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May 05, 2011

Obama Meeting Military Personnel Involved in bin Laden Raid

U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting Friday with members of the elite military team involved in the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

The president is visiting the Fort Campbell army base in the state of Kentucky to personally thank participants in the early Monday raid on bin Laden's compound. Administration officials said Mr. Obama will privately meet with the participants before making public remarks.

White House spokesman Jay Carney described the raid participants who will be meeting President Obama as "special operators," but would not say if they include the Navy SEALs who carried out the raid and did the actual shooting.

In his public remarks, the president will commend soldiers who have recently returned from Afghanistan.

Impact of bin Laden's Death

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that the killing of bin Laden could be a "game-changer" for U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan. Gates said it is too early to tell, but that in six months or so, officials may know if the death has made a difference.

He said it could affect the relationship between al-Qaida and the Taliban, noting that bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar had what he called "a very close relationship."

Gates said there are others in the Taliban who felt betrayed by al-Qaida because of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which led to the U.S. invasion that drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.

The White House on Friday said the U.S. is being "extremely vigilant" about possible retaliatory attacks by al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida documents

U.S. officials say an initial review of documents seized from bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad shows al-Qaida considered a terrorist attack against trains at an unspecified location in the United States on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

A Homeland Security Department document obtained Thursday by U.S. news organizations says al-Qaida thought about tampering with rail tracks so a train would fall from a bridge or into a valley. U.S. officials say they have no evidence the plot was active.

CIA safe house in Pakistan

The CIA is reported to have maintained a safe house in Abbottabad for a small team of spies who conducted surveillance for months on the compound where bin Laden was found.   The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, said the CIA went to Congress last December to secure authority to reallocate tens of millions of dollars within assorted agency budgets to fund the safe house.  

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the house has since been shut down, due to concerns about the safety of CIA assets in the aftermath of the raid and because the intelligence agency's work was considered finished.

On Thursday, President Obama laid a wreath at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center buildings in New York to pay tribute to the thousands killed in the September 11 attacks by al-Qaida.  Thousands of people lined the streets around Ground Zero, hoping to get a glimpse of Mr. Obama during his visit.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.