Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Bin Laden Operation

Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Bin Laden Operation

Thanks to OJ for allowing me to guest blog for a bit.  I’m a law professor at Pepperdine, specializing in national security law and policy.

First off, there is a lot of talk about this operation being a “human operation” involving special operations forces.  Some readers may assume that this meant there were no air assets involved (e.g. no Predators and no bombs dropped).  This is highly unlikely.  What probably occurred was that ground troops staged outside of wherever Bin Laden was housed, called in air strikes, then moved-in to exploit the objective.  This is not inconsistent with the idea that a firefight took place, it’s just a more likely and more complete description of how things probably played out.  This is especially likely given reports that Bin Laden was killed in a heavily fortified compound with 12-18 foot high walls with a significant security presence.  We will hear more about this in the coming days, but I’m guessing there was airpower in support of the ground operation.

Second, the fact that this took place in Abottabad, Pakistan tells us something about the credibility of the Pakistani government’s repeated claims that Bin Laden was not in Pakistan.

Third, Peter Bergen just said on CNN that killing Bin Laden is “The end of the war on terror.”  I’m skeptical of this claim and imagine that one year from now we will still be employing armed forces around the world in search of al Qaeda members.

I’ll have some more detailed thoughts once the speculation dies down.

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Kenneth Anderson

Welcome, Greg – very glad to have your commentary on this.


From the guy who unknowingly live-tweeted the event, and Pakistani military sources who have commented on the event, it sounds like at least two helicopters were used, with one apparently crashing ‘due to technical failure’. I don’t imagine Predators or bombs were used, only human assets and whatever weapons were on board the helicopters, seems that getting his body and potential intel were high priorities.