- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2019

Conan the military dog received a hero’s welcome at the White House on Monday for his role in the Special Forces raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month in Syria.

President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump showcased the Belgian Malinois in the Rose Garden for the media after presenting him and his handlers with an award and a plaque.

Conan did a fantastic job,” the president said as Mr. Pence scratched the dog behind the ears. “This is the ultimate fighter, ultimate everything.”

Conan, part of the Army Delta Force, was injured during the nighttime raid in northern Syria. Al-Baghdadi was killed when he detonated a suicide vest in a tunnel trying to escape; the president said previously that the dog had chased the terrorist leader into the tunnel.

The dog looked healthy and contended on his leash while the president spoke of his heroics.

“It was a flawless attack, and al-Baghdadi is gone,” Mr. Trump said. “We just gave Conan and medal and a plaque. I actually think Conan knew exactly what was going on. We’re very honored to have Conan here.”

Conan’s human Special Forces handlers did not appear in public to protect their identities.

The celebration in the sun-splashed Rose Garden for what the president called the “world’s most famous dog” provided a warm and furry distraction to the military furor that had erupted less than a day earlier with the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. He objected to the president’s intervention in the case of a Navy SEAL convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter.

Mr. Pence recounted Mr. Trump‘s decision to give the go-ahead for the al-Baghdadi raid, allowing the president to revel in a victory amid a high-profile impeachment inquiry.

“The day before the raid, you had talked about measures that were available to protect our soldiers,” Mr. Pence reminded the president. “And it had been described to us, about the fact that they had dogs that could go in, in the event that al-Baghdadi had on him an explosive vest — that you put the premium on the safety of our Special Forces. And this dog was there; suffered some injury. We were able to complete the raid without any American casualty.”

He added, “Having this extraordinary dog here today is all a reflection of our armed forces and the great job that they do. But Conan is really a hero.”

Mr. Trump joked that if reporters “opened their mouths,” they would be attacked.

The president said Conan isn’t retiring any time soon. And he marveled over the Malinois breed’s abilities in detecting drugs and other danger.

“They’re incredible animals,” the president said.

While Conan received lots of praise, some members of his civilian audience couldn’t seem to get his sex straight. The president referred to Conan as a male, but a White House pool reporter later issued a report stating that a White House had official confirmed “that Conan the dog is female.”

That report prompted various news organizations to change their reports to identify Conan as a female for several hours. But the White House subsequently told the media that Conan is a male.

And a very good boy.

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