President Obama announced to the world late Sunday night that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was killed in a firefight with United States forces. Citing that “justice has been done” in a historic statement made in the East Room of the White House, the president shared news Americans had waited for roughly a decade since the leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist network orchestrated horrific acts that destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and severely damaged the Pentagon, resulting in the deaths of about 3,000 people.
Bin Laden, the most hunted man in the world, has been a significant figure in driving America’s national defense policies, responsible for military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as stringent procedures and practices related to homeland security. Obama, however, did not claim that his death signaled the end of the nation’s fight against terror. “For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” the president said in his televised statement. “The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
He added: “As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not—and never will be—at war with Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, Al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
The news provided a psychological and emotional boost for the nation and closure to families of 9/11 victims after years of frustration with the efforts to kill or capture Bin Laden. Last night, thousands filled the streets in front of the White House cheering the president’s action and chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Amidst the euphoria, political analysts maintained that the military operation represents Obama’s most significant leadership moment as commander-in-chief and comes at a time when he has been criticized by liberals in recent weeks for approving U.S. military involvement in Libya and by conservatives for “leading by behind” due to his thoughtful approach to using military force.
After six weeks of national security briefings without a single press leak, Obama authorized the “targeted operation” in which special forces and C.I.A. operatives engaged in the 40-minute raid on a massive compound about an hour’s drive north from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Bin Laden was hiding in the medium-sized city of Abbottabad, home to a large Pakistani military base and a military academy of the Pakistani Army. “No Americans were harmed,” Obama said. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” Muslim tradition requires burial within 24 hours but by doing it at sea American authorities presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for his followers, according to news reports.
Senior Administration officials said that the raid was conducted with the support of the Pakistani government.
Although the action is expected to disrupt Al Queda, government officials have placed military bases and embassies on high alert due to concerns about possible retaliation from operatives of the terrorist network.
Soon after the president’s announcement, messages filled social media networks citing that Bin Laden’s death as the end of the “war on terror,” as well as advocating an immediate troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to the plan for the Afghanistan War approved by the president last year, the first wave of troops are expected to leave Afghanistan this summer.