Almost 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington, D.C., justice has been served.
President Obama’s announcement late Sunday night that U.S. forces had found and killed Osama bin Laden was met in this country with a mixture of euphoria and relief. The fact that the revered head of the al-Qaida terrorist group had eluded capture for so long was a festering sore for the American people. The fact that U.S. Navy Seals were able to find bin Laden in a Pakistan mansion and execute a pinpoint mission to eliminate the terrorist certainly gives Americans reason to be proud.
Obama deserves congratulations for giving the orders for the risky mission. As the president noted Sunday night, “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida,” a battle that already has spanned three presidencies. During Bill Clinton’s term al-Qaida was blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 231 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 171 U.S. sailors in Yemen. Only a few months into George W. Bush’s presidency, bin Laden directed the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
The path that led U.S. forces to bin Laden was a long one. An assault that lasted only about 40 minutes early Monday morning Pakistan time, was years in the making. Reportedly aided by tips from detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. intelligence officials were able to identify a trusted bin Laden courier four years ago. About two years ago, they were able to identify areas of Pakistan where the courier worked.
Last August, they found his residence, a heavily fortified compound in a suburb of Islamabad. By February, intelligence placing bin Laden at the same address was strong enough that Obama decided to pursue what a senior official called “an aggressive course of action.” The next two and a half months were spent zeroing in on bin Laden and planning the mission to take him out.
The precision with which that attack took place was impressive. It is a vivid reminder of the skill and dedication of our nation’s military forces who are deployed around the world. The sacrifices of our troops and their families are immense; the raid that killed bin Laden is just one example of their skill and courage.
Bin Laden’s death is an important step in the global war against terrorism, but it does not mark the end of that battle. Others still are willing to pursue terrorist targets and may be at least temporarily spurred into acts of revenge against the nation that killed bin Laden.
The world may be only a marginally safer place without Osama bin Laden, but the elimination of the terrorist leader gives the nation and the world an important psychological life. It provided proof that we are not helpless in the battle against those who want to do us harm and that even the elusive bin Laden eventually could be caught and punished.
Americans should offer their congratulations and thanks to all those involved in this significant victory in the war on terror.