Osama bin