, 33 tweets, 54 min read
BREAKING - reports of a (US?) helicopter-borne raid on a convoy of Huras al-Din (#AlQaeda in #Syria) leaders traveling near Barisha in #Idlib.

Locals say as many as 6 choppers involved - gave chase to convoy, 2 landed & assaulted vehicles. Possibly took bodies or evidence away.
#pt: Barisha is ~3-4km from the #Turkey border. It's in long-time #AlQaeda territory, spanning between Al-Dana-Sarmada-Salqin.

As I recall, a helicopter-borne raid on AQ in NW #Syria has never happened - this would suggest a very high-level target.
#pt: In more recent years, the Turkistan Islamic Party (#TIP) has probably been the most significant authority in the Barisha region (stretching NE to Jisr al-Shughour).

Unverified reports have claimed 1 #TIP fatality, in what looks like a series of successive clashes. #Idlib
Back online, arrived in the #MiddleEast - looks like #ISIS leader #Baghdadi was the target of the U.S. SOF raid near Barisha in northern #Idlib, 3-4km from the #Turkey border.

Suffice to say, this is huge news.

Local sources indicate that #HTS may actually have been involved:
#pt: #HTS has embraced a hostile posture towards #ISIS since 2014. In the past 18 months, an elite #HTS security unit has been responsible for the death or capture of 200+ #ISIS militants in "counter-terrorism" raids in #Idlib.

BUT, #Baghdadi = a more challenging dilemma.
#pt: It has been widely reported in Ar. sources that long-time AQI veteran & HTS official Abu Mariya al-Qahtani had "welcomed" a number of #ISIS figures who fled from #ISIS's last battles in #Baghouz.

#Idlib would have been a huge gamble for #Baghdadi, but not inconceivable.
#pt: To get from eastern #Syria to #Idlib requires an extensive - and costly - smuggling effort. That reveals intelligence vulnerabilities, which could explain why the #SDF (including @MazloumAbdi) is now describing this as thanks to "joint intelligence work" with the #SDF.
@MazloumAbdi #pt: #HTS sources cited here by @wissamm88 claim that #HTS security forces were hunting #Baghdadi yesterday afternoon, when U.S. troops pounced in an operation that say also killed #Baghdadi's deputy, Abu Said al-Iraqi.

@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 #pt: NEW information suggests veteran jihadists belonging to #AlQaeda affiliate Tanzim Huras al-Din (HaD) were also killed in the U.S. raid.

I'd heard rumors that HaD was re-engaging with #ISIS's now vulnerable leadership. It's quite possible this is why #Baghdadi was in #Idlib.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 #pt: I've worked on #Idlib dynamics intensively for 8yrs. I'd be amazed if #Baghdadi had made #Idlib a semi-permanent hiding place.

It's *much* more likely that he was there to meet high-level jihadists - either #ISIS allies or #AlQaeda/#HaD figures looking to talk/mediate.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 #pt: Gathering from U.S. reporting, this SOF raid was "at least a week" in the making - meaning #Baghdadi was en route or in hiding for at least 7 days in #Idlib region.

That opens up the possibility that #Turkey was in-the-loop. Remember, @VP #Pence was there 10 days ago.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: Russia would also have been pre-informed, using a pre-existing "deconfliction" mechanism used by the U.S. to clear the way for 2 recent, rare, strikes against HaD in #Idlib - on June 30 and August 31.

Both those strikes targeted members of an "ultra-extremist" HaD wing...
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: Huras al-Din (HaD) is a complex movement, whose leadership has been divided between former Jabhat al-Nusra (intensely hostile to #ISIS) & newly arrived #AlQaeda "core" (less so).

Rumors I'd heard is the latter were attempting to re-engage with #ISIS, to explore a detente.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: It is clear that the U.S. (CIA) has intel penetrating deep within Huras al-Din. That explains the 2 strikes in June & August.

Other rumors - linked also to targeted assassination of senior #AlQaeda figures in #Idlib - have blamed #HTS for "leaking" & "betraying" AQ targets.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: For e.g, the killing of long-time #AlQaeda veteran Abu Khallad in #August in a targeted assassination was blamed widely on "traitors," which was interpreted to mean #HTS.

Implication: Was there an #HTS -> #Turkey/#MIT -> CIA intel link here? Maybe.

@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pts: So until now, (1) #Turkey & (2) the #SDF claim to have provided intelligence &/or support to the U.S. JSOC operation targeting #ISIS leader #Baghdadi in #Idlib.

That's very likely.

And bear in mind where much of #Turkey's intel on #Idlib comes from these days: (3) #HTS.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: Bear in mind also that locals claim U.S. forces were on the ground, questioning people & closing roads & then assaulting targets for a total of 2-3hrs.

In hostile territory, that [almost certainly] doesn't happen without someone telling people: "leave them alone" - #Turkey.
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: #Turkey says #Baghdadi arrived at the target location in #Barisha 48hrs before the U.S. JSOC raid.

That gives us more of an indication on (1) why he was likely there (temporarily, for a meeting/s) & (2) how he was detected (on the move, w. smugglers, thru #SDF territory?)
@MazloumAbdi @wissamm88 @VP #pt: We also know from US sources that this JSOC/CIA raid was in the works for "at least" a week, which tells us more about the CIA's success in penetrating high-level circles aware of #Baghdadi's plans.

IMO, that strengthens possibility that Huras al-Din figures were involved.
Interesting that US officials talking to @JenGriffinFNC described last night’s killing of #ISIS leader #Baghdadi in #Idlib as a “partnered mission.”

She also confirms #Baghdadi was ID’d via biometrics from his head, which blew off when he detonated a suicide vest. #Syria
#Trump confirms #Baghdadi is dead, after US SOF operation in NW #Syria.
#Trump’s description of #Baghdadi’s final moments - “whimpering, screaming, crying,” along with his children being chased by dogs - may be emotionally pleasing for some, but it’ll be fuel to fire for an inevitable #ISIS search for revenge.

Calling #ISIS “savage monsters,” same.
Time to take a step back & acknowledge the extraordinary capabilities demonstrated by the @CIA & the U.S. military (@USSOCOM/JSOC).

By all accounts, this was a seriously complex operation fraught with risk, yet total success & no losses.

@CIA Killing #Baghdadi is a major achievement, but make no mistake, #ISIS is still well-equipped to survive & likely resurge.

BUT - if #Trump hadn't sown such chaos in eastern #Syria in recent weeks, we'd now have an invaluable opportunity to double-down on #ISIS at a critical time.
@CIA Judging by today's media response to #Baghdadi's death, #Idlib will receive little/no international support when pro-#Assad forces re-escalate there.

It's an immensely complex place, currently home to 3 million civilians - at least 50% of whom have been displaced multiple times.
@CIA "Even with #Baghdadi dead, the plan will remain the same - go to ground & operate semi-autonomously in dispersed cells. #ISIS takes opportunities when they arise - we're not going to see any dramatic reaction... to this news.”

My comments to @FT:

@CIA @FT "In the interim, #ISIS will likely suffer from uncertainty as the power shift occurs, but ultimately, the extent of instability, vacuums & opportunities presented in #Syria & #Iraq are of far more advantage than the loss of a leader."

Me to @Independent:

@CIA @FT @Independent A lot being said about #Turkey having "bases" in close proximity to #Barisha, where #Baghdad was killed.

That's false. #Barisha is almost as far away from a #TSK #Idlib OP as it's possible to get - see yellow star on map, here:

Want to accuse #Turkey? Focus on border issue.
@CIA @FT @Independent A lot is also being said about how #Idlib is "#AlQaeda-controlled" - a [false] accusation that will only be understood by many as a justification for a military offensive there.

1. #Idlib is not "AQ-controlled."
2. The border strip around #Barisha is; has been a long time.
@CIA @FT @Independent #pt: The dominant force in #Idlib is #HTS, an extremist force, but different to #AlQaeda.

#HTS has been combating #ISIS in #Idlib for 1.5yrs = 100s of #ISIS killed & captured. #HTS sources are *celebrating* #Baghdadi's death, but mourning the fact that they weren't responsible.
@CIA @FT @Independent This @ReutersWorld piece does an excellent job & tracing back how #Baghdadi was found - #Iraq intelligence work, a joint US-#Turkey-#Iraq CT operation, informants in #Idlib...

... & #HTS, who captured a #Baghdadi aide & it seems, fed intel to #Turkey.

@CIA @FT @Independent @ReutersWorld This brilliant piece by @martinchulov highlights especially #Iraq's role in finding #Baghdadi, co-opting a smuggler who moved relatives to #Idlib.

Joint #Iraq-US intel work then concluded #Baghdadi was living with a Huras al-Din/#AlQaeda (HaD) commander.

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh.

Enjoying this thread?

Keep Current with Charles Lister

Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!