Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad
August 20, 2014 at 9:40 am #77269
Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of international Affairs.
Now that Americans are dropping bombs on the forces of al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, it may be appropriate to examine his warfighting style.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.
Like the prophet Mohammed from whom he claims descent, al-Baghdadi sees himself as a soldier-Imam and recognizes no difference between fighting, governing, and religion. This allows him to flow seamlessly between mediums. If we write him off as a mere terrorist, we make the mistake of underestimating him. He is generally considered to be a crackpot by serious Islamic scholars, but he controls a tract of land that includes most of al-Anbar province, much of eastern Syria, and Iraq’s second largest city; that makes him a serious player in the region. However, we should also beware of making him out to be ten feet tall. If we are going to deal with him, we need to understand how he fights and governs as well as his strengths and weaknesses.
There is both military art and science behind al-Baghdadi’s recent successes. His approach is different from western military leadership practices, but it is not unique in history. He seems to have borrowed some elements of the warfighting styles of the Prophet Mohammed and Genghis Khan as well as the some political-strategic approaches of Lenin and Hitler. Whether these were adopted from a study of history or the serendipitous outcome of pure talent is somewhat irrelevant. To date, al-Baghdadi has achieved significant results. We can’t fully understand his thought process but we can study his methods and the principles he employs. These are discussed below.
Worthwhile read! Check out the rest of the article linked above.
August 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm #77270MaxKeymaster
August 20, 2014 at 11:21 pm #77271MaxKeymaster
Note: This is not Max’s response/content. Just a glitch from the transition to subscription.
Thanks for that G.W.N.S.,great read.
If only we were ready to change our tactics to combat this kind of enemy…..
When we realize playing by the rules is for the losers maybe we’ll figure it out.
June 23, 2016 at 7:47 pm #77272
As we consider possible jihad here at home this is worth a review.
July 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm #77273
Still applicable yearly bump.
July 31, 2018 at 10:49 am #77274
Consider what has happened since this Thread was posted in August 20, 2014!
August 10, 2019 at 10:31 pm #113916
August 11, 2019 at 8:33 am #113985RobRoyParticipant
He and his gang also had state sponsorship, he filled a vacuum. To toot my own horn, after Saddam Hussein and his army flopped in 1991 I told myself they were going to be the last attempt at a Western army the Arabs put forth. At best going forward they might have a hybrid such as the Hezbollah of Lebanon which will borrow some techniques, tactics and strategy but not be a copy of some bullshit General with a feathered hat moving divisions to and fro.
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