Graham Allison on Obama’s decision to launch the raid that killed bin Laden

Graham Allison on Obama’s Hardest Decision
May 7, 2012 edition
Article by: Graham Allison, Belfer Center director
Topic: Obama’s decision to launch the raid that killed bin Laden 

When Barack Obama became president, the trail to Osama bin Laden had long gone cold. “I can only speak with authority through February 15, 2009,” said Michael Hayden, who ran the CIA under George W. Bush. “But at that point, when people would ask, ‘when’s the last time you really knew where he was?’ my answer was Tora Bora in 2001.”

So begins Harvard Professor Graham Allison’s dramatic cover story this week in Time Magazine. Allison offers readers a behind-the-scenes account of how President Obama made the most fateful decision of his presidency – to launch the Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1, 2011.

Allison puts readers in the president’s Oval Office chair as Obama weighed the risks of the several options he faced when evidence emerged that bin Laden was living in a compound in Abbottabad, 30 miles from the capital of Pakistan.  It was never certain right up to the day of the raid that the suspect at the site was bin Laden. And key members of Obama’s own inner circle, including Vice President Joseph Biden and Defense Secretary Bob Gates, voted against launching the helicopter-borne assault.

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Allison will also appear on CBS’ Face the Nation this Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. ET with fellow Time contributor Peter Bergen to discuss the war on terror one year after Osama bin Laden’s death.

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