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Guardian / Anadolu Agency video screenshot

Donald Trump took a victory lap around the blown-apart corpse of ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr a-Baghdadi yesterday, proclaiming the weekend special forces raid a far more important victory over terrorism than the killing of Osama bin Laden, which happened the night Barack Obama humiliated Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, which means it didn't count at all.

We guess we'd better refresh your memory, because we will take any excuse to repost this:

C-SPAN: President Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner www.youtube.com


And we guess we better refesh your memory on these too:


Narrator: Obama never took credit. But someone did!

Also too, the New York Times reports that according to multiple "military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials," the raid went off successfully "largely in spite of Mr. Trump's actions," not because he is a military genius. Mind you, since Trump knows much more about everything than anyone else, that's almost certainly just a lot of jealous grumbling from Deep State operatives who can't believe what a great job he's doing and want to tear down all his successes.


The focus of the Times story is establishing a timeline of how the raid happened, noting that planning for the raid got underway over the summer, "following the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi's wives and a courier[.]" Then the CIA

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, allowing American commandos to stage an assault Saturday in which President Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi died.

Hooray for intelligence and allies, two things Donald Trump has absolutely no use for. Ah, but while the raid was successful, the insiders told the Times it was more dangerous than it had to be. That's thanks largely to Trump's impulsive decision to pull all US troops from Syria so he could say he ended a war (which of course, he didn't), and so Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could be rid of America's Kurdish allies against ISIS, whom Trump figured were expendable now.

Mr. 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 [...]

The officials praised the Kurds, who continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi even after Mr. Trump's decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone. The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

Which is, of course, probably why Trump thanked Russia first, because it graciously agreed not to shoot down any US aircraft once its military was informed an operation would be getting underway.

To our great disappointment, the rest of the story focuses on the actual details of the raid; we imagine more reporting on the rush to get the operation up and running will come out later.

Over at the Washington Post, Brett McGurk, the former presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, wrote an op-ed saying it's a good thing Baghdadi is gone, but that ISIS is likely to go on. Worse, he says, burning our Kurdish allies, with whom the US had built relationships for several years, is going to have serious effects on the ability to fight ISIS going forward, and even in the short term will hurt the US's ability to take advantage of the trove of documents US special forces seized from Baghdadi's compound before US planes obliterated it.

Our analysts are surely poring over this information now, and it will lead to Islamic State sleeper cells and networks across Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But our abrupt pullout from Syria will make it harder to act on this information. U.S. Special Forces have already left positions overwatching the Islamic State's former strongholds, including Raqqa and Manbij, where major attacks into Europe were organized. These areas are now controlled by Russia and the Bashar al-Assad regime, foreclosing our ability to act on targetable information.

McGurk also says Erdogan "has some explaining to do," since Baghdadi was hiding out not in his usual stomping grounds in eastern Syria or Western Iraq,

but rather in northwestern Syria — just a few miles from Turkey's border, and in Idlib province, which has been protected by a dozen Turkish military outposts since early 2018.

He considers it "telling" that the US apparently launched the raid from Iraq, choosing to fly much farther over hostile territory, instead of from the big US base in Turkey. He doesn't say it outright, but McGurk strongly implies the less the Turkish military knew, the better.

Idlib has become the world's largest terrorist haven. Most of the nearly 40,000 foreign fighters that flooded Syria during its civil war came through Turkey into northwestern Syria. Today, it is largely controlled by al-Qaeda's formal affiliate in Syria, which itself is sustained by cross-border trade and enjoys symbiotic relationships with Turkey-backed opposition groups. Now we know the area was hospitable enough for the world's most-wanted terrorist to camp out with his extended family.

He also notes that when the US was casting about for a local ally to fight ISIS, American commanders settled on the Kurds and Arab forces in the Syrian Democratic Forces, largely because "two administrations found Turkish-backed forces too riddled with extremists to partner with." Oh, hey, those are precisely the Turkish-sponsored forces accused of doing war crimes to Kurds. But that's OK, as Trump explained yesterday, because all the brutal fighting persuaded the Kurds to get out of northern Syria so Erdogan could have his safe zone, hooray.

Finally, in an interview on NPR this morning, Nicholas Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a member of Barack Obama's National Security Council during the bin Laden raid, said that it was "hard to know" exactly what drove the timing of the raid -- probably the state of the intelligence on Baghdadi's location was a big factor -- but that Trump's decision to pull all US troops out of Syria could have been important, too.

It's possible also that the timing was driven by the fact that we're soon to be losing our capability -- a good bit of our capability -- in that part of Syria [...] it might be the case that we had to move before we lost access to particularly important territory for our intelligence operatives, for our military forces.

Trump's decision to abandon the US's Kurdish allies in northern Syria may not have had direct implications for the raid on Baghdadi, but could be a bad thing for the US going forward, Rasmussen said:

We certainly have benefited tremendously from the partnership with the Syrian Kurds, and that's something we're choosing to walk away from, that is something the president has decided. I think that most of us looking at this objectively think that is not a good move and will leave us less well off in terms of our ability to do this in the future.

He suggested this "thought experiment": In six months, will we be able to do a similar raid? "I suspect we could not," Rasmussen said.

Then again, we won't have to, because with the US leaving Syria -- except for the oil, we get to take the oil -- ISIS will have no reason to dislike us anymore, you bet, and Donald Trump will be proclaimed a very smart hero who left all those crazy foreigns to kill each other. At least until an airliner full of US passengers gets blowed up, but by then there may be a Democrat in office, so it's all good.

[WaPo / NYT / WaPo / NYT / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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