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Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks about a counterterrorism raid carried out by U.S. special forces that killed top Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in northwestern Syria, on Feb. 3, 2022.Patrick Semansky / AP

Biden on al-Qurayshi: 'This horrible terrorist leader is no more'

There are some similarities between today's news on the demise of the ISIS leader and similar news from 2019. There's also one big difference.


There was news overnight about a successful U.S. counterterrorism operation in northwestern Syria, conducted by U.S. special forces. The Pentagon confirmed that no Americans were harmed during the dramatic raid, though there were civilian casualties.

This morning at the White House, the details of the story came into focus. NBC News reported:

An overnight raid by United States special forces in northwestern Syria led to the death of the Islamic State terror group's top leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, President Joe Biden said Thursday. As U.S. forces closed in, Al-Qurayshi detonated a suicide bomb "in a final act of desperate cowardice," Biden said. The blast killed not only the ISIS leader, but also his wife and children, a senior administration official said.

"Last night's operation took a major terrorist leader off the battlefield, and sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: 'We will come after you and find you,'" the president told the public this morning.

Biden, who approved the mission, added, "Thanks to our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more.... This operation is a testament to America's reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they try to hide anywhere in the world. I'm determined to protect the American people from terrorist threats, and I'll take decisive action to protect this country."

If this news sounds at all familiar, it's because there are some notable parallels between today's news and related reports from two-and-a-half years ago. NBC News' report added:

Al-Qurayshi was named ISIS leader in October 2019 after his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a U.S. raid in the same region earlier that month. Al-Baghdadi also detonated a suicide bomb during the 2019 raid, killing himself and three of his children.

Of course, while the similarities are striking, one difference stood out.

After U.S. forces launched the raid that led to the first ISIS leader's demise, Donald Trump delivered a rambling 48-minute appearance, during which time the Republican needlessly shared sensitive operational details, made multiple canine references for reasons that were not at all clear, took the time to praise a far-right media network, made self-aggrandizing claims for no reason, and lied rather brazenly about his own record.

We learned soon after that the 2019 mission was a success "largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump's actions."

If the former president scrambles to downplay the Biden administration's counterterrorism victory, it's probably worth keeping these details in mind.