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PHOTO ESSAY

The Obama Presidency

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Situation Room

President Obama and the national security team, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, monitor the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound (Pete Souza/Official White House Photo)

Obama had famously opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 as an unnecessary "dumb war" that distracted from the more pressing need to defeat those responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America: al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden. In his June 4, 2009 address to the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt, the President made clear that 9/11 and other atrocities by al-Qaeda and its allies "are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam [and] the Holy Koran." As such, he continued the Bush administration's war against al-Qaeda and in May 2009 stepped up efforts to capture or kill Bin Laden, who had escaped to Pakistan during the American attack on Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001. By August 2010 Obama's National Security team had assembled credible evidence that Bin Laden was hiding in a secret, well-guarded compound in Abbottabad, a city only 30 miles from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Eight months later, after rejecting plans to bomb the compound from the air, or assassinate Bin Laden with a small drone, and despite the reservations of Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Obama ordered an audacious and dangerous raid into Pakistan territory just before midnight, May 2011, by a team of 23 Navy SEALs and a Pashto translator, aboard two stealth Black Hawk helicopters. This widely distributed official photograph shows the president and his closest advisors monitoring the raid, the anxiety clear on their faces. By 3 AM the next morning the SEALs had returned to Afghanistan, their mission complete, with the corpse of a man later identified by DNA evidence as Bin Laden.

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