Joe Boyles Guest Columnist
Osama bin Laden is dead … room temperature … toes up. He’s also apparently fish food having been off-loaded into the North Arabian Sea. So ends the 10-year hunt for the al-Qaeda leader following the horrific attack of 9/11.
The raid on his compound in Abbottabad, about 40 miles north of Pakistan’s capital, was a joint CIA/Special Operations attack. It was apparently months in the planning. Friday morning, the President signed off on the operation which was delayed at least one day until weather conditions presented the best low-light level for a night attack.
The Special Ops Blackhawk helicopters appeared above the one acre compound at about 3:30 a.m. local time on Monday morning. The assault force rappelled down ropes onto the ground. One chopper lost power and the pilots crash landed the ailing bird inside the compound’s 10 foot walls, a neat piece of airmanship using night vision goggles. No one was hurt in the landing.
Most of our attackers were members of Seal Team Six, a very elite counter terrorism squadron based at Coronado Island near San Diego. These fellows are just about the toughest snake-eaters you can imagine. Just be glad they’re on our side. After their calls for surrender were met with small arms fire, our boys waded in and spilled blood.
They were on the ground for just forty minutes. In that time, they killed all males who resisted, rounded up women and turned them over to Pakistani authorities, and gathered a significant amount of intelligence loot. They were unable to fly the disabled helicopter, blew it up, and departed with no American casualties. The chopper with bin Laden’s remains flew to the USS Vinson (CVN-70) where his body was prepared for burial and, to paraphrase The Godfather, fed to the fishes when the Saudis refused to accept the remains. Bye, bye, bin Laden.
As most of you know, I’m pretty critical of our young president but in this case, I tip my hat. In 2008, he campaigned that he would go after bin Laden with a vengeance and he did. Rather than drop a laser guided bomb on the place, he sent in the Seals … boots on the ground … and they finished the job. Good for him; good for us.
Where does this leave us? Bin Laden may be gone, but his organization al-Qaeda isn’t. I think they’re pretty scattered but dangerous nonetheless. Yemen appears to be the most active cell. The intelligence coup that led to this raid indicates that we can put every aspect of al-Qaeda at risk. But this much is clear – al-Qaeda has lost its charismatic leader and the soul of the movement. His demise is big, really big.
This raid took place well inside Pakistan, supposedly our ally. Bin Laden wasn’t living in a rural cave in the mountains but rather in a city not far from the capital. How much did Pakistan military, political and intelligence officials know about his presence and chose to look the other way. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Our Special Ops are the best in the world. Headquartered at Tampa’s McDill Air Force Base, this unique command of air, sea and land elements works around the clock to put our enemies at risk. The bad guys lose sleep at night worrying over who will come knocking. That makes us safer.
Let’s give full credit to the Central Intelligence Agency who developed the leads over several years that led to this recent success. And let’s also tip our hat to former President George Bush. He put the infrastructure in place after 9/11 to dismantle, harass and destroy al-Qaeda. Candidate Obama roundly criticized Bush for all that he did, but President Obama has seen fit to keep that infrastructure in place and exploit it. To put it kindly, he was “mugged by reality.”
Ten years ago, we looked extremely vulnerable to the brand of terror practiced by al-Qaeda. Today, we don’t look nearly so vulnerable. We have been lucky in some cases, but mostly, we have been good. Our intelligence, particularly with communications and finances, is topnotch. Our military assets are second to none. If you’re in the life insurance business, you wouldn’t want to sell a policy to an al-Qaeda terrorist.