In an interview 10 years on from the al Qaeda leader’s death, Obama discussed his final phone call with Admiral Bill McRaven – the retired commander of the US’ Special Operations Command which carried out the operation.
Speaking to ex-Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, the ex POTUS confirmed that he had called McRaven to wish the mission’s team well, and to ask the admiral to share his thanks with the other troops.
Sittling alongside McRaven during the interview, Obama explained that there were two reasons why he made the call.
“One, is that no matter how highly trained those warriors were, there was still enormous risk to a mission like that,” he said.
“But the second reason (...) is that as commander in chief a lot of times, these issues of war are treated as abstractions.
“We forget that these are folks who have families and loved ones, and that they are carrying a burden on behalf of hundreds and millions of America,” he continued.
“When you are a commander in chief, and you make a decision about a particular mission like that, it was one of those rare opportunities where I had a chance to say - not after the fact, not in retrospect, not when folks are coming home, but before they go – that we don’t take this for granted.”
It was on May 1, 2011, that Obama delivered an address to the nation confirming that US forces had shot dead bin Laden, following a raid of a compound in Pakistan.
“As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed,” he announced at the time.
“On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: justice has been done.”
Responding to Obama’s comments, made in an interview posted to the Obama Foundation’s YouTube channel on Friday, McRaven said the phone call “meant a lot” to him and those on the mission.
Praising the former president, he said: “This was the commander in chief, yes, but a man who understood that the Seals and the night stalkers, the helicopter pilots, were getting ready to go on a mission that potentially could cost them their lives.”