About a week after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a U.S. Special Forces operation to capture or kill him, a top military commander says that the terrorist caliphate remains a threat.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of the assault on the compound where Baghdadi was holed up in Idlib Province, some 4 miles from the Turkish border, noted that he believes ISIS will be impacted by the death of its leader, However, though it will take some time to reorganize and find a new leader, the group has not been eliminated.
“They will be dangerous,” he said during a press briefing Wednesday. “We suspect they will try some form of retribution attack, and we’re postured and prepared for that.”
The Islamic State is, before anything else, premised on an ideology, McKenzie said. As such, having lasting success against the group doesn’t include destroying it completely but instead having it corralled by local militaries and authorities to prevent them from attacking the U.S.
“We don’t see a bloodless future, because, unfortunately, this ideology is going to be out there, but we think there’s a way to get to a point where it’s going to be less and less effective over time,” said the head of Central Command.
During the briefing, McKenzie said the mission was launched from CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Fla., at 9 a.m. Eastern time, Saturday. The objectives were to either capture or kill al-Baghdadi with approval of the president, who monitored the operation from the White House Situation Room.
“The general outline of the mission was a helicopter assault by special operations forces that were pre-stage in Syria, launched against an isolated compound in northwest Syria where Baghdadi was suspected to be hiding,” he said.
“… While that concept sounds simple enough, I can assure you that the plan was significantly more complex than that and designed to avoid detection by [IS] and others prior to and during execution, to avoid civilian causalities.”
Al-Baghdadi was hiding in a region of Syria where the U.S. had not been operating much.