The Operation that Killed Bin Ladin
In the early morning hours of May 2nd in Pakistan, a U.S. military raid of an al-Qa’ida compound in Abbottabad killed America’s most wanted terrorist, Usama Bin Ladin.
The mission’s success was the culmination of many years of complex, thorough, and highly-advanced intelligence operations and analysis led by the CIA with support from partners across the Intelligence Community. U.S. agencies had been collecting intelligence about the compound since it was discovered in August, 2010. Multiple streams of intelligence led to the assessment that Bin Ladin was hiding there, protected by two of his closest facilitators.
The strike on the compound, authorized by the President on April 29th, was a surgical raid by a small team of special operations forces. The raid was designed to minimize collateral damage and to pose as little risk as possible to non-combatants on the compound or to Pakistani civilians in the neighborhood.
The compound where Bin Ladin was hiding is in Abbottabad, a town in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province), about 35 miles north of Islamabad. The compound and its main residence had extensive security features: high walls topped with barbed wire, double entry gates, opaque windows, no apparent Internet or telephone connection, and the residents burned their trash. It was valued at $1 million, but the two al-Qa’ida facilitators who owned it had no apparent source of wealth. For an illustration of the compound, click here.
The death of Usama Bin Ladin marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida. It is a major and essential step in bringing about the terrorist organization’s eventual dissolution.
Bin Ladin was al-Qa’ida’s founder and only amir, or commander, in its 22-year history. He was largely responsible for the organization’s mystique, its ability to raise money and attract new recruits, and its focus on the United States as a target for terrorist attacks. As the only al-Qa’ida leader whose authority was universally respected, he also maintained the group’s cohesion.
Although al-Qa’ida may not fragment immediately, the loss of Bin Ladin puts the deadly organization on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.
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