In a press briefing broadcast live on Sunday, US President Donald Trump described in granular terms the raid in which US special forces killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
“When we landed with eight helicopters, a large crew of brilliant fighters ran out of those helicopters and blew holes into the side of the building, not wanting to go through the main door because that was booby-trapped,” Trump said.
But according to current and former military and national security experts who spoke with the media in the wake of the raid, the gripping, public details — down to precise timings and specific tactics — could come back to haunt the US in future raids.
Trump relished describing al-Baghdadi as “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” before his death, having been pursued into a network of subterranean tunnels by the US forces before detonating a suicide vest.
The president said that US forces had a detailed knowledge of the tunnel network and that his perspective following the raid from the White House Situation Room was “like watching a movie.”
Trump mapped out part of the dangerous route taken by the airborne special forces to the terrorist’s hideout in northwestern Syria. He said the aircraft traveled “very low and very fast,” took an hour and 10 minutes, crossed territory held by Russia, and encountered enemy fire. The team, he said, took the “identical route” back.
Some national security officials have expressed concern that Trump’s vivid description of the raid may have revealed too much — handing terrorists targeted by the US valuable information on evading capture or death.