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Westlake Legal Group > Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance

Westlake Legal Group 30TRUMPMILITARY-trumpalt-facebookJumbo Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Navy Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Mosul (Iraq) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

He was limp and dusty from an explosion, conscious but barely. A far cry from the fierce, masked Islamic State fighters who once seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, the captive was a scraggly teenager in a tank top with limbs so thin that his watch slid easily off his wrist.

Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher and other Navy SEALs gave the young captive medical aid that day in Iraq in 2017, sedating him and cutting an airway in his throat to help him breathe. Then, without warning, according to colleagues, Chief Gallagher pulled a small hunting knife from a sheath and stabbed the sedated captive in the neck.

The same Chief Gallagher who later posed for a photograph holding the dead captive up by the hair has now been celebrated on the campaign trail by President Trump, who upended the military code of justice to protect him from the punishment resulting from the episode. Prodded by Fox News, Mr. Trump has made Chief Gallagher a cause célèbre, trumpeting him as an argument for his re-election.

The violent encounter in a faraway land opened a two-year affair that would pit a Pentagon hierarchy wedded to longstanding rules of combat and discipline against a commander in chief with no experience in uniform but a finely honed sense of grievance against authority. The highest ranks in the Navy insisted Chief Gallagher be held accountable. Mr. Trump overruled the chain of command and the secretary of the Navy was fired.

The case of the president and a commando accused of war crimes offers a lesson in how Mr. Trump presides over the armed forces three years after taking office. While he boasts of supporting the military, he has come to distrust the generals and admirals who run it. Rather than accept information from his own government, he responds to television reports that grab his interest. Warned against crossing lines, he bulldozes past precedent and norms.

As a result, the president finds himself more removed than ever from a disenchanted military command, adding the armed forces to the institutions under his authority that he has feuded with, along with the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and diplomatic corps.

“We’re going to take care of our warriors and I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Florida as he depicted the military hierarchy as part of “the deep state” he vowed to dismantle. “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me whatsoever.”

The president’s handling of the case has distressed active-duty and retired officers and the civilians who work closely with them. Mr. Trump’s intervention, they said, emboldens war criminals and erodes the order of a professional military.

“He’s interfering with the chain of command, which is trying to police its own ranks,” said Peter D. Feaver, a specialist on civilian-military relations at Duke University and former aide to President George W. Bush. “They’re trying to clean up their act and in the middle of it the president parachutes in — and not from information from his own commanders but from news talking heads who are clearly gaming the system.”

Chris Shumake, a former sniper who served in Chief Gallagher’s platoon, said in an interview that he was troubled by the impact the president’s intervention could have on the SEALs.

“It’s blown up bigger than any of us could have ever expected, and turned into a national clown show that put a bad light on the teams,” said Mr. Shumake, speaking publicly for the first time. “He’s trying to show he has the troops’ backs, but he’s saying he doesn’t trust any of the troops or their leaders to make the right decisions.”

Chief Gallagher, who has denied any wrongdoing, declined through his lawyer to be interviewed. Mr. Trump’s allies said the president was standing up to political correctness that hamstrings the warriors the nation asks to defend it, as if war should be fought according to lawyerly rules.

“From the beginning, this was overzealous prosecutors who were not giving the benefit of the doubt to the trigger-pullers,” Pete Hegseth, a weekend host of “Fox & Friends” who has promoted Chief Gallagher to the president both on the telephone and on air, said this past week. “That’s what the president saw.”

Chief Gallagher, 40, a seasoned operator with a deeply weathered face from eight combat deployments, sometimes went by the nickname Blade. He sought out the toughest assignments, where gunfire and blood were almost guaranteed. Months before deploying, he sent a text to the SEAL master chief making assignments, saying he was “down to go” to any spot, no matter how awful, so long as “there is for sure action and work to be done.”

“We don’t care about living conditions,” he added. “We just want to kill as many people as possible.”

Before deployment, he commissioned a friend and former SEAL to make him a custom hunting knife and a hatchet, vowing in a text, “I’ll try and dig that knife or hatchet on someone’s skull!”

He was in charge of 22 men in SEAL Team 7’s Alpha Platoon, which deployed to Mosul, Iraq, in early 2017. But his platoon was nowhere near the action, assigned an “advise and assist” mission supporting Iraqi commandos doing the block-by-block fighting. The SEALs were required to stay 1,000 meters behind the front lines.

That changed on May 6, 2017, when an Apache helicopter banked over a dusty patchwork of fields outside Mosul, fixed its sights on a farmhouse serving as an Islamic State command post and fired two Hellfire missiles reducing it to rubble.

Chief Gallagher saw the distant explosion from an armored gun truck. When he heard on the radio that Iraqi soldiers had captured an Islamic State fighter and took him to a nearby staging area, he raced to the scene. “No one touch him,” he radioed other SEALs. “He’s mine.”

When the captive was killed, other SEALs were shocked. A medic inches from Chief Gallagher testified that he froze, unsure what to do. Some SEALs said in interviews that the stabbing immediately struck them as wrong, but because it was Chief Gallagher, the most experienced commando in the group, no one knew how to react. When senior platoon members confronted Chief Gallagher, they said, he told them, “Stop worrying about it; they do a lot worse to us.”

The officer in charge, Lt. Jacob Portier, who was in his first command, gathered everyone for trophy photos, then held a re-enlistment ceremony for Chief Gallagher over the corpse, several SEALs testified.

A week later, Chief Gallagher sent a friend in California a text with a photo of himself with a knife in one hand, holding the captive up by the hair with the other. “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife,” he wrote.

As the deployment wore on, SEALs said the chief’s behavior grew more erratic. He led a small team beyond the front lines, telling members to turn off locator beacons so they would not be caught by superiors, according to four SEALS, who confirmed video of the mission obtained by The New York Times. He then tried to cover up the mission when one platoon member was shot.

At various points, he appeared to be either amped up or zoned out; several SEALs told investigators they saw him taking pills, including the narcotic Tramadol. He spent much of his time scanning the streets of Mosul from hidden sniper nests, firing three or four times as often as the platoon’s snipers, sometimes targeting civilians.

One SEAL sniper told investigators he heard a shot from Chief Gallagher’s position, then saw a schoolgirl in a flower-print hijab crumple to the ground. Another sniper reported hearing a shot from Chief Gallagher’s position, then seeing a man carrying a water jug fall, a red blotch spreading on his back. Neither episode was investigated and the fate of the civilians remains unknown.

Chief Gallagher had been accused of misconduct before, including shooting through an Afghan girl to hit the man carrying her in 2010 and trying to run over a Navy police officer in 2014. But in both cases no wrongdoing was found.

SEALs said they reported concerns to Lieutenant Portier with no result. The lieutenant outranked Chief Gallagher but was younger and less experienced. SEALs said in interviews that the chief often yelled at his commanding officer or disregarded him altogether. After the deployment, Lieutenant Portier was charged with not reporting the chief for war crimes but charges were dropped. So SEALs said they started firing warning shots to keep pedestrians out of range. One SEAL told investigators he tried to damage the chief’s rifle to make it less accurate.

By the end of the deployment, SEALs said, Chief Gallagher was largely isolated from the rest of the platoon, with some privately calling him “el diablo,” or the devil.

Chief Gallagher was reported by six fellow SEALs and arrested in September 2017, charged with nearly a dozen counts including murder and locked in the brig in San Diego to await his trial. He denied the charges and called those reporting him liars who could not meet his high standards, referring to them repeatedly in public as “the mean girls” and saying they sought to get rid of him.

David Shaw, a former SEAL who deployed with the platoon, said he saw no evidence of that. “All six were some of the best performers in the platoon,” he said, speaking publicly for the first time. “These were guys were hand-selected by the chief based on their skills and abilities, and they are guys of the highest character.”

Chief Gallagher’s case was already simmering on the conservative talk show circuit when another service member, Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret, was charged last winter with killing an unarmed man linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan. On Dec. 16, barely minutes after a segment on “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump took to Twitter to say he would review the case, repeating language from the segment.

In the tweet, Mr. Trump included the handle of Mr. Hegseth, who speaks regularly with the president and has been considered for top jobs in the administration. An Army veteran, Mr. Hegseth served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading two conservative veterans organizations “committed to victory on the battlefield,” as the biography for his speaker’s bureau puts it.

Upset at what he sees as “Monday morning quarterbacking” of soldiers fighting a shadowy enemy where “second-guessing was deadly,” Mr. Hegseth has for years defended troops charged with war crimes, including Chief Gallagher, Major Golsteyn and Lt. Clint Lorance, often appealing directly to the president on Fox News.

“These are men who went into the most dangerous places on earth with a job to defend us and made tough calls on a moment’s notice,” Mr. Hegseth said on Fox in May. “They’re not war criminals, they’re warriors, who have now been accused of certain things that are under review.”

