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The death of Usama bin Ladin one year ago understandably generated a significant
amount of interest in the professionals who carried out the raid in Abbottabad,
Pakistan, on the night of May 2nd
. Lost in the focus on this single mission is the fact that
United States Special Operations Forces (SOF) have conducted thousands of
comparable missions in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. The success of “Neptune
Spear” was the cumulative result of the experience, relentless focus and professionalism
of a community that has been conducting these types of missions for over ten years.

A second feature of the raid and one much less apparent to the general public is that the
professionals conducting this operation were trained to survey the site and collect any
electronic media, papers, or pocket litter that might inform future operations. As
discussed in the report, this process, known as F3EA (Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit and
Analyze), has helped to revolutionize the fight against al-Qa`ida and created a cyclical
operational process for combating networked actors. The end of the raid in Abbottabad
was the beginning of a massive analytical effort as experts from across the Intelligence
Community (IC) worked to exploit these captured documents, which in turn
undoubtedly contributed to additional operations.
The Combating Terrorism Center, housed within the Department of Social Sciences at
West Point, has long recognized that captured battlefield documents have enormous
value to students of terrorism. Since 2005 the longstanding partnership between the
CTC and our colleagues who manage the Harmony database has facilitated the release
of hundreds of documents to the public, with the intention of advancing the study of
terrorism and political violence. In its own small way, this report and the release of
some documents from the Abbottabad compound to the public are simply a
continuation of this partnership.
The CTC is proud to continue in this role by publishing these documents, and as with
previous releases two cautions are worth highlighting. First and most importantly is
that these documents likely represent only a fraction of the materials reportedly taken
from the compound. If declassification of subsequent documents from Abbottabad or
new caches of materials from other locations is forthcoming, this would inevitably
necessitate additional analysis and reflection. Thus, the report that accompanies the
documents must be understood as an effort to help reassess what we know about the
group, but not as a definitive commentary on al-Qa`ida’s evolution or the group’s
current status, and we should be extremely cautious of the notion that al-Qa`ida has … http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA560875

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