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Fleeting moments

November 4, 2019

Operations and empires


November 4, 2019

Some events are so intriguing that you’re impelled to sit back and reflect on them. The news of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s “whimpering and crying” death is one such episode. The first thought on reading about Baghdadi’s end reminds of the operation by US Navy Seals against Osama bin Laden in 2011.

But nobody imagined Baghdadi was such a sought-after terrorist that none less than President Trump himself would gleefully announce his death. “Capturing or killing Baghdadi had been the top national security priority for the administration”, Trump triumphantly declared.

When 100 special forces troops in eight helicopters landed on Baghdadi’s hideout in Idlib, province of Syria, they met little resistance. Military dogs were unleashed. One of the special dogs chased Baghdadi who ran into the maize of tunnels, crying with fear, according to the report.

President Trump highly praised the dog that chased Baghdadi before the IS chief detonated his suicide jacket, killing himself and his three children, as reported. Trump called the dog ‘beautiful’. However, the military officials refused to disclose any information about the dog and its name, as these are state secrets. By the time these lines are printed, the classified dog would have recovered.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien accused Baghdadi of ‘imprisoning, torturing and sexually assaulting Mueller, a 26 years old humanitarian worker’. He even named the operation to find Baghdadi 'Operation Mueller'.

Some palpable similarities exist between the two high-profile operations which happened eight years apart – Operation Neptune Spear to kill Osama bin Laden and Operation Mueller to kill Baghdadi. When Barack Obama ordered to kill Bin Laden, he was preparing to launch his re-election campaign. His popularity at the time was sagging. Bin Laden’s elimination boosted his popularity by 11 percent. There are many conspiracy theories regarding the Bin Laden operation. There are those that are still convinced that he had died years earlier when coalition forces rained down the Mother of All Bombs on the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan where he believably lived.

Both Al-Qaeda and Daesh's leaders were hunted down in somewhat similar circumstances. Not only that, their remains too were disposed of in a similar manner – dumped in the sea.

When Operation Neptune Spear was in progress, Barack Obama along with his top advisers watched the show from the situation room in the White House. Even though Bin Laden could have easily been captured alive, that did not seem to be the intention. Had he been captured alive, the public would have demanded of him to explain how he pulled off the 9/11 terror attack on the twin towers.

Eight years later, another US president is confronted with plummeting popularity. He knows what could possibly rejuvenate his standing among the public, especially when discussions about his impeachment have become routine. He recalls how Obama tackled such a situation. Baghdadi comes to his mind and hence a Hollywood-style Operation Mueller. For now, Al-Qaeda and Daesh are dead – until the empire needs to resurrect them.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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