The United States continues the search for ISIS leaders; two of the most recent being pursued are Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Raw and Turki al-Bin’ali. Another example comes from late April when American commandos intercepted Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who had been tracked by United States Special Operations forces for months. The helicopter-borne commandos had hoped to take Uzbeki alive, but a firefight broke out resulting in his death. Despite missing the chance to gather human intelligence, the commandos collected cellphones and other materials that proved useful for U.S. intelligence and military services.
Despite these successes and the continued hunt for ISIS leaders, the supreme leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large as far as the U.S. is aware. The Russian government maintains that Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria, but the U.S. military is unconvinced. Colonel Dillon, the spokesman for the international coalition fighting ISIS, affirms that there is no concrete evidence on whether or not Baghdadi is still active. Military officials say they don’t care whether Baghdadi was killed by Russians or the American-backed coalition.
If Baghdadi is dead, one of his two lieutenants will likely take his place. Both former Iraqi army officers under Saddam Hussein, they are the War Minister Obaidi and head of ISIS's Amniya security agency, Jumaili. Ironically, Jumaili is in a similar situation to Baghdadi, with his death affirmed by some, but questioned by others. On April 1, Reuters reported that a statement from the Iraqi directorate of military intelligence confirms Jumaili’s death. However, U.S. military officials told NBC that the Iraqi military report was unconfirmed.
In summary, the U.S. and coalition forces, as well as Russia and its allies, are continuing attacks on ISIS and its leaders. However, there is a degree of uncertainty in the ongoing war. The first and second in command of ISIS could still be alive and well, directing ISIS and its atrocities from unknown locations.
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Jake Janeiro is a senior at the University of Kansas and is majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations.