Yesterday, in his Threat Matrix post, Killing bin Laden: the bigger prize, CJ noted that the data seized during the raid that killed the al Qaeda emir would likely lead to other raids in the near future to take down nodes of terror network. But the likelihood of obtaining actionable intel that led to an immediate raid (withing 24-36 hours) is low, contrary to what Strategy Page would have you believe.
Here is a claim by Strategy Page that a US raid in Baqubah, Iraq, was driven by intel obtained from the operation that killed bin Laden:
May 3, 2011: U.S. and Iraqi forces captured al Qaeda leader Mahmoud al Obiedi, and two of his key aides. This is believed one of the aftereffects of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound on the 1st. In addition to the death of bin Laden, much data was seized, which was immediately gone over for leads to other prominent al Qaeda personnel.
First, Strategy Page doesn’t list its source for the Obiedi capture, but I’d bet plenty that it was Xinhua, the official press agency of the government of the People’s Republic of China. Here is a blurb on Obiedi from a Xinhua article that rounds up news in Iraq on May 3:
Also in the province, a joint U.S. and Iraqi force dropped by helicopters in the early hours of the day on houses at the al- Tahwilah area, some 10 km north of Baquba, and captured Mahmoud al- Obiedi, an al-Qaida leader and two of his lieutenants, the source said without giving further details.
The emphasis above is mine. Note that the spelling of the name of the Iraqi terrorist is identical at both sources; this is quite rare when Arabic names are Romanized (for instance Obiedi could easily be written as Ubiadi or some other derivative).
More importantly, note that the Xinhua report does not indicate that the Obeidi raid is believed to be linked to bin Laden. So where did Strategy Page get that piece of information? From a source in US intel? We don’t know because Strategy Page doesn’t tell us.
Second, technically the bin Laden operation took place early morning (1 AM) of May 2, while the Xinhua article was published sometime mid-day on May 3. This would give a window of 24-36 hours from US boots on the ground in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to sorting, opening and analyzing the files, to passing the information along to US forces in Iraq, to planning and executing a raid, to the news agency receiving and publishing the information. Does Strategy Page believe that US intelligence can unpack a high amount of data (eight hard drives and hundreds of CDs and other files were said to be recovered) in such a short amount of time, and then turn that intel around into actionable intelligence that leads to a special operations raid? Perhaps if this was Mission Impossible.
Third, what is Obiedi’s role in al Qaeda’s hierarchy? Is he a global al Qaeda operative or commander? A senior or local leader in al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq? How was Obiedi linked to Osama bin Laden? Why was information about Obiedi in bin Laden’s files? Why was it so important to immediately target him? Again, we don’t know because Strategy Page doesn’t tell us.
As the old platitude goes, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
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