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

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development 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.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid