President Donald Trump on Sunday claimed that he was “on top” and “in command” of the military incursion that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, according to a report from the New York Times, Trump’s claim is not entirely true. In fact, the report cites two U.S. officials saying that Trump made the long-planned operation more difficult because of his impulsive decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.
Military intelligence officials have been tracking Baghdadi’s movements for months after getting tips from one of his wives and a courier, the officials told The Times.
The tips “came following the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier this past summer, two American officials said,” according to the report.
“Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify Mr. al-Baghdadi’s more precise whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements,” the report notes, before adding the president’s abrupt pull-out from Syria forced the military’s hand.
“Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria disrupted the meticulous planning and forced Pentagon officials to press ahead with a risky, night raid before their ability to control troops and spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared, according to military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials. Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death, they said, occurred largely in spite of Mr. Trump’s actions,” The Times reports.
This runs contrary to the president’s claim on Sunday morning that he has been focused on tracking down the leader for years while stating he has constantly been asking about the whereabouts of the Islamic terrorist since he came into office.
The report goes on to note that nabbing the ISIS head had been called off previously.
“The initial planning for the raid began this past summer. The Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct a secret mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, and faced huge hurdles,” the Times reports. “The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia. The military called off missions at the last minute at least twice.”
You can read the entire report on the military operation here.