WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has said that he wanted to send Navy SEALs into Pakistan ‘fairy early’ to get Osama but waited until all members of his team had a chance to have their say.
President Obama disclosed this in a lengthy interview he gave to CNN on the fifth anniversary of the May 2, 2011 raid at bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Key members of his inner circle also spoke to CNN’s Peter Bergen about the raid that killed the alleged mastermind of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
“On decisions like this, you’re leaning in a certain direction,” Mr Obama told Mr Bergen. “I had been inclined to take the shot fairly early on in the discussions. But you hold back the decision until you have to make it. And in the end, what I had very much appreciated was the degree to which we had an honest debate.”
Mr Obama said the experience taught him the lesson that “good process leads to good results”.
“I could honestly say, by the time I made the decision, that everybody had had their say, that we had all the information we were going to be able to get,” said the man who ordered the raid that could have undone his presidency if it had failed. “We had not looked at it through rose-coloured glasses. We knew the risks involved.”
President Obama explained how he watched the operation from the White House Situation Room with key members of his government.
“We came in here at the point where the helicopters were about to actually land,” he said. “It’s here where we observed, for example, that one of the helicopters got damaged in the landing.”
As he watched the landing, Mr Obama said, “I was thinking that this is not an ideal start. We were all worried”.
But “the good news was it didn’t crash. Our guys were able to extract themselves. The bad news was that the helicopter itself had been damaged”.
One of the 23 Navy SEALs who conducted the raid smashed classified fixtures of the Black Hawk helicopter and then set off explosives to destroy it.
“Even though we had the best helicopter operators imaginable, despite the fact that they had practised these landings repeatedly in a mock-up, we couldn’t account for temperature,” Mr Obama said, “and the fact that helicopters start reacting differently in an enclosed compound where heat may be rising.”
The president said that planning for the operation, was “meticulous” and they had prepared as well as they could.
He said the decision to strike was “emblematic of presidential decision-making. You’re always working with probabilities, and you make a decision, not based on 100 per cent certainty, but with the best information that you’ve got”.
Mr Obama said he hopes that in Osama bin Laden’s last moments, the ‘master terrorist understood that the US had come for him to avenge the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001’.
When the interviewer reminded him that “the last person that bin Laden saw on Earth was an American,” Mr Obama said: “And hopefully, at that moment, he understood that the American people hadn’t forgotten the some 3,000 people who he killed”.