Obama Weighed Options Before Bin Laden Strike
Photo: White House - P. Souza
The president opted against bombing the compound north of Islamabad where the al-Qaida leader had been hiding. Officials said that plan would have been less risky to U.S. military personnel but would have made it difficult to confirm if bin Laden was present and killed.
U.S. officials say Obama also considered continuing to wait and monitor the site in order to be more certain of intelligence that strongly suggested the man at the compound was indeed bin Laden. Obama ultimately authorized the military operation on Friday morning, saying "it's a go."
At a White House briefing on Monday, the Obama administration's counterterror chief, John Brennan, released details of the sophisticated airborne assault carried out by an elite U.S. military unit. A group of Navy SEALs slid down ropes from helicopters into the compound in the city of Abbottabad early Monday. After making their way into the main building they shot bin Laden in the head during a firefight.
Brennan said there had been plans to take bin Laden alive.
He called the 40 minutes that it took to complete the operation the "most anxiety-filled periods of time" for administration officials, including Mr. Obama, who was monitoring from the White House Situation Room. "Minutes," he said, "passed like days."
No American lives were lost in the operation.
Obama announced bin Laden's death in televised remarks at the White House late Sunday.
A U.S. counterterrorism official says the elite military unit confiscated hard drives, DVDs and documents following the raid.
Pakistan out of the loop
The Pakistan government was not informed of the mission until the helicopters were out of Pakistani air space, for fear they might be intercepted.
Brennan suggested that bin Laden had benefited from some sort of support system in Pakistan because his compound was in Abbottabad, a military garrison town some 60 kilometers from Islamabad. There had been persistent reports that bin Laden had sought refuge in Pakistan's lawless western border region.
Buried at sea, DNA proof
U.S. military officials said bin Laden was buried at sea after he was given traditional Muslim funeral rites, with his body washed and placed in a white sheet.
The officials said DNA testing showed nearly 100 percent certainty that the dead man was the al-Qaida leader.
Brennan revealed that President Obama, on word that the mission was successfully accomplished, said, "We got him."