Out of the rubble in Barisha, Syria, two narratives have emerged. In one, the decision by President Donald Trump to pull out of Syria appears to have been strategic in more ways than initially thought. American withdrawal created a vacuum, and in the rush to fill it, Turkish military intelligence forces may have led the CIA and U.S. Special Forces to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In another, it was President Trump who bargained with Erdogan: we pull our troops out if you give us Baghdadi.
In either case, the news is good for Trump. Baghdadi is a trophy, proof that despite Islamist governments and terrorist militias taking pains to hide and give succor to our enemies, we can locate them in the most barren, desolate locations and kill them without loss of American life.
In the first scenario, Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to get out of “endless wars”, has a vested political interest in withdrawal. In order to have the last word against critics, Trump may have ordered intelligence agancies to monitor movements of Turkish forces after withdrawing in order to identify hidden assets, then coordinate with special ops. After all, it was a highly coordinated effort, as detailed by special-ops.org:
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the notorious Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL), was killed in Syria’s Idlib province on October 27, 2019, in a military raid carried out by the United States 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), also known as Delta Force. The Delta Force is considered as Tier 1 unit.
The operation was carried out after the CIA agents have acknowledged the al-Baghdadi’s possible whereabout. In coordination with Joint Special Operations Command, commonly known as JSOC, they have coordinated the raid which resulted in the death of al-Baghdadi. In addition to Delta Force, participating units under JSOC included the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)—also known as “Night Stalkers”—and operators from the CIA’s Special Activities Division, which recruits heavily from former JSOC Special Mission Units. The operation ended a nearly 5-year search for al-Baghdadi since he announced the Islamic State califate in Mosul’s great mosque in April 2014.
Or, A Legitimate Quid Pro Quo?
Another possibility is that the famous letter to Turkish President Erdogan was a smokescreen meant to distract the international media from the real story. In this case, the real negotiations involved Baghdadi’s location as a condition for troop withdrawal. From Zero Hedge:
As for Baghdadi who was “hiding” with the blessing of Turkey, it now appears that he was the bargaining chip in the negotiations between Trump and Erdogan, and the quid for the US president’s agreeing to pull out of Syria was the pro quo that Erdogan would hand Baghdadi to him on a silver platter (if true, expect a tidal wave of terrorism in Turkey in the coming weeks). Which in turn has led to today’s victory lap by the US president who will now – and for the foreseeable future – trumpet the biggest victory of the US administration in the war against terrorism since Obama’s killing of bin Laden in 2011.
Trump appears to have set up the ideal quid pro quo: for doing something he wanted to do (begin to get out of an endless war), he won the grisly party favor of Baghdadi’s head. Sounds like Art of the Deal Part II.
You might call it “win-winning.”