Major General Ghika (Picture: US Department of Defense).
Islamic State

Fugitive IS Leader 'Less Important By The Day', Senior Army Officer Says

However, Major General Chris Ghika admitted IS still pose a "credible threat" and must be "taken seriously".

Major General Ghika (Picture: US Department of Defense).

Major General Chris Ghika during a coalition announcement (Picture: US Department of Defense).

The fugitive leader of the so-called Islamic State (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is becoming less and less important by the day, a senior British Army officer has said.

In 2014, the group gained territories across Syria, seizing Raqqa, before spreading into Iraq, capturing Mosul and even advancing to the edges of Baghdad.

Since then, there have been international efforts to destroy the group and the UK has played a key role, with the RAF flying daily missions over Iraq and Syria targeting IS fighters as part of Operation Shader.

It has led to the fall of the group's self-proclaimed caliphate which once stretched over an area the size of Britain. 

Major General Chris Ghika, the outgoing top UK commander in the US-led international anti-IS coalition, said if the location of Baghdadi was known, something would be done about it.

"Although he holds an iconic status - because he was the person who stood on the balcony of the al-Nuri Mosque in 2014 (and declared the caliphate) - actually, we don't really see him as somebody of great importance," he said.

Typhoon on Operation Shader (Picture: MOD).
An RAF Typhoon refuels during an Operation Shader mission (Picture: MOD).

With a $25 million (£19 million) US government bounty on his head, Major General Ghika said as a leader, Baghdadi "left his people to fight and die" and that he "gets less important by the day".

"I am pretty confident Baghdadi will be killed or caught during this campaign," Major General Ghika added.

In March, Major General Ghika told Forces News the fight against IS was "absolutely not over" after the Syrian Democratic Forces announced they had liberated the last IS-held area in Syria. 

Six months later, he says the group still poses a "credible threat to security".

"They are still a danger to the security of Iraq and north-east Syria and that's why they must be taken seriously," Major General Ghika said.

"That's why at every opportunity we say to people that this group, despite the end of their physical caliphate, are still a credible threat to security."

February 2018 Syria Baghouz Credit PA 070319
The Syrian village of Baghouz was the last IS enclave to fall (Picture: PA).

Approximately 10,000 IS fighters are thought to still be in Iraq and Syria. 

Major General Ghika said IS has now evolved from "being a force which holds ground into an insurgent-like force". 

He said there is currently a "refocused effort" by the Iraqi Security Forces to get to the places where IS appears to be trying to regain territory. 

When asked what shape he thinks IS will take in the coming years, Major General Ghika said he hopes "as they are militarily, incrementally defeated", their attraction will "go through the floor".