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White House: Osama bin Laden's death a 'strategic blow' to Al Qaeda

May 02, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli and Peter Nicholas, Washington Bureau
(AP Photo, Carolyn Kaster )

Reporting from Washington — The killing of Osama bin Laden is “a strategic blow to Al Qaeda,” a top White House official said Monday.

Briefing reporters in the White House, homeland security adviser John Brennan also described the scene as President Obama and other White House officials monitored the operation from the Situation Room, calling it "probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of times in the lives of the people assembled here."

"Minutes passed like days," he said.

Photos: Osama bin Laden dead

Brennan said that the initial mission included the directive to capture Bin Laden alive if possible, but that forces were prepared "for all contingencies."

"The concern was that Bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he did. It was a firefight. He, therefore, was killed in that firefight," Brennan said.

Bin Laden even attempted to use his wife as a human shield, he said.

Brennan acknowledged that there was not unanimity among the president’s national security team before Obama gave the go order. Intelligence offered the best evidence of the terrorist mastermind’s whereabouts, but it was still short of full confirmation, he added.

“There was nothing that confirmed that Bin Laden was at that compound. And, therefore, when President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory,” he said.

Following the historic announcement, the White House worked carefully Monday to highlight Obama's leadership role.

Press Secretary Jay Carney began the afternoon briefing by quoting Obama's words as a candidate in 2007, when he said that if the United States had actionable intelligence about high value targets in Pakistan and its government didn’t act, “we will.”

“The president, even before he was president when he was a candidate, had a very clear idea about the approach he would take as president towards Osama bin Laden,” Carney said.

In response to questions, Brennan said it was “inconceivable” that Bin Laden did not have a support system in Pakistan that allowed him to remain there for a long period of time.

Asked about reports that some in Congress now want to attach strings to aid to Pakistan, he said: “People are raising a number of questions and understandably so. I’m sure a number of people have questions about whether there was some kind of support provided by the Pakistani government.”

Photos: Osama bin Laden dead

michael.memoli@latimes.com

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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