Archive for May 2, 2011
Gone in 40 Minutes
Updates with comments at White House press conference by Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan …
More information is starting to trickle out about the U.S. special operations forces raid on a walled compound in Pakistan where al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed in a firefight.
About 40 Navy SEALS were flown from Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan – some 35 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad – aboard at least two helicopters. At a White House news conference Monday, John Brennan, the president’s homeland security adviser, said the SEALs did not go in with orders to kill Bin Laden. He said a course of action was debated and developed over several months to decide: “If he was captured, what would we do with him? Where would he go? If he was killed, what would we do with him, where would he go?”
One of the helos – a CH-47 Chinook – developed mechanical difficulties and made a hard landing inside the compound. Senior Obama administration officials told reporters in a late-night conference call they were “shocked” when they first saw the compound in 2010 surveillance photos. “The physical security measures of the compound are extraordinary,” including 12-to-18-foot-high walls topped by barbed wire, few windows and no telephone or internet service, said one official.
The SEALS quickly secured the area. More than 20 rushed the house where Bin Laden was and ordered him to surrender. A gunfight broke out and Bin Laden was drilled through the head (and apparently shot a second time for good measure). Brennan said he didn’t know if Bin Laden “got off any rounds.”
The SEALS then ransacked the house for intelligence data — taking papers and computer hard-drives – then bundled up Bin Laden’s body to take back to Afghanistan for positive identification. They blew up the crippled helo to keep its high tech equipment from falling into the wrong hands and took off. There were no U.S. casualties.
Brennan said Pakistani officials were not informed about the mission until after all U.S. personnel and aircraft had left Pakistani airspace.
It all lasted about 40 minutes. Reportedly Bin Laden and three other men — including one of his adult sons — were among the dead. A woman used as a human shield by one of the al Qaeda types was also killed. She is believed to be one of Bin Laden’s wives, Brennan said.
Remarkably, the one acre compound was in a well-to-do neighborhood only 1,000 yards from Pakistan’s military academy (the equivalent of West Point). News media in India — Pakistan’s neighbor, rival and enemy in three wars — complained the hideout’s location raised new questions about the role of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate – Pakistan’s military intelligence agency — which has long been suspected of having al Qaeda sympathizers within its ranks.
The Indian government said Bin Laden’s hideout deep in Pakistani territory “raised great concern.“
Brennan acknowledged Bin Laden’s presence so close to Islamabad and a major military facility while Pakistani authorities were insisting he was not in their country “raises questions.” But he said the U.S. has a strategic partnership with Pakistan even though “we don’t always agree.”
On another note: a computer programmer who lives in Abbottabad wound up tweeting about the raid (and alerting the world) without really knowing what he was seeing and hearing.
Several U.S. intelligence agencies — including the CIA, National Security Agency and the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Agency — provided key assistance in the operation, the administration officials said.
To avoid creating a symbolic rallying point, Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea “in strict conformity with Islamic precepts and practices,” Brennan said. He declined to say specifically whether an imam or other any clergy presided at the body’s dispatch.
There was debate within the White House over whether to release photos of the slain terrorist leader, Brennan said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure nobody has any basis to deny that we got him,” headded.
At least some Muslim religious leaders and scholars say disposal at sea was not in keeping with Islamic law and may actually be seen as an insult by some Muslims, presenting the possibility of retaliation, the Guardian newspaper in Britain reported.
Target No. 1 Acquired
Osama bin Laden, the founder of the terrorist group that attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001, killing thousands of people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, has himself been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan
President Obama made the announcement Sunday night, although word started to leak out before his televised White House address from the East Room.
Obama said the long sought terrorist leader was killed by U.S. Special Operations forces — not a missile strike from a drone — in a Pakistani compound where he had been tracked following a credible tip received last August. The president said bin Laden was killed in a firefight and his body was recovered by the U.S. troops and brought back for positive identification. Obama said he determined last week that there was enough confirmation that it was bin Laden to launch a boots-on-the-ground operation.
Details should starting coming out within hours. NBC reported the troops involved were Navy SEALS and that bin Laden was shot at least once in the head. We can’t wait to hear the timeline of this operation from who spotted bin Laden, to how they tracked him, determined they had good intel, what Obama said and did and how the operation went down.
In the hours since the East Room announcement, several analysts have noted this doesn’t mean the end of al Qaeda which has splintered into several subsets — especially on the Arabian peninsula and the Maghreb region of North Africa. We’re sure lots of television commentators, intelligence and military officials, editorial writers and talk show hosts will be quoting Winston Churchill: “This isn’t the end. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
For now, it remains to be seen if the United States and its allies will raise threat level warnings, increase security (more dogs and police with machine guns on the subways and in airports) on Tuesday and put their military and security forces on high alert. It also remains to be seen what al Qaeda and its allies do next.
When news websites announced Obama was making an address to the nation at 10:30 on a Sunday night with little warning — and that it had something to do with national security — we admit our stomach lurched. We knew this had to be something bigger than the death or departure of Libya’s Qaddafi. We suspected it was about Osama bin Laden, but we also worried that it might be some nightmare scenario out of the movies: a biological weapon attack, a jumbo jet heading for the U.S. with a dirty bomb aboard, even an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
We were elated at the real news. Ten years is a long time to wait for justice. But we do wonder what the fallout will be.