McRaven reveals his biggest fear during the planning of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden

news

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven

(Flickr/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Sean K. Harp)
Just over eight years ago, SEAL Team 6 raided al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing bin Laden and propelling the elite squad to global attention.

Bin Laden had been in hiding for nearly 10 years, since the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. US intelligence had been on the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader, finally identifying the compound where he and his family were living in August 2010.

At the time Team 6, officially known as Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DEVGRU, was under the operational leadership of Adm. Bill McRaven, who was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) until he assumed leadership of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in August 2011.

During an interview to promote his latest book, Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, PBS reporter Judy Woodruff asked McRaven what his greatest fear was in the raid on bin Laden's compound.


"What worried me the most was the unknown," McRaven told Woodruff. "So, we didn't know whether or not the compound in Abbottabad, where we thought bin Laden was, we didn't know whether it was booby-trapped."

McRaven reiterated his confidence in the SEAL team sent in under cover of darkness via helicopters to capture or bin Laden: "So I was pretty confident that we could make our way from Afghanistan. It was about 162 miles into Pakistan. We had looked at all the intelligence. We figured we could get by the Pakistani integrated air defenses, and we could get to the compound," he said.

"And I knew that, once the guys got to the compound, they were going to be successful. However, what we didn't know was, was bin Laden wearing a suicide vest, were the doors booby-trapped, was the entire compound loaded with explosives?"

McRaven told Woodruff that in similar raid missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, special operators "had gone into compounds to get high-value individuals, and the entire compound had exploded because it was wired."

Months of planning, strategizing, and training prepared Team 6 members to conduct the raid, which was ultimately successful. But all that preparation could only take the team so far; they had no way of knowing what kind of intelligence or weapons bin Laden had in the compound.

"This was the one thing we couldn't determine ahead of time. And that was the thing that probably worried me the most."

Read more from Business Insider:

SEE ALSO: McRaven: Anyone Who Calls Millennials 'Soft' Has Clearly Never Seen Them In A Firefight

The newly painted F-15 Eagle flagship, dubbed the Heritage Jet, was painted to honor 1st Lt. David Kingsley, the namesake for Kingsley Field, and his ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly crash.

Read More
A screenshot from a video appearing to show the wreckage of an Air Force E-11A communications aircraft in Afghanistan (Twitter)

A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.

Read More
In this June 7, 2009 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.

Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.

Read More
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, observe protestors toss Molotov Cocktails over the wall of the Baghdad Embassy Compound in Iraq, Dec. 31, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kyle C. Talbot)

One person was injured by Sunday's rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Task & Purpose was learned. The injury was described as mild and no one was medically evacuated from the embassy following the attack.

Read More
A coalition airstrike destroys an ISIS-K fighting position during Afghan Commando offensive operations in Mohmand Valley, Nangarhar province on Feb. 4, 2018. (U.S. Army/Spc. Jacob Krone)

The U.S. military dropped more munitions on targets across Afghanistan in 2019 than during any other year stretching back to at least 2009, according to Air Force data.

Read More