Mr. Hegseth found a ready ally in Mr. Trump, a graduate of a military high school who avoided serving in Vietnam by citing bone spurs in his foot. Mr. Trump has long sought to identify himself with the toughest of soldiers and loves boasting of battlefield exploits to the point that he made up details of an account of a “whimpering” Islamic State leader killed in October.

In March, the president twice called Richard V. Spencer, the Navy secretary, asking him to release Chief Gallagher from pretrial confinement in a Navy brig, Mr. Spencer later wrote in The Washington Post. After Mr. Spencer pushed back, Mr. Trump made it an order.

By May, Mr. Trump prepared to pardon both Chief Gallagher and Major Golsteyn for Memorial Day, even though neither had yet faced trial. At the Pentagon, a conservative bastion where Fox News is the network of choice on office televisions, senior officials were aghast. They persuaded Mr. Trump to hold off. But that was not the end of the matter.

In June, Chief Gallagher appeared before a military jury of five Marines and two sailors in a two-week trial marred by accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. The medic who had been inches away from Chief Gallagher changed his story on the stand, claiming that he was the one who killed the captive.

In early July, the jury acquitted Chief Gallagher on all charges but one: posing for a trophy photo with a corpse. He was sentenced to the maximum four months in prison and demoted. Having already been confined awaiting trial, he walked out of the courtroom a free man.

“Congratulations to Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, his wonderful wife Andrea, and his entire family,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “You have been through much together. Glad I could help!”

In the months afterward, Chief Gallagher was feted on conservative talk shows. Mr. Hegseth spoke privately with Mr. Trump about the case.

As it happened, the president shares a lawyer with Chief Gallagher — Marc Mukasey, a former prosecutor representing Mr. Trump in proceedings against his company. Mr. Mukasey said he never discussed Chief Gallagher with anyone in the administration. “I have been religious about keeping matters separate,” he said.

Another person with ties to Mr. Trump who worked on Chief Gallagher’s case was Bernard B. Kerik, a New York City police commissioner under former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is now the president’s personal lawyer. Like Mr. Hegseth, Mr. Kerik repeatedly appeared on Fox News pleading Chief Gallagher’s case.

The much-investigated president saw shades of himself in the case — Chief Gallagher’s lawyers accused prosecutors of improprieties, a claim that advisers said resonated with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Spencer tried to head off further intervention. On Nov. 14, the Navy secretary sent a note to the president asking him not to get involved again. But Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, called to say Mr. Trump would order Chief Gallagher’s punishment reversed and his rank restored. In addition, he pardoned Major Golsteyn and Lieutenant Lorance.

“This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention in a low-level review,” Mr. Spencer wrote. “It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”

Mr. Spencer threatened to resign. The Army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, also weighed in, arguing that the country’s standards of military justice protected American troops by setting those troops up as a standard around the world.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper took the complaints to the president. The Pentagon also sent an information packet to the White House describing the cases, including a primer on why there is a Uniform Code of Military Justice. Mr. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the president it was important to allow the process to go forward.

Caught in the middle was Rear Adm. Collin Green, who took command of the SEALs four days before Chief Gallagher was arrested. He made it a priority to restore what he called “good order and discipline” after a series of scandals, tightening grooming standards and banning unofficial patches with pirate flags, skulls, heads on pikes and other grim symbols used to denote rogue cliques, similar to motorcycle gangs.

For Admiral Green, the Gallagher case posed a challenge because after his acquittal, the chief regularly undermined the SEAL command, appearing without authorization on Fox News and insulting the admiral and other superiors on social media as “a bunch of morons.”

The admiral wanted to take Chief Gallagher’s Trident pin, casting him out of the force. He called both Mr. Spencer and the chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, and said he understood the potential backlash from the White House, but in nearly all cases SEALs with criminal convictions had their Tridents taken.

Both Mr. Spencer and Admiral Gilday agreed the decision was his to make and said they would defend his call. Mr. Esper briefed Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on Nov. 19 and the next day the Navy established a review board of fellow enlisted SEALs to decide the question.

But a day later, an hour after the chief’s lawyer blasted the decision on Fox News, the president stepped in again. “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”

Three days later, Mr. Spencer was fired, faulted by Mr. Esper for not telling him about an effort to work out a deal with the White House to allow the Navy process to go forward.

In an interview with Mr. Hegseth this past week, Chief Gallagher thanked Mr. Trump for having his back. “He keeps stepping in and doing the right thing,” the chief said. “I want to let him know the rest of the SEAL community is not about this right now. They all respect the president.”

Dave Philipps reported from Colorado Springs, Co., Peter Baker and Helene Cooper from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria

By

MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.

American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.

On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

The resumption of extensive counterterrorism operations capped a tumultuous two months in which many of the nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order. Separately, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under a subsequent order from Mr. Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS, as well as from the Syrian government and its Russian partners.

When the dust settles on all of the troop movements, General McKenzie said he would have about 500 American forces, or half of what he had before Mr. Trump’s directives, operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into Syria’s far northeast along the border with Iraq.

American commandos and their Syrian Kurdish partners conducted some low-level missions after the withdrawal order. But now that Americans and Kurds had regrouped their joint operations in the much smaller area, General McKenzie said, they could resume bigger missions against ISIS.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 25dc-isis2-articleLarge U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Saturday that relations between the United States and the Kurds were now “pretty good.”Credit…Mazen Mahdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” General McKenzie said in describing what was left of ISIS’s religious state that at its peak was the size of Britain. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”

The operation on Friday in Deir al-Zour province against several ISIS compounds killed or wounded “multiple” ISIS fighters and resulted in the capture of more than a dozen others, according to a statement from the American military coalition in Baghdad, which oversees the operations in Syria.

After the American withdrawal from the border, Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for a cease-fire. The deal amounted to a near-total victory for Mr. Erdogan, as thousands of Syrian Kurds were forced to flee south, often battling with ill-disciplined Turkish proxy forces as they went.

The United States considers the Syrian Kurds a pivotal partner in the fight on the ground against ISIS, but Turkey views them as terrorists, a distinction that has repeatedly put Washington in a difficult position.

Syrian Kurds who counted the United States as a friend and an ally accused Washington of betrayal immediately after the withdrawal from the border and the Turkish offensive. Army Green Berets who had fought alongside the Kurds and praised them for their valor said they felt ashamed at how the United States had treated the Kurds.

General McKenzie insisted that relations between the two sides were now “pretty good.” He did not say, however, how long American troops would stay in northern Syria. “We don’t have an end date,” he said twice during an interview with reporters on Saturday.

With a mercurial president who has twice in 10 months ordered all American troops out of Syria immediately — only to reverse himself twice after aides implored him to reconsider — other senior commanders say the Pentagon has to be ready for another no-notice message on Twitter that American troops are leaving, oil or not.

It was a message that Mr. Pence, on an unannounced pre-Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, repeated on Saturday even as he sought to reinforce the administration’s support for the Kurds and the mission of protecting the oil fields. “President Trump is always going to look for opportunities to bring our troops home and to take these men and women out of harm’s way,” Mr. Pence said.

The immediate fight may be on again against ISIS, but General McKenzie said that protecting the oil fields might ultimately draw a larger challenge from Syrian Army troops west of the Euphrates. “I’d expect at some point the regime will come forward to that ground,” General McKenzie said in a separate interview before the security conference.

The last time pro-Syrian government forces threatened American troops near the oil fields, in February 2018, the United States unleashed an artillery and aerial bombardment that left 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters dead. Most of that American air power is still nearby.

At the security conference in Manama on Saturday, several top European and Middle Eastern officials urged their counterparts to continue applying unrelenting pressure on ISIS, which is also called Daesh, in northern Syria.

“ISIS leaders have been killed and territory reclaimed, but the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there,” said France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly. “France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces.”

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, added that ISIS also posed “an ideological challenge with which we are also having to deal and which, frankly, only us in the region can take the lead in this fight.”

“We need to expose terrorists for the thugs that they are,” he added.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria

By

MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.

American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.

On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

The resumption of extensive counterterrorism operations capped a tumultuous two months in which many of the nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order. Separately, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under a subsequent order from Mr. Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS, as well as from the Syrian government and its Russian partners.

When the dust settles on all of the troop movements, General McKenzie said he would have about 500 American forces, or half of what he had before Mr. Trump’s directives, operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into Syria’s far northeast along the border with Iraq.

American commandos and their Syrian Kurdish partners conducted some low-level missions after the withdrawal order. But now that Americans and Kurds had regrouped their joint operations in the much smaller area, General McKenzie said, they could resume bigger missions against ISIS.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 25dc-isis2-articleLarge U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Saturday that relations between the United States and the Kurds were now “pretty good.”Credit…Mazen Mahdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” General McKenzie said in describing what was left of ISIS’s religious state that at its peak was the size of Britain. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”

The operation on Friday in Deir al-Zour province against several ISIS compounds killed or wounded “multiple” ISIS fighters and resulted in the capture of more than a dozen others, according to a statement from the American military coalition in Baghdad, which oversees the operations in Syria.

