Last night, President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a gun battle in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It is being reported that four others, including one of Bin Laden’s sons, died in the fight. The U.S. is now in possession of his body and has tested his DNA for confirmation. This is a momentous event in the war against radical Islam that should be celebrated by all and as the story develops, crucial information about the state of the war will come forth.
The details coming out reveal that “U.S. Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Unit (SMU) from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU — formerly known as Seal Team Six) did the shooting. There were other JSOC spotters on the ground, as well as two special operations helicopters and an unmanned drone overhead.” One of the helicopters crashed due to mechanical failures. A female who was used as a shield by Bin Laden and his protectors was killed and other women are being treated and will be valuable sources of information.
Bin Laden was apparently living comfortably in a city between Islamabad and Peshawar. President Obama said that Bin Laden was killed in a “compound” after intelligence was received in August. CNN originally reported that he was in a “mansion.” It is said to have a security wall between 12 and 15 feet high and of very large size. The site has already been mapped on Google, showing that a hospital and cinema are nearby. A police station is only 800 feet away, though the caption says it was slated for demolition. This location shows that he was not living in complete isolation, such as in a cave or deep in the mountains.
President Obama emphasized that the victory came with Pakistani cooperation but this location indicates that Bin Laden had inside help. Time will tell if the intelligence that pinpointed Bin Laden came from this cooperation or whether it was developed by the U.S. and the Pakistanis were forced to cooperate. The story of this victory will tell us a lot about the state of Pakistani cooperation and how to collect precise intelligence on the most secretive targets. This success will unearth a tremendous amount of intelligence that will prove very useful in combating terrorism.
It will be vital that the world watch for the reaction in the Islamic world. This will be the biggest indication of where Bin Laden’s support runs the deepest. Polls consistently show that Bin Laden has suffered a dramatic decline in popularity in the Middle East, including in Pakistan and this may well have been a factor in his demise. Al-Qaeda’s killing of eight times as many Muslims as non-Muslims and institutions of vicious theocracy caused a major backlash. It is inevitable that sympathizers will attempt to launch immediate small-scale reprisals with little preparation, but this is not reflective of opinion overall. The key factor to watch for will be large-scale demonstrations mourning Bin Laden or the absence of celebratory gatherings.