Osama bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces

Impromptu presidential speeches on national security rarely hold good news. In spite of this, President Obama’s speech late night speech announced to the United States and the world: Osama bin Laden had been killed.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House.

President Obama officially informed the public that the leader of al-Qaeda was in fact dead. The President stated that bin Laden had been killed during a U.S. raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Obama explained that the raid involved a firefight and the eventual shooting of bin Laden, with no American personnel harmed on the mission.

Obama asserted that not long after he took office, “[he] directed Leon Panetta, the Director of the C.I.A, 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.” Obama assured the public that the death of bin Laden was not the end of American efforts to defeat al-Qaeda and fight terrorism across the world.

In the days following the announcement, some facts emerged about the mission. The Nation and other major media sources reported that the raid was undertaken by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command elite Seal Team 6; forces in JSOC are comprised of individuals from the highest tier U.S. military divisions, including Seal Team 6 and the Army’s Delta Force. al-Qaeda formally released a statement, which acknowledged the death of bin Laden, according to the New York Times and Washington Post.

Stories that are still developing include the level of certainty that intelligence provided the President and CIA regarding bin Laden’s location at the compound, and the level of division that existed within the White House Situation Room before Obama gave the order. Obama said on CBS’s 60 Minutes that intelligence provided the President and other officials with no more than circumstantial evidence as to bin Laden’s location in the Abbottabad compound; Obama responded that the odds were about 55 percent in favor of bin Laden’s presence in the compound, 45 percent against. Much debate ensued between national security advisors about whether to pursue the mission right up until Obama’s order for the raid to go ahead, as stated by The Washington Post.

The day after President Obama’s visit to Ground Zero to honor the victims of the September 11th attacks, The Associated Press reported, “Western intelligence officials said Friday they are seeing increased Internet and phone chatter about cheap, small-scale terror attacks to avenge the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.” Though the news was a bit alarming, The Washington Post reported that national security adviser Tom Donilon noted that the raid on bin Laden’s compound produced the largest collection of intelligence ever gathered from one terrorist.

The death of bin Laden spurred questions about major foreign policy questions about Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus have predicted this may cause a steady collapse to the influence that al-Qaeda has over the Taliban in Afghanistan. General Petraeus discussed the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban and pointed out that “the deal between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda was between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, not the organizations.”

Image from the New York Times.

Gates and Petraeus remain watchful of a potential breakdown between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but insist that U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and terrorist presence in Afghanistan are far from over. Secretary Gates commented on the al-Qaeda leader’s death, “Frankly I think it’s too early to make a judgment in terms of the impact inside Afghanistan, but I think in six months or so, we’ll know if its made a difference.”

From the moment Obama announced bin Laden’s death, speculation and confusion has ensued over Pakistani intelligence regarding bin Laden, what extent Pakistan had knowledge of Obama’s decision to raid bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound and U.S.-Pakistan relations in general. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan in their common fight against terrorism. That same day, The New York Times wrote that the Pakistani government expressed anger at what they called “an unauthorized unilateral action” in Pakistan. A day later, top White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan announced that the U.S. would investigate the possibility of an existing relationship between bin Laden and the Pakistani government. Brennan added to National Public Radio, “We’re not accusing anybody at this point, but we want to make sure we get to the bottom of this.”

The latest reveals that the U.S. has continued to pursue their investigation into Pakistan’s possible role in hiding bin Laden. Mr. Donilon “seemed to be warning the Pakistanis that the United States might soon have documentary evidence that could illuminate who, inside or outside their government, might have helped harbor Bin Laden”, as reported by The New York Times. Pakistan, in a show of contempt, leaked the name of a C.I.A operative in Pakistan; the next day Pakistan granted the U.S. access to speak with bin Laden’s three wives, seen by the U.S. to be key to its investigation. Indeed, the United States’ investigation and Pakistan’s cooperation will be crucial to their future international relations.

The death of Osama bin Laden is a significant event in the war on terror, but it remains a mystery as to just how much of an impact bin Laden’s death will have on terrorism worldwide. Possibly foreseeing the the heightened confusion and harrowing uncertainty that would inject itself into the American public and policymakers, President Obama calmly stated, “Tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history. Whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.”

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