After the American withdrawal from the border, Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for a cease-fire. The deal amounted to a near-total victory for Mr. Erdogan, as thousands of Syrian Kurds were forced to flee south, often battling with ill-disciplined Turkish proxy forces as they went.

The United States considers the Syrian Kurds a pivotal partner in the fight on the ground against ISIS, but Turkey views them as terrorists, a distinction that has repeatedly put Washington in a difficult position.

Syrian Kurds who counted the United States as a friend and an ally accused Washington of betrayal immediately after the withdrawal from the border and the Turkish offensive. Army Green Berets who had fought alongside the Kurds and praised them for their valor said they felt ashamed at how the United States had treated the Kurds.

General McKenzie insisted that relations between the two sides were now “pretty good.” He did not say, however, how long American troops would stay in northern Syria. “We don’t have an end date,” he said twice during an interview with reporters on Saturday.

With a mercurial president who has twice in 10 months ordered all American troops out of Syria immediately — only to reverse himself twice after aides implored him to reconsider — other senior commanders say the Pentagon has to be ready for another no-notice message on Twitter that American troops are leaving, oil or not.

It was a message that Mr. Pence, on an unannounced pre-Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, repeated on Saturday even as he sought to reinforce the administration’s support for the Kurds and the mission of protecting the oil fields. “President Trump is always going to look for opportunities to bring our troops home and to take these men and women out of harm’s way,” Mr. Pence said.

The immediate fight may be on again against ISIS, but General McKenzie said that protecting the oil fields might ultimately draw a larger challenge from Syrian Army troops west of the Euphrates. “I’d expect at some point the regime will come forward to that ground,” General McKenzie said in a separate interview before the security conference.

The last time pro-Syrian government forces threatened American troops near the oil fields, in February 2018, the United States unleashed an artillery and aerial bombardment that left 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters dead. Most of that American air power is still nearby.

At the security conference in Manama on Saturday, several top European and Middle Eastern officials urged their counterparts to continue applying unrelenting pressure on ISIS, which is also called Daesh, in northern Syria.

“ISIS leaders have been killed and territory reclaimed, but the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there,” said France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly. “France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces.”

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, added that ISIS also posed “an ideological challenge with which we are also having to deal and which, frankly, only us in the region can take the lead in this fight.”

“We need to expose terrorists for the thugs that they are,” he added.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Turkey’s Deportations Force Europe to Face Its ISIS Militants

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163136634_c48fc4a7-2965-42f7-89d6-828255a0a973-facebookJumbo Turkey’s Deportations Force Europe to Face Its ISIS Militants Turkey Terrorism Politics and Government Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Immigration and Emigration Great Britain Gondal, Tooba France Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Detainees Deportation

PARIS — As Turkey followed through on its threat to release more Islamic State detainees last week, Western European nations were confronted with a problem they had long sought to avoid: what to do about the potential return of radicalized, often battle-hardened Europeans to countries that absolutely do not want them back.

Faced with fierce popular opposition to the repatriation of such detainees and fears over the long-term threat they could pose back home, European leaders have sought alternative ways to prosecute them — in an international tribunal, on Iraqi soil, anywhere but on the Continent.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, made more powerful by a sudden shift in American policy, is determined to foist the problem of the captured European Islamic State fighters back on the countries they came from.

Last week, Turkey sent a dozen former Islamic State members and relatives to Britain, Denmark, Germany and the United States, and Mr. Erdogan says hundreds more are right behind them.

“All of the European countries, especially those with most of the foreign fighters, have desperately been looking for the past year for a way to deal with them without bringing them back,” said Rik Coolsaet, an expert on radicalization at the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based research group. “But now, European nations are being forced to consider repatriation since Turkey is going to put people on the plane.”

The sudden problem for Europe is a long-tail consequence of President Trump’s precipitous decision last month to withdraw American forces from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to take control of territory as well as many of the Islamic State members who had been held there in Kurdish-run prisons or detention camps.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that nearly two-thirds of the Western European detainees, or about 700, are children, many of whom have lost one parent, if not both.

Now that more of the former fighters are in Turkish hands, Mr. Erdogan has not hesitated to use the threat of returning them as leverage over European countries who have been deeply critical of his incursion, and who have threatened sanctions against Turkey for unauthorized oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus.

The fate of the former fighters and their families has become yet another point of contention between Turkey and Europe, which is already paying Mr. Erdogan’s government billions of dollars to stem the flow of asylum seekers from conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Turkey is already home to some three million refugees from the Syria conflict, and Mr. Erdogan is determined to lighten his country’s load. But his real intent remains unclear: Does he really plan to send back all foreign fighters to Europe? Or is he opening the spigot, with the threat of a flood to come, to wring concessions from Europe?

What is clear is that with limited military reach in Syria, European nations are ever more vulnerable to Mr. Erdogan’s whims. Turkish officials say that Turkey now holds 2,280 Islamic State members from 30 countries, and that all of them will be deported.

The problem is not Europe’s alone. On Friday, Turkey deported an American it described as an Islamic State member, Muhammad Darwish Bassam, to the United States. Last week, a federal judge in the United States ruled that an American-born woman who joined the Islamic State in 2014 was not an American citizen, potentially thwarting her return.

But the numbers and risks for Europe are far greater than for the United States. More than 1,100 citizens of countries in Western Europe are believed to be detained in northern Syria in territory once controlled by the Islamic State, according to a recent study by the Egmont Institute.

Their potential return has confronted European justice systems with competing security and civil liberties demands as they attempt to vet returnees, decide whether to detain them, and build cases on potential crimes that often happened hundred of miles away on remote Syrian battlefields.

France, the Western European nation with the most detainees in Syria, is getting ready to take back 11 former Islamic State members. The Netherlands has also agreed to take back some of its citizens.

On Thursday, a 26-year-old man suspected of being an Islamic State fighter was arrested after landing at London’s Heathrow Airport on a flight from Turkey.

That same day, seven members of a German-Iraqi family arrived in Berlin from Turkey, from which they had been deported after several months in custody over suspected links to terrorism.

The father was detained, but the other family members were allowed to return to their homes.

On Friday, a woman deported by Turkey was detained upon arrival at Frankfurt Airport on suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization abroad. Federal prosecutors in Germany said the woman, a German citizen identified only as Nasim A., left the country in 2014 and married an ISIS fighter, whom she supported until Kurdish-led security forces detained her this year.

A second woman was released after landing in Germany, but will be tracked by experts on de-radicalization.

German officials said they believed more than 130 people left the country to join ISIS, 95 of whom were German citizens and had the right to return to the country. Nearly a third of the Germans are under investigation by federal prosecutors.

French officials said there had been no change in French policy, which opposes repatriation from Syria.

But pressure has been building, and security experts and some government officials have increasingly warned that the repatriation of militants — and their processing in European courts and detention in prisons — would be the only way to ensure Europe’s safety.

The deteriorating situation in northern Syria, some experts say, further increases the need for an orderly repatriation to Europe.

Left in Syria, more detainees could fall into the hands of Turkish forces or the Syrian government, which could use them as bargaining chips with the West.

Others could run away and try to regroup, or be taken back by Islamic State sleeper cells, as is feared in the case of some women who recently escaped from a camp in the region.

“There are a lot of risks associated with the policy of leaving them where they are,’’ said Anthony Dworkin, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who has studied the Islamic State’s foreign fighters.

The potential dangers and difficulties are vividly demonstrated in the case of Tooba Gondal, a 25-year-old French citizen of Pakistani origin who grew up and lived in London until she traveled to Syria in 2015. She is believed to still be in the custody of the Turkish authorities.

A mother of two, she does not speak French and had spent most of her life in Britain, and although French intelligence services knew of her case, it is unclear that they had expected her to come to France.

“Tooba Gondal is a very notorious ISIS female recruiter, but until recently she wasn’t on the radar of French intelligence services,” said Jean-Charles Brisard of the Paris-based Center for Analysis of Terrorism, who was first to reveal that she would be deported.

A former London university student, Ms. Gondal became known in the British news media as an Islamic State “matchmaker.” She is accused of persuading other young Western women, like the British schoolgirl Shamima Begum, to marry Islamic State fighters.

She also posed with assault rifles in pictures on social media, and praised the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015.

In recent months, Ms. Gondal has pleaded to be taken back to Britain, which had issued an expulsion order against her in 2018. She declared in an open letter to The Sunday Times of London that she was a “changed person” who wished to “face justice in a British court.” As a non-British citizen but a French passport holder, she is now likely to be deported to France.

France has already repatriated more than 250 Islamic State fighters and their families from Turkey since signing a bilateral agreement with the government there in 2014. But 400 French citizens are still estimated to be detained in Syria, according to the Egmont Institute, and France does not want them back.

