Death of al-Baghdadi an 'important milestone,' retired military leaders say

PHOTO: Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters gather near the border town of Tal Abyad, Syria, October 24, 2019.PlayKhalil Ashawi/Reuters
WATCH 'We are not done with ISIS yet': Retired Adm. Stavridis on the death of ISIS leader

The U.S. operation that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was "an incredibly important milestone," retired Gen. Joseph Votel said on ABC’s "This Week"

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"This is an extraordinarily complex mission, but as we have come to expect from our special operations forces, extraordinarily well executed," Votel said.

Votel and retired Adm. James Stavridis appeared on ABC’s "This Week" moments after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. special operations forces conducted a raid in Syria on Saturday where al-Baghdadi died. "Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead" President Trump said Sunday morning in remarks after the raid.

The president said al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest he was wearing as U.S. special operations forces carried out a ground operation near Idlib.

Trump said the U.S. had received final confirmation of his death, saying "His body was mutilated from the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it in addition, but test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump and government officials monitor developments as special operations forces close in on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadis compound in Syria in the situation room at the White House, Oct. 26, 2019. Shealah Craighead/The White House via Getty Images
President Donald Trump and government officials monitor developments as special operations forces close in on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's compound in Syria in the situation room at the White House, Oct. 26, 2019.

Joseph Votel, a retired four-star general, served as the commander of the United States Central Command both under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Since leaving his position in March, Votel has penned articles criticizing the president’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

Votel has argued the U.S. should continue its fight against ISIS.

"The U.S. should now focus on what elements it can influence – ensuring that ISIS cannot resurge and once again threaten America and its allies," Votel wrote in an article published in "The Atlantic."

PHOTO: Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 16, 2019. Murad Sezer/Reuters
Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 16, 2019.

Stavridis, a retired four-star admiral, served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander from 2009-2013.

"A tyrannical, terrorist figure is gone. Full stop. Great news. Credit to the US Department of Defense and specifically our special forces," the admiral told Martha Raddatz, in an ABC Special Report before the president's address Sunday morning.