- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2019

President Trump’s decision earlier this month to draw down U.S. troops in Syria had no bearing on the raid by Delta Force commandos that killed Islamic State terror leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the commander of American forces in the Middle East said.

“Absolutely not,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie of U.S. Central Command, who was in overall control of the mission. “We chose the time based on a variety of factors [such as] weather and lunar data.”

Some military and intelligence officials reportedly fears that Mr. Trump’s abrupt directive to withdraw American personnel from the region jeopardized the mission to kill or capture al-Baghdadi. Gen. McKenzie denied that while speaking to reporters at the Pentagon.

“While it might have been convenient to use bases there, the United States military has the capability to go almost anywhere and support ourselves — even at great distances,” he said. “We struck because the time was about right to do it then — given the totality of the intelligence and the other factors that would affect the raid force going in and coming out.”

Even with al-Baghdadi’s death, Gen. McKenzie said ISIS will remain a factor in the region because of its ideological power.

“We’re under no illusion [Islamic State] is going away just because we killed [him],” he said.

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