Barack Obama kept military commanders hanging by declaring he would ‘sleep on it’ before taking 16 hours to give the go-ahead to raid Bin Laden’s compound.
Hit squads of specialist Navy Seals – who were not even told who they were preparing to capture – had practised the mission at two reconstructions of the terror chiefs sprawling compound.
The mission looked set to be given the all clear last Thursday when analysts confirmed beyond doubt that Bin Laden was in busy town of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan.
But the president stunned officials when he told a national security meeting that he wanted more time to think – and disappeared out of the room.
‘I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now – I’m going to go back and think about it some more,’ said Obama, according to the New York Times. He then added ‘I’m going to make a decision soon.’
The head of the CIA and other senior intelligence officers who were keen to proceed were left tense as they waited for the president’s decision.
But the next morning after 16 hours, Obama summoned four top aides to the White House Diplomatic Room. Before they could speak, the president put his fist on the table and declared ‘It’s a go’.
With those three words, the greatest military operation in recent history began. Had it not been for heavy cloud cover on Saturday, troops would have been deployed then.