Monday, 2 May 2011

Bin Laden's death time-line and analysis


Osama Bin Laden is dead and the United States is in custody of the body, according to CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson’s Twitter, citing a House Intelligence committee aide.


Osama Bin Laden was killed along with family members in mansion during a U.S. operation outside Islamabad according to the CNN newswire.


Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has died and his body is in the United States, according to Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Al Jazeera reported May 1. Bin Laden’s death was also confirmed by U.S. officials, Reuters reported.


A Pakistani official confirmed May 2 to CNN that a U.S. operation using Pakistani intelligence, not an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, killed Osama bin Laden. Eyes on the target would have confirmed bin Laden’s death at the scene.


The United States has killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and recovered his body, according to numerous media reports May 1 citing U.S. officials. U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to make an announcement on the subject. It is not clear precisely how bin Laden was killed or how his body was recovered, but the assertion that he is dead is significant.

Bin Laden had become the symbol of al Qaeda, even though the degree to which he commanded the organization was questionable. The symbolic value of his death is obvious. The United States can claim a great victory. Al Qaeda can proclaim his martyrdom.
It is difficult to understand what this means at this moment, but it permits the Obama administration to claim victory, at least partially, over al Qaeda. It also opens the door for the beginning of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, regardless of the practical impact of bin Laden’s death. The mission in Afghanistan was to defeat al Qaeda, and with his death, a plausible claim can be made that the mission is complete. Again speculatively, it will be interesting to see how this affects U.S. strategy there.

Equally possible is that this will trigger action by al Qaeda in bin Laden’s name. We do not know how viable al Qaeda is or how deeply compromised it was. It is clear that bin Laden’s cover had been sufficiently penetrated to kill him. If bin Laden’s cover was penetrated, then the question becomes how much of the rest of the organization’s cover was penetrated. It is unlikely, however, that al Qaeda is so compromised that it cannot take further action. But as we’ve come to see, al Qaeda prime hasn’t really had a direct governing hand in most of the organizations activities and attacks around the world. The nodes in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere have been effectively self sufficient for years. Bin Laden’s death likely won’t affect their operations tactically.

At this early hour, the only thing possible is speculation on the consequences of bin Laden’s death, and that speculation is inherently flawed. Still, the importance of his death has its consequences. Certainly one consequence will be a sense of triumph in the United States. To others, this will be another false claim by the United States. For others it will be a call to war. We know little beyond what we have been told, but we know it matters.


U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States conducted an operation that killed militant leader Osama bin Laden, CNN reported May 1.


U.S. President Barack Obama said he learned militant leader Osama bin Laden was hiding in a compound deep in Pakistan in August 2010, CNN reported May 1, quoting Obama’s national speech. The week of April 24, Obama said he determined the United States had enough intelligence and authorized a small team of Americans to carry out the operation against bin Laden. Obama said no American citizen was harmed in the operation.

The intelligence Obama is referring to would have been extremely solid. Seeing as bin Laden’s death has been falsely reported before, Obama would have wanted to avoid a mistake this time around. The type of intelligence needed to make such a decision may have constituted delayed video evidence or perhaps even live video. Seeing as sources leaked bin Laden’s location in August 2010, plenty of evidence could have been gathered during this time.


Al Qaeda will continue to purse attacks against the United States, U.S. President Barack Obama said May 2, adding, U.S cooperation with Pakistan helped lead the U.S. to Osama bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Obama said he spoke with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and that it is a good and historic day for both nations.


The United States used its own sources to confirm Pakistani intelligence on militant leader Osama bin Laden but Washington received clearance to strike from Islamabad, Huffington Post blogger Steve Clemons reported May 1, citing unnamed sources in the U.S. intelligence community.


Tactical Details

Two U.S. special forces helicopters participated in the 40 minute operation on the compound housing militant leader Osama bin Laden, MSNBC’s Pentagon correspondent reported May 1. Bin Laden, his adult son and two al Qaeda couriers were shot and killed during the strike. One special operations helicopter experienced mechanical problems and crashed into the compound and was destroyed on site. All U.S. special forces personnel departed from the site along with bin Laden’s body. Located 35 miles north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the compound was eight times the size of the other houses in the suburb, it contained no communications and it was surrounded by a 12-15 foot wall lined with barbed wire with two security gates as entry points. U.S. special forces were apparently led to the compound by the two al Qaeda couriers.


U.S. President Barack Obama announced late May 1 that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and that the body of the jihadist leader is in U.S. custody. Obama said bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. special operations forces in Abbottabad, about 56 kilometers north of Islamabad. Prior to Obama’s announcement, Pakistani intelligence officials were leaking to U.S. media that their assets were involved in the killing of bin Laden. Obama said, “Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.” Obama said he had called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and that his team had also spoken to their counterparts. He said Islamabad agreed it is “a good and historic day for both of our nations and going forward it’s essential for Pakistan to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

The detailed version of what led to the hit and the extent of U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in the strike is not yet publicly known, but reports so far claim that bin laden and his son were hiding in a massive compound with heavy security and no communications access when they were attacked. Two key questions thus emerge. How long was the Pakistani government and military-security apparatus aware of bin Laden’s refuge deep in Pakistani territory? Did the United States withhold information from Pakistan until the hit was executed, fearing the operation would be compromised?

Major strains in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship have rested on the fact that the United States is extraordinarily dependent on Pakistan for intelligence on al Qaeda and Taliban targets and that Pakistan in turn relies on that dependency to manage its relationship with the United States. Following the Raymond Davis affair, U.S.-Pakistani relations have been at a particularly low point as the United States has faced increasing urgency in trying to shape an exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan and has encountered significant hurdles in eliciting Pakistani cooperation against high-value targets.

Now that the United States has a critical political victory with which to move forward with an exit from the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan now faces the strategic dilemma of how to maintain the long-term support of its major external power patron in Washington.


U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad should be alert to enhanced potential for anti-American violence following the recent counterterrorism strike against militant leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, U.S. State Department reported May 1. In areas where recent events make anti-American violence more likely, U.S. citizens are urged to limit travel outside of their home and hotels and to avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. government facilities worldwide will remain in a heightened state of alert.


Six children and two wives of Osama bin Laden were arrested along with his four of his close friends in a search operation launched early on May 2 by Pakistani forces in the mountainous region 60 kilometers north of Islamabad, according to sources, Xinhua reported, citing Duniya. One of bin Laden’s sons was killed in the operation, the report said.


U.S. authorities began tracking a courier trusted by militant leader Osama bin Laden following intelligence gained from detainees after the September 11, 2001 attacks, MSNBC reported May 2, citing senior White House officials. In August 2010, a unique compound was discovered in the isolated Abbottabad area of Pakistan and intelligence and analysis indicated the compound held a high-value militant with a strong possibility that it was Osama bin Laden, according to an unnamed U.S. official. Washington did not share this information with any foreign country, informing only a few U.S. officials in advance of the operation. The official said the U.S. strike team was in the compound for less than 40 minutes and did not encounter any local authorities.


Osama bin Laden was buried at sea, a U.S. official said, CNN reported May 2.


Russia’s State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov welcomed the news of the death of militant leader Osama bin Laden, saying it is a leap forward for the international community’s efforts to combat global militancy, Interfax reported May 2. Kosachyov added bin Laden’s death was not the result of “mob law” which is sometimes the case in international practices.

This is the latest, I'll look for more information as it arrives

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