President Trump admitted that the White House did not inform House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or other key Democrats in Congress about the raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIS.
Under normal conditions, the President of the United States is required by Title 50 U.S.C. § 3091(a)(1) to “ensure that the congressional intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity…”
Specifically, the Gang of Eight includes the leaders of each of the two parties from both the Senate and House of Representatives, and the chairs and ranking minority members of both the Senate Committee and House Committee for intelligence as set forth by 50 U.S.C.§ 3093(c)(2).
ISIS has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations, European Union and many individual countries but the decision to not make congressional leaders aware of imminent military action goes against the customary practices for such high-profile operations.
The covert operation started around 5 p.m. on Saturday evening as eight helicopters carrying teams of elite US troops, including Delta Force operators, flew exactly one hour and ten minutes over dangerous territory towards the compound in northern Syria where al-Baghdadi was located.
Numerous other US aircraft and ships were also involved in the mission.
Authorities say helicopters that encountered local weaponized resistance returned gunfire and eliminated the threat.
Ultimately Baghdadi, who was also wearing a suicide vest, took refuge in a “dead end” tunnel with three children and detonated the device. At least two ISIS fighters were captured and 11 children were taken into custody.
Two of Baghdadi’s wives were killed during the operation although their suicide vests remained unexploded.
Bipartisan praise for the US mission was undercut by criticism that the Trump administration did not inform congressional leaders about it ahead of time and came amid broader concerns about the strategy in the region after the US removed troops from Syria.
Pelosi expressed relief that no Americans were killed and said that al-Baghdadi’s death was “significant, but the death of this ISIS leader does not mean the death of ISIS.”
“The House must be briefed on this raid, which the Russians but not top Congressional Leadership were notified of in advance, and on the administration’s overall strategy in the region,” Pelosi said. “Our military and allies deserve strong, smart and strategic leadership from Washington.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he was not briefed on the raid before it was carried out.
“This is an operational success, this is a symbolic victory. He had the blood of thousands and thousands of people on his hands, including many Americans and American journalists,” Schiff said. “So, this a great day, a ruthless killer has been brought to Justice.”
“In terms of notifying the Gang of Eight, that wasn’t done,” Schiff said.
One week ago, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that Trump’s order for a withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria will effectively cede control of the area to the Syrian government and Russia, and could allow a resurgence of the Islamic State.
He also said roughly 1,000 American troops in Syria, mostly Special Operations forces, would leave the northeastern part of the country vulnerable to Turkey’s incursion into the section controlled by Kurdish forces, a group of fighters trained and backed by the United States government.
In plain terms, American forces are abandoning their Kurdish allies to die or be routed out in the Turkish-backed offensive.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called al-Baghdadi’s death a “significant step” in the fight against “international terrorism.”
“The US announcement on the operation against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a significant step in our efforts against international terrorism,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO remains committed to the fight against our common enemy ISIS.”
“Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was a murderer and terrorist responsible for terrible suffering and death,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The fight against ISIS would not be possible without the brave efforts of the Kurds and other U.S. allies.”
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