Thunder on the Mountain

May 9, 2011 6:45 p.m.

There’s a fascinating, short article just out from the Times on late changes made to the planning for the bin Laden raid intended to give the force enough firepower and numbers to fight its way out of Pakistan if police or the Pakistani military tried to interfere with the assault. In all the bleak scenarios the folks in that iconic photo must have been worried about, this must have been at the top of the list: a failed mission, a lot of dead SEALs and a confrontation with the Pakistani military maybe leading to the rest of the force being taken captive as POWs by our Pakistani allies.

The article suggests that it was President Obama’s prodding that lead to outfitting a substantially larger force that would have some hope of fighting its way back out of the country if it came to it.

I’m always a little skeptical of accounts that present the President, whoever that might be, taking such a decisive, shaping role on an operation. That doesn’t mean it’s not true. I suspect it probably is, at least to some degree. And we know enough about the build up to know — as much as we can ever know such things — that the President pushed for the most aggressive and risky option available to him. So it would fit. Still, in cases like this, all the people in a position to offer informed leaks are also heavily invested in building up the centrality of the President’s role. If they’re not, then the Chief Executive, has really big problems. Maybe even bigger than a failed commando raid.

A short while before I saw the Times piece, I saw Meredith Shiner’s story in Politico on Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) apparently seriously suggesting the US cut off military aid to Pakistan. We’ve heard a lot of tough talk over the last week — mainly from Capitol Hill but also in more moderated tones from the White House. But Feinstein’s statement gets me curious about just how serious the power players in the Senate are about fundamentally rethinking the US relationship with Pakistan.

For now I’m squarely in the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ camp. But maybe there’s more here? If you’re watching this closely let me know what you’re seeing.

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