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Top Trump administration officials hail al-Baghdadi raid but stress need for resolve in fighting ISIS

Top Trump administration officials took to the Sunday shows to praise President Trump and U.S. special operations forces for the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but they and others stressed the need for continued vigilance in dealing with the terror group.

“It’s a tribute to the courage of our armed forces, special forces that executed the raid on the compound last night, but it’s also a tribute to the decisiveness of President Donald Trump,” Vice President Pence said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper called it a “great day for America,” saying on ABC’s “This Week” that the raid “was a brilliantly executed operation” and that Trump “deserves credit for giving it the green light.”

“These are always inherently risky, and, as I like to say, our folks make the complex and the dangerous look simple and safe,” he added.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien similarly hailed it as a “great day,” telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it was “great news for us, great news for the American people, great news for everyone in the world.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, called the raid a “big deal” on CNN’s “State of the Union” and said Trump “deserves a lot of credit for authorizing the raid.”

However, he added that it “does not mean ISIS is defeated any more than getting [Osama] bin Laden meant that al Qaeda was defeated.”

“We’ve taken something valuable away, but you still have these networks. You still have people who will take the place of anybody we remove, and they continue to work to attack America,” he added.

Thornberry told CNN’s Jake Tapper that al-Baghdadi’s death indicated the need for a continued presence in northern Syria.

“Having some presence there gives us a greater ability through intelligence gathering to keep track of these individuals,” he said.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “it was certainly an appropriate mission to greenlight, and so in that regard the president made the right decision. Now we need him to continue to make appropriate decisions moving forward.”

“The war on terror continues, and we can’t cede American leadership in the Middle East, which remains a dangerous part of the world, to entities like Russia or Turkey or Syria and Iran,” Jeffries added.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) offered a similar assessment on ABC’s “This Week,” saying, “This is a great day. A ruthless killer brought to justice.”

He added, “It’s not the end of ISIS by any means, and we’ve had some recent serious setbacks with the release of over 100 ISIS fighters. That struggle is going to have to go on, made more difficult by the fact that we’ve betrayed the Kurds and withdrawn our forces from part of Syria. Nonetheless an important victory against this brutal killer.”

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Tapper that “ISIS is more than just Baghdadi, as important as he was.”

Similarly, former national security adviser Susan Rice said on “Face the Nation” that “it’s a major milestone, and it’s one that we all should be welcoming, but it doesn’t mean that the fight against ISIS is over, and it doesn’t mean we can declare mission accomplished and just walk away.”

Pence signaled that U.S. forces would not rest on their laurels despite the success of the raid, telling CBS’s Margaret Brennan that with al-Baghdadi’s death, “we believe we’ll have a measurable impact on the effectiveness of that terrorist organization, but we’re not going to let up. We’re not going to stop the fight.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used similar language in a statement Sunday, saying, “This success underscores the importance of our continued D-ISIS mission in Syria and our determination to continue working with our partners in the Global Coalition to pursue ISIS wherever they may be, and ensuring its enduring defeat.”

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