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Obama, McRaven get emotional discussing aftermath of bin Laden raid

Former President Obama and Ret. Adm. William McRaven participated in a conversation this week that became emotional as the two reflected on the U.S. military mission that killed Osama bin Laden ahead of the raid’s 10th anniversary this weekend. 

McRaven, fighting emotion, recalled that Obama "kept shaking hands" in a massive hanger of troops after the mission, and called it "important to me" to continue despite a long line out the door.

The Obama Foundation published a more than 14-minute video Friday in which Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, moderated a conversation between the former president and McRaven, who planned and commanded the 2011 mission. 

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At one point in the discussion, filmed at Obama’s Washington, D.C., office, McRaven became emotional as he reflected on Obama’s visit to Fort Campbell, Ky., in the days after the raid. 

While there, Obama met privately with the Navy SEALs and the Night Stalker helicopter pilots who executed the raid, and also delivered an address to a hangar full of troops from the 101st Airborne Division, whose soldiers were still cycling through Afghanistan. 

“There was a recognition that, yes, it was great for the SEALs and Night Stalkers to be the final piece of the puzzle, but make no mistake about it — this was the hundreds and thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, intelligence professionals, foreign service officers that had all contributed to this fight,” McRaven said. 

“The part that I remember most about that visit was after we got through talking with the SEALs and the Night Stalkers … the plan, at least as I recall, was you were going to get up. … There were hundreds of soldiers out front; you were going to say some remarks and then kind of shake a few hands,” McRaven recounted over photos of Obama speaking to the hangar full of troops. 

“Well, you came off the platform. You went down,” the retired SEAL told Obama before pausing, looking down and pursing his lips as he fought to hold back his emotion. 

“That’s how I felt,” Obama said, while shaking his head.

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McRaven continued, “You went down to start shaking hands and, of course, the soldiers start lining up and you kept shaking hands."

“And finally I kind of saddled up beside you and I said, ‘Mr. President, you don’t need to shake everybody’s hand,’” McRaven recalled. “And you turned to me and you said, ‘Hey Bill, this is important to me, and hopefully it’s important to them.'” 

Obama then said that he, too, gets “emotional” when recalling that day. 

“Every one of those kids said, ‘We are here, we are ready and we are willing to sacrifice everything to defend this country,’” the former president said. “Some of them saw action, and some of them didn’t. Some of them had friends who came back, and some of them had friends who didn’t come back.” 

Obama in the discussion said that with the 10th anniversary of the mission coming this Sunday, something he appreciates “even more a decade later,” is the “number of people who operated at the very highest levels for a sustained period of time” in preparation for and during the mission. 

The anniversary comes as the Biden administration has begun its complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, with President BidenJoe BidenEx-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' News leaders deal with the post-Trump era MORE vowing to end America’s longest war by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that sparked the conflict.