When US President Donald Trump announced withdrawal of troops from Syrian border on October 26, he has been blamed for not fulfilling his commitment to Kurdish Syrians and leaving the job to Russians to complete it. However, the very next day he surprised his critics and the world by announcing that his troops had moved in a “dangerous and daring nighttime raid” towards the hideout in northwestern Syria and claimed that they have killed Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The immediate world reaction was that it offered kudos to Trump for his strategy in executing the job in an absolute perfection. But after a week, a section of the media and people, expressed their disbelief in Trump’s claim of the whole operation of his troops killing the dreaded terrorist leader.
Describing the chronology of operation, Trump said that evening he and his senior advisers gathered in the Situation Room of the White House, watched the elite US forces, in their eight helicopters, taking off from a military base in Iraq, 6,000 miles away. The US forces crossed three countries by midnight, descended on northwestern Syria, and launched “one of the most significant counterterrorism operations in the campaign against the Islamic State.”
Baghdadi was known for his brutality, and was recognized as the world’s most-wanted terrorist. Under him, ISIS conquered a territory size of Britain and directed horrific attacks around the world. Baghdadi first came to limelight in 2014, when his men overran one-third of Iraq and half of neighboring Syria and declared the territory a Caliphate, claiming to revive the Muslim theocracy that ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
That evening’s operation, which ran into next day morning, was code-named after Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker, who was abducted and raped by Baghdadi before she was killed. Watching on a screen live the operation that saw the end of Baghdadi, Trump described: “It was as though you were watching a movie. Baghdadi died like a dog. He died like a coward.”
At the end of the army operation, Trump and his colleagues also watched a sketchy surveillance drone video sans any soundtrack. Later the video was released to the world, which showed some commandos running towards the compound of Baghdadi’s house and breaking the wall. No other details of operation were seen in the video, but it concluded with a missile blasting the so-called building where Baghdadi with his family and security personnel was hiding.
It looked as if Trump had followed the same surprise strategy like his predecessor Barack Obama in killing that notorious al-Qaeda leader Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in Abbottabad located very close to Islamabad in Pakistan.
“Surprise” being the common element of both the operations, the only difference was that the US Navy SEALs directly attacked and killed Bin Laden, while the US special army operatives broke the compound wall and swooped into the house of Baghdadi. Chased by a specially-trained army dog of Belgian Malinois breed, Baghdadi who fled and holed himself up in a tunnel, committed suicide by blowing up his explosive vest. Trump had claimed that the killing of “ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a bigger deal than the killing of Osama bin Laden.” Trump heaped accolades on the army dog for its diligent action in tracing and chasing Baghdadi to the dead-end of the tunnel, where he finally killed himself along with his two sons.
A report said that despite Baghdadi’s vest detonating, the US troops were able to recognize him, A ground commander, it is stated, helped in conveying to the White House that they were “absolutely convinced” it was the Islamic State leader, who was killed. The results of the DNA test were complete on October 27 morning, and the military had to dispose of Baghdadi’s remains in accordance with Muslim traditions, which typically require burial within 24 hours.
Trump is quoted to have said the remains of at least two wives of Baghdadi were left behind. They had not detonated their vests and were still wearing them, making it too risky for the US troops to dispose of the bodies.
Seven days later since Trump announced a graphic account of Baghdadi’s last minutes, reports emanating from the US media suggest that no concrete evidence has emerged to confirm it. One US official “dismissed” Trump’s version of the event as mere “grandstanding.”
An NYT News Service report, authored by Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt, said: “The secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the regional commander, who oversaw the operation that killed the leader of Islamic State terror group — all say they have no idea what the President was talking about.” The report also suggested that four other defense department officials speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had seen no after-action reports, situation reports or other communications that support Trump’s claim. Nor did they have any indication that Trump spoke with any of the Delta Force commandos or ground commanders in the hours between the October 26 night and the October 27 morning televised announcement.
“Trump is not simply a serial liar; he is attempting to murder the very idea of truth, which is worse,” said Peter Wehner, a former strategic adviser to President George W. Bush.
Mark K. Updegrove, a Presidential historian, said those commanders-in-chief and President Barack Obama would not have been so loose with the truth about such a moment.
These officials and leaders, who are seeking evidence of army action and killing of Baghdadi seems to perceive the whole operation as a reality show as shown on a television.
All the claims of disbelief by a section of the media, some officials and leaders in the US are contrary to the confirmation of the Islamic State terror group as reported by Rick Gladstone on October 31, about the killing of Baghdadi in the US operation. The IS terror group also announced the death of Baghdadi’s aide Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in a separate operation by the US forces. It also confirmed that Baghdadi has been succeeded by Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.
– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.
Picture Credits: AP / Shutterstock / The New Yorker