Washington: President Barack Obama had instructed the US commandos to fight their way out if they were challenged by the Pakistani soldiers during the daring Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, saying safety of his forces was more important than keeping Pakistanis happy.

"The premium is on the protection of our force, not on keeping the Pakistanis happy," Obama instructed Commander of the US Special Operations Command William McRaven, according to a new book 'Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden - from 9/11 to Abbottabad', that hit the book stand this week.

Obama's specific instructions in this regard, marking a huge fundamental shift, came as his team were in discussion what to do if the Navy Seals were challenged by Pakistan during or after the raid at the Abbottabad on May 2 last year.

"Now that the decision had been made not to bring the Pakistanis into any aspect of the operation, Obama (Commander-in-Chief) and his team had to think through how best to deal with whatever their reaction might be, particularly on the ground in Abbottabad, should the president green-light the raid," author Peter L Bergen wrote.

According to the book, a senior administration official explains: "McRaven, in some of the earliest briefings, was very sensitive to the idea that we don't want to create, for lack of a better word, a shit storm with the Pakistanis if we don't need to. So if this can be accomplished in a way that did not result in dead Pakistanis, either civilians or security forces, that's the optimal solution."

McRaven initially came up with an assault plan that would have had the SEALs avoiding any kind of firefight with the Pakistanis unless it was absolutely necessary.

"If the Pakistanis did show up in force at the compound, McRaven's proposal was that the SEALs set up a defensive perimeter and hold them at bay," Bergen wrote.

"Meanwhile, senior US officials would explain to their Pakistani counterparts the intelligence case on bin Laden and why the raid had taken place, in the hope that the SEALs would eventually be able to leave without further hindrance.

"In the scenario in which the SEALs were surrounded in the Abbottabad compound by hostile Pakistani soldiers, Obama's national security team discussed who would be the best person to make the call explaining the situation to the most powerful man in Pakistan, chief of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani," Bergen writes.

"As this discussion went on without a clear resolution, it was plain that Obama was not at all comfortable with this scenario. The premium is on the protection of our force, not on keeping the Pakistanis happy," he instructed McRaven.

"I want you to plan against a scenario that you have to fight your way out. You have to be able to face active Pakistani opposition and still get out with all your men safe."

The shorthand for that approach became the "fight your way out" option, Bergen said.

"'That was a huge fundamental shift, because Bill McRaven thought he was bringing what people wanted, which was a 'don't piss off the Pakistan' approach,' says a senior administration official. McRaven went back to the drawing board and returned with a variety of ways he could protect the assault team, particularly having a quick reaction force that was deployed deep into Pakistan, rather than on helicopters stationed at the Afghan-Pakistan border, as previously planned," the author said.
"Mullen says, 'Obama is the one that put in the Chinook-47s. He is the one that said, 'There is not enough backup.'"

According to Bergen, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had thrown enough hint to General Kayani that the US would take unilateral action if they knew where bin Laden was.

"Mullen, who had visited Pakistan twenty-seven times when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had repeatedly told his counterpart, General Kayani, 'If we know we can find Number One or Number Two we are going to get them. Period. And we are going to get them unilaterally. Period," he wrote.

(Agencies)

 

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