After almost a decade of being the World’s most wanted man following the terrorist attacks on September 11, Osama bin Laden is dead—at least according to US President Barack Obama, who made the announcement in a televised address.
In a nationwide broadcast, Obama said that bin Laden had been killed in an operation by US forces Sunday against a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
‘A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability,’ Obama said. ‘No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a fire fight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.’
‘(L)ast 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. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.’
One of our most provocative interviews on The Diplomat was with Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who courted controversy in December with his suggestion that successive US presidents hadn’t been completely honest with the US public about the hunt for bin Laden.
‘Many US and other world leaders have portrayed his relative silence over the last several years as a sign that he is no longer functioning as al-Qaeda's day-to-day leader, but that is only because bin Laden recognizes the power of silence. His importance also has been blurred, for Americans at least, by Bush and Obama, who have sworn to Americans that bin Laden’s ‘running from rock to rock, and cave to cave’ and can’t ‘communicate with his fighters.’ This is pure Hollywood nonsense.’
He added: ‘Anyone with a lick of sense knows that if Bin Laden was moving frequently he would be dead, as moving insurgents are very prone to making mistakes that give their positions away and lead to a drone or some other lethal attack on them.’
The debate over his whereabouts can now be laid to rest, but the announcement of his death still leaves many questions that will need to be answered, not least how he evaded capture so long, the extent to which he may have had assistance from outside his immediate network, and whether his death will inspire or depress existing and potential extremists.
We’ll be following up on this issue with some leading analysts, but in the meantime it’s clear at least that history has turned a page.