Brennan: Bin Laden Kill "Defining Moment" In War On Terror
"[Obama] made what I believe is one of the gustiest calls of any president in recent memory," Brennan said Monday, walking reporters through the atmosphere in the White House Situation Room as the Navy's "Seal Team Six" confirmed bin Laden was indeed hiding at a million-dollar compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"This is a defining moment in the war against al Qaeda and the War on Terror," he said.
The Pakistani government was not informed of the operation in advance, so there was concern that its military would defend its airspace as three American helicopters approached the compound.
"Thankfully there was no engagement with Pakistani forces," Brennan said, praising the efficiency of the mission. Although one chopper experienced mechanical difficulties and crash landed, special forces were able to enter and win a firefight with bin Laden and his group without sustaining any casualties.
Obama's response: "We got him."
Brennan said: "This is something that we've been after for 15 years, it goes back before 9/11. This was about decapitating the head of the snake known as al Qaeda. This is a strategic blow to them. I think you're going to start seeing them eating themselves from within more and more."
Press Secretary Jay Carney began the briefing by quoting Obama's statements about terrorism and Pakistan when he was a candidate, committing to pursue terror suspects in Pakistan if that country's government was unwilling or unable to do so.
Brennan explained that capturing bin Laden was an option for the mission, but violent resistence made that impossible.
"We were not going to put our people at risk," he said. "If we'd had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that."
Pressed on whether Pakistani authorities knew about bin Laden's whereabouts, Brennan raised questions but also defended the Pakistani government.
"I think it's inconceivable that bin Laden didn't have a support system within the country that allowed him to stay there for an extended period of time," he said, continuing that it is unknown whether the government was part of that system. "Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists in Pakistan than any other country and that's by a wide margin. Pakistan's government seemed as surprised as we were that bin Laden was hiding out in that area."
Intelligence captured from bin Laden's residence may yield more information about al Qaeda's operations.
Breenan didn't elaborate about what was taken, saying: "It's not necessarily quantity, it's quality."
He attacked bin Laden's credibility within the fundamentalist Muslim movement, based on the comfort of his life in Abbottabad, his distance from the front and his reported hiding behind a woman during the firefight with U.S. forces.
"I think it really just speaks to how false his narrative has been over the years," Brennan said.
"Bin Laden and al Qaeda are old news and now were going to move forward," he said. "They are a wave of the past and this is the future."