Instead, France wants Iraq to try them, especially the male fighters. French officials have led European negotiations with the Iraqi government to set up trials in Iraq. But disagreements between Iraqi and European officials — over legal matters like the death penalty and costs — have prevented an accord.

“It is legitimate that people who have committed terrorist acts should be judged closest to the place where they committed those said terrorist acts,’’ Sibeth Ndiaye, a spokeswoman for the French government, said at a meeting of the Anglo-American Press Association.

The other French citizens expected to return home — three Frenchwomen and their five children, all under 4 years old — were held in the camp of Ain Issa, according to their lawyer, Marie Dosé.

She said the families escaped in mid-October when the facility was abandoned by Kurdish forces. “They have risked their lives and their children’s to join Turkey and be expelled to France,” Ms. Dosé said.

For more than a year, Ms. Dosé and other French lawyers have fought to bring the mothers back with their children, as the women argued that they wanted to be tried at home. Last year, when a French television crew met one of the four women set to be deported, she said she wouldn’t leave without her son.

“If he leaves, I’m leaving with him,” said Amandine le Coz, a 29-year-old woman who grew up in a suburb near Paris. “He’s my life.”

In France and other European nations, the stories of people like Ms. le Coz and Ms. Gondal have elicited little sympathy.

“There’s been more sympathy for vulnerable children, but as you go up to adults, there’s a lot of pushback against women and there’s even more pushback against male militants,’’ said Joana Cook, a researcher at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London.

Dr. Cook, who has studied women and children who have returned to their home countries from Syria, said there had been no known incidents involving returnees.

Instead, terrorist cases, including the failed attempt to ignite a car loaded with gas canisters near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, involved women who had become radicalized at home and had never stepped foot in Syria.

In France, about 100 people who returned from Syria have already been judged and given sentences averaging 10 years, Mr. Brisard said. Some of those serving the shortest sentences have already been released, he said.

“They’ll be freed one day, that’s for sure,’’ Mr. Brisard said. “But it’s preferable that they be incarcerated in French prisons from where they can’t escape. And after they’ve served their sentences, it’s preferable that they be tracked by a competent intelligence service. In Iraq or Syria, I don’t have much faith in their intelligence services keeping track of our jihadists.’’

Norimitsu Onishi reported from Paris, and Elian Peltier from London. Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Melissa Eddy from Berlin.

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As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid Into Turmoil

QAMISHLI, Syria — When the international manhunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, zoomed in on a village in northwestern Syria, the United States turned to its local allies to help track the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

The American allies, a Kurdish-led force that had partnered with the United States to fight ISIS, sent spies to watch his isolated villa. To confirm it was him, they stole a pair of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s underwear — long, white boxers — and obtained a blood sample, both for DNA testing, the force’s commander, Mazlum Abdi, said in a phone interview on Monday.

American officials would not discuss the specific intelligence provided by the Kurds, but said that their role in finding Mr. al-Baghdadi was essential — more so than all other countries combined, as one put it — contradicting President Trump’s assertion over the weekend that the United States “got very little help.”

Yet even as the Syrian Kurdish fighters were risking their lives in the hunt that led to Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death this weekend, Mr. Trump abruptly shattered America’s five-year partnership with them.

He decided to withdraw American troops from northern Syria, leaving the Kurds suddenly vulnerable to an invasion by Turkey and feeling stung by an American betrayal, and throwing the Baghdadi operation into turmoil as the Kurds suspended their security cooperation with the United States to rush off and defend their land.

“We thought that America would keep its promises,” said Mr. Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. “But in the end there was weakness — and disappointment.”

The United States joined forces with Mr. Abdi’s group five years ago, when it was looking for skilled Syrian fighters who could effectively serve as ground troops for an American air campaign against the Islamic State. As the alliance matured, the United States armed and trained Kurdish-led fighters and pressed them to shift their priorities to serve American interests.

The United States pushed them to take the fight against ISIS to areas outside their traditional homeland, costing them many lives. It also discouraged them from negotiating a deal with the Syrian government, telling them that sticking with the United States would win them a stake in the country’s future.

“We said being associated with the U.S. coalition would put you in a position where you would be represented,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, former head of the military’s Special Operations and Central Commands, said in a telephone interview. “You’d be on the winning team.”

In an effort to placate Turkey, the United States convinced the Kurds to destroy their defenses, softening them up for a Turkish attack. It also sought their help in the United States’ regional struggle with Iran, a cause they had little stake in.

For the Kurdish-led forces, the sting was not that American troops were withdrawing from Syria, which they knew would happen eventually. It was that after five years of their fighting and dying alongside American troops in the battle against ISIS Mr. Trump pulled the plug so suddenly that they were ill-prepared for what came next.

“It was a stab in the back,” said Nesrin Abdullah, a spokeswoman for the Kurdish women’s militia. “The Americans kept saying they would not allow the Turks to enter, but in the end that’s what happened.”

Part of the problem was that American officials sent conflicting messages about how long the United States would stay in Syria and what it was doing there.

Obama administration officials told their Kurdish allies that the partnership would last through the defeat of ISIS, but that the United States would help them play a role in Syria’s future. That message grew even more muddled over the last year, as Mr. Trump vowed to withdraw American troops while other officials in his administration said they would stay until Iran had left the country and there was a political solution in Damascus.

While there may not have been explicit promises, to the Kurds these messages pointed to a continued American presence. In fact, even during the weeks before the withdrawal, American diplomats were advising them on programs to improve governance and security — topics that did not suggest an imminent rush for the exit.

The swift dissolution of a powerful partnership, reconstructed here through more than a dozen interviews with United States and Kurdish officials, pained not only Syria’s Kurds but also Americans who worked with them to defeat the Islamic State.

If the battles served an American agenda, it was the Kurds who died for it. Fewer than a dozen Americans were killed during the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria, compared with 11,000 from the Kurdish-led forces.

“We outsourced the dying to them,” said a United States official who worked in Syria, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. “And in the end, we asked them to surrender everything they worked for: the security of their heartland, their political project, and their people. We’re ensuring that those 11,000 died for nothing.”

Video

Westlake Legal Group 28syria-kurds-video-promo-videoSixteenByNine3000 As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid Into Turmoil United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

Mass funerals, wounded children, displaced families. This is what we found in northeast Syria after the U.S. withdrew its troops and Turkey attacked.CreditCredit…Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The partnership began by chance during a crisis.

By October 2014, three years into Syria’s civil war, the Islamic State had seized territory the size of Britain straddling the Syria-Iraq border. When ISIS set its sights on the poor Kurdish town of Kobani, the United States jumped in, working with Kurdish fighters while launching hundreds of airstrikes on ISIS tanks, artillery pieces and armored vehicles.

Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish militia, said that a joint operations room in northern Iraq was so crowded that Kurdish and American soldiers slept together on the floor. He recalled the Americans’ joy whenever they blew up an ISIS target.

The partnership worked. The militants sustained their first major defeat in Syria, and the United States found a reliable Syrian partner.

When the conflict in Syria began in 2011 with an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, the United States tried to back Arab rebels to fight the government, and later to battle the Islamic State. But those efforts failed because of rebel corruption and infighting, defections to extremist groups or lack of American follow-up.

Kobani introduced the United States to a new force, a Kurdish militia called the People’s Protection Units, which American officials found to be skilled, disciplined and loyal to a communist-inspired ideology that allowed no sympathy for Islamists.

It had come together early in the war to protect Syria’s Kurds, a long-marginalized ethnic minority concentrated in the country’s northeast. But the militia’s roots in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a guerrilla movement that has been fighting an insurgency in Turkey for decades, complicated the new partnership.

Turkey and the United States consider the group a terrorist organization, but in 2014, American officials were so desperate for allies against ISIS that they overlooked those ties. Turkey did not, and its animosity to the Kurdish fighters in Syria would grow over the coming years.

Turkey took particular offense at Mr. Abdi, the Syrian commander who became the Americans’ main interlocutor. Mr. Abdi, also known as Mazlum Kobani, had joined the Kurdish guerrillas during university and become a protégé of the movement’s founder, Abdullah Ocalan. Officials in Turkey and Iraq say Mr. Abdi worked for the group for decades and led a special operations unit that attacked Turkish soldiers.

But the Americans found him to be a strategic thinker who kept his promises. A soft-spoken man in his late 40s, Mr. Abdi had short brown hair, a clean-shaven face and a preference for military fatigues and black sneakers. The partnership grew, with the United States providing intelligence, air cover and logistical help as Mr. Abdi’s forces routed ISIS from towns across northern Syria.

“The American military saw what could be done with local, indigenous fighters who had a will to fight hard, take instruction and were trusted not to shoot U.S. forces in the back,” said Nicholas A. Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security who has advised Kurdish forces in Syria.

