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Adm. William McRaven: We looked at the model and Morell says, “If you guys had to do this, how would you do it?” I said, “Look, it’s a compound. This is not hard.” It’s a little bit bigger than we’re used to, but we were doing about 10 to 12 missions a night in Afghanistan at the time. Those closely replicated what I thought this mission would be. I said, “I don’t see anything particularly challenging about it other than the fact that it’s large.” Once we got on target, the guys could do their job.
Mike Morell: We ended up briefing five options to the president.
Leon Panetta: One option was a B-2 bomber to just go in there and blow the hell out of the place—that sure had a certain attraction to it—but it was clear that the amount of firepower that would be necessary to turn that compound into dust would also have some impact on nearby villages.
It came up at some point of using a drone strike against the individual that was walking in the compound—the concern was that although we’ve been pretty effective at using drone strikes, you’re not always sure that you’ve been able to get the individual you’re after.
The third was the use of commando forces. One idea was to do a commando raid working with the Pakistanis, to avoid all the problems of having to go in the covert operation, and the other was to just have the SEALs do it on their own.
Jeremy Bash: President Obama determined that no other country, including Pakistan, should be alerted to this intelligence. We also determined that an airstrike carried a lot of risk—including a potential risk of not being able to identify any of the remains.
Nick Rasmussen: We might never know if we’d succeeded in killing bin Laden. And we wouldn’t control the narrative of the aftermath.
Adm. William McRaven: Over the course of March and April, we went from a number of different options—the large bombing raid, a more surgical bombing raid, partnering with the Pakistanis—and eventually we came down to the raid option.
Jeremy Bash: McRaven’s heli-borne assault plan became the favorite course of action.
Adm. William McRaven: At one point, the president turned to me and said, “Bill, do you know whether or not you can do this mission?” I said, “Sir, I don’t. I won’t know until I can bring the SEALs in and we can rehearse this to the nth degree.” He said, “How much time do you need?” I said, “About three weeks.” He said, “OK, you got three weeks.”