By Jonathan Easley - 05/07/12 02:34 PM EDT
“My sources tell me that the White House was trying to verify that the target was actually there, as opposed to just rely on circumstantial evidence,” Keane told Fox News’s Mike Huckabee over the weekend. “They actually wanted a photo, they wanted to see him, that he was really there, and without that there was a lot of delay and procrastination about it because they wanted verification.”
Keane, who retired from active duty in 2003 and helped craft the military surge strategy used in Iraq, said the administration risked losing bin Laden by waiting on the intelligence.
“We actually had the target the summer before execution — in other words, we had the target the summer of 2010, and it took until the following May to execute the mission,” Keane said. “I was surprised that it was taking that long to execute because the longer you spend on something like that, the greater likelihood that the target will be compromised because of your surveillance and then the target will flee.”
Keane conceded that, as a retired general, he does not have direct knowledge of the situation, but he said a close source told him people in the president's inner circle were frustrated that he didn’t act sooner.
“Certainly the people that were close to it wanted to get after it,” he said. “Because they realized that the target could be compromised, and it took so long to actually find him, and you had the sense that this was it and it was real and let’s go get it."
Upon entering office in 2009, President Obama made the pursuit of bin Laden a top priority of his administration.
Obama’s decision to send an elite military squad into the compound where bin Laden was hiding without notifying Pakistani officials in advance has become a political issue in the campaign season, with some on the right, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, saying the decision to green-light the strike was an easy call.
Still, there were considerable risks — both geopolitical and to the lives of the Marines involved — had the strike gone awry, and most in the president’s inner circle remained conflicted about it on the day Obama gave the order.
Vice President Biden said he advised against the raid because there wasn’t enough evidence that bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan where he was ultimately killed.
Biden said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was the only one of Obama’s top advisers who wasn’t on the fence about whether to strike.
Last Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the bin Laden mission. Obama marked the occasion with a surprise trip to Afghanistan to address U.S. troops and sign an agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a post-war role for the United States in the country.