The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday that it has designated the new leader of ISIS, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
Americans are now prohibited from engaging in any transactions with al-Mawla, who is also known as Hajji Abdallah, ‘Abdul Amir Muhammad Sa’id Salbi and Abu-‘Umar al-Turkmani, under the designation. Al-Mawla took over as the ISIS leader after U.S. special forces killed his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on Oct. 26.
“Today’s announcement is part of a larger comprehensive effort to defeat ISIS that, in coordination with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has made significant progress,” the State Department wrote in the announcement, adding that it has “completely destroyed ISIS’s so-called ‘caliphate.'”
“We are taking the fight to its branches and networks around the world,” the announcement added. “This whole-of-government effort is destroying ISIS in its safe havens, denying its ability to recruit foreign terrorist fighters, stifling its financial resources, countering the false propaganda it disseminates over the internet and social media, and helping to stabilize liberated areas in Iraq and Syria so the displaced can return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives.”
Al-Mawla was active in ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qai’da in Iraq, according to the announcement. In ISIS, he rose through the ranks to become Deputy Amir and helped drive and “attempt to justify the abduction, slaughter, and trafficking of Yazidi religious minorities in northwest Iraq and oversees the group’s global operations.”
In 2014, when the terrorist group first became aggressively active, ISIS quickly conquered 36,000 square miles of territory from Aleppo to Baghdad. By 2016, U.S. officials estimate they had lost more than 40 percent.
Although ISIS has lost much of its territorial holdings since President Donald Trump took office, it has been able to recruit many new members. According to a Kurdish leader who witnessed the militant group’s first rise and fall, ISIS has double the number of fighters it had in 2014.
“ISIS is still very much intact,” said Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan. “Yes, they have lost much of their leadership. They have lost many of their capable men. But they’ve also managed to gain more experience and to recruit more people around them. So they should not be taken lightly.”
While the Middle East is under reconstruction from the damage ISIS caused, many people are remain displaced, according to Barzani. That could lead to more dispossessed Muslims in the region to consider joining the terror group.
“If people are jobless, if people are hopeless, if people have no security, if people have no opportunity, if there is no political stability, it’s always easy for terrorist organizations to manipulate local populations,” Barzani said. “ISIS is a by-product. So as long as these factors are still valid, there will always be either ISIS or something similar to ISIS.”