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President Barack Obama faced sharply divided counsel and, to his mind, barely better-than-even odds of success when he ordered the May 1 commando raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the president said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Obama acknowledged having only circumstantial evidence placing bin Laden at the Abbottabad compound. There was not a single photograph or confirmed sighting of the man, he said, and he worried that the Navy SEALs would find only a "prince from Dubai" instead of the terrorist mastermind responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"At the end of the day, this was still a 55-45 situation," Obama told CBS's "60 Minutes" in his first broadcast interview since bin Laden's death. "I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been some significant consequences."
Obama, in his most revelatory comments about his thinking in the days before the raid, said he weighed the risks and judged that he should proceed with what was, by all accounts, the most promising opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden in nearly a decade.
In doing so, he rejected the advice of a substantial number of his national security advisers, who worried that the plan to send ground troops deep into Pakistan was too risky, he said.
"I concluded it was worth it," Obama said. "We have devoted enormous blood and treasure in fighting back against al-Qaida, ever since 2001. And I said to myself that if we have a good chance of not completely defeating but badly disabling al-Qaida, then it was worth both the political risks as well as the risks to our men, after a pursuit that cost billions of dollars and stretched for nearly a decade."
The president gave the order to strike on the morning of Friday, April 29, a day after his top security advisers hashed over the arguments and counter-arguments in a meeting in the White House Situation Room. Obama said his advisers expressed doubts some of which he also shared.
Cheney lauds president
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a critic of President Barack Obama's foreign policy, said he gives the president "high marks" for ordering the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. "There's no question that was his responsibility and I think he handled it well," Cheney said in an interview aired Sunday on the "Fox News Sunday" program. "I give him high marks for making that decision."
Source • Bloomberg News Services