I write an hour after President Obama announced that US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan on Sunday.
Obama said that, upon taking office, he gave a specific directive to the Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta: finding Bin Laden, while not the only priority, was now the top priority of the intelligence community. Significant resources were applied to the problem, with a specific focus on Pakistan as the likely place to look for the terrorist mastermind.
In the summer and autumn of 2010, these efforts paid off with new intelligence — Osama bin Laden was operating out of a mansion in Abbottabad, approximately 80 miles away from the Pakistan capita, Islamabad. Apparently, the compound was less than 800 feet from a police station.
Since that time, the compound has been under increased surveillance, and in the last week, the CIA received “actionable intelligence,” code word for enough information to allow them to act. On Sunday a strike team attacked the facility. A firefight ensued and Osama was killed. No U.S. servicemen were hurt.
After the strike, the body was recovered. The Obama administration has spent the day verifying Osama bin Laden’s identity, notifying important figures, and placing its bases on high alert against possible retaliation
Questions remain unanswered. Will this development make a significant difference? Al Qa’eda’s main symbol is now dead, but the movement may already have been dying — its leadership structure in tatters, and the Muslim world turning away from terrorism and towards democracy, their influence was already waning.
And, amidst the pieces this morning on the decade-long “War on Terror”: why did it take so long?
Look at this contrast: in April 2002, less than 6 months after the 9/11 attacks, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN that ”the goal has never been to get bin Laden.” He was not the only member of the Bush Administration to dismiss lightly that Bin Laden was still on the loose.
Myers’ revelations stands now against that of President Obama:
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
The results speak even louder than the words.
Posted in Featured, Foreign Policy, Middle East, Politics