After a morning of U.S. officials speaking of an uneasy yet important anti-terror alliance with Pakistan, President Obama underscored the theme Sunday night on CBS’s 60 Minutes, saying that Osama bin Laden must have had a support network while he was hiding there but noting that Pakistan “has been a strong counterterrorism partner with us” since 9/11.
In an interview recorded midweek, Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft, “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was. We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”
On the other hand, Obama said, “We've been able to kill more terrorists on Pakistani soil than just about any place else. We could not have done that without Pakistani cooperation.”
In a wide-ranging interview about the U.S. mission to take out bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, the president said that some in his national security team had doubts about the mission, particularly in light of the great uncertainty over whether the terrorist leader was actually in the building.
“At the end of the day, this was still a 55/45 situation. I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been significant consequences,” the president said.
"If it turns out that it's a wealthy, you know, prince from Dubai who's in this compound and, you know, we've sent special forces in, we've got problems," Obama said.
The interview painted a picture of officials grappling with circumstantial evidence about bin Laden's whereabouts as well as the grim possibility that other aspects of the mission could go awry and American lives might be lost.
Obama said his primary concern was whether American troops would be able to get out if something went wrong.
"These guys are going in in, you know, the darkest of night. And they don't know what they're going to find there. They don't know if the building is rigged. They don't know if, you know, there are explosives that are triggered by a particular door opening. So huge risks that these guys are taking," he said. "And so my No. 1 concern was: if I send them in, can I get them out? And a lot of the discussion we had during the course of planning was how do we make sure there's backup? How do we make sure that there's redundancy built into the plan so that we have the best chance of getting our guys out?"
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