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Thune credits Obama for bin Laden death

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told South Dakota reporters Monday that President Obama deserves "a great deal of credit" for a "risky, bold" operation that led to Osama bin Laden's death in Pakistan.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told South Dakota reporters Monday that President Obama deserves "a great deal of credit" for a "risky, bold" operation that led to Osama bin Laden's death in Pakistan.

"He received actionable intelligence, the president acted on that intelligence. He put a plan in place and then executed that plan," Thune said. "You have to give this president great credit for moving decisively and quickly to eliminate Osama bin Laden."

Thune also said previous administrations deserve credit for tracking bin Laden and his terrorist network over the past three decades. Also, "The intelligence community did a great job," Thune said.

Thune thanked South Dakota's men and women in uniform and their families for the sacrifices they have made in the war on terror.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. We can't say it enough. I am incredibly grateful for their service and sacrifice and for that of their families," Thune said. "It is a righteous cause."

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Information gleaned from detainees held at Guantanamo Bay was key in locating bin Laden.

"The detainee program and information acquired as a result of some interrogation techniques was a significant part of the success of this operation," Thune said, noting that many details remain classified and, therefore, unknown. "The early assessment or analysis of this operation suggests it was an important contributing factor."

Thune said he was in his Capitol Hill office when he received word of bin Laden's death Sunday night. "I was thrilled, overjoyed, overwhelmed," he said.

Information about the U.S. Special Forces raid on bin Laden's compound was not leaked to members of Congress until about the same time news outlets started reporting the news publicly, he said. Thune said he has no quarrel with how closely the White House guarded the information.

"This was a very close hold. The White House notified the congressional leadership, but the rest of us found out the way most Americans did, which was understandable," Thune said. "This was a very close-to-the-vest operation, for obvious reasons. They needed that element of surprise."

The terror leader's death raises two questions in the global arena, Thune said: How will bin Laden's death affect the al-Qaida terror network? And, how will Pakistani leaders explain bin Laden's presence so close to their capital and nearby military training facilities?

Thune said he is withholding judgment on Pakistan, but he awaits an explanation.

"The fact that he was so close to the Pakistani capital, and he had to have been there for some period of time, that is going to raise a lot of questions. This is a developing story, but those are fair questions that need to be asked," Thune said.

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Bin Laden's death strikes a devastating blow to al-Qaida, Thune said, adding that bin Laden still was actively involved in behind-the-scenes planning of people fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. However, his death does not signal an end to the war on terror.

"This is a major, major blow. Now that he's gone from the scene, it will be more difficult for that organization to continue. Their capacity to deliver those kinds of attacks has been diminished significantly," he said referring to the September 11, 2001, attacks and others that preceded it. "But we should not at any point take for granted that this is the end of the war on terror."

Other terrorist groups remain active along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Thune said, and Americans traveling abroad should be vigilant and aware that "we do live in a dangerous world."

Thune said he believes bin Laden's likely successor -- al-Qaida's No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri -- will not command the same respect or be as effective a leader as bin Laden.

Thune said he remains unsure how bin Laden's death will affect the level of U.S. troops operating in Afghanistan.

"This is a very big win in the ongoing war on terror. How it translates to troop commitments remains to be seen."

Related Topics: JOHN THUNE
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