US News With Baghdadi in their sights, U.S. troops launched a ‘dangerous and daring nighttime raid’
US troops in Syria going to Iraq, not home as Trump claims
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — While President Donald Trump insists he's bringing home Americans from "endless wars" in the Mideast, his Pentagon chief says all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue operations against the Islamic State group. They aren't coming home and the United States isn't leaving the turbulent Middle East, according to current plans outlined by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper before he arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday. The fight in Syria against IS, once spearheaded by American allied Syrian Kurds who have been cast aside by Trump, will be undertaken by U.S. forces, possibly from neighboring Iraq.
As President Trump and senior advisers settled into the Situation Room on Saturday evening, elite U.S. forces more than 6,000 miles away launched one of the most significant counterterrorism operations in the campaign against the Islamic State.
Taking off in eight helicopters from Iraq, the troops flew over hostile territory for hundreds of miles in the early Sunday morning darkness.
Their target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the brutal founder and leader of the Islamic State, was holed up in a compound in northwestern Syria with family members and terrorist associates, and the United States had been watching him for days.
Death of IS leader is a key moment - but it's not the end
He was the man who inspired terrorist attacks around the world, encouraged horrific beheadings in Iraq and Syria and created a cultish medieval-type "caliphate".Abu Bakr al Baghdadi did not have the charisma or status of other terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden, but the impact of the terror franchise he created was felt around the world.
And it was a tip from a disaffected Islamic State militant that set the operation in motion, according to a U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation.
What followed was what Trump called a “dangerous and daring nighttime raid” that was carried off “in grand style.” It ended, he said, with Baghdadi fleeing from advancing U.S. forces into a dead-end tunnel and detonating a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children.
“He didn’t die a hero. He died a coward,” the president said. “Crying, whimpering, screaming and bringing kids with him to die. Certain death.”
Other U.S. officials declined to describe Baghdadi’s state in his last moments.
The disaffected ISIS member had become an informant for Kurdish forces working with the Americans, the official said. And he provided critical information on Baghdadi’s whereabouts.
ISIS appoints NEW leader: Former Saddam Hussein army officer Abdullah Qardash 'takes terror group's reins' barely a day after former chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'died like a dog' in US strikes
Abdullah Qardash - sometimes spelt Karshesh - was said to have been nominated by the now deceased al-Baghdadi to run the group's 'Muslim Affairs,' prior to his death.Abdullah Qardash - sometimes spelt Karshesh - was said to have been nominated by the now deceased al-Baghdadi to run the group's 'Muslim Affairs', as reported by Newsweek.
The informant emerged in early summer, and over time U.S. officials became more confident in his credibility and reliability, the official said. Within the past couple of weeks, it became clear that, when put together with other information, the tip about Baghdadi’s location was solid, the official said.
“It was a montage of a lot of pieces of intelligence that came together with a specific asset that was helpful,” the official said.
How the operation — named after Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was abducted and raped repeatedly by Baghdadi before she was killed, according to U.S. officials — came together is still something of a mystery. The troops included some Delta Force members, according to two U.S. officials, but other details, such as how they communicated with more senior commanders in Washington and beyond, and what weapons were involved, remain unknown.
Watching the Raid Was Like a Movie, the President Said. Except There Was No Live Audio.
Watching the Raid Was Like a Movie, the President Said. Except There Was No Live Audio.Mr. Trump described the video footage he watched from the White House Situation Room as “something really amazing to see.” The experience, the president said, was “as though you were watching a movie.
But in colorful and at times taunting language, Trump revealed details Sunday morning of an operation that marks one of the major victories in the five-year U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State.
The president, speaking at the White House, said he “got to watch” much of the raid beginning about 5 p.m. in Washington. He credited undisclosed technology for giving him “absolutely perfect” visuals that were “as though you were watching a movie.”
Trump, who returned to the White House from golfing at about 4 p.m., entered the Situation Room about an hour later, he said. Seated at a table in a navy suit and blue tie, he was flanked in a photo released by the White House by Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, White House national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Ex-CIA Director Critiques Trump for Claiming Baghdadi Was 'Bigger' Than Bin Laden: 'There Wasn't a Competition'
Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell said President Donald Trump's assertion that Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death was "bigger" than the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was not how the situation should be viewed. "Bin Laden was big, but this was bigger," Trump argued on Sunday during a press conference. Trump announced to reporters and the world that Baghdadi was dead after Saturday's U.S. military operation, which was first reported by Newsweek.The president said that Baghdadi was "the biggest there is" and "the worst ever.
