The dog injured during the mission that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was honored Monday afternoon during a surprise ceremony at the White House, with President Trump, Vice President Pence and First Lady Melania in attendance.
Conan, a Belgian Malinois who was named after talk show host Conan O’Brien, was hailed by Trump as a “special” animal who helped execute a “flawless attack” on the ISIS leader. “Conan came over from the Middle East — just arrived with some of the great people from the special forces that did the — it was a flawless attack,” the president said. “And al-Baghdadi is gone. That was a flawless attack and I just met quite a few of them. And we just gave Conan a medal and a plaque.
As the president spoke, Conan stood next to Vice President Mike Pence, who petted his head.
“And I actually think Conan knew exactly what was going on,” Trump continued. “The dog is incredible… We spent some good time with it. And so brilliant — so smart.
“The way it was with the special forces people that have worked with him, for obvious reasons they can’t be out in front of the media,” he added. “But they did a fantastic job. Conan did a fantastic job. We’re very honored to have Conan here.” Conan has since recovered from his injuries and returned to active duty. At one point while the first lady and Conan were walking back toward the White House, a reporter asked if she had any interest in adopting Conan as a pet for her son Baron, and she laughed before replying, “no.”
U.S. forces killed six ISIS members – four women and another man aside from Baghdadi – in the October raid. Baghdadi detonated an explosive vest as U.S. forced closed in, also killing two children he had brought with him into a tunnel. The death of Baghdadi was a milestone in the fight against ISIS, which brutalized swaths of Syria and Iraq and sought to direct a global campaign from a self-declared “caliphate.” A yearslong campaign by American and allied forces led to the recapture of the group’s territorial holding, but its violent ideology has continued to inspire attacks.
Baghdadi’s identity was confirmed by a DNA test conducted onsite, Trump said. The ISIS leader was later buried at sea. Some have called for the heroic canine to receive a Purple Heart. Earlier this month, Lt. Col Daniel Gade directly addressed the president and offered up his own Purple Heart to Conan as a symbol of the canine’s accomplishments.
“Look, these dogs are heroic. The president’s instincts are right and right on the Purple Heart medal, it says, ‘The President of the United States,’” Gade explained on “Fox & Friends,” rejecting the Pentagon’s policy on the matter.