Local News

Fort Bragg played crucial role in bin Laden raid

Posted May 3, 2011 2:52 p.m. EDT
Updated May 3, 2011 6:00 p.m. EDT

— Under the direction and support of a North Carolina-based military operation command, a group of Navy SEALS stormed a Pakistani compound housing the world's most wanted terrorist on Sunday and killed him with surgical precision.

Since 9/11, Fort Bragg's Joint Special Operation Command has been assigned to a specific mission: to capture or kill terrorist leaders. Their No. 1 target: Osama bin Laden.

In 2003, JSOC was responsible for capturing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The command is a component of the U.S. Special Operations Command based in Tampa, Fla. It was created in the 1980s to foster better teamwork and communication among military branches in carrying out joint missions.

Experts blame a lack of communication for a failed raid 31 years ago that botched the U.S. government's attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis.

The U.S. Special Forces, also based at Fort Bragg, are an Army unit that trains soldiers to be "specialized experts in unconventional warfare." The word "special" is etched on the signs and psyche of North Carolina's largest military installation.

Many Special Forces-trained soldiers, or Green Berets, join Delta Force, an elite counter-terrorism unit that works with the storied Navy SEAL Team 6 on top-secret missions.

While the troops responsible for the death of bin Laden weren't stationed at Fort Bragg, JSOC provided intelligence and played a crucial role in the highly successful and confidential mission that brought down the Al-Qaida leader.

"I believe the Special Operations community in general deserves credit, and thus clearly Fort Bragg," said Michael O'Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

"Understanding how to operate helicopters in that area was the function of many previous missions by many folks (at Fort Bragg)," O'Hanlon said.

No Fort Bragg officials would go on the record about JSOC's involvement in the mission to kill the man who plotted and ordered the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. civilians.