Commandos come in for presidential praise

Commandos come in for presidential praise

Their identities will probably never be known; their faces will most likely never appear in photographs at the White House, on magazine covers or on television talk shows.

But on Friday, President Barack Obama flew to this army air base to thank them, behind closed doors, for what he called “a job well done”, describing it as one of the greatest military and intelligence operations in American history.

“This has been an historic week for the life of our nation,” Obama said later to a raucous rally of 2,300 soldiers, many of them just returned from Afghanistan. “The terrorist leader who struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.”

During the meeting with the Seal team—which Vice-President Joe Biden also attended—Obama awarded it and other units involved in the operation a Presidential Unit Citation, the White House said.

The president also received a PowerPoint presentation on the raid, with maps, photos and a scale model of the compound, from members of the assault force. Even the trained dog used in the raid attended. The White House released few other details of the meeting and did not mention the highly classified members of the unit by name. But Biden mentioned them several times in his speech, telling the soldiers that earlier in the day, his granddaughter exclaimed: “My Pop is going out to see the whales!”

Obama’s victory

The public rally and the private meeting amounted to a choreographed victory lap for Obama near the end of a momentous week that began with his announcement on Sunday that commandos had killed bin Laden. On Thursday, Obama visited ground zero in New York and met relatives of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, drawing a personal link between the killing of bin Laden and the deaths his disciples inflicted on nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center.

Speaking under a giant American flag to the troops of the 101st Airborne Division, Obama drew another connection, between the soldiers there and the commandos he called “America’s quiet professionals.”

“Like all of us, they could have chosen a life of ease,” the president said. “But like you, they volunteered.”

Describing the Seal commandos as “battle hardened” and tirelessly trained, Obama said: “When I gave the order, they were ready. And in recent days, the world has learned just how ready they were.”

While the Seal team is not based here, Fort Campbell is home of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers. The unit, which pilots aircraft for Special Operations troops, flew the helicopters that carried the commandos to bin Laden’s compound.

ISI chief on foreign visit, but not to US

Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha has embarked on a foreign trip to an undisclosed location against the backdrop of reports that he may step down over the debacle of the Pakistani military’s failure to detect Osama bin Laden’s presence in the country, reports PTI.

Pasha set off for an undisclosed location on Friday and it is believed that his visit is linked to the fallout of Monday’s US raid that resulted in the killing of bin Laden in a compound located a short distance from the Pakistan Military Academy in the garrison city of Abbottabad, sources said.

The influential Dawn newspaper had reported that Pasha had gone to Washington on a “critical mission for putting an end to misgivings about Pakistan in the US” but the sources said the ISI chief had not gone to the US. Some reports said Pasha may have travelled to a friendly country like China or Saudi Arabia but this could not immediately be confirmed.