Oct 28, 2019

Baghdadi raid depended on international ties Trump has spurned

A view of what is believed to have been the raid site. Photo: Omar Hag Kadour/AFP via Getty Images

To kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — arguably the most important national security accomplishment of the Trump presidency, along with wiping out ISIS' caliphate — the U.S. relied on many tools President Trump has spurned.

Why it matters: Trump has said President George W. Bush's Middle East invasion was the greatest mistake in American history. Trump says he wants to end endless wars, and bring troops home from Syria — but events keep pulling him back.

  • The raid's planners needed a U.S. ground presence in Iraq, where the mission launched and returned.
  • They depended on intelligence from Kurdish partners on the ground.
  • And they needed America’s engagement on the ground in Syria for intel and situational awareness.

The N.Y. Times reports that Trump’s abrupt order three weeks ago for the U.S. withdrawal from Syria "disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared."

  • The bottom line: Trump chose the option that took out the leader of ISIS, who inspired thousands of terrorists in dozens of countries.

In an interview with Swan that aired last night on "Axios on HBO," Iraqi President Barham Salih — long known as a pro-American leader — warned that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria could increase the danger of an ISIS resurgence.

  • The nearly hour-long interview was conducted last Monday, in one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces.
  • Salih says he is no longer sure he can rely on the U.S. as an ally — and may be ready to "recalibrate" Iraq's relationship with other countries, including Iran and Russia.
  • Salih also said he was "worried" about war breaking out between the U.S. and Iran — and said Iraq can't afford to pick sides in such a war.

Brett McGurk — who served under President George W. Bush as senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan, and Presidents Obama and Trump as special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS — writes for WaPo:

  • "Trump deserves full credit for approving the operation that led to Baghdadi’s demise. It’s a shame the information that led to the raid apparently did not come to him before the tragic decision to abruptly pull U.S. Special Forces from much of northeastern Syria."
  • 🥊 "Because everything we already know about the raid reinforces just how valuable, unique and hard-fought the small and sustainable American presence there had been."

What's next ... David E. Sanger writes in the N.Y. Times: "[W]hile the raid achieved its goal, it did little to resolve the question of whether Mr. Trump’s instinct for disengagement will create room for new strains of violent radicalism that he and his successors will be forced to clean up."

Go deeper: Iraq's president reveals Trump fears; warns of war, ethnic cleansing

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Biden says Trump's foreign policy will likely boost ISIS

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses a crowd at Wilson High Schooin Florence, South Carolina, on Oct. 26. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told the Washington Post President Trump's conduct would likely bolster Islamic State recruitment and cause more instability in the Middle East because he "has no foreign policy" and "seems to act on a whim."

Why it matters: Those comments and further criticism in a Medium blog of Trump's conduct following the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a U.S. operation in northwestern Syria show that foreign policy is a key strategy of the Biden campaign.

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Harris likens Trump's Baghdadi announcement to video game commentary

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris during an interview with "Late Night" host Seth Meyers Monday. Photo: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris denounced President Trump on NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers" for his "extraordinary" remarks at a news conference announcing the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

You would’ve [thought] that he was talking about watching and giving commentary on a video game."
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ISIS confirms death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and announces new leader

An image-grab taken from an ISIS propaganda video of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

ISIS confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Thursday, naming his successor Abu Ibrahim Hashimi al-Quraishi in a message posted by the Islamic State's propaganda arm, NBC News reports.

The big picture: The group also acknowledged that its former spokesman, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed in a separate strike, per the New York Times. This is the first time ISIS has recognized al-Baghdadi's death following the American-led raid into northern Syria last weekend. NBC reported Thursday that al-Baghdidi had been betrayed by a member of his inner circle who guided U.S. troops to his compound. U.S. officials warned they expect extremist groups to try and retaliate.

Go deeper: Baghdadi raid depended on international ties Trump has spurned

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