Osama death important milestone on way to al-Qaeda defeat

Washington:  The death of Osama bin Laden was a major blow and an important milestone on the way to al-Qaeda`s strategic defeat, a top White House official said.

"The successful assault on bin Laden`s compound is a strong blow and important milestone on the way to al-Qaeda`s strategic defeat," National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said in his address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"But al-Qaeda suffers additional fundamental challenges: The Arab Spring narrative presents al-Qaeda with a potent ideological challenge. For its entire existence, al-Qaeda`s message has been that violence is the only path forward.

"It has never had an affirmative program-? it could not have been further removed from and relevant to those who came to Tahrir Square in January," he said.

Donilon said as a result of the raid on the Abbottabad compound, US now had the single largest trove of intelligence ever collected from a top terrorist leader.

"The intelligence community says it is equivalent to a small college library worth of material. It is remarkable: Based on what we know now, we have tens of thousands of video and photo files, and millions of pages of text. One fact is already clear from this intelligence: Osama bin Laden was not simply a marginalised or symbolic figurehead," he said.

He remained an operational commander of al Qaeda?a man directly involved in strategy, operations, propaganda and personnel, Donilon said, adding, "In that compound in Abbottabad, we got more than Osama Bin Laden."

Referring to the process that led to the capture and death of bin Laden, he said dedicated professionals painstakingly scrutinised thousands of pieces of information until they found a man they believed was Laden`s trusted courier and began to track his movements.

"We held more than two dozen inter-agency meetings and the President (Obama) personally chaired five meetings in the White House Situation Room in the six weeks leading up to the operation on Sunday, May 1," he said.

"When it came time to decide, there were a number of options available, but the President chose to launch the raid for three main reasons: he wanted to limit the risk to innocent civilians. He wanted to be able to prove we found who we were looking for. And he wanted to be able to exploit any intelligence found at the scene."