News / USA

Bin Laden Operation Combined Intelligence and Military Capabilities

A diagram of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid.
A diagram of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid.
Al Pessin

The U.S. Special Forces operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was the result of years of work to integrate intelligence and military capabilities, as well as painstaking investigation and analysis, much of it inspired by the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.  

In the middle of the night, elite U.S. military commandos, perhaps accompanied by CIA operatives, descended from helicopters on a compound in a Pakistani city.  U.S. officials say they fought their way from building to building, killing three men and a woman who was used as a human shield, before reaching the top floor of the compound’s main building.  There, they found another woman and a man - the target of their operation - Osama bin Laden.

Officials say bin Laden resisted and was shot and killed by U.S. troops.  The woman, who is believed to be one of his wives, was wounded.  The troops then took bin Laden’s body, destroyed one of their helicopters, which had malfunctioned, and left.  No U.S. troops and no civilians outside of the compound were injured, and the operation ended within 40 minutes, before Pakistani security forces could respond.

"It just makes you really impressed," said Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. "Obviously, some of these problems we had a high level planning in previous decades have been corrected.  We’ve learned the lessons at higher levels of command about how you prepare for these sorts of things."

O’Hanlon is referring to past U.S. operations that failed, including the effort to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran in 1980.

Intelligence expert Michael Swetnam of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies says the U.S. government dedicated itself to developing a coordinated military and intelligence capability after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.  

"The close training and operational relationship between the CIA and the special forces units in the military built an operational, covert, clandestine capability that could do what you saw happen over the last day.  This really is the very best of the very best, the elite of the elite, if you will.  And to pull something like this off really does take lots of practice, lots of training, and some of the very best that this country has to offer," he said.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Dubik, who started his long career as a Special Forces officer and later rose to senior command positions, says the Special Forces provide more than raw military power to a commander. "First, [is] their incredible proficiency.  Second, they bring to bear an incredible amount of intelligence analysis.  This is fastidious, detailed, but very important work.  And the third, they have an array of transportation and fire support assets that give them operational maneuverability over large, large areas under highly stealthful conditions," he said.

That is how the force managed to fly undetected, apparently about 150 kilometers from a base in Afghanistan to the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad.

But the operation that sounds like a scene from a Hollywood movie would not have happened without the detailed and difficult job of analyzing vast amounts of information to find a few significant facts, and then to follow those leads and confirm them.  That is the so-called "connect the dots" capability that experts said did not exist in 2001 when al-Qaida attacked the United States.

Officials say some of the information came from long-term detainees like those at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility.

Again, Michael Swetnam of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. "This is a great example of how detainees, the people we’ve been questioning, have given us information that allowed us to be successful.  And the value of what they’ve given us in information will go on for years and years and years to come," he said.

At the Brookings Institution, Michael O’Hanlon says those ongoing interrogations, along with other information and the analysis that follows, overcame bin Laden’s efforts to avoid detection by more high-technology means. "Bin Laden was very good at hiding and very good at going silent in terms of any and all electronic transmissions, once he realized just how capable we are of tracking those kinds of devices.  And so to find him anyway, even if it took a decade, is really a quite notable accomplishment," he said.

Still, the experts agree that although the successful attack on Osama bin Laden is important, it is not the end of the U.S.-led war on al-Qaida and related groups.  Experts note that terrorist cells have become more autonomous in recent years, and they say more detailed intelligence work, and perhaps more dramatic Special Forces raids, lie ahead.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs