What an interesting drama this has turned out to be.
Russia reports they detected no activity near the site where the US claims the operation occurred.
The US reports that Baghdadi “whimpered and cried” before blowing himself up in an underground tunnel.
In our world where truth seems to be an elusive commodity, we are left to wonder. Let’s consider the facts.
First, despite the fact that we might rightly not trust politicians and governments in general, because they do often lie, it is not common for the military to blatantly lie. Not a lie as in say something happened when it did not. The military will lie, has lied and does lie about the scope and nature of things – but generally not so far as to fabricate a complete fiction; not generally.
Second, it seems unlikely that if the operation occurred that one could actually know that Baghdadi whimpered and cried in a tunnel and that he actually blew himself up, as opposed to say perhaps someone else did the act of blowing those in the tunnel up. It is difficult to state unequvically that he did the whimpering and the blowing up of himself. These are small details but perhaps items that were just best to leave out of the narrative, as they diminish rather than enhance credibility. (yes, there exists technology that would make the knowing, or at least suspecting with a high degree of certainty, the facts of what occurred in the tunnel possible but this is still not relevant to the story).
The operation was reportedly conducted by Delta. These guys are not the ball bouncing amateur SEALS. It is highly unlikely there will ever be an interview, book or movie about this created with the cooperation of any SFOD-D team member. That is not how these guys operate.
It is possible if the reports are correct and the 75th Ranger Regiment provided cordon security for the operation, that some enterprising reporter might track down enough current members of the Ranger regiment and confirm or deny that such an operation occurred on the specified date. This will take time, those youngsters will not talk whilst they are still in the regiment if they hope to remain there.
It is likely this all occurred. It is likely the US suspected with a high degree of fidelity that Baghdadi was there and we are likely pretty confident he could not have escaped the cordon. It is logical to assume that he died.
It is just odd. If the event occurred and if the US government wanted to hold this out as a win why not exploit the site after the operation -of course, after the guys that conducted the event were extracted. Like we used to say when I was an OC/T, “pictures and video or it did not happen.” Why not allow and information operations and a combat camera crew a few moments on the site to document things after it was over? Why rush to dispose of Baghdadi in the ocean so soon after he died? More importantly, why even make a big deal of this at all. If you killed him, great, why talk about it?
I spent two rotations in the middle-east on a team that every evening geared up and departed our little base to hunt folks on a target list. Every night, as soon as it was dark until the early morning we were out raiding houses, blowing holes in walls, kicking in doors and detaining or killing big and small targets. (I was just a geek with some skills in geolocating, validating the target and exploiting some of the stuff left behind).
The thing about the guys on all these target lists, none of them are the villains from a James Bond movie. They are not super-geniuses, hiding out in lairs with extensive and technologically advanced defenses. They are not world-changing philosophers or thinkers that will change the nature of the world with their ideas. These are all just regular guys, many of them with good leadership skills, but regular guys that adhere to an ideology that is different than our own. It is like whack-a-mole, detain or kill one and another pops us. You simply cannot shift the center of gravity of an ideological fight by whacking a few moles.
Baghdadi was just a bigger, fatter mole. He was the leader of a group that did bad things and for that he deserved punishment. However, killing him will not change the world. He deserved to die, kill him and move on, making him out to be a supervillain, hero or a martyr simply inspires others to someday be him.