As Mr. Abdi’s forces advanced, they allied with Christian, Arab and other militias, rebranding themselves in 2015 as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F.

After the group’s victories in northern Syria, the United States wanted it to pivot south, toward the predominantly Arab provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, where the Islamic State was strongest. Some Kurds resisted, asking why their youth should die for Arab lands and questioning the United States’ commitment to their people.

But their leader decided that leaving ISIS anywhere in Syria would be a threat, and top American officials reassured the Kurds that the United States would secure them a place in the country’s future.

“There were people saying, ‘Why are you going to Raqqa?” said Nasir Haj Mansour, a Syrian Kurdish researcher who is close to the S.D.F. leadership. “I told them: ‘If we don’t fight ISIS there, it will come fight us here. Now we have an opportunity with the international coalition to get rid of this organization for the good of everyone.’”

United States military assistance increased. American advisers taught Syrian fighters infantry tactics, first aid, bomb defusal and reconnaissance skills for American airstrikes.

In October 2017, backed by American jets and armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, they seized Raqqa, the ISIS capital, where they embarrassed their American partners and angered Turkey by unfurling a banner of Mr. Ocalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party founder, in a downtown square.

In the areas it liberated, the S.D.F. established local councils that followed its philosophy of community rule and gender equality.

American officials never endorsed the Kurds’ political project but made repeated if vague promises to help secure their political future.

“Truthfully, we didn’t have a solid plan for how it would end,” Gen. Tony Thomas, a former head of the military’s Special Operations Command, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last week. “But they believed that they would be part of the fabric of the future of Syria.”

Last December, Mr. Trump suddenly announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing the roughly 2,000 American troops in Syria because ISIS had been defeated, calling that “my only reason for being there.”

The decision baffled the Kurdish-led forces, who were still locked in fierce battles with the Islamic State and would not rout the group from its last patch of territory for another three months.

The withdrawal decision angered Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Congress and even members of his administration.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned, as did Brett McGurk, the presidential envoy for the fight against the Islamic State, who both considered it a mistake. Since Mr. Trump took office, top administration officials had said the American presence in Syria was not just to ensure the end of the militants but also to press for political change in Damascus and push out Iran.

The Kurds wanted continued United States help against ISIS and sought political change in Damascus, but resisted joining the struggle with Iran, especially given the United States’ shaky commitment, Kurdish officials said.

Mr. Trump compromised, ordering the military to reduce the American presence to 1,000 troops, while United States officials hinted at a longer-term presence.

Throughout the war, the Kurds had never joined the rebels against Mr. al-Assad’s government, and kept lines open in case they needed to reconcile. But Trump administration officials told them American partners should not talk to American enemies, Mr. Abdi has said, so they froze talks with the Syrian government.

When Turkey threatened to invade northern Syria to sweep Kurdish forces off its border, the United States carried out a plan that required the Kurds to blow up tunnels, destroy trenches and dig up ammunition caches they had put in place to defend against a possible Turkish attack.

Many Kurds feared plan would leave them vulnerable, but Mr. Abdi carried it out, convinced that the United States would ensure his people’s safety.

The partnership appeared to be solid: The United States was seeking Kurdish help for the most sensitive of missions, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi.

After American officials determined that he could be in Idlib Province, in northeastern Syria, the Kurdish-led force sent spies who watched the house, determined how many rooms it had and who was in it, and found a tunnel underneath, according to Mr. Abdi and a Kurdish intelligence officer. During the raid, Mr. al-Baghdadi fled into the tunnel with three children and blew himself up, killing them all.

The Kurdish spies also stole the terrorist leader’s boxer shorts and obtained a blood sample through what Mr. Abdi called “intelligence work.”

DNA testing confirmed that Mr. al-Baghdadi was inside, and Mr. Abdi’s spies kept watch while the United States planned the raid to get him.

They were still waiting on Oct. 6, when Mr. Trump announced after a phone call with Mr. Erdogan that he was removing American troops from the path of a Turkish attack on the United States’ Syrian partners.

The ensuing fighting killed more than 200 people and delayed the raid on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s villa as Mr. Abdi’s forces shifted their focus to fighting the Turks.

Some American officials watched in dread as Turkey attacked the very zone where the Kurds had removed their defenses.

“You tricked us!” Mr. Abdi, the Kurdish commander, yelled at American officials.

Kurdish officials rushed to the Syrian government for help, but instead of bargaining from a position of strength, they now began talks under fire.

The feeling of betrayal consumed not just the Kurds but much of northeastern Syria, where residents who had felt protected by the United States feared Turkey and Mr. al-Assad’s troops.

“The Americans betrayed the Kurds,” Farhan Mohammed, a Kurdish ice merchant, shouted as an American convoy passed his shop on its way out of Syria last week. His friends yelled insults and flashed the thumbs-down.

“Our whole future is determined by Trump’s tweets,” he said.

Mr. Trump has stood by his decision.

“We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” he said this month adding that a small contingent of troops would remain in Syria’s east at the request of Israel and Jordan and to “protect the oil.”

Other than that, he said, there was “no reason” to remain.

“Perhaps it’s time for the Kurds to start heading to the oil region,” he said in a tweet on Thursday, seeming to suggest another mission for the Kurds.

But the Kurds are busy resisting further Turkish advances that they fear could amount to the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from their homeland.

Kurdish leaders say they hoped five years of cooperation could have ended with more respect for their sacrifices.

“All of a sudden you give it up and give it to the regime and Russia and Iran,” said Mr. Can, the S.D.F. adviser. “After that, who is going to trust the Americans and help them? No one.”

Despite their anger, the Kurds have not cut ties with the United States.

Mr. Abdi, their leader, has spoken twice by phone with Mr. Trump and there is talk of his visiting Washington. And the Kurds have not rejected Mr. Trump’s suggestion that some Kurdish fighters remain in eastern Syria to protect the oil facilities.

But the trust in the White House is gone.

“The situation has changed,” said Ilman Ehmed, a top Kurdish official who was in Washington last week to speak with other American officials about continuing cooperation. “But we still trust the fact that we have many friends among the American people. In the House of Representatives. The Senate. And military leaders. I trust their support.”

Ben Hubbard reported from Qamishli, Syria, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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Intelligence From al-Baghdadi Raid, Including 2 Prisoners, Could Reveal Trove of ISIS Clues

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-intel-facebookJumbo Intelligence From al-Baghdadi Raid, Including 2 Prisoners, Could Reveal Trove of ISIS Clues United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Targeted Killings Syria Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — Delta Force commandos took two Islamic State fighters as prisoners and a trove of intelligence from the now-destroyed compound where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist, had been hiding, officials said Monday.

The prisoners, who are being held in Iraq, are being questioned by the United States military. If the Trump administration follows its previous practice with captured Islamic State fighters, the men will eventually be turned over to the Iraqi government for prosecution.

Both the captives and the documents taken from the compound during a two-hour search of the area following the nighttime raid in which Mr. al-Baghdadi was killed over the weekend could provide a trove of information for the military and intelligence agencies, current and former officials said.

Officials said the intelligence is expected to underscore assessments that Mr. al-Baghdadi no longer exercised direct operational control over the group. Officials cautioned that the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies were still conducting a preliminary review of the confiscated documents and electronic records.

The intelligence material that commandos seized from the compound in northwest Syria where Mr. al-Baghdadi was hiding is likely to contain new details about the group’s operations.

But the officials said they did not expect to find intelligence that would quickly generate follow-up strikes on the Islamic State.

In an interview broadcast in Iraq, Mr. al-Baghdadi’s brother-in-law, Mohammad Ali Sajid, described how the Islamic State leader had communicated with messages sent on flash drives and how people around him had used cellphones. American officials have previously said that Mr. al-Baghdadi did not allow people around him to carry phones, to prevent his location from being discovered through electronic eavesdropping.

Whatever material was found by the Delta Force team, the trove of information could nonetheless shed critical light on how the Islamic State operated, including planning and financial information. The Islamic State famously kept extensive records on its brutal rule in Iraq and Syria, and some former intelligence officials suggested that Mr. al-Baghdadi might have left behind lists of deputies, couriers, contacts and other information that would be useful to American counterterrorism officials.

“ISIS was a bureaucratic organization,” Nicholas J. Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said Monday. “Did he carry any of that stuff around? Rosters of people from other countries. Foreign fighters. Does he have all of that on a disk?”

He added, “It is all about building an understanding of the organization and how it functions.”

The two prisoners seized by Delta Force commandos were in American custody, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday, but he declined to give details.

General Milley described roughly how the commandos had discovered Mr. al-Baghdadi hiding in the tunnels. In the Iraqi broadcast interview, Mr. Sajid, Mr. al-Baghdadi’s brother-in-law, described how the Islamic State leader had lived in underground tunnels, equipped with a library of religious books, a ventilation system and lights. He described one of the tunnels Mr. al-Baghdadi had lived in as a bunker that was about eight yards long and about five yards wide.

