Bin Laden Killed in Pakistan!

No, not Osama bin Laden.  Saad bin Laden.  His son.  Mary Louise Kelly for NPR:

U.S. officials believe Saad bin Laden — a son of Osama bin Laden — has been killed by an American missile in Pakistan.

Saad bin Laden reportedly spent years under house arrest in Iran before traveling last year to Pakistan, according to former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. It’s believed he was killed by Hellfire missiles fired from a U.S. Predator drone sometime this year.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells NPR that without a body to conduct DNA tests on, it’s hard to be completely sure. But he characterized U.S. spy agencies as being “80 to 85 percent” certain that Saad bin Laden is dead.

The U.S. counterterrorism official says Saad bin Laden wasn’t important enough to target personally — that he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He was active in al-Qaida, but was not a major player, the official said. He was believed to be in his late 20s. “We make a big deal out of him because of his last name,” the official added.

It’s not known whether Saad bin Laden was anywhere near his father when he died.

So . . . we probably killed an insignificant al Qaeda player months ago by accident.  Meanwhile, we’ve certainly killed hundreds of civilians with these same imprecise tools, thereby setting back our efforts in “AfPak” immeasurably.  Not a good trade, I’d say.

Photo: Danger Room

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. markm says:

    Meanwhile, we’ve certainly killed hundreds of civilians with these same imprecise tools, thereby setting back our efforts in “AfPak” immeasurably. Not a good trade, I’d say.

    That’s probably so but do we have a plan B?. If the goal is to kill terrorists on soil we cannot put numbers of boots on yet there is some tolerance for the drone attacks and risk of casualties on our side is zero…that may be as good as we get.

    On a side note…I know Bin Laden had umpteen wives with scads of kids each…but didn’t we take out one of his other sons early on back in the old WOT days?

  2. Boyd says:

    Have you joined the nutty left, James, making up connections where they don’t exist?

    …we’ve certainly killed hundreds of civilians with these same imprecise tools…

    When you follow the link and, y’know, actually read the article, it’s about Australian Defense Forces “involvement in fire fights resulting in civilian fatalities and injuries,” mostly by their SpecOps folks.

    I regret, as I believe most Americans and our allies do, the loss of innocent civilian lives when we’re wiping this scum off the face of the earth, and we should avoid this as much as we can, while still accomplishing our mission.

    But how are Hellfire missiles fired from a US Predator drone the same “imprecise tool” as Aussie SpecOps firefights?

  3. odograph says:

    You got my hopes up with the headline, I thought the guy’s luck had finally run out.

    (I agree of course on the long term blowback from civilian deaths. When we envision that happening to us, it’s a horror movie. In our movies, the good guys win. The faceless killer robots are taken down. On the other side of the globe, with less cosmopolitain victims, we don’t worry so much …)

  4. Crust says:

    Boyd, you might want to reread James’ link. It says:

    [There is] growing unease by senior NATO commanders at the rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan, a result of Taliban roadside bombs and indiscriminate coalition air strikes.

    The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) estimates at least 800 Afghan civilians have been killed between January and May this year, a 24 per cent increase over the same period compared to 2008.

    Emphasis added.

  5. Boyd says:

    No, I certainly read that, Crust, but they just made the bald claim without any further discussion or background. The point of the linked article had nothing to do with US Predator-launched Hellfires, but instead with Australian ground troops.

    Further, where was the mention of the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians in the successful attack on Young Mr Bin Laden? We don’t get anything along those lines, so it just seems to be a huge stretch to turn this into “we’re killing innocent civilians!!1!”

  6. Has it not been reliably reported that the AQ deliberately and diabolically stuffs their meeting houses with civilians so that the world press will report the civilian deaths and ignore the AQ deaths?

    If OBL and his senior staff were meeting in a house that they stuffed with civilians and we had the intel, including the exact location and timing, should we hold off firing because of the civilians?

    I would fire.

  7. odograph says:

    Manning, would you fire if the house were stuffed with US hostages?

    (I believe the thing that is deeply wrong here is that people who accept Afghan civilian deaths would never countenance “same rules” for their own people. That makes it … evil.)

  8. awe…. so Saad.. what a shame..

  9. The point, odo, is that the tradeoff is between the immediate deaths of “innocents” of any stripe, together with the deaths of the AQ leadership, versus letting them live to continue their planning, resourcing, and command of bombings, ambushes, raids, and other terrorist activities that are destabilizing the region and causing a large but as yet unknown number of future deaths of both civilians and American soldiers.

    Decapitating the command of AQ would be worth that price, in my opinion, but it is most certainly not a judgement to be taken lightly. Nor is sending troops into such combat regions to face IEDs, snipers, raids, and RPGs in the first place an easy judgement, because it is a sure bet that some will die or be horribly wounded or captured.

    Topping off AQ, I believe, would have enormous psychological and disorganizing benefits that we could exploit, and many, many lives would be saved in the process. It would be interesting to know how many men we have already lost in the hunt for OBL, and how many we are willing to lose in the future.

    War itself is evil, and there are few if any shortcuts available to make it otherwise, except for adopting a purely passive posture, which amounts to rolling over and playing dead.