Updated with Clinton, more Brennan remarks….
WASHINGTON–U.S. Special Forces were prepared to take Osama Bin Laden alive; the most tense moment of the Sunday raid where he was killed was when a malfunctioning helicopter was forced to land. And U.S. officials are wondering what the Pakistan government really knew about his hideout.
Those are some of the highlights of a briefing Monday from White House Homeland Security advisor John Brennan.
“If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that.” Brennan said.
“We had discussed that extensively in a number of meetings in the White House and with the president. The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he did. There was a firefight. He therefore was killed in that firefight, and that’s when the remains were removed. But we certainly were planning for the possibility, which we thought was going to be remote, given that he would he likely resist arrest but that we would be able to capture him.”
The city where Bin Laden was hiding was 35 miles from Islamabad, the capital–a city with a national military academy and retired military personnel. There is an open question, Brennan said, of whether Bin Laden received any Pakistani help.
“People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. Clearly, this was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was very careful in her response when she was asked, at a separate press conference call how could there be any confidence now in Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism. While the U.S. raid was unilateral, the Pakistani’s were helpful with gathering intelligence that was helpful.
“As the president made clear, it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation over a number of years now with Pakistan has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaida. And in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding,” Clinton said.
“You know, going forward, we are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation. And it’s not just cooperation between governmental agencies, it’s cooperation between the people of the United States and the people of Pakistan. ”
Brennan described the high tension in the White House Situation Room, where the participants were following the raid in real time.
“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday. The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel. That was what was on his mind throughout, and we wanted to make sure that we were able to get through this and accomplish the mission,” Brennan said.