- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
2:03 pm: John Brennan, the White House’s chief counterterrorism advisor, is asked whether the mission was to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. He says that the forces were prepared for "all contingencies," but if the forces had an opportunity to capture bin Laden, they would have done so.
2:05 pm: Brennan says that the United States is "pursuing all leads" to see what sort of network bin Laden enjoyed within Pakistan. He says he "will not speculate" on what support he enjoyed from within the Pakistani government, however.
2:07 pm: The death of bin Laden represents a "defining moment" in the war on terrorism, and a chance to prove to the people of Pakistan that al Qaeda is "something in the past."
2:07 pm: Now some Tom Clancy-esque details about the actual attack. "The minutes passed like days," says Brennan, as the principals, including Obama, watched a live feed of the invasion.
2:10 pm: Brennan says that the United States did not inform the Pakistanis about the operation until U.S. forces had left the country. Responding to reports that Pakistan scrambled its forces to respond to the firefight, he says that he is thankful that there was no confrontation between U.S. and Pakistani forces.
2:13 pm: Brennan calls Obama’s decision to strike the compound as "one of the gutsiest calls by a president in recent memory," given that the evidence that bin Laden was there was still circumstantial.
2:15 pm: Brennan won’t discuss the specifics of the White House’s monitoring capabilities during the operation. He says "we were monitoring the situation in real time," for the umpteenth time, drawing laughs from the crowd.
2:18 pm: Bin Laden reportedly used a woman as a human shield to protect himself during the firefight.
2:20 pm: Brennan won’t commit to releasing pictures of bin Laden’s corpse, saying that it’s still under discussion. He says that the administration doesn’t want to do anything to undermine future terrorism operations.
2:21 pm: Were there disagreements among White House principals over whether to launch the operation? "Absolutely," says Brennan.
2:23 pm: "We are continuing to engage with [Pakistani government officials]," Brennan says. While he notes differences with the Pakistani government on counter-terrorism operations, "we believe that this partnership is critically important to breaking the back of al Qaeda."
2:25 pm: Brennan is short on specifics regarding bin Laden’s burial, but does say that it has been a matter under discussion for several months. He says that bin Laden was buried at sea, in accordance to Islamic law. Brennan justified the quick burial by saying that, under Islamic law, bodies must be buried within 24 hours. He says that "the appropriate people were there," in response to a question about whether an imam was present.
2:29 pm: Brennan says that Pakistan’s intelligence services "are expressing understanding" about the U.S. strike, and that they are "appreciative" there were not casualties outside of teh compound. He says the saying all the things that would be necessary to preserve the U.S.-Pakistani alliance, given the circumstances.
2:34 pm: "This is a necessary, but not a necessarily sufficient, blow to lead to [al Qaeda’s] demise," Brennan says. He follows up by saying al Qaeda No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri is "not charismatic" and that, in the wake of bin Laden’s death, al Qaeda could start collapsing internally.
2:38 pm: Brennan will only go so far as to say that bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad "raises questions" about Pakistani complicity. However, he says that, in U.S. officials’ discussions with their interlocutors in Islamabad, "they’ve seemed as surprised as we were" to find him there.
2:43 pm: Brennan exits, and White House spokesman Jay Carney takes the podium. He strikes a bipartisan note: "The people who have worked on this for nine and a half years are not Democrats or Republicans," he says.
2:45 pm: Carney is now addressing other aspects of the administration’s agenda, including calls for a debt ceiling, which is my cue to sign off and get some coffee.