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Assessments Abound on Anniversary of American Elimination of Al-Baghdadi

The United States on Monday is commemorating the one-year anniversary of the removal of one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This time last year, US special forces tracked down the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at a compound in northern Syria. Al-Baghdadi, who detonated a suicide vest after being cornered, killing himself and two children, was in hiding for months prior to his death. While ISIS has retained some small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, its vast physical and monetary dominance in the Middle East has largely been mitigated, as the global coalition’s efforts to defeat the organization has taken its toll. The group has instead shifted its focus to more small-scale acts of terror across Asia, Africa and parts of Europe, carrying out political assassinations, hit-and-run attacks, stabbings and suicide bombings. ISIS’s persistent efforts, usually executed by affiliates or lone wolves, continue to concern counterterrorism experts and intelligence officials, who warn that the larger threat of an extremist Islamic State is far from over and may return with gusto if given some breathing room. Washington’s stated intentions of withdrawing most of its forces from the region have led some to warn of a resurgence of ISIS, as an unopposed Iranian-Russian hegemony may drive masses of Sunnis into the caliphate’s open arms.