A new report claims that the Navy SEAL raid targeting Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May was a mission to kill him, and there was “never any question” he would be captured alive.
“There was never any question of detaining or capturing him,” a U.S. Navy special-operations officer has reportedly told The New Yorker. “It wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees.”
The account conflicts with the Obama administration claim the May 2 raid in Abbottabad was “a kill-or-capture mission,” UPI reports.
The White House insisted at the time that the Al Qaeda chief, codenamed “Crankshaft,” could have been captured if he had “conspicuously surrendered,” the Telegraph reports.
And John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism chief, said on the day of the raid, May 2, that the 23 SEALs would not have killed bin Laden if they had been confident he was not wearing “some type of hidden weapon” or explosive device.
The New Yorker described unnamed U.S. special operations officer it spoke to as “deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid.”
The report claims that the SEALs planned to “overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.”
The report’s author, Nicholas Schmidle, writes that the first Seal to find bin Laden believed one or both of the wives guarding him were wearing suicide vests and so shot one in the calf before rugby tackling them to save two colleagues. Neither turned out to be wearing explosives.
A second Seal then shot bin Laden in the chest and again in the head with his M4 rifle, and said over his radio: “For God and country — Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo” — the codeword for a hit on bin Laden.
Obama, when he later met with the SEALs in private “never asked who fired the kill shot, and the Seals never volunteered to tell him,” according to Schmidle.
The report also quotes an expert on the pakistani military as saying that it was easy for the two U.S. MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to slip into Pakistani airspace because the army was busy pointing all its radars towards India.
For more than sixty years, Pakistan’s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India.
Because of this obsession, Pakistan’s “principal air defenses are all pointing east,” Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” told me.
Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. “No one leaves their borders unattended,” he said.