Defense chief: ISIS leader ‘moves around’

Defense Secretary Ash Carter signaled his support for retired Gen. James Mattis to be his successor, but also slammed Russia and endorsed traditional US alliances that Donald Trump has previously criticized.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, in unusually revealing comments, told Charlie Rose in an interview broadcast Thursday that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “moves around” and that his “days are numbered.”

In a PBS interview with Rose, Carter was asked if the US knew where al-Baghdadi was and he responded, “If I knew exactly where he was — first of all, I wouldn’t tell you and, second of all, he wouldn’t have long. He moves around.”

Carter added, “I’m just confident. I don’t want to say any more than that, but I wouldn’t want to be a senior ISIL leader. Many of them have died already. The more we do, the more we learn about where they are. So, his days are numbered and that’s true of all the rest of the leadership.”

Rose followed up and asked if Al-Baghdadi’s days were numbered, Carter replied, “Absolutely.”

CNN reported on December 29th that a US official said, “In the last few weeks we’ve been aware of some of Baghdadi’s movements.”

The official had access to some of the most recent US government reporting on ISIS at the time, but because of the extreme sensitivity of the information, that official declined to offer more details. That includes whether intelligence indicates if he is in Syria or Iraq or to what extent he is hiding.

One longstanding theory held by US officials is that Baghdadi has remained in Raqqa, Syria. On December 16, the US increased the reward on Baghdadi from $10 million to $25 million for information leading to his capture.

According to Iraq’s Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Baghdadi is hiding in an area west of Mosul.

The PMU forces are a key component of the Iraqi-led forces fighting to evict ISIS from Mosul and other parts of Iraq and are leading the charge against ISIS in areas west of Mosul.

“We’ve received information that Abu Baker al Baghdadi is hiding between the towns of al Baaj and Al-Qairawan, near the Iraqi -Syrian border,” Ahmed al Assadi, the PMU spokesman. said on Wednesday.