Flying after midnight in the Middle East, the helicopters needed to cross airspace controlled by Iraq, Turkey and Russia, and U.S. officials informed them they had an operation planned without providing details. With the Russians in Syria, the Pentagon has called such communication “deconfliction” and said it has prevented accidents and mistaken intent by adversary forces.
When they arrived, they tried to call Baghdadi out to see if he would surrender, Esper said. A couple of adults and 11 children came out, a U.S. official with knowledge of the operation said.
Baghdadi remained inside, as U.S. officials assumed he might. U.S. forces responded by blowing holes in the side of the compound in an effort to avoid any booby-trapped doors, Trump said. Baghdadi retreated into a tunnel, and then detonated his vest.
Five enemy fighters were killed in the operation in the compound, and others were killed outside, the White House said in a statement. O’Brien, speaking in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said U.S. troops confirmed Baghdadi was dead at 7:15 p.m. in Washington.
“The commander of the mission called and said, ‘100 percent confidence, jackpot. . . . Got him. One hundred percent confidence jackpot, over,’ ” O’Brien said.
Despite Baghdadi's vest detonating, U.S. troops were able to recognize him, the official said. A ground commander reported to Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, chief of U.S. Central Command, that they were “absolutely convinced” it was the Islamic State leader. McKenzie in turn relayed that message to the White House. The results of the DNA test were complete Sunday morning, the official said.
A dog helped kill Baghdadi, joining a long history of canine war heroes
Since World War I, dogs have become some of the most fearsome and effective weapons on battlefields.Pershing, the commander of U.S. forces in the war, summarized his valor in a speech and pinned a medal to the soldier, who did not say a word that day in July 1921.
Milley was “emphatic” that the military had to dispose of Baghdadi’s remains in accordance with Muslim traditions, which typically require burial within 24 hours, the official said. When Navy SEALs killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, his body was buried at sea after traditional Islamic rites were performed. It was not clear Sunday whether that occurred in this case.
The remains of at least two wives were left behind. Trump said they had not detonated their vests and were still wearing them, making it too risky for U.S. troops to dispose of the bodies.
Trump said that one U.S. working dog — described by the president as “beautiful” and “talented” — was wounded after chasing Baghdadi into the tunnel. Trump said that no U.S. troops were injured, but Esper said separately that two service members suffered minor injuries.
“They've already been returned to duty,” Esper said, speaking on CNN's “State of the Union.”
Fewer than 100 U.S. troops were on the ground in the raid, with more involved in a supporting role. Several kinds of aircraft were used in the operation, including CH-47 helicopters, the secretary added. They came under fire early in the mission from “locals in the area,” and the Americans returned fire in self-defense, he said.
Videos circulating on social media Sunday from Barisha appear to depict helicopters flying at low altitudes in the dark, heavy gunfire and occasional explosions. Images taken after daybreak show the home where Baghdadi lived reduced to rubble. Esper said it was deliberately destroyed.
Pentagon releases images from al-Baghdadi operation
General Frank McKenzie released images and video from the raid that resulted in the ISIS leader's death over the weekendGeneral Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, released declassified images and video from the raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend. He described the images for reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
Trump and other U.S. officials credited Syrian Kurdish forces — whose alliance in the battle against the militants the president has recently played down as he withdraws forces from Syria — with providing useful information. Mazloum Abdi, commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said in a tweet that they had been gathering information about Baghdadi for five months, while Trump said the operation itself started two weeks ago once the United States had him “scoped.”
“We thought he would be in a certain location,” the president said. “He was. Things started checking out very well.”
But it wasn’t clear how long Baghdadi would stay in Barisha, a small village west of Aleppo.
Pence, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said the United States received information about Baghdadi’s most recent location early in the week.
“Through a combination of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, we believe we knew where he would be, and by Thursday afternoon were informed that there was a high probability he would be at the compound in Idlib province,” Pence said.
The president directed the military to develop options, and they were presented Friday, Pence said. “Actionable intelligence” obtained Saturday allowed the raid to go forward, he added.
“It was incredible to be in the Situation Room and to see this unfold in real time as our Special Forces were on the ground, to see their professionalism over a period of two hours,” he said. “America and the world are safer today with the leader of ISIS dead.”
Missy Ryan contributed to this report.
The ‘Whimpering’ Terrorist Only Trump Seems to Have Heard .
The ‘Whimpering’ Terrorist Only Trump Seems to Have HeardIn the days since President Trump gave the world a graphic account of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s last minutes, no evidence has emerged to confirm it. The secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the regional commander who oversaw the operation that killed the leader of the Islamic State all say they have no idea what the president was talking about.
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