Washington, May 9: Faced with what he called a ’55-45 situation’ US President Barack Obama took a calculated risk when he ordered the May 1 commando raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.
‘At the end of the day, this was still a 55-45 situation,’ Obama told CBS in an interview telecast Sunday acknowledging the US had only circumstantial evidence about Al Qaeda leader hiding in the Abbottabad house.
He also had a sharply divided counsel from his advisers as ‘We could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been some significant consequences.’
There was not a single photograph or confirmed sighting of the man, Obama said, and he worried that the US commandos would find only a ‘prince from Dubai’ instead of the world’s most wanted terrorist.
He weighed the risks and judged that he should proceed with what was, by all accounts, the most promising opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden in nearly a decade, Obama said
He took the decision even as a number of his national security advisers counselled against sending ground troops deep into Pakistan as too risky, he said.
‘I concluded it was worth it,’ Obama said. ‘We have devoted enormous blood and treasure in fighting back against Al Qaeda, ever since 2001.
‘And I said to myself that if we have a good chance of not completely defeating but badly disabling Al Qaeda, then it was worth both the political risks as well as the risks to our men, after a pursuit that cost billions of dollars and stretched for nearly a decade.’
Earlier, his national security adviser Tom Donilon told CNN that Obama gave the go-ahead to raid bin Ladedn’s hideout in Pakistan on ‘what was probably a 50-50 chance that Osama bin Laden was there.’
‘It was a circumstantial case … But what he had 100 percent confidence in was the ability of our special forces to execute the mission,’ he said.
At the last of several National Security Council meetings focused on finding and going after the Al Qaeda leader on April 28 ‘he had gotten divided counsel, and that happens a lot in these things, as you would imagine,’ Donilon said.
After a night’s sleep, Obama told Donilon at 8:20 a.m. the next day to draft the order for the raid.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)