Obama: My 'Drawdown in Iraq Allowed Us' to Get Bin Laden

October 22, 2011 - 6:41 PM

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama, speaking at the White House, announces that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) - In statements delivered Friday and Saturday, President Barack Obama said it was his drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq that allowed the U.S. to "refocus" on al Qaeda and get Osama bin Laden.

However, according to a report published by the New York Times on May 3, crucial intelligence that allowed the U.S. to locate Bin Laden came from an al Qaeda operative who had been captured by U.S. forces in 2004 in Iraq.

"The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against al Qaeda and achieve major victories against its leadership--including Osama bin Laden," Obama said in a speech at the White House on Friday announcing that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year.

In his weekly address released Saturday, Obama repeated the assertion.

"The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus on Afghanistan and achieve major victories against all Qaeda and Osama bin Laden," said Obama.

Bin Laden was killed by a team of U.S. Navy Seals who raided his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1. U.S. intelligence discovered that the compound was Bin Laden's hideout by tracking his trusted courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who was killed in the same raid as Bin Laden.

On May 3, the New York Times published a story headlined, "Bin Laden Raid Revives Debate on Value of Torture." The story downplayed the signficance of the intelligence gained from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in helping the U.S. figure out who al-Kuwaiti was. KSM, as the Times noted, had been waterboarded.

More crucial intelligence, the Times suggested, came from an al Qaeda operative named Hassan Ghul, who had not been waterboarded--but who had been captured in Iraq.

"According to an American official familiar with his interrogation, Mr. Mohammed was first asked about Mr. Kuwaiti in the fall of 2003, months after the waterboarding," the Times reported. "He acknowledged having known him but said the courier was 'retired' and of little significance."

"In 2004, however, a Qaeda operative named Hassan Ghul, captured in Iraq, gave a different account of Mr. Kuwaiti, according to the American official," the Times reported. "Mr. Ghul told interrogators that Mr. Kuwaiti was a trusted courier who was close to Bin Laden as well as to Mr. Mohammed and to Abu Faraj al-Libi, who had become the operational chief of Al Qaeda after Mr. Mohammed's capture. Mr. Kuwaiti, Mr. Ghul added, had not been seen in some time--which analysts thought was a possible indication that the courier was hiding out with Bin Laden. The details of Mr. Ghul's treatment are unclear, though the C.I.A. says he was not waterboardeded."

In his speech announcing that he would remove all U.S. troops from Iraq before the end of this year, President Obama did not mention President George W. Bush.