On Sunday, President Trump announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) of Syria and Iraq and one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, had been killed in a U.S. led raid conducted near the Turkish border in northern Syria.
Addressing the nation in a live broadcast from the White House, President Trump said the radical Islamic leader was killed by a team of U.S. special forces, including Delta Force, in a “dangerous and daring” raid that ended in Baghdadi’s detonation of a suicide vest while attempting to flee his compound through a tunnel.
The intentional blast resulted in the terrorist leader’s own death as well as the death of three of his children.
President Trump, who watched from the Situation Room alongside Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and other military officials as the two-hour raid on Baghdadi’s compound unfolded, said regarding Baghdadi’s death, “He died like a dog. He died like a coward.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) was quick to praise the “brave men and women in uniform” who worked diligently to carry out the mission, describing the raid as “a major testament to our counterterrorism forces, who go into the most dangerous places in the world to ensure our nation remains secure.”
No U.S. service members were killed during Saturday’s raid, though one military dog was injured after chasing Baghdadi into the tunnel where he ultimately detonated his suicide vest. Two of his wives were also killed separately during the course of the mission.
Though the name and breed of the injured canine have not been released, officials said the military dog is recovering nicely and has already returned to service.
The successful mission also led to the capture of ISIS fighters as well as eleven of Baghdadi’s children.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-2), a former U.S. Navy SEAL with five overseas deployments under his belt, said regarding the successful mission, “Today is a good day in America. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead and our enemy is significantly weaker. I’m proud of our U.S. Special Operators who carried out this high-risk mission and applaud the administration for its decisive action. This is what is possible with forward-deployed presence and strong, intelligence-sharing relationships.”
President Trump thanked the Kurds for the coordination and information-sharing that helped in making the operation successful, despite receiving criticism from both Republicans and Democrats in recent weeks for his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which some see as an abandonment of U.S. Kurdish allies in the region.
Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the commander in chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, also issued praises for intelligence sharing efforts.
“For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Bagdadi. Thanks to everybody who participate [sic] in this great mission.”
In addition to Kurdish forces, President Trump also said the U.S. mission was further assisted through information sharing and coordinated efforts with Turkey, Syria, Russia, and Iraq.
After years of speculation about the terrorist leader’s whereabouts and at times, speculation about if he was even still alive, the president said Baghdadi’s identity was positively confirmed through DNA analysis post-mortem.
Though Baghdadi’s death is a victory in the fight against ISIS, retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a statement of gratitude and caution, reminding Americans of the national security threat terrorist organizations still pose to the United States.
“Killing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an important achievement in the fight against ISIS. I am grateful to our men and women in uniform, our intelligence professionals, and our allies who contributed to this success. We have robbed ISIS of their founder and leader. That is significant, but the threat of ISIS did not die with him,” Congressman Thornberry said.
Rep. Thornberry’s statements come as the National Defense Authorization Act – a bill that effectively authorizes funding for the nation’s military and national defense entities – moves to conference committee before presumed finalization before the end of the year.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.