PENTAGON - More details are emerging about the daring U.S. military raid that took out Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Saturday. Once a powerful self-declared caliph, Baghdadi was found hiding in a tunnel as U.S. special forces closed in on capturing him. Cornered with no exit, he blew up himself and his three children.
U.S. forces took Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains from a tunnel under the Islamic State leader’s hideout, reduced to rubble by U.S. air power, confirming his identification through DNA testing before burying him at sea.
Officials are hopeful the treasure trove of data collected from the compound will aid American forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces they are partnering with.
Meantime, President Donald Trump has turned his focus to another asset: oil fields in northeast Syria.
“But we're keeping the oil -- remember that. I've always said that: ‘Keep the oil.’ We want to keep the oil. Forty-five million dollars a month? Keep the oil," Trump said.
Securing the oil fields is now part of America’s mission, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper added U.S. forces would defend them from Russian and Syrian forces, if necessary.
“We want to make sure the SDF does have access to the resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat-ISIS mission," Esper said.
A convoy of U.S. troops left Syria days ago amid cheers and taunts, but Esper tells VOA another convoy of American forces re-entered Syria Sunday to help resupply troops and prepare for the withdrawal that President Trump wants.
“My expectation is that there will be fewer than we had before and they will be going home," he said.
But with forces flowing both in and out of Syria, it’s unclear how long the withdrawal will take.