Intelligence, Operations Team Up for bin Laden Kill

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 — The plan to attack the com­pound of 9/11 mas­ter­mind Osama bin Laden was the result of relent­less intel­li­gence work and oper­a­tional pro­fes­sion­al­ism, White House offi­cials, speak­ing on back­ground, said this morn­ing.
The oper­a­tion was the cul­mi­na­tion of years of care­ful and high­ly advanced intel­li­gence work, offi­cials said, as offi­cers from the CIA, the Nation­al Geospa­tial-Intel­li­gence Agency and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency worked as a team to ana­lyze and pin­point the Pak­istani com­pound where bin Laden was killed.

Once the intel­li­gence point­ed pre­cise­ly to the com­pound in Abbot­tabad –- a town 35 miles north of Pakistan’s cap­i­tal of Islam­abad –- the work on the mis­sion began between the intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ties.

“In the end, it was the match­less skill and courage of these Amer­i­cans that secured this tri­umph for our coun­try and the world,” one offi­cial said. A small team con­duct­ed the heli­copter raid on the com­pound. An offi­cial called it a com­plex oper­a­tion, not­ing that the com­pound was a vir­tu­al fortress -– built in 2006 with high walls, razor wire and oth­er defense fea­tures. Its sub­ur­ban loca­tion and prox­im­i­ty to Islam­abad com­pli­cat­ed the oper­a­tion, the offi­cial said.

“The men who exe­cut­ed this mis­sion accept­ed this risk, prac­ticed to min­i­mize those risks, and under­stood the impor­tance of the tar­get to the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the Unit­ed States,” he said. “This oper­a­tion was a sur­gi­cal raid by a small team designed to min­i­mize col­lat­er­al dam­age and to pose as lit­tle risk as pos­si­ble to non­com­bat­ants on the com­pound or to Pak­istani civil­ians in the neigh­bor­hood.”

U.S. heli­copters deliv­ered the team to the com­pound, and the team was on the ground for less than 40 min­utes, an offi­cial said. They did not encounter any local author­i­ties. In addi­tion to bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the raid.

“There were sev­er­al women and chil­dren at the com­pound,” the offi­cial said. “One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male com­bat­ant. Two oth­er women were injured.” One of the U.S. heli­copters was lost at the com­pound due to mechan­i­cal fail­ure. The crew destroyed it on the ground, and the assault force and crew mem­bers board­ed the remain­ing air­craft to leave, an offi­cial said.

“There’s also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the sin­gle great­est vic­to­ry in the U.S.-led cam­paign to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da,” the offi­cial said. “It is a major and essen­tial step in bring­ing about al-Qaida’s even­tu­al destruc­tion.”

Though the organization’s ter­ror­ists still are dan­ger­ous and al-Qai­da may not frag­ment imme­di­ate­ly, an offi­cial said, “the loss of bin Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be dif­fi­cult to reverse.”

The Unit­ed States did not share any intel­li­gence on the raid with any oth­er coun­try, the offi­cial said.

“We believed it was essen­tial to the secu­ri­ty of the oper­a­tion and our per­son­nel,” he said. “In fact, only a very small group of peo­ple inside our own gov­ern­ment knew of this oper­a­tion in advance.” Short­ly after the raid, he added, U.S. offi­cials con­tact­ed senior Pak­istani lead­ers and told them about the raid and its results.

“Since 9/11, the Unit­ed States has made it clear to Pak­istan that we would pur­sue bin Laden wher­ev­er he might be,” the offi­cial said. “Pak­istan has long under­stood that we are at war with al-Qai­da. The Unit­ed States had a legal and moral oblig­a­tion to act on the infor­ma­tion it had.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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