Hero dog in Baghdadi raid visits the White House

November 26, 2019, 11:32 a.m.
U.S. military K-9 Conan poses for photographs at the White House.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

One of the heroes in the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's compound in Syria was a military working dog who chased and cornered al-Baghdadi in a tunnel and then was slightly injured when the ISIS leader detonated a suicide vest.

This week, President Trump surprised reporters by bringing "Conan" out to meet the press corps in the White House Rose Garden.

“We actually just gave Conan a medal and a plaque,” Trump told reporters, according to Politico. “I actually think Conan knew exactly what was going on. But a dog that is very, very special.”

Conan first made headlines in late October when the president declassified a photo of the K-9 in a tweet.

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie and Conan U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, speaks as a picture of Conan, the canine that was part of the operation, is on display during a press briefing Oct. 30, 2019 at the Pentagon. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In the press briefing image shown above, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, speaks at the Pentagon as a photo of Conan is shown behind him. The dog is a four-year veteran of the United States Special Operations Command program and has taken part in about 50 combat missions, McKenzie said.

Immediately after the raid, U.S. officials insisted on keeping the dog's name secret until he was safely home, saying it would reveal too much information about his classified unit in the Army's Delta Force, reports The Washington Post.

Trump appeared to have declassified his name when he announced on Twitter that "Conan" would be visiting the White House.

The dog is a Belgian Malinois — an active, intelligent working breed often used in the military and law enforcement. He was named after comedian and talk host Conan O'Brien, Newsweek reports. Although the president and most news stories have used male pronouns to describe the dog, according to press reports, there is some confusion about whether Conan is male or female.

The president also shared an edited photo that showed him bestowing the Medal of Honor on the heroic canine instead of the original human recipient, which prompted a swift response on Twitter. Although many just cheered for Conan, others were irate that the dog's name had been declassified, that the image had been doctored and that the president appeared to be using the military K-9 to gain fans.

The U.S. once bestowed Purple Hearts and valor medals on military dogs, according to The Washington Post, but discontinued the practice due to concerns that it took away from the feats of heroic humans.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was written in October 2019.