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Trump monitors the Baghdadi raid with Vice President Mike Pence (2nd L), National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien (L), Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (2nd R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley in the Situation Room of the White House on October 26, 2019. Photo: Shealah Craighead/The White House via Getty Images

President Trump announced on Sunday morning that shadowy ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. operation in northwestern Syria.

Why it matters: A man who inspired mass murder and multinational terrorism is now dead. The killing also, ironically, underscores the importance and effectiveness of U.S. special forces stationed in Syria, a couple weeks after Trump said it was time to bring them all home and end the endless wars.

"Last night, the United States brought the world's No. 1 terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. ... U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style. ... He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way."
— President Trump

The big picture: The Baghdadi raid demonstrates the value of continued U.S. engagement in the region, and it helps explain why Iraq’s president and others are so worried about Trump’s planned retreat.

  • 🎥 See a clip of my conversation with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad on tonight's edition of "Axios on HBO."

The story began emerging late last night, with Trump tweeting at 9:23 pm: "Something very big has just happened!" Here are details from AP:

  • In significant detail, Trump explained that Baghdadi, who presided over ISIS' global jihad and became arguably the world's most wanted man, had been under surveillance for several weeks.
  • Baghdadi was chased by dogs down a dead-end tunnel and detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and three children that he had dragged with him, Trump said.
  • Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Syrian Kurds for their assistance in the operation. Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi tweeted on Saturday night: "For five months there has been joint intel cooperation on the ground and accurate monitoring, until we achieved a joint operation to kill Abu Bakir al-Bagdadi. Thanks to everybody who participate in this great mission."
  • The operation's success could prove a major boost for Trump. The recent pullback of U.S. troops he ordered from northeastern Syria raised a storm of bipartisan criticism in Washington that the militant group could regain strength after it had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.

The backstory, from AP: "The Islamic State group erupted from the chaos of Syria and Iraq's conflicts and swiftly did what no Islamic militant group had done before, conquering a giant stretch of territory and declaring itself a 'caliphate.'"

  • "Its territorial rule, which at its height in 2014 stretched across nearly a third of both Syria and Iraq, ended in March with a last stand by several hundred of its militants."

Go deeper

8 mins ago - World

Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

President Biden will convene world leaders on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push them to do more to end the pandemic — though he's also facing criticism for prioritizing boosters at home.

Why it matters: There is still no functional plan in place to vaccinate the world, and past summits of this sort have flopped. The White House hopes that this virtual gathering will produce ambitious promises, accountability measures to track progress, and ultimately help achieve a 70% global vaccination rate this time next year.

GOP operatives accused of funneling Russian cash to Trump

Jesse Benton, spokesman for the Ron Paul campaign, speaking to reporters in the spin room after the CNN Debate on January 1, 2012. Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

A former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul was indicted this month for allegedly funneling $25,000 from a wealthy, unnamed Russian to former President Trump's reelection efforts.

The big picture: The Justice Department alleges that Jesse Benton, 43, the husband of Paul's niece and a veteran Republican staffer, orchestrated a scheme to conceal the illegal foreign donation with another GOP operative, Doug Wead.

Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 for the next fiscal year beginning in October, the State Department confirmed in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The move comes as the U.S. contends with resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees stateside, and as the world faces "unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs," the department wrote.