With a follow-up question on what most underwhelmed him:
Bowden is out with a new book:
Mark Bowden’s The Finish is the first book, and, to date, the definitive one, that looks at the Osama bin Laden raid from President Obama’s perspective as he sat in the Oval Office debating how to continue the then-seven-year hunt for the al Qaeda leader. Bowden was granted rare access to the president to discuss the raid and to the strategic thinking that went into its planning at the White House, CIA, and Joint Special Operations Command. Bowden, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has most famously written about U.S. Army intervention in Somalia in Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (1999), Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw (2001), and cyberattacks and security in Worm: The First Digital World War (2011).
Obama said, “Here’s the deal. I want this hunt for Osama bin Laden and [Ayman] al-Zawahiri to come to the front of the line. I worry that the trail has gone cold. This has to be our top priority and it needs leadership in the tops of your organizations.” He added, “I want regular reports on this to me, and I want them starting in 30 days.”
The conventional wisdom is that the intelligence apparatus had slackened off in its search for bin Laden—and it’s true that President George W. Bush, frustrated by the inability to find him, publicly declared that bin Laden wasn’t important. But among the analysts and operatives, the hunt had always continued. Obama’s order just gave it more focus and intensity. Now, a year later, there was something to talk about. While looking for an al-Qaeda figure who went by the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti—a man known to have once been a trusted aide and courier for bin Laden—intelligence analysts had become aware of a curious compound just outside Abbottabad, a prosperous city about 30 miles northeast of Islamabad. Too wary to use cell phones or Internet links, bin Laden relied on couriers to distribute his letters and occasional video and audio pronouncements. Reversing the paths taken by these tapes or thumb drives always ended one or two steps short of bin Laden’s inner circle. But now they had someone who might take them all the way inside. The search for him had lasted eight years. It had taken the C.I.A. five years just to learn his real name: Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. The trail had ended at this residence.