Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that the “security situation in Syria remains complex” after the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend by U.S. special forces, since state-sponsored and non-state entities are vying for control of northern Syria’s resources. The secretary explained that al-Baghdadi refused to surrender to US forces before detonating a suicide vest and killing himself during a US military raid in northwest Syria on Saturday.
“This is a devastating blow. This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways. He formed ISIS in 2014, he led to establishing the physical caliphate throughout the region, so this is a major blow to them,” Esper told Jake Tapper Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Esper added that “we’re going to watch carefully the next steps. And as a new leader and leaders pop up we’ll go after them as well.”
The secretary told Tapper that President Donald Trump approved the US raid “late last week” after being presented with different options. The objective, Esper said, was capturing him or if necessary, killing him.”The President approved a raid on the target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and if we didn’t capture him, of course, we were going to kill him,” Esper said.