The Navy SEALs who killed Osama bim Laden were ready to fight off Pakistani troops if they had tried to stop the mission. President Obama insisted that two extra helicopters be sent along -- so the force that descended on bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad would be large enough to prevent any Pakistani military intervention, The New York Times reports
In the end, the extra men weren’t needed as the SEALs got in and out of the country before they were detected, but the Times says Obama’s decision “shows that he was willing to risk a military confrontation with a close ally in order to capture or kill the leader of Al Qaeda.”
Islamabad has already warned that it will retaliate against any further incursions into its territory by U.S. troops.
A senior Obama administration official told the Times the rules of engagement given to the SEALs for the May 1 mission were “to avoid any confrontation if at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorized to do it.”
Obama wanted extra forces available in case anything went wrong, the official said. “Some people may have assumed we could talk our way out of a jam, but given our difficult relationship with Pakistan right now, the president did not want to leave anything to chance.”
The Times says the original plan was to avoid engaging with any Pakistani forces, but the president was concerned that that was not enough to protect the troops, the officials say. The plan was changed in the days leading up to the raid.
The Times also says two back up teams of specialists were on hand — one to deal with bin Laden’s body if he was killed and the other to work on interrogation if he was captured. Only the first team was pressed into action.
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