US President Barack Obama was willing to risk a military confrontation with Pakistan in order to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the New York Times reported revealing additional details about the US raid on his hideout.
Obama insisted that the assault force hunting down the al Qaeda leader be large enough to fight its way out of Pakistan if confronted by hostile local police officers and troops, the influential US daily said on Monday citing senior administration and military officials.
Two teams of specialists were on standby: One to bury bin Laden if he was killed, and a second composed of lawyers, interrogators and translators in case he was captured alive, the officials were cited as saying.
That team was set to meet aboard a Navy ship, most likely the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea.
"Obama's decision to increase the size of the force sent into Pakistan shows that he was willing to risk a military confrontation with a close ally in order to capture or kill the leader of al Qaeda," the Times said.
"Their instructions were to avoid any confrontation if at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorised to do it," one senior Obama administration official cited by the daily said about the rules of engagement for the Osama mission.
The planning also illustrates how little the administration trusted the Pakistanis as they set up their operation, the Times said.
American surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft were watching and listening to how Pakistan's police forces and military responded to the raid, officials cited by the daily said.
That determined how long the commandos could safely remain on the ground going through the compound collecting computer hard drives, thumb drives and documents.
In planning for the possible capture of bin Laden, officials decided they would bring him aboard a Navy ship to preclude battles over jurisdiction, the Times said.
The plan was to do an initial interrogation for any information that might prevent a pending attack or identify the location of other Qaeda leaders, it said.
But US officials acknowledged that the mission always was weighted toward killing, given the possibility that bin Laden would be armed or wearing an explosive vest, the Times said.