Pence: Trump's decision to remove troops from Syria 'had no impact' on al-Baghdadi mission

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceProtests serve as backdrop to Erdoğan's visit to White House Trump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats announce public impeachment hearings with eight witnesses next week MORE said President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE’s decision to remove troops from northern Syria “had no impact” on the raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The vice president told PBS NewsHour Monday that U.S. troops are deployed across the region, including in other places in Syria and Iraq. He said he couldn’t say where special operations forces were located, but they “would have been unaffected by the decision the president made that troops come out of the border area.”

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“The president’s decision to remove troops from patrolling the border of Syria and the Turkish border had no impact on the capability as we demonstrated this weekend of moving this incredibly successful assault that brought the most wanted man in the world to justice,” Pence said. 

Pence said the U.S. troops in Syria had fulfilled their purpose to take down the ISIS caliphate in March and had been monitoring the Syrian-Turkey border, which he said was not the U.S.’s responsibility.

“It was a reflection of the fact that our troops went into Syria to defeat the ISIS caliphate but they had evolved to being troops simply patrolling the border between traditional Kurdish Syria and Turkey, and the president said we didn’t need to be in that mission,” he said.

President Trump confirmed al-Baghdadi’s death Sunday morning, saying a U.S. raid in Syria pushed him to detonate a suicide bomb, killing him and his three children.

Bipartisan politicians have criticized Trump for his decision earlier this month to remove U.S. forces from Syria, saying they worried the gap would give ISIS the opportunity to resurge in the region. Lawmakers also were concerned about leaving U.S.-allied Kurdish forces behind as a Turkey launched an offensive against them.