Year later, bin Laden killing remains a decision to behold

As the details become public of the debates and deliberations within the White House over the secret operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death, the decision by President Obama to order the attack a year ago takes on greater significance.

High ranking administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, argued against the U.S. Navy SEALS’ raid in Abbottabad, a Pakistani army town where bin Laden had been living for six years. They argued that the risks of failure were too high, especially since the Pakistani government, intelligence service and military were not to be notified.

But, Obama, whose national security and foreign policy credentials were called into question in the 2008 primary and general elections and are still questioned by his Republican critics, was well aware that two presidents before him, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, had allowed bin Laden slip through their fingers. He wasn’t about to let that happen again.

The one-year anniversary today of bin Laden’s killing shows the president was right in going with his instincts.

The fact of the matter is that the raid on the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad wasn’t just about pursuing the world’s leading terrorist, the mastermind of al-Qaida’s deadly attacks Sept. 11, 2001, on America’s mainland. The SEALS’ operation under the noses of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services sent a strong message to terrorists everywhere: You can run, but you can’t hide. Bin Laden had been on the run since October 2001, when former President Bush launched a military invasion of Afghanistan with support from a coalition of western nations. Afghanistan, ruled at the time by the Islamic extremist Taliban, was providing a safe haven for bin Laden and other top operatives of al-Qaida. The world’s No. 1 terror organization had established training camps for terrorists; a majority of the Sept. 11 murderers were trained in Afghanistan.

The invasion resulted in the Taliban being toppled from power, but just as coalition forces were closing in on bin Laden, who had taken refuge in the mountain area of Tora Bora, Bush redeployed American forces to Iraq. Thus, bin Laden slipped away and ultimately set up his operations in the mountainous region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

President Obama kept his eye on the prize — and it paid off.

Soft underbelly

With the bin Laden gone, al-Qaida’s soft underbelly has been exposed. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was his chief deputy, has taken over the network. He is said to be hiding in the mountains in Pakistan.

Al-Zawahiri deserves to be targeted because he is now the moral leader, and is just as guilty of crimes against humanity as bin Laden.

Several key figures in global terrorism have been killed. Among them: Anwar al-Awlaki, leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; Abu Hafs al-Shahri, al-Qaida’s chief of Pakistan operations; Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the deputy leader of al-Qaida; Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the terror network’s most dangerous commanders; Omar al-Wa’ili, Abu Ali al-Harithi, and Ali Saleh Farhan, senior operatives in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; Harun Fazul, senior leader of al-Qaida in East Africa. The list, compiled last year by ABC News, goes on.

No objective analysis of the Obama administration’s war on global terrorism can ignore the success of the strategy, namely, to chop off the head of the snake.

No one is even remotely suggesting that the war has been won, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that al-Qaida and the other terrorist organizations are weaker today than when Obama took office in January 2009.

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