An intelligence-driven U.S. operation in Pakistan killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden yesterday, President Barack Obama announced in a nationally televised address from the White House late last night.
The president revealed that shortly after taking office in January 2009, he ordered CIA Director Leon E. Panetta to make bin Laden’s death or capture the top priority of the U.S. war against the al-Qaida terrorist organization.
“Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground,” he said. The president said he met repeatedly with his national security team as information developed indicating bin Laden was at a compound in Pakistan, and that last week he determined enough information was available and authorized the operation.
“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Obama said. “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.
“No Americans were harmed,” he continued. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
Obama noted that bin Laden had been al-Qaida’s leader and symbol for more than 20 years and continued to plot attacks against the United States and its allies.
“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida, yet his death does not mark the end of our effort,” Obama said. “There is no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must, and we will, remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
The president emphasized that the war against al-Qaida is not a war against Islam.
“Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader,” he said. “He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al-Qaida has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
Counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped in finding bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding, the president said.
“Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people. Tonight, I called [Pakistani] President [Asif Ali] Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations, and going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates.”
The president praised those who worked to find bin Laden and those who carried out the operation that killed him.
“Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome,” he said. “The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
“We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation,” he continued, “for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.”