Teamwork can lead us to Bin Laden and keep America safe

Osama Bin Laden didn’t have time to react. Bin Laden, on May 2, 2011, at 12:30 am local time, when 20 operators of the American Elite Counter Terrorist Team stormed his premises and headed for his bedroom on the third floor of a large villa. And his family slept soundly. In Abbottabad, Pakistan. Soon, America’s most wanted terrorist died. It’s the culmination of a decade of Manhunt by US intelligence that identified his exact location that moonless night.

The CIA has transformed the director’s 7th-floor meeting room into a command center to monitor the assault unfold. Our heart was in our throat when the first helicopter lost lift and the crash landed on the premises. The meeting room was completely silent. However, the team’s experts working for Admiral Bill McRaven of Joint Special Operations Command did not hesitate to carry out the mission as if nothing had happened. A spare helicopter was called in and the mission was successfully carried out.

Looking back at what happened 10 years ago in late April and early May, three lessons stand out.

First, this operation was the result of unprecedented cooperation between our military and intelligence agencies. We are honored to help take the lead in both the CIA and the Pentagon, and we can assure you of the fact that they are very different organizations. The other is huge, with 3 million employees and thousands of offices in one department. They differ culturally, organizationally and bureaucratically and operate under different powers, policies and rules of engagement.

But for this particular operation to work, the CIA and DOD had to work together-and they did. Pentagon leaders had to agree to have the CIA direct the operation. But the CIA had to get the army to do it. The CIA discovered Bin Laden with the help of partners from the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, but only the special operations community flew 150 miles to Pakistan at night to attack the compound and defeat Bin Laden. I had the training, experience, and skills to kill. , His adult son, and his courier protect women and children and leave without casualties.

This kind of teamwork should not be taken for granted. It does not flow organically from the goodwill of those who share one goal. It needs to be designed for government efforts, requested by leaders, and rewarded when done correctly.

Second, the operation required and received bipartisan support. In the fall of 2010, I explained information about this compound to Congressional leaders. Democrats ran the house. In the middle of 2010, Democrats lost the House of Representatives, so we immediately explained to the new Republicans. We needed resources for surveillance, so we needed to get them on board, but more importantly, we wanted bipartisan leaders to be partners in supporting this important mission.

In their honor, parliamentarians were briefed on their mission, but did not say a word about it. Bipartisan cooperation is absolutely essential for American high stakes missions abroad. We believed in the tradition of partisanship stopping at the water’s edge, but this mission did.

Third, without the intelligence and military skills and professionalism involved in this mission, Bin Laden may still be alive today. CIA police scrutinized evidence of Bin Laden’s courier network and tracked all reeds for a decade. The special operations team that undertook the mission endangered their lives based on incomplete information about the resident of the compound and the knowledge that it would be difficult to rescue them if they were detained in Pakistan. We’re lucky to be able to talk to Americans about this mission, but truly credible intelligence and quiet experts from the Pentagon bring most of the details to their graves. ..

Although uncertain at the time, Bin Laden’s murder was the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda’s status as an outstanding threat to the United States. The Abbottabad raid robbed al-Qaeda of its inspirational leader, pierced the invincible sense of the organization, and sent other lieutenants to deeper concealment. Within a few months, other al-Qaeda senior leaders were killed, more plots collapsed, and the flow of threats from Afghanistan and Pakistan to mainland US targets was exhausted as the group further divided. I started.

Today, al-Qaeda is in the shadow of what it once was, with most of its leaders being captured or killed, most of its money running out, and most of its infantry being absorbed by other radical groups. .. This terrorist organization is no longer considered the greatest threat to the United States. They remain dangerous, but we were able to focus our resources elsewhere. A recent global threat briefing, published by the Director of National Intelligence and published at Capitol Hill, contained 23 pages of information on the global threat situation, but dedicated only three sentences to al-Qaeda. I couldn’t.

Teamwork 10 years ago has allowed the United States to shift its focus to the next threat: China, Russia, nuclear breeders and cyberattackers. The dual crisis facing America today in an unprecedented pandemic and the resulting recession demands teamwork, transpartisanism, and expert leadership. Bin Laden’s mission 10 years ago should serve as a template for how to work together to keep America safe.

Leon E. Panetta is Chairman of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy. He was the 23rd US Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013 and the Director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011. Previously, he was a member of parliament, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and chief of staff of the White House.

Jeremy Bash is Managing Director of Beacon Global Strategies, an advisory firm based in Washington, DC. Bash was previously Panetta’s Chief of Staff at the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. Teamwork can lead us to Bin Laden and keep America safe

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