‘Obama was OK to military confrontation with Pak’
Washington: US President Barack Obama had
authorized Navy SEAL commandos, on mission to capture or kill
al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, to engage the Pakistani police
or forces if confronted while carrying out the operation.
As against the wishes of some of his advisors,
President Obama insisted to increase the size of his combat
team so as that they would be able to successfully handle the
Pakistani forces if confronted during the mission, The New
York Times reported.
Pakistan has already said it had scrambled its jets
and forces to tackle the foreign forces at Abbottabad, but the
US Special Forces left the compound after successfully
carrying out the operation in about 40 minutes.
"As the Abbottabad episode illustrates our Military
responded to the US Forces covert incursion. The Air Force was
ordered to scramble. Ground units arrived at the scene
quickly. Our response demonstrates that our armed forces
reacted, as was expected of them," Pakistan Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani told Parliament yesterday.
The New York Times said Obama's decision to increase
the size of the force sent into Pakistan shows that he was
willing to risk a military confrontation with a close ally in
order to capture or kill the leader of al-Qaeda.
"Such a fight would have set off an even larger breach
with the Pakistanis than has taken place since officials in
Islamabad learned that helicopters filled with members of a
Navy Seals team had flown undetected into one of their cities,
and burst into a compound where bin Laden was hiding," it
"Their instructions were to avoid any confrontation if
at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out,
they were authorized to do it," a senior Obama Administration
official was quoted as saying.
"The planning also illustrates how little the
administration trusted the Pakistanis as they set up their
operation. They also rejected a proposal to bring the
Pakistanis in on the mission," the newspaper reported.
While two helicopters were sent to Abbottabad, under
the original plan, two assault helicopters were going to stay
on the Afghanistan side of the border waiting for a call if
they were needed.
But the aircraft would have been about 90 minutes away
from the bin Laden compound, it said.
"Some people may have assumed we could talk our way
out of a jam, but given our difficult relationship with
Pakistan right now, the president did not want to leave
anything to chance," one senior administration official was
quoted as saying.
"He wanted extra forces if they were necessary," the
If a confrontation appeared imminent, there were
contingency plans for senior American officials, including
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to
call their Pakistani counterparts to avert an armed clash.
But when he reviewed the plans about 10 days before
the raid, Obama voiced concern that this was not enough to
protect the troops on the mission, administration officials
said, according to the newspaper.
That resulted in the decision to send two more
helicopters carrying additional troops.
These followed the two lead Black Hawk helicopters
that carried the actual assault team. While there was no
confrontation with the Pakistanis, one of those backup
helicopters was ultimately brought in to the scene of the raid
when a Black Hawk was damaged while making a hard landing.
The New York Times said two teams of specialists were
on standby during the entire operation: One to bury bin Laden
if he was killed, and a second composed of lawyers,
interrogators and translators in case he was captured alive.
"That team was set to meet aboard a Navy ship, most
likely the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson in the North Arabian
Sea," the daily said.
With tensions between the US and Pakistan escalating
since the raid, American officials yesterday sought to tamp
down the divisions and pointed to some encouraging
developments, the paper said.
It quoted a US official as saying that American
investigators would soon be allowed to interview bin Laden's
three widows, now being held by Pakistani authorities, a
demand that Obama's national security adviser Thomas Donilon
made on television last week.