From this week’s New Yorker, we learn astounding new details about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May in Pakistan. One of the most stunning details: why the Navy SEALs settled on a helicopter raid rather than tunneling in. And also, why they weren’t concerned about bin Laden tunneling out.
They spent the next two and a half weeks considering ways to get inside bin Laden’s house…The planners had contemplated tunneling in—or, at least, the possibility that bin Laden might tunnel out. But images provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency showed that there was standing water in the vicinity, suggesting that the compound sat in a flood basin. The water table was probably just below the surface, making tunnels highly unlikely. Eventually, the planners agreed that it made the most sense to fly directly into the compound. “Special operations is about doing what’s not expected, and probably the least expected thing here was that a helicopter would come in, drop guys on the roof, and land in the yard,” the special-operations officer said.
It’s true. Abbottabad is located in Orash Valley, one of Pakistan’s lowest flood basins, making the water table pretty darn high. It has a humid climate and fairly mild temperatures in the spring, summer and fall. Plus the geologic history has made the soil incredible fertile. Add it all up, you can see why about 48 percent of Abbottabad is currently used as farm land.
All of which makes it great for maize, barley, apples and apricots. And very poor for a terrorist who would want to build an escape tunnel.