on October 26, 2019, indicates that ISIS remains globally undeterred and still committed to the mission. While attacks by number have remained steady, ISIS focus is increasing in new areas and backing out of previous areas.
Flashpoint’s analysis suggests the following conclusions:
• ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq continue to represent the lion’s share with over 70% of its military activity, despite the loss of the territorial caliphate and the death of al-Baghdadi. This appears to directly conflict with the notion that ISIS has been defeated or crippled in the Levant.
• ISIS operations inside Afghanistan appear to be slowly collapsing, with little to no activity from the group over the past two months. Since December 1, there have been more ISIS claims of responsibility for attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique than there conversely have been for Afghanistan. Nonetheless, there have been a recent handful of major ISIS attacks targeting Taliban forces in neighboring Pakistan.
• ISIS militants in West Africa (including Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mali) now account for more terrorist attacks than parallel efforts in Yemen and Afghanistan combined. Although it comprises the territory of more than one nation, the ISIS “province” in West Africa is now behind only Syria and Iraq in terms of the relative frequency of its local military operations.
• Egypt’s turbulent North Sinai region continues to be a significant area of concern for ISIS activity. Despite major crackdowns by the Egyptian military, there have been a steady stream of ISIS claimed attacks in the area, including almost a dozen since the start of 2020.
In 3 of the last 5 weeks, ISIS attacks have killed or injured more people in West Africa, than anywhere else. In the other 2 weeks, West Africa remained second and third highest in terms of casualties. While the frequency of attacks remain higher in Iraq and Syria, West Africa remains the deadliest per attack.
Chief Innovation Officer
Evan Kohlmann focuses on product innovation at Flashpoint where he leverages fifteen years’ experience tracking Al-Qaida, ISIS, and other terrorist groups. He has consulted for the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Justice, the Australian Federal Police, and Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, among others. Mr. Kohlmann holds a JD from the Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School and a BSFS in International Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Univ.