WASHINGTON: The US military raid that killed Osama bin Laden was the “easiest” of three steps that led to the al Qaeda chief's death, the special forces commander who supervised the clandestine mission has said.
Admiral William McRaven praised President Barack Obama for ordering the raid and said the CIA deserved credit for finally tracking bin Laden down to a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“Our piece of it, the military piece, of kind of what I look at kind of three components was probably the easiest aspect of the entire raid,” he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Wednesday.
“The two other pieces of this were the CIA's role,” said McRaven, who heads up US Special Operations Command, without detailing exactly what the intelligence agency did.
“When the history is finally written and outlined and exposed on how the CIA determined that bin Laden was there, it will be one of the great intelligence operations in the history of intelligence organisations.”
Obama's order led a team of Navy Seals to be deployed in helicopters to Abbottabad, a two-hour drive north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, where bin Laden was killed in a shootout inside his home.
McRaven refused to answer a question on whether the military's mission was to kill bin Laden or capture him, but he said the commandos merely did their job and it was Obama, not the special forces, who issued the order to go in.
“This is not a small point. The fact of the matter is it was the president of the United States that ordered the raid,” McRaven said, and replying “absolutely, he does,” when asked whether Obama deserved credit.
The bin Laden raid, which was launched from neighboring Afghanistan without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities on May 1, 2011, was one of 12 US operations that evening, but it “was a little bit more sporty,” McRaven said.