Kentucky: President Barack Obama on Friday praised US special forces warriors who killed Osama bin Laden for a “job well done”, saying America had cut off al Qaeda’s head and would ultimately defeat it.
An exuberant Obama wrapped up what he said was a “historic week” by meeting and decorating the secretive force which stealthily flew into Pakistan and gunned down the al Qaeda leader in his hideout after a 10 year manhunt.
“It was a chance for me to say on behalf of all Americans and people around the world, job well done. Job well done,” Obama told another contingent of regular airborne troops who had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan.
On a day when al Qaeda vowed revenge for its founding leader’s death, Obama argued that the mission showed his policies in the long war in Afghanistan were working, and vowed ultimate victory over the terror group.
“We have cut off their head and we will ultimately defeat them,” Obama said, at the Fort Campbell army base in Kentucky, appearing before a backdrop of cheering and hollering troops.
Obama marvelled at the bravery of the bin Laden assault force.
“They’re America’s quiet professionals… they trained for years, they’re battle-hardened, they practiced tirelessly for this mission,” he said.
“When I gave the order, they were ready. And in recent days the whole world has learned just how ready they were.”
“These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nation’s history.”
Officials have not detailed the makeup of the force, but said that Obama met members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and the 5th Special Forces Group in Kentucky.
Vice President Joe Biden has said that members of the elite Navy SEALS special forces group were involved.
Obama handed out Presidential Unit Citations — the highest such honour that can be given to a unit — “in recognition of their extraordinary service and achievement,” a White House official said on condition of anonymity.
The President’s speech in an aircraft hanger ended a week of events marking the killing of the terror leader, who is reviled in America for plotting the September 11 attacks in 2001 which killed nearly 3,000 people.
He wove a patriotic parable, saying that America’s elimination of bin Laden and recovery from a deep recession were the latest in a long line of national triumphs, based on deep reserves of self-reliance and resourcefulness.
“We do not falter, we don’t turn back. We pick ourselves up, and we get on with the hard task of keeping our country strong and safe.”
“See, there’s nothing we can’t do together.”
Biden paid tribute to Obama for taking the lonely decision to order the special forces into action on a risky mission with deep political implications.
“He walked off on his own without anybody giving him any guarantees at all, and he decided because he believed in not only the SEALs but believes in all of you,” Biden said.
He said Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who an official said also visited special operations troops at an undisclosed location, on Thursday, had also praised Obama.
“He said it was ‘one of the gutsiest decisions I’ve ever seen made and one of the gutsiest raids’,” Biden said.
The President paid homage to victims of the September 11 attacks on Thursday by laying a wreath at the Ground Zero site of the toppled World Trade Centre twin towers in New York and comforting family members of victims.
The Navy SEAL team and other units helicoptered across Pakistan and killed bin Laden in the early hours of Monday before taking his corpse to a US ship for a burial at sea.
The commandos who swooped in on the compound reportedly came from a renowned squad known as “Team Six”, an elite unit drawn from the already elite ranks of the SEALs.
The unit is so secret that the military does not openly acknowledge its existence, but its reputation has taken on near-mythic proportions and features in numerous books, films and video games. Agencies