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SEALs raided Pakistan 10-12 times in bin Laden searches

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SEALs raided Pakistan 10-12 times in bin Laden searches

  • A 2005 aerial view of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed.
    U.S. military photoA 2005 aerial view of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed.

New details of the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan have emerged, including that U.S. forces had conducted 10-12 previous raids in search of the al-Qaeda leader.

An article in The New Yorker magazine by Nicholas Schmidle reveals new, never-before-discussed, details on SEAL Team Six's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

According to Schmidle, the Abbottabad raid was not SEAL Team Six's first raid into Pakistan. "The team had surreptitiously entered the country on ten or twelve previous occasions," according to a special operations officer. Most of the missions went into North and South Waziristan where the bulk of reports said Bin Laden was hiding.

The most explosive points of the article reveal — "Abbottabad was, by far, the farthest that DEVGRU (SEAL Team Six) had ventured into Pakistani territory," and the first serious attempt at getting bin Laden since he escaped from American forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in 2001.

Among the other revelations, President Obama was "unimpressed" with C.I.A. chief Pannetta's initial brief on plans for getting code name "Crankshaft," JSOC's name for bin Laden. In 2009, Obama instructed Panetta to create a "detailed operation plan" that would "ensure that we have expended every effort."

— A special ops command planned the raid from C.I.A. headquarters. The two dozen Seal Team members selected for the operation practiced the night raid for weeks in Virginia and then Nevada. A native Pashto speaker and a dog, accompanied the team on the ground. The first helicopter crashed into the outer area of the compound rather than hovering above it.

—C.I.A. officials certainty that bin Laden was in the compound ranged from forty percent to ninety-five percent.

—Obama decided to go with the SEAL raid, even though Secretary of Defense Gates initially favored an air strike. 

—The mission, one of thousands of night raids over the last years, was likened to "mowing the lawn... "Most missions take off and go left," a Department of Defense official said. "This one took off and went right."

—In the eighteen minutes that passed during the assault part of the raid, four men were shot and killed: bin Laden's courier, the courier's brother, bin Laden's son and bin Laden. Twenty more minutes were devoted to intelligence gathering.

—One SEAL member bear hugged two of bin Laden's wives who had been shielding him, and drove them out of the way, fearing they wore suicide vests.

—John Brennan, who had been a C.I.A. chief in Riyadh, called a contact in Saudi intelligence and asked if the Saudis had any interest in taking bin Laden's body, as opposed to the U.S. idea of dropping him into the ocean. "Your plan sounds like a good one," the Saudi replied.

—One of the phones recovered from the compound contained contacts for senior militants with close ties to the I.S.I., Pakistan's spy service.

—A senior advisor to the President told the New Yorker, "penetrating other countries' sovereign airspace covertly is something that's always available for the right mission and the right gain."

—When Obama met with the SEALs involved, he never asked who fired the kill shot and the SEALs never volunteered to tell him.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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