Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was not armed when US special forces stormed his compound in Pakistan but he did resist before he was shot, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
Carney said the killing of bin Laden was not likely to affect the US timetable for bringing American troops out of Afghanistan.
Also Tuesday, the White House's counterterrorism chief said the US aims to build upon its killing of Osama bin Laden to destroy his al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
John Brennan declared that the administration was determined to "pummel the rest of al-Qaeda" as the US moves on from the daring Navy SEAL raid that eliminated bin Laden with a marksman's lethal shot above his left eye in a surprise airborne attack on his $1 million compound not far from Islamabad, the Pakistan capital.
Brennan watching the raid live (Photo: White House)
Also Tuesday, CIA chief Leon Panetta told TIME magazine that US officials feared that Pakistan could have undermined the operation to kill bin Laden by leaking word to its targets.
The US had apparently considered coordinating with other countries, but the CIA ruled out participating with its nominal South Asian ally early on because “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets,” Panetta said.
A US official said the 40-minute raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad netted potentially crucial al-Qaeda records as well as the body of the global terrorist leader. The assault team came away with hard drives, DVDs, documents and more that might tip US intelligence to al-Qaeda's operational details and perhaps lead the manhunt to the presumed next-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri. The CIA is already going over the material.
The feared and expanding al-Qaeda organization had suffered "severe body blows" during the 10-year US-led war in Afghanistan, Brennan said in a series of morning TV interviews Tuesday. President Barack Obama, who gave the final orders for the raid on Sunday, has vowed to begin withdrawing some American forces from Afghanistan this summer.
As details of the mission that killed bin Laden continued to filter out, US officials weighed the pros and cons of releasing secret video and photos of the dead bin Laden.
"This needs to be done thoughtfully," Brennan said, with careful consideration given to what kind of reaction the images might provoke.
Was Pakistan involved?
At issue were photos of bin Laden's corpse and video of his swift burial at sea. Officials were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body. But they were also eager to address the mythology already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.
In an appearance on NBC television, Brennan said again that "clearly there was some kind of support network" for bin Laden inside Pakistan. Brennan declined to blame the Pakistani government for that, calling Islamabad "a strong counterterrorism partner."
But he also said the Pakistani government is conducting its own investigation into how bin Laden dodged authorities for so long. Brennan said it is "unknown at this point" whether individuals inside the Pakistani government were helping bin Laden.
Obama, who approved the extraordinarily risky operation against bin Laden's Pakistan redoubt and witnessed its progression from the White House Situation Room, his face heavy with tension, won accolades from world leaders he'd kept in the dark as well as from political opponents at home.
Republican and Democratic leaders alike gave him a standing ovation at a Monday evening White House meeting that was planned before the assault but became a celebration of it, and an occasion to step away from the fractious political climate.
"Last night's news unified our country," much as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, did, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said earlier in the day.
The episode was an embarrassment, at best, for Pakistani authorities as bin Laden's presence was revealed in their midst. The stealth US operation played out in a city with a strong Pakistani military presence and without notice from Washington. As Brennan's remarks showed, questions persisted in the administration and grew in Congress about whether some elements of Pakistan's security apparatus might have been in collusion with al-Qaeda in letting bin Laden hide in Abbottabad.
Brennan asked the question that was reverberating around the world: "How did Osama bin Laden stay at that compound for six years or so and be undetected?"
"We have many, many questions about this," he said. "And I know Pakistani officials do as well." Brennan said Pakistani officials were trying to determine "whether there were individuals within the Pakistani government or military intelligence services who were knowledgeable." He questioned in particular why bin Laden's compound hadn't come to the attention of local authorities.
In an essay published by The Washington Post, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari denied suggestions his country's security forces may have sheltered bin Laden, and said their cooperation with the United States helped pinpoint the al-Qaeda leader.
As Americans rejoiced, they worried, too, that terrorists would be newly motivated to lash out. In their wounded rage, al-Qaeda ideologues fed that concern. "Those who wish that jihad has ended or weakened, I tell them: Let us wait a little bit."
In that vein, US officials warned that bin Laden's death was likely to encourage attacks from "homegrown violent extremists" even if al-Qaeda is not prepared to respond in a coordinated fashion now.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report
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