Job well done, Obama tells assault team
Fort Campbell, Kentucky - US President Barack Obama embraced the US
commandos he sent after terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, saluting them on Friday
on behalf of America and people all over the world. "Job well done,"
The president spoke to a hangar full of cheering soldiers after meeting
privately with the full assault team - US Army helicopter pilots and Navy Seal
commandos - who executed the dangerous raid on bin Laden's compound and killed
the al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan early on Monday.
"Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals -
intelligence, military over many years - the terrorist leader that struck our
nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again," Obama said, speaking at
an Army post whose troops have sustained heavy losses in a war in Afghanistan
that has grown on his watch.
Capping an extraordinary week for the military, the country and himself, he
called the bin Laden raid one of the most successful intelligence and military
operations in America's history.
Fight still rages
Vice President Joe Biden joined Obama in a briefing and in thanking the
members of the mission behind closed doors. He emerged to the broader audience
of troops and put it bluntly: "We just spent time with the assaulters who
got bin Laden."
Obama warned in his address to the troops that the fight against terrorists
still rages, but said: "we are ultimately going to defeat al-Qaeda".
Fresh warnings emerged, though, underscoring Obama's caution that the fight
against terrorists still rages.
The Afghan Taliban said the death of bin Laden would only boost the morale
of insurgents battling the US and its Nato allies. Al-Qaeda itself vowed
revenge, confirming bin Laden's death for the first time but saying that
Americans' "happiness will turn to sadness".
Soldiers at Fort Campbell were careful not to celebrate bin Laden's death,
voicing instead a sense of professional pride for the work of the commandos.
"We're not done," said Major Luis Ortiz, who was at Bagram Air
Base in Afghanistan when Obama visited the troops there last December. "We
cut off the head of the snake, but the snake is still wiggling around."
Defence Secretary Robert Gates met with members of the bin Laden mission
team a day earlier to express his admiration and appreciation, Pentagon press
secretary Geoff Morrell said.
Obama's appearance culminated a week-long response to the demise of the
long-hunted al-Qaeda leader, from the White House to Ground Zero in New York to
Fort Campbell, home of the famous 101st Airborne Division.
The division has been integral to Obama's war plan in Afghanistan, and many
of its combat teams have returned recently from tours of duty.
The week gave a political and emotional lift to the president; in turn, he
called for the unity that has eluded him in divisive Washington for most of his
"This week has been a reminder of what we're about as a people,"
the president said. "The essence of America, the values that have defined
us for more than 200 years, they don't just endure - they're stronger than
With his comments, Obama offered a counterpoint to a growing cry within his
party and even among some Republicans that the time has come to withdraw from
Afghanistan. Obama will start drawing troops home as promised this summer but
has signalled no change in mission.
At Fort Campbell, the president and vice president first met with the men
who raided the compound itself, probably including those who killed bin Laden.
Obama was then briefed on how the operation was carried out, by those who
coordinated the attack from command centres in Afghanistan, and in other
undisclosed parts of the region.
That team was headed by Vice Admiral William McRaven, a Navy Seal himself
and head of the military's elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special
Obama and Biden then met with the entire Seal team unit that carried out the
raid - both the two dozen troops who stormed the compound, and roughly the same
number who circled above as backup, in case the Seals on the ground met
The president also met with the air crews from the 160th Special Operations
Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers, who flew the Seals to the
mission, as well as Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group.
It's not known whether the Green Berets were involved in the bin Laden
mission, but the 5th Special Forces Group gave rise to the Horse Soldiers, who
first invaded Afghanistan right after 9/11.
The President awarded the units involved in the raid a Presidential Unit
Citation - the highest such honour that can be given to a unit - in recognition
of their extraordinary service and achievement.