What was US’ goal after WTC attack? Agencies wanted to get Laden in such a way that 'we don't have another 9/11'
This year it will be the 20th anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks that shook the world, when nearly 2,996 people lost their lives, including citizens of 78 countries. On September 11, 2001, two planes crashed into the twin towers of the WTC while a third plane hit the Pentagon, and the fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Also, 2021 marks the ten years of Osama bin Laden’s death who was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. US forces under the mission — ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ — killed the founder of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, who was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attack.
Not just the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden was also responsible for several other attacks. Now, History Channel’s ‘Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden’ has shown the intense ten-year search for the world’s most wanted man.
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Recalling that dark day of 2001, Condolezza Rice, national security adviser (2001-2005), said: “It was a normal Tuesday morning. I was standing at my desk when my assistant came and said a plane had hit the World Trade Center, and I thought oh my God! That’s a strange accident. Then I talked to President Bush and he said ‘keep me informed'."
“A TV analyst was saying a small plane hit the north tower. And we were sitting and discussing it, and then we saw the second plane hitting the south tower,” SEAL #1, US Navy SEAL Team Six mentioned while Charles Allen, Assistant Director for Collection, CIA (1998-2005) added, “I said that’s al-Qaeda, that’s Osama Bin Laden.” Former President George W Bush said in the documentary: “Nobody knows what happened, nobody could have imagined four aircraft attacking US cities.”
But the US did not stop there as it decided to take down the whole existence of the terror organization. A senior operations officer, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said in the documentary, “Our goal was now not just to get Laden, or al-Qaeda, but to take it in such a fashion that we don’t have another 9/11 all the way.” Tina, Targeting Analyst, CIA, added: “The goal was to basically put al-Qaeda on the run so that they can no longer generate those major operations. Their focus should be on their survival.”
The US had a taste of a small win on March 1, 2003, when the planner of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was arrested in Pakistan. But the mastermind was still at large. And, seven years, four months, and nine days after one of the darkest days in American history, a new president took up the search operation. Former President Barack Obama said, “I had committed to ingratiate in what appeared to be a stalled approach of getting Laden. I asked the CIA chief to take a fresh look at it.”
“President made clear to me the importance of going after Laden. I not only agreed with him, but I said that effort was in many ways responsible for my desire to become head of the CIA,” Leon Panetta, director, CIA (2009-2011) stated. Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense (2006-2011) pointed, “finding Laden was a priority for both presidents. They never let us forget, it was a high priority. But in truth not much was going on. The CIA was trying to find him, but everyone was not having much luck. When President Obama came in, he obviously wanted a more intensified search.”
After a lot of research and struggle, the US was able to find a very crucial lead. His name was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti aka Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, an al-Qaeda member. In August 2010, al-Kuwaiti and his brother's cell phones were put on a trace by the US intelligence. Their movements revealed that they were working as couriers for bin Laden. Surveillance tracked these couriers’ white SUV from Peshawar to Abbottabad, which was near Islamabad, and it led them to a fortress.
There were several things that led to the suspicion that bin Laden was living inside that fortress. “The land and the compound were registered to two brothers. Its value was 1 million dollars. They had no visible source of income. No one really left the compound, the children did not leave the compound for schooling. Everything was done on site. We looked for cell phones, wi-fi...there was nothing,” a person said in the History Channel’s documentary.
In September 2010, Obama was informed about that house and the compound, which eventually served as the site for ‘Operation Neptune Spear’. Despite numerous risks and uncertainty, US forces went ahead with the plan, and on May 1, 2011, the operation began in the night.
The operation was not easy in any way. It involved two MH-47 Chinook and two MH-60 Black Hawk. One of the planes even crashed on the compound. But despite all of these, US forces was able to kill bin Laden. “All agencies set their egos aside and worked towards a common goal. We should work like this more often,” Obama said.