In the interview with Mr. Sajid, which was broadcast by Al Arabiya Hadath, he said that when Mr. al-Baghdadi changed locations he had traveled in two white Toyota pickups accompanied by five men.

Also on Monday, General Milley spoke by telephone to his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff. The two had spoken about Syria earlier in October, as part of the efforts to de-conflict American and Russian operations in Syria. General Milley also spoke to Gen. Nicholas Carter, the United Kingdom’s Chief of Defense Staff.

Intelligence officials are expected to scour the new material for information about ties between Mr. al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State’s affiliates in other countries. That could help the American government better understand how quickly the affiliates could move in a different direction from the core Islamic State group without Mr. al-Baghdadi.

“It will also provide useful insights into the extent to which Baghdadi exerted operational control over ISIS remnants in other countries,” said Norm Roule, a former C.I.A. officer and expert on the Middle East.

Because Mr. al-Baghdadi moved around, the amount of material at the compound may have been limited. Still, even a few thumb drives, computers or other devices could provide huge amounts of data.

And Delta Force commandos who gathered the material after the raid spent two hours or so on the ground and collected a large amount of material, a person familiar with their search said.

The intelligence could also yield clues about the next leaders of the Islamic State, clarifying for intelligence agencies whether a potential successor is preparing to take over and assert control over both Islamic State fighters in Syria as well as its affiliates.

“We should be on the lookout for a personality who seeks to replace Baghdadi and create ISIS 2.0,” Mr. Roule said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi was unusual among terrorist leaders in his ability to both inspire overseas attacks as well as command them, according to intelligence officials. While he directed cells of Islamic State militants who conducted attacks in Europe, his propagandists also inspired lone gunmen in Europe and the United States to mount attacks that were much harder to detect and prevent.

During its campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the United States military focused less on targeting traditional leadership and more on hunting and killing the group’s best propagandists and English language translators. The campaign ultimately diminished the group’s ability to inspire attacks, military officials believed, but they are hopeful they can learn more about the impact of their strikes by analyzing the information seized from Mr. al-Baghdadi’s compound.

Fully examining the intelligence from the raid could take months, according to American officials, who compared the coming workload to the C.I.A.’s examination of the materials seized during the deadly 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

Intelligence agencies spent months reviewing that material — and senior officials said that analysts continued to examine some of it for insights on Al Qaeda.

The bin Laden intelligence yielded important details on how he ran Al Qaeda, how he communicated with the outside world and his relationships with other Qaeda leaders. American officials said they hoped for similar information from the al-Baghdadi trove.

“I might anticipate less by way of operational materials and more by way of big-picture strategic materials, such as regarding the group’s overall plans for resurgence in the future,” said Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

The trove of material seized in Saturday’s raid could be comparable to what was seized in another Delta Force mission in eastern Syria in May 2015.

That raid on the multistory residence of Abu Sayyaf, described by American officials at the time as the Islamic State’s top financial officer, gave the American-led coalition its first big break in revealing valuable information about the group’s leadership structure, financial operations and security measures by analyzing materials.

The information harvested from the laptops, cellphones and other materials recovered from the raid — four to seven terabytes of data, according to one official — included how Mr. Baghdadi operated and sought to avoid being tracked by coalition forces.

“Capturing al-Baghdadi’s safe house means exposing data that will cause significant lasting damage to the broader terrorist network,” Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a research and consulting firm, said in an online newsletter on Monday.

Any more raw information from the al-Baghdadi raid is unlikely to materialize. After the Delta Force troops swept the compound and left, American warplanes and drones destroyed the compound and its tunnel network in a series of airstrikes, with the intention of keeping the site from becoming a shrine.

Alissa J. Rubin in Baghdad and Helene Cooper in Washington contributed reporting.

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Intelligence From al-Baghdadi Raid Could Reveal Trove of ISIS Clues

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-intel-facebookJumbo Intelligence From al-Baghdadi Raid Could Reveal Trove of ISIS Clues United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Targeted Killings Syria Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — The intelligence material that commandos seized from the now-destroyed compound where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hiding is likely to contain revelations about his leadership of the Islamic State and could provide a wealth of details about the group’s operations, current and former American officials said.

But they did not expect to find intelligence that would quickly generate follow-up strikes on the Islamic State after Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist, was killed in a nighttime raid over the weekend in northwest Syria, the officials said.

The likely absence of information that the military could immediately act on underscores intelligence analysts’ view that Mr. al-Baghdadi no longer exercised direct operational control over the group. Officials cautioned that the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies were still conducting a preliminary review of the confiscated documents and electronic records.

The trove of information could nonetheless shed critical light on how the Islamic State operated, including planning and financial information. Islamic State famously kept extensive records on its brutal rule in Iraq and Syria, and some former intelligence officials suggested that Mr. al-Baghdadi might have left behind lists of deputies, couriers, contacts and other information that would be useful to American counterterrorism officials.

“ISIS was a bureaucratic organization,” Nicholas J. Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said Monday. “Did he carry any of that stuff around? Rosters of people from other countries. Foreign fighters. Does he have all of that on a disk?”

He added, “It is all about building an understanding of the organization and how it functions.”

The Delta Force commandos who seized the intelligence also captured two prisoners who might also provide information on the Islamic State. They were in American custody, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday, but declined to give details.

Intelligence officials will also look for material about ties between Mr. al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State’s affiliates in other countries. That could help the American government better understand how quickly the affiliates could move in a different direction from the core Islamic State group without Mr. al-Baghdadi.

“It will also provide useful insights into the extent to which Baghdadi exerted operational control over ISIS remnants in other countries,” said Norm Roule, a former C.I.A. officer and expert on the Middle East.

Because Mr. al-Baghdadi moved around, the amount of material at the compound may have been limited. Still, even a few thumb drives, computers or other devices could provide huge amounts of data.

And Delta Force commandos who gathered the material after the raid spent two hours or so on the ground and collected a large amount of material, a person familiar with their search said.

The intelligence could also yield clues about the next leaders of the Islamic State, clarifying for intelligence agencies whether a potential successor is preparing to take over and assert control over both Islamic State fighters in Syria as well as its affiliates.

“We should be on the lookout for a personality who seeks to replace Baghdadi and create ISIS 2.0,” Mr. Roule said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi was unusual among terrorist leaders in his ability to both inspire overseas attacks as well as command them, according to intelligence officials. While he directed cells of Islamic State militants who conducted attacks in Europe, his propagandists also inspired lone gunmen in Europe and the United States to mount attacks that were much harder to detect and prevent.

During its campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the United States military focused less on targeting traditional leadership and more on hunting and killing the group’s best propagandists and English language translators. The campaign ultimately diminished the group’s ability to inspire attacks, military officials believed, but they are hopeful they can learn more about the impact of their strikes by analyzing the information seized from Mr. al-Baghdadi’s compound.

Fully examining the intelligence from the raid could take months, according to American officials, who compared the coming workload to the C.I.A.’s examination of the materials seized during the deadly 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

Intelligence agencies spent months reviewing that material — and senior officials said that analysts continued to examine some of it for insights on Al Qaeda.

The bin Laden intelligence yielded important details on how he ran Al Qaeda, how he communicated with the outside world and his relationships with other Qaeda leaders. American officials said they hoped for similar information from the al-Baghdadi trove.

Any more raw information from the al-Baghdadi raid is unlikely to materialize. After the Delta Force troops swept the compound and left, American warplanes and drones destroyed the compound and its tunnel network in a series of airstrikes, with the intention of keeping the site from becoming a shrine.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

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Leader’s Death Will Damage ISIS, but Not Destroy It

Before the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State had decentralized, allowing followers and franchises to carry out its violent ideology on their own.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163404780_b778f013-5ba5-425e-9ce3-319a2563c56a-articleLarge Leader’s Death Will Damage ISIS, but Not Destroy It United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Syria Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

Youths in Najaf, Iraq, watching news on Sunday about the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader. Credit…Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

Oct. 27, 2019

He had been hunted for more than a decade, and the organization he had built was designed partly on the assumption this day would come.

The violent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, in a raid by United States forces announced Sunday by President Trump, is a significant blow to the world’s most fearsome terrorist group. But analysts said it was unlikely to freeze attempts by Islamic State franchises and sympathizers around the world to sow mayhem and fear in the name of their extremist ideology.

Under Mr. al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State largely ran on its own. While he demanded fealty and built a cult of personality around himself — followers considered him the leader of Muslims worldwide — he was obsessed with security and is known to have given subordinates considerable latitude to act autonomously. Numerous references in Islamic State propaganda offer reminders that its leaders may come and go, but the movement remains.

After all, the founder of the Islamic State and two successors were killed before Mr. al-Baghdadi became its leader and vastly expanded the group’s sway in the Middle East and beyond.

And in his final years, Mr. al-Baghdadi stuck to such strict safety measures that he was believed to have been surrounded by a small circle of direct contacts, including wives and children and a few trusted associates. He limited communications with the outside world, according to American and Iraqi intelligence officials, which meant his organization operated with sparing input from him, lessening the practical effects of his demise.

“For sure it is important, but we know from what we have seen from other organizations that getting rid of the leader does not get rid of the organization,” said Hassan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on extremist groups. “ISIS has created a new structure that is less centralized, and it will continue, even without al-Baghdadi.”

Just in the past year, the group has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Afghanistan including a mosque bombing that killed more than 70 people and a wedding blast that killed 63; a shooting at a Christmas market in Strasbourg France, that killed five people; a Cathedral bombing by an Islamic State affiliate in the Philippines that killed 22 people; a string of bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people; and other attacks in Russia, Egypt, Australia and elsewhere.

Omar Abu Layla, a Syrian who heads an activist news network called Deir Ezzour 24, said he expected Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death would demoralize some followers, while enraging others who would seek to avenge him.

“Some of the cells in Europe and the West could try to carry out attacks to show that ‘Even without al-Baghdadi, we will continue,’” he said.

Mr. Trump’s triumphal announcement that Mr. al-Baghdadi “died like a dog” in northern Syria’s Idlib Province came as the Islamic State had shown signs of reconstituting in remnants of its self-proclaimed caliphate, which once spanned a swath of Syria and Iraq before it was destroyed by American-led forces in March.

But even as the military campaign chipped away at the Islamic State’s caliphate, the group was branching out, founding and supporting new franchises and cultivating relationships in Afghanistan, Libya, the Philippines, the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Nigeria and elsewhere.

While the branches followed its ideology, they largely operated independently, plotting attacks on local security forces, seizing control of territory or parts of cities and battling other extremist groups for resources. Most were seen primarily as threats to their own countries or their neighbors, but United States officials worried that some franchises, like those in Afghanistan or Libya, could oversee attacks in the West.

Although the Islamic State may now be a shadow of its former self, a recent report by an inspector general for the American-led operation against it estimated that the organization still has between 14,000 and 18,000 members in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners. But the report noted that estimates varied widely and that the group maintained an extensive worldwide social media effort to recruit new fighters.

As the Islamic State moved away from a centralized command structure to a more diffuse model, it also intensified calls on operatives acting alone or in small groups to plan and execute their own attacks, which were then amplified by the organization’s media network.

Under this strategy, anyone, anywhere, could act in the group’s name. That multiplied the Islamic State’s lethality by remotely inspiring attacks, carried out by disciples who had never set foot in a training camp. They were responsible for deadly assaults ranging from a shooting at an office party in San Bernardino, Calif. to a rampage by a van driver in Barcelona, Spain.

While little is known about how Mr. al-Baghdadi spent his last months, he appeared in a video released in April, sitting cross-legged on a cushion with an assault rifle by his side and praising the Sri Lanka church bombers.

In a voice message released last month, he praised the “soldiers of the caliphate” for fighting despite the group’s losses.

“They are still attacking their enemy and they did not run away, and they were not weakened by what afflicted them, nor did they make peace with their enemies,” he said, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist messaging on the internet. “The wheel of attrition is running smoothly, by the grace of Allah, and on a daily basis and on different fronts.”

The Islamic State itself did not immediately comment on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s fate, and terrorism experts said his death could set off a succession struggle among subordinates. American drone strikes and air raids have decimated the group’s top ranks, and it was not immediately clear who could possibly replace him.

“There are few publicly well-recognized candidates to potentially replace al-Baghdadi,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant websites at the New York security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners.

Less than a day after Mr. al-Baghdadi was killed, one of his potential successors, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, who had been the Islamic State’s spokesman, was killed in a strike further east, according to Mazlum Abdi, the head of a Kurdish-led Syrian militia. United States officials could not immediately confirm Mr. al-Muhajir had been killed.

The Islamic State has repeatedly reconstituted itself after its leaders were killed. In 2006, the United States killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of a predecessor group to the Islamic State, and in 2010, it worked with Iraq to kill the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, paving the way for Mr. al-Baghdadi’s ascension and the creation of the Islamic State in 2013.

Al Qaeda, an Islamic State rival, also survived the killing of founder Osama bin Laden in 2011. Its operations also have become more diffuse in recent years, with affiliates in different countries operating somewhat independently.

The Islamic State has typically taken hold in dysfunctional societies, where war, sectarianism and the absence of state structures have created fertile ground for its message among some Sunni Muslims.

Analysts caution that while the group was largely defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria, few of the issues that fueled its emergence have been addressed.

New waves of protests against government corruption are shaking Iraq, and the government has made only limited progress in rebuilding towns and cities destroyed in the effort to oust the jihadists.

And President Trump’s decision to withdraw at least some United States troops from northeastern Syria set off new violence there and raised fears about the security of Islamic State prisoners held in makeshift prisons and camps run by Kurdish-led forces.

“This raid will not eliminate the debate about the president’s decision to withdraw our forces from Syria,” said Dan Hoffman, a former C.I.A. officer. “This raid for sure is a great success. We removed a key terrorist leader from the battlefield. But there are a lot of ISIS terrorists enjoying ungoverned space in the region, ISIS decision making is decentralized, and al- Baghdadi will have a successor.”

The group’s franchises and affiliates also remain active elsewhere.

In Iraq, current and former counterterrorism generals, intelligence officials and strategists said that Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death would not fundamentally cripple the group, which is already reasserting itself in the country’s northeast.

“It is not the end, but the beginning of a new era, a new age under a new name of a new kind of terrorism,” said Maj. Gen. Ismail Almahalawi, a veteran of fighting the Islamic State and its predecessors.

Several times a week, the Iraqi authorities receive reports of attacks on villages and local mayors, Iraqi security officials said. Recently an entire village fled after Islamic State fighters threatened it. And many mayors have been killed in the last year for refusing to cooperate with Islamic State cells.

In Afghanistan, an Islamic State offshoot has expanded in the country’s east since its formation in 2015. Despite repeated American-led offensives and the dropping of the United States’ largest conventional bomb in 2017, the group has attracted more than 2,000 recruits.

In Nigeria, an affiliation with the Islamic State has reinvigorated a branch of the group previously known as Boko Haram, and American officials now rank it as one of the biggest extremist threats in Africa.

In Libya, a civil war has allowed Islamic State fighters to regroup in the country’s southern desert. This month, the American military said it had carried out four drone strikes in the area from a base in Niger to disrupt its resurgence, killing 43 Islamic State fighters.

“We saw a regeneration of the ISIS capability,” Col. Chris Karns, a spokesman for the United States military’s Africa command, told Voice of America on Friday. He said the United States did not want Libya to “become a laboratory for ISIS.”

Reporting was contributed by David D. Kirkpatrick, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Mujib Mashal and Julian Barnes.

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Watching the Raid Was Like a Movie, the President Said. Except There Was No Live Audio.

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-video-facebookJumbo Watching the Raid Was Like a Movie, the President Said. Except There Was No Live Audio. United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Idlib (Syria) Defense Department central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — In describing the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Sunday, President Trump used dramatic, even cinematic language to portray the daring American commando raid that brought down the Islamic State leader who, the president said, died “screaming, crying and whimpering.”

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.”

What the president saw, according to military and intelligence officials, was overhead surveillance footage on several video screens that, together, provided various angles from above, and in real time.

The videos included heat signatures of those moving around — which analysts labeled friend or foe — at the al-Baghdadi compound near Idlib, Syria.

But those surveillance feeds could not show what was happening in an underground tunnel, much less detect if Mr. al-Baghdadi was whimpering or crying.

For that, Mr. Trump would have had to have gotten a report from the commandos directly, or relayed up through their chain of command to the commander in chief.

At the Pentagon on Sunday, officials steered clear of any description of Mr. al-Baghdadi whimpering or crying, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, when pressed about the president’s assertion on ABC’s “This Week,” did not repeat the “whimpering” characterization.

“I don’t have those details,” Mr. Esper said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

A Defense Department official said on Sunday that it was certainly possible for Mr. Trump to have spoken directly with one or more of the commandos after the raid, or with their commanders who had spoken to members of the raiding party.

In addition to the version provided by Mr. Trump in lengthy televised comments, the accounting of what he saw was provided by a number of military, intelligence and administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the raid.

Mr. Trump would not have received any real-time dialogue from the scene, the officials said, because the last thing American military planners want is to invite critique, second-guessing or even new orders from the Situation Room in the middle of an active military raid.

In fact, in recent years American Special Operations forces have moved away from using helmet cameras to pipe back video in real time on every mission because it is often violent and disorienting, and invites instant quarterbacking from back in command centers.

Perhaps because of the importance of this raid, though, the Delta Force operators were wearing body cameras, officials said, but those cameras do not broadcast in real time; instead the video in those cameras is configured to be downloaded and reviewed after the operation is complete.

At the time of Mr. Trump’s remarks, that footage had not been reviewed by senior commanders in the Pentagon or given to the White House. It is not clear whether the dog that followed Mr. al-Baghdadi into the tunnel was wearing a body camera.

Mr. Trump said he did not have to make any decisions in the moments of the raid, while troops were on the ground. (Military officials said they would never have asked him to).

“No,” Mr. Trump said in response to whether he had to make decisions on the fly. “We were getting full reports on literally a minute-by-minute basis. ‘Sir, we just broke in. Sir, the wall is down. Sir, you know, we’ve captured. Sir, two people are coming out right now. Hands up.’ ”

Then, Mr. Trump said, he was given a report: “‘Sir, there’s only one person in the building. We are sure he’s in the tunnel trying to escape.’”

“But it’s a dead-end tunnel,” Mr. Trump said he was told.

In the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader, in 2011, Leon E. Panetta, who then was serving as C.I.A. director, narrated the events unfolding in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to President Barack Obama and his national security advisers in the Situation Room.

Mr. Panetta was on a video screen as he spoke from C.I.A. headquarters, and was the one who informed the president when the Al Qaeda leader, code-named “Geronimo,” was positively identified by Navy SEALs as being in the house — and, later, when he was killed.

“Geronimo EKIA,” Mr. Panetta said, for Enemy Killed in Action.

It was unclear on Sunday whether Mr. al-Baghdadi similarly was given a code name for the Idlib raid.

Helene Cooper and Julian E. Barnes reported from Washington, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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Al-Baghdadi Raid Was a Victory Built on Factors Trump Derides

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-assess-promo-facebookJumbo Al-Baghdadi Raid Was a Victory Built on Factors Trump Derides United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Terrorism Syria National Security Agency Middle East Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense and Military Forces central intelligence agency bin Laden, Osama

WASHINGTON — The death of the Islamic State’s leader in a daring nighttime raid vindicated the value of three traditional American strengths: robust alliances, faith in intelligence agencies and the projection of military power around the world.

But President Trump has regularly derided the first two. And even as he claimed a significant national security victory on Sunday, the outcome of the raid did little to quell doubts about the wisdom of his push to reduce the United States military presence in Syria at a time when terrorist threats continue to develop in the region.

Mr. Trump has long viewed the United States intelligence agencies with suspicion and appears to see its employees as members of the “deep state.” He also has a distinctly skeptical view of alliances — in this case, close cooperation with the Kurds, whom he has effectively abandoned.

“The irony of the successful operation against al-Baghdadi is that it could not have happened without U.S. forces on the ground that have been pulled out, help from Syrian Kurds who have been betrayed, and support of a U.S. intelligence community that has so often been disparaged,” Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Sunday.

“While the raid was obviously a welcome success, the conditions that made the operation possible may not exist in the future,” he said.

To Mr. Trump, the death of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was proof of the wisdom of his strategy of defending America at home without committing United States forces to “endless wars” abroad.

To the president and his supporters, the arguments from critics amount to sour grapes, an effort by an impeachment-crazed opposition to play down the success of a focused, successful clandestine operation that echoed the killing of Osama bin Laden.

That, of course, was the 2011 moment that Democrats celebrated as proof that a progressive president with little national security experience could take out the world’s most wanted terrorist. And while it had faded a bit in memory by the time President Barack Obama was up for re-election the following year, it was a talking point for his campaign.

Mr. Trump seemed to be laying the predicate for his own campaign talking points on Sunday, when he recounted telling his own forces that “I want al-Baghdadi,” rather than a string of deceased terrorist leaders who were “names I never heard of.” And clearly he is hoping that the success of the raid has a wider resonance: He sees the al-Baghdadi raid, some former Trump aides said, as a counterweight to the impeachment inquiry, which is based in part on an argument that he has shaped foreign policy for his political benefit.

It is too early to know whether any political boost will be lasting. But navigating the complex morass of the Middle East is no less complex for the death of Mr. al-Baghdadi. It is not clear if the president’s decision to pull back American forces in northern Syria in recent weeks complicated the planning and execution of the mission.

And while 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.

For Mr. Trump, the aftermath of the Bin Laden killing eight years ago should also sound a warning.

Even without its leader, Al Qaeda evolved and spread. The Islamic State began its killing spree in the vacuum of the Middle East by early 2014, in both Iraq and Syria. Mr. Trump himself, in the heat of the 2016 campaign, accused Mr. Obama of creating the conditions for a new iteration of Islamic terrorism to prosper.

He was the founder,” Mr. Trump said in August 2016, talking about Mr. Obama and ISIS. “The way he got out of Iraq, that was the founding of ISIS.”

The history of the Middle East is rife with the rise of extremist movements, and there is no reason to believe ISIS will be the last. Long after the cinematic details of the daring raid — from its patient beginnings in Iraq last summer to the tense flight into Syria and the chase down a sealed tunnel where Mr. al-Baghdadi met his end — the enduring question will be whether the Trump administration capitalizes on the moment to address the region’s deep sectarian and political fissures and the underlying causes of terrorism.

Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute wrote on Sunday that “al-Baghdadi’s death will dash the dreams of an Islamic State centered in the Levant, but its years of operations recruited, trained and dispatched foreign fighters from dozens of countries that will lead the next generation of jihad to other frontiers.”

He added: “Islamic State-trained foreign fighters will be a future terrorism problem for the decade to come.”

Mr. Obama and his administration grappled with that challenge endlessly, and their memoirs are filled with Situation Room meetings searching for an approach beyond drone strikes. But they never solved the problem.

Mr. Trump’s team, in contrast, rarely discusses it. And that is in part because of the president’s very different philosophy of how to secure the country, one that was on display in his sometimes rambling news conference after the announcement of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death.

Mr. Trump’s approach to the region has never been consistent, but he has struck consistent themes. The first is that the United States does not need to keep forces in the region to reach out and kill its enemies. The high price of occupation, rebuilding and vacuum-filling, he suggests, can be paid by allies, or by Russians, Turks and even the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

“That’s why I say they should start doing a lot of the fighting now, and they’ll be able to,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Sunday. “I really believe they’ll be able to.”

All the terrorists need to know, he said, is that the United States will hunt them down, if necessary, even from afar.

But the story of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s demise is more complex. He was living in territory that was essentially ungoverned space, dominated by two different Qaeda groups — Mr. al-Baghdadi’s rivals — and now an emerging territory for ISIS fighters on the run. The Syrians and the Russians control the airspace.

It is exactly the kind of area that American military and intelligence leaders — and the Republican leadership in Congress — have urged Mr. Trump to keep an eye on by keeping a small force in the country.

David H. Petraeus, the former general and C.I.A. director, often says that ungoverned space inevitably becomes extremist space. “Las Vegas rules do not obtain in these locations,” he said this year. “What happens there doesn’t stay there.”

Mr. Trump does not subscribe to that theory. In his view, American surveillance can keep track of the terrorists from above, while the National Security Agency can bore into their networks.

To Mr. Trump, a United States military presence on the ground becomes an excuse for others not to act; it does not bother him, he says, that Russia now occupies an area that was essentially an American protectorate before.

“I’ll tell you who loves us being there: Russia and China,” he said. “Because while they build their military, we’re depleting our military there.”

Mr. Trump acknowledged the help of some of those governments on Sunday, thanking the Russians first for allowing in the American helicopters, saying that the Kurds “gave us some information,” that Turkey was “not a problem.” (He did not give a similar heads-up to the congressional leadership that has been pressing for his impeachment, saying, “Washington is a leaking machine.”) While he declined to say where the operation began and ended, it was from Iraqi territory.

But it is far from clear that, in the absence of American engagement, that access is assured.

The one exception to Mr. Trump’s disengagement philosophy may come over oil.

Mr. Trump said he would not ask American taxpayers to “pay for the next 50 years” of containing mayhem. But in recent days he has indicated he is willing to keep troops around Syria’s oil fields, a consistent exception to the Trump no-troops rule. When the Iraq invasion happened, he noted Sunday, he argued for America to “keep the oil.”

Now he is making a similar case about the oil in Syria. Oil money fueled ISIS, he notes, and more recently it helps feed the Kurds — not mentioning that their access to it is being jeopardized by his sudden decision three weeks ago to abandon the American posts along the Turkey-Syria border.

But in recent days his defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, has indicated Mr. Trump was willing to commit forces to secure the fields, and the president went further on Sunday, saying he intends to “make a deal with an Exxon-Mobil or one of our great companies to go in” and exploit the field properly.

“We should be able to take some also,” he said.

The risk, of course, is that America looks like a force of exploitation, willing to enter hostile foreign lands for two reasons only: killing terrorists and extracting resources. The mission of the American Century — helping other nations to develop their economies and build democratic institutions — is missing from the strategy.

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