On May 2, 2011 the agonizing, decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden finally ended. The raid by U.S. Navy seals on the walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was the culmination of years of intelligence gathering.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA stepped up efforts begun years earlier to gather information on al Qaeda’s major players as well as its foot soldiers and couriers. Reports began filtering in about a courier particularly close to bin Laden who operated under the pseudonym of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. In the “wilderness of mirrors” that is the world of intelligence, when detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed initially denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, it only raised suspicions that al-Kuwaiti was an important figure in the al Qaeda organization.
Slowly but relentlessly, snippets of additional information began to accumulate. In 2005, the CIA finally discovered the courier’s family name but still could not locate him.