The White House considered bombing the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but abandoned the idea out of concern for civilian casualties and a need to produce physical evidence that bin Laden was indeed killed. President Obama authorized the development of several attack plans for the killing of bin Laden, including both a bomb from above and the Navy SEAL mission that was carried out yesterday. Ultimately the SEAL mission was chosen.
In the timeline of events, these plans were drawn up in earnest starting in March, months after the intelligence of bin Laden’s whereabouts appeared. White House principals meetings were held March 14, March 29, April 12, April 19 and April 28.
The intelligence reached its apex last week, and the President had to make a decision how to carry out the attack, choosing the Navy SEAL mission. The decision over the course of action was refined over the course of many weeks. The proof of bin Laden’s death was crucial to the decision-making process, US officials said.
The official rundown of the specific pieces of intelligence and the timeline of the mission comes from this press briefing last night.
The cost-benefit analysis of bombing the bin Laden compound doesn’t appear to be a major factor in all the other airstrikes and drone attacks that have been authorized on President Obama’s watch. But there were extenuating circumstances in the bin Laden death, and a lot of thought clearly went into the mission.