Geronimo Is KIA
So they finally got Osama Bin Laden.
And they got him in Pakistan. Down the street from the Pakistani equivalent of West Point.
In a McMansion with twelve foot walls.
Steve Coll, New Yorker writer and author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2011, a great if bulky tome about the roller coaster history of Afghanistan, had this to say: “It stretches credulity to think that a mansion of that scale could have been built and occupied by bin Laden for six years without it coming to the attention of anyone in Pakistan’s Army.”
No matter whom you believe, Coll also points out that the CIA’s Langley-based Bin Laden unit had gone deep and long on trying to understand other long international fugitive hunts, including studying the tracking down of Medelin Cartel leader Pablo Escobar, way back in 1993, to try and arrive at some lessons learned that could be applied in the search for Bin Laden.
Coll writes that the analysts looked for clues from those other manhunts — where did the breakthroughs come from? what were the clues that made the difference and how were the clues discovered?
But they also engaged in pattern recognition, analyzing relationships among terrorists, couriers, and raw data collected in the field, and also piecing together what they found with a breakthrough that came from detainee interrogations, including from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Sounds to me no matter how you add it all up, it was just some dogged, perservering, and good ol’ fashioned intelligence work.
As for how it all went down yesterday in Abottabad, this tick tock, found on the Politico web site, is a heart stopper.
Remember those scenes from all those movies where you’re inside the Situation Room waiting for the raid to go down, and everyone’s on pins and needles, including the President?
I’m guessing it was a little something like those scenes in the White House Situation Room yesterday afternoon.
Me, I’ve also been reading the first hand Twitter accounts from one Sohaib Ahtar, whose Twitter ID is @ReallyVirtual.
Sohaib is an IT consultant who was apparently taking a break from the rat race and hiding in the mountains of Pakistan, blogs TechCrunch Europe’s Mike Butcher.
He unwittingly provided play-by-play action of the raid, which occurred around 1:00 AM local time in Abbottabad, having no idea what was really going down in his new mountain respite:
Sohaib’s first Tweet: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).”
Yeah, more rare than you ever could have known.
Then, not too much later: “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S”
Guess it depends on how you define nasty.
Finally, NBC’s Chuck Todd informed us via Twitter this morning that Osama’s code name for this raid was “Geronimo,” and that the call came in as “Geronimo is KIA” (killed in action).
There are some parallels between the renowned Apache leader and Bin Laden.
Like Bin Laden, Geronimo was once surrounded by U.S. soldiers in the Robledo Mountains of southwest New Mexico, hidden in a cave from which he seemingly never came out. But somehow, he escaped, both from the cave, and from the clutches of U.S. soldiers.
A story that is, of course, eerily reminiscent of Bin Laden being similarly trapped in caves in the mountains of Tora Bora in December 2001, from which he also escaped.
But not this time.
This time, making smart, productive use of intelligence on the ground from the field — connecting the dots, if you will — is finally what did “Geronimo” in.