On Sunday, President Donald Trump announced that US forces hunted down al-Baghdadi in Syria's Idlib province. Trump said al-Baghdadi blew up himself and three accompanying children by detonating a suicide vest when he was trapped at the end of a tunnel.
"His [al-Bagdhadi’s] removal may well lead to a reinvigoration of the movement under a less reclusive leader", Freeman, who also served as US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, said. "The problem with assassinating leaders is that one cannot know for sure who will succeed them and whether the successor will be more or less effective than his dead predecessor."
Although al-Baghdadi was the founding father of Daesh*, Freeman added, in recent years he has been essentially absent and invisible.
"He therefore did not seem to have much grip on the members of the Islamic State. It is not clear what role he played in the Islamic State's territorial expansion or its collapse," he said.
The assassination of al-Baghdadi may affect US politics or even distract voters from the continual ratcheting up of the impeachment process against Trump, Freeman acknowledged. However, with respect to the situation in Syria, little will change.
"In the real world of contention for control of Syria, it is unlikely to mean much", he concluded.
Chas Freeman is a lifetime director of the Atlantic Council and served as US Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’affaires at the US embassies in Beijing and Bangkok. Freeman also held several senior level positions at the Department of Defense.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia.