Donald Trump is facing renewed criticism for his decision to withdraw U.S. Troops from Syria and leave the Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone after it’s revealed Kurdish intelligence gathered the most information to help locate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leading to his eventual demise Saturday.
Al-Baghdadi, 48, the elusive leader of the Islamic State, killed himself and his three children by deploying his suicide vest as U.S. Special Ops forces raided his hideaway last night in Idlib, northwest Syria.
Donald Trump beamed with pride when he announced that ISIS leader’s death hours later, touting the news as a giant triumph for his administration and boasted it was even more profound than the Obama administration’s military strike against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
‘Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,’ Trump declared. ‘He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.’
The U.S. military operation to strike ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a success despite actions by President Donald Trump, according to military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials
Al-Baghdadi (above) was tracked down following the arrest and interrogation of one of his wives and a courier this past summer, but the plans to strike his compound were jeopardized when Trump announced he would pull American troops out of Syria
However, in the hours since, two intelligence officials revealed to the New York Times it was actually Syrian and Iraqi Kurds who provided the most information about al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and were instrumental in bringing him down.
In fact, officials started to narrow down al-Baghdadi’s location and plan the raid this past summer, but the operation to strike his hideout was nearly blown out of the water when President Trump abruptly announced plans to withdraw American troops from northern Syria.
The bold move forced Pentagon officials to green light the night raid before their control of troops, spies, and reconnaissance aircraft was withdrawn, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials revealed to the Times.
Those officials say that al-Baghdadi’s death comes largely in spite of Trump’s military leadership, with the Kurds continuing to provide information to the CIA even after Trump’s announcement, which left them vulnerable to attack from an aggressive Turkish front.
The president proudly announced the death of the elusive terror leader on Sunday, but officials say that he only created hurdles in the military operations to capture al-Baghdadi. The White House released this photo of Trump in the Situation Room on Sunday. From left to right: National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark Milley and Brig. General Marcus Evans
It took months for CIA agents to narrow down the location of the notorious al-Baghdadi. He was finally tracked down following the arrest and interrogation of one of his wives and a courier this past summer, two American officials said to the Times.
The pair betrayed al-Baghdadi and surrendered small fractions of information that enabled American, Iraqi, and Kurdish forces to narrow down his whereabouts to Idlib.
Following that tip the CIA worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to find his precise locations and to embed spies to monitor his movements that led to the raid.
One official noted that the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country did.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper told ABC that he did not know if the United States would have been able to carry out the helicopter raid against Mr. Baghdadi’s compound had American troops been completely withdrawn from Syria, as Trump had originally planned.
Regardless, in his press conference earlier today, Trump insisted he has no regrets about withdrawing from the region.
Officials started to narrow down al-Baghdadi’s location and plan the raid this past summer, but the operation to strike his hideout was nearly blown out of the water when President Trump abruptly decided to withdraw American troops from northern Syria. A satellite view of al-Baghdadi’s compound near the village of Barisha in Syria pictured above
The rubble left in the wake of Sunday’s raid in Barisha where ‘group linked to the Islamic State group’ were present pictured above
Syrians walk past a damaged van at the site of helicopter gunfire during Sunday’s military strike that resulted in al-Baghdadi’s death
The entire raid took two hours and ended when al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel in his compound along with three of his children and detonated his suicide vest. Following the raid, American warplanes bombed his compound
In the hours since, the president has been slammed repeatedly for the declaration, a backlash led by democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
‘My understanding, interestingly enough, is that that mission was accomplished with information supplied by the Kurds, and as we know Trump has turned his back and betrayed the Kurds,’ Sanders told reporters Sunday.
‘I think that will have a negative impact, on not only that region of the world, but in terms of relationships with allies from one end of this planet to the other.’
Online, President Trump featured in hundreds of similarly critical statements admonishing him for thanking Russia first over the Kurds, and taking credit for their diligent work.
‘The success of the Al-Baghdadi operation was the result of a five month joint intelligence gathering on the ground by the Kurds and the US Intel community,’ journalist Rula Jubreal tweeted. ‘The Kurdish allies who helped the US get Al-Baghdadi were betrayed by Trump, who now takes credit for the Kurds’ efforts.’
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake made a similar conclusion, tweeting: ‘One striking thing: Kurdish SDF said this was a joint operation. But Trump first thanks Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq, then mentioned “certain support [the Kurds] were able to give us”.’
In the hours since, the president has been slammed repeatedly for the declaration, a backlash led by democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Online, President Trump featured in hundreds of similarly critical statements admonishing him for thanking Russia first over the Kurds, and taking credit for their diligent work.
The raid was launched around midnight Sunday morning, which was 5pm EST on Saturday in Washington D.C., where Trump was watching a feed of the strike from the White House Situation Room.
In the operation eight American helicopters, mostly CH-47 Chinooks took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.
The helicopters then flew low and fast to avoid detection, and were subjected to sporadic ground fire, in the perilous 70-minute flight. Once they arrived to their destination they released a hail of gunfire on a compound of buildings as a cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs.
The commandos then dismounted at al-Baghdadi’s compound, blowing up one of its walls which allowed them to rush in. Once inside they confronted a group of ISIS fighters.
The Delta Force officers entered the compound where they shot and killed a number of people and removed 11 children from area.
Fearing capture al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel taking three of his children with him while American troops were on his tail. Fearing he was armed with a suicide vest, which he was, the troops sent a military dog after him.
In the tunnel the Islamic State leader detonated his suicide vest, wounding the dog and killing the three kids.
The entire raid lasted around one hour and ten minutes.
In Trump’s description of the successful strike he said: ‘I got to watch much of it. Al-Baghdadi died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.’
‘The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.
‘He died like a dog,’ Trump added.
After clearing out, American warplanes bombed the compound to assure it was physically destroyed. By 9pm Saturday in Washington D.C. Trump tweeted ‘Something very big has just happened!’