SOCOM CHIEF ON BIN LADEN KILLING
The commander of the Special Operations Command who took part in the effort to kill al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden said the death of the terrorist leader was a landmark event but did not end the global war on terrorism.
Speaking at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado, Army Gen. Raymond A. “Tony” Thomas III said he was forward-deployed near Pakistan when Navy SEALs conducted the May 2, 2011, raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when bin Laden was shot.
“Truthfully, at the time, it seemed incredibly cathartic, and in fact when I think of hearing, you know, the code word ‘Geronimo,’ which is in too many books and movies, I was actually flushed thinking, ‘Man, it’s been a long 10 years. A lot of hard work went into this,’” Gen. Thomas recalled.
Geronimo was the code word used by the commandos to signal that the al Qaeda leader was either killed or captured.
“You know, it seemed like a seminal moment and, truthfully, it’s actually brought home I think the lesson that that was one guy, albeit a pretty powerful and symbolic guy, he’s one guy on top of a network. And if you don’t dismantle the whole network, if you don’t address the ideology, you’ve killed one guy,” he said.
The comments reflect some of the thinking that officials of the Trump administration say will guide counterterrorism operations designed to kill terrorist leaders and to address the radical Islamic ideology that motivates groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
During the Obama administration, political correctness and fears of creating a backlash against Islam prevented effective efforts to target the terrorist ideology. The Trump administration has vowed to do more to attack the Islamists’ ideology as something that ultimately will produce the defeat of terrorist groups.
Gen. Thomas emphasized that the lesson of the long, difficult intelligence and military effort to kill bin Laden didn’t translate into solving the problem of terrorism.
“To me, it was needful it had happened. I think it was good for the country to know that we would relentlessly pursue somebody who had attacked us,” he said. “But the reality is it was just another steppingstone in this kind of epic fight that we’ve been at.”
Addressing the fate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Gen. Thomas said the Islamic State leader remains the iconic head of the terrorist group and is absolutely relevant to the organization.
Despite al-Baghdadi’s silence in recent weeks, the four-star general said he does not believe the Islamic State leader was killed, as Russian reports have stated.