Intelligence, Secrecy Drove bin Laden Operation

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 — In the ear­ly morn­ing hours of dark­ness yes­ter­day, about 35 miles north­east of Islam­abad, Pak­istan, dozens of U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions mem­bers and CIA agents read­ied them­selves aboard mil­i­tary heli­copters for the oper­a­tion of a life­time.

U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cers had been gath­er­ing evi­dence since August that al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden was not in a cave along the U.S.-Pakistan bor­der, as had become lore, but was liv­ing com­fort­ably with his fam­i­ly and oth­ers in a $1 mil­lion com­pound in Abbot­tabad, a sub­urb of the Pak­istani cap­i­tal, Defense Depart­ment and CIA offi­cials who spoke on back­ground about the oper­a­tion at the Pen­ta­gon said today. 

Intel­li­gence offi­cers spent the next eight months gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion, which flowed heav­i­ly ear­ly this year, in part from detained fight­ers with the Afghanistan insur­gency, they said. “The intel­li­gence on the com­pound was shared with no one out­side the U.S. gov­ern­ment, and only a small num­ber inside,” an intel­li­gence offi­cial said. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma “pushed this to an action­able lev­el,” a senior defense offi­cial said, hold­ing numer­ous meet­ings with his nation­al secu­ri­ty team to con­sid­er all pos­si­ble scenarios. 

The spe­cial oper­a­tions team, mean­while, used its intel­li­gence infor­ma­tion to train for the oper­a­tion, includ­ing devel­op­ing con­tin­gency plans for any­thing they could think of that might not go as planned. With no one oth­er than a small group of U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials aware of the oper­a­tion, offi­cials said, the team was flown in to take bin Laden dead or alive. 

Offi­cials would not say how the forces breeched the walls of the com­pound, which range from 10 to 18 feet high around the perime­ter, are topped with barbed wire and cov­er an acre of land. Once inside the tri­an­gu­lar-shaped fortress, the team engaged in a fire­fight that killed two men who lived there in sep­a­rate, small­er homes out­side the three-sto­ry home of bin Laden and his fam­i­ly, offi­cials said. The men are believed to have been broth­ers; one owned the prop­er­ty and was a couri­er for bin Laden, deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor John O. Bren­nan said lat­er at a White House briefing. 

As expect­ed, offi­cials said, bin Laden resist­ed cap­ture and was killed in the fire­fight with U.S. forces on the third floor of the home. Bin Laden’s adult son and a woman believed to be his wife also were killed in the shootout, and two women were wound­ed, they added. 

U.S. forces were in the com­pound for about 40 min­utes and took no casu­al­ties, offi­cials said. Dur­ing that time, they also seized numer­ous items that are being inves­ti­gat­ed, they said. 

Oba­ma and his nation­al secu­ri­ty team anx­ious­ly mon­i­tored the oper­a­tion in real time, Bren­nan said. “The min­utes passed like days,” he said. “The pres­i­dent was very con­cerned about the secu­ri­ty of our per­son­nel. Clear­ly, it was very tense. A lot of peo­ple were hold­ing their breath, and there was a fair degree of silence as we got the updates.” Tech­ni­cal prob­lems with one of the heli­copters added to the ten­sion, he said. After the U.S. team was safe­ly out of the coun­try, offi­cials said, Oba­ma and oth­er mem­bers of the nation­al secu­ri­ty team began call­ing gov­ern­ment lead­ers in Pak­istan and Afghanistan and mem­bers of Congress. 

“The accom­plish­ment that these very brave per­son­nel from the U.S. gov­ern­ment were able to do yes­ter­day is very sig­nif­i­cant” to the broad­er effort against ter­ror­ism, Bren­nan said. “This is decap­i­tat­ing the head of the snake. This is some­thing we’ve been after for 15 years. We are going to try to take advan­tage of this oppor­tu­ni­ty we have to demon­strate to the Pak­istani peo­ple and oth­ers that al-Qai­da is a thing of the past.” 

An intel­li­gence offi­cial who spoke to Pen­ta­gon reporters on back­ground said the oper­a­tion demon­strat­ed “the tremen­dous part­ner­ship between the CIA and the U.S. mil­i­tary since 9/11.”

As intel­li­gence allowed them to piece togeth­er details of the com­pound and its occu­pants, he said, it became clear bin Laden “was more or less liv­ing in plain sight” while al-Qaida’s low­er lev­el oper­a­tives “are liv­ing in dire con­di­tions.” “You have to won­der what they think today when they see that their leader was liv­ing high on the hog,” he said. 

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

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →