U.S. considering drone strikes against ISIL leader
A new report shows the Pentagon is considering the circumstances under which it would recommend U.S. President Barack Obama authorize drone attacks against the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
According to several Pentagon officials, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information, any such mission to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi should be approved by the US president.
“He is a person of great interest to us,” CNN quoted one of the officials as saying.
The U.S. government has already placed a $10 million bounty on Baghdadi's head.
According to CNN, Baghdadi is essentially on a U.S. “kill list” and is one of Washington’s “high value targets” on whom U.S. forces are collecting intelligence.
However, for the U.S. to launch a kill mission against any “high value target,” it has to prove that the target poses a threat to the U.S.
The U.S. officials who talked to CNN have said that Baghdadi’s ISIL militants do threaten the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and U.S. citizens in Iraq.
Meanwhile, some U.S. officials – including Obama’s former ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and Republican Sen. John McCain – have repeatedly raised concerns about the threat posed by ISIL militants to America.
Following a Senate Armed Services Committee’s closed-door meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Tuesday, McCain criticized the Obama administration for having “no strategy” to counter the threat posed to the U.S. by ISIL.
“They have no strategy, nor could they articulate a strategy to counter what our intelligence estimates say will be a direct threat to the United States,” he told reporters.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who also emerged dissatisfied from the closed-door briefing, said only “American airpower” can “dislodge” ISIL terrorists in Iraq.
“Name a force that could dislodge these people and deny them their safe haven in the region that doesn’t include American airpower,” he said.
Washington’s concerns over the ISIL threat to the U.S. and the Pentagon’s consideration over drone strikes against Baghdadi come as several reports, observers, and even some U.S. officials including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) have said the terrorist militants in Iraq and Syria have been funded, trained, and armed by the U.S.
In a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday, Rodney Martin, a former U.S. congressional staffer, said it is quite possible that the US made a deal with Baghdadi.
“The United Sates had al-Baghdadi. They had him, and then released him,” Martin said. “And it’s not unreasonable to assume that the CIA interviewed him and then made a deal with him, and then released him.”
Baghdadi was captured by U.S. troops in 2005 and held at the US-operated Camp Bucca detention center in Umm Qasr, a port city in southern Iraq.
However, he was released in 2010 from prison after Washington turned over all detainees to Iraqi authorities under a troop drawdown agreement that the US government signed with the Iraqi government in 2008.