The outgoing American commander of the counter-Islamic State coalition said Thursday said he would prefer to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi rather than take him into custody, despite the intelligence he might be able to provide.
"I would be happy to capture Baghdadi. I don't know who wouldn't. I think I would be just as equally satisfied just killing him," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, at his final Pentagon briefing before turning over his command next week.
"If he's alive out there somewhere, we are looking for him every day. When we find him I think we will just try to kill him first. Probably not worth all the trouble to try to capture him."
Townsend said he "hasn't a clue" where Baghdadi is, but he strongly suspects he is holed up in the Middle Euphrates River valley, which is the place the U.S. expects ISIS to stage its last stand.
Townsend says he believes it's likely Baghdadi is still alive, despite multiple reports in the past year that he died in various airstrikes, simply because he's seen no clear and convincing evidence that he's dead.
Townsend has spent a year as the senior ground commander in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He turns over his commander next week to Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, who is coming from Ft. Hood, Texas.