India - New Details: Getting Bin Laden, What Happened That Night in Abbottabad
India - Shortly after eleven oâ€™clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairoâ€”a Belgian Malinoisâ€”were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicoptersâ€™ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft.
Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters ducked into an alpine valley and slipped, undetected, into Pakistani airspace. For more than sixty years, Pakistanâ€™s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India. Because of this obsession, Pakistanâ€™s â€śprincipal air defenses are all pointing east,â€ť Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of â€śCrossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,â€ť told me. Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. â€śNo one leaves their borders unattended,â€ť he said. Though he declined to elaborate on the location or orientation of Pakistanâ€™s radarsâ€”â€śItâ€™s not where the radars are or arenâ€™tâ€ťâ€”he said that the American infiltration was the result of â€śtechnological gaps we have vis-Ă -vis the U.S.â€ť The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the coptersâ€™ exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening â€śskin.â€ť
The SEALsâ€™ destination was a house in the small city of Abbottabad, which is about a hundred and twenty miles across the Pakistan border. Situated north of Islamabad, Pakistanâ€™s capital, Abbottabad is in the foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, and is popular in the summertime with families seeking relief from the blistering heat farther south. Founded in 1853 by a British major named James Abbott, the city became the home of a prestigious military academy after the creation of Pakistan, in 1947. According to information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency, bin Laden was holed up on the third floor of a house in a one-acre compound just off Kakul Road in Bilal Town, a middle-class neighborhood less than a mile from the entrance to the academy. If all went according to plan, the SEALs would drop from the helicopters into the compound, overpower bin Ladenâ€™s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.
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