The New York Times petulantly refused to grant President Trump any credit for the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, who died in a U.S. raid in Northwest Syria, as witnessed by David Sanger’s huffy “news analysis” on Monday's front page, “Strategies Spurned by Trump Led to Triumph in Operation.”
The online subhead read “The president cast the death of the ISIS leader as validation of his disengagement strategy. But it required intelligence agencies and allies he has spurned” and the piece began (click “expand”):
The death of the Islamic State’s leader in a daring nighttime raid vindicated the value of three traditional American strengths: robust alliances, faith in intelligence agencies and the projection of military power around the world.
But President Trump has regularly derided the first two. And even as he claimed a significant national security victory on Sunday, the outcome of the raid did little to quell doubts about the wisdom of his push to reduce the United States military presence in Syria at a time when terrorist threats continue to develop in the region.
Mr. Trump has long viewed the United States intelligence agencies with suspicion and appears to see its employees as members of the “deep state.” He also has a distinctly skeptical view of alliances -- in this case, close cooperation with the Kurds, whom he has effectively abandoned.
Sanger encapsulated the argument in support of Trump:
To the president and his supporters, the arguments from critics amount to sour grapes, an effort by an impeachment-crazed opposition to play down the success of a focused, successful clandestine operation that echoed the killing of Osama bin Laden.
A pretty accurate summary. But the rest of the article spun to suppress the significance of the raid:
It is too early to know whether any political boost will be lasting. But navigating the complex morass of the Middle East is no less complex for the death of Mr. al-Baghdadi. It is not clear if the president’s decision to pull back American forces in northern Syria in recent weeks complicated the planning and execution of the mission.
And while the raid achieved its goal, it did little to resolve the question of whether Mr. Trump’s instinct for disengagement will create room for new strains of violent radicalism that he and his successors will be forced to clean up.
Monday's co-lead story by Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, and Julian Barnes hit the same targets: “Withdrawal From Syria Threw Wrench Into Operation.” Here's how that monstrosity began (click “expand”):
President Trump knew the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month, intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials said on Sunday.
For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.
But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.
Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.
It is unclear how much Mr. Trump considered the intelligence on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location when he made the surprise decision to withdraw the American troops during a telephone call on Oct. 6 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. What is clear, military officials said, is that it put commanders on the ground under even more pressure to carry out the complicated operation.
That’s not exactly the way The New York Times greeted President Barack Obama in May 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces under his command.
The Times followed up on Tuesday’s front page: “Betrayed Kurds Were Essential to Find ISIS Chief.” The front-page text box: “How Trump’s Lurch to Pull Troops Shattered a 5-Year Alliance.”