WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Wednesday released the first images and videos of last week's U.S. military mission that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"The operation was exquisitely planned and executed," Marine Corps Gen. Ken McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said during a press briefing at the Pentagon.
"We are under no illusions that ISIS is going to go away because we killed Baghdadi. It will remain," said McKenzie, who oversaw the mission. "They will be dangerous, and we suspect that they will try some form of retribution attack, and we are postured and prepared for that."
Similarly, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Monday at the Pentagon that Baghdadi's death would send a forceful message to terrorists.
"Baghdadi's death will not rid the world of terrorism or end the ongoing conflict in Syria, but it will certainly send a message to those who question America's resolve and provide a warning to terrorists who think they can hide," Esper said.
McKenzie also offered an update on the dog injured in the mission, saying that the animal was exposed to live electrical cables but has since returned to duty. The dog, whose name and breed are classified, is a four-year veteran of the canine Special Operations Command program and has served 50 combat missions.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump confirmed Baghdadi's death and identified Syria's oil as a U.S. national security priority. Trump also highlighted a potential U.S. energy market opportunity by tapping into Syrian oil.
"What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly ... and spread out the wealth," Trump said, adding that U.S. troops would be tasked with retaining control of the oil facilities.
"We're keeping the oil," Trump reiterated. "Remember that. I've always said that, 'Keep the oil.' We want to keep the oil," he said, adding that the oil could produce a value of $45 million a month.
The Pentagon emphasized Monday that U.S. troops will secure oil fields in northeast Syria in the wake of al-Baghdadi's death.
"At the height of Baghdadi's reign, these oil fields provided ISIS with the bulk of financial resources used to fund its terror," Esper said Monday. "U.S. troops will remain positioned in this strategic area to deny ISIS access to those vital resources, and we will respond with overwhelming military force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there," he added.
"The fundamental purpose of securing those oil fields is to deny those oil fields access to ISIS in order to prevent ISIS from resurgence," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley said alongside Esper.
What's more, the latest revelation comes as the Trump administration works to withdraw the U.S. military presence from war-torn Syria.
Last year, Trump went through a similar debate over whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ultimately agreeing to keep them there but only after repeatedly raising questions about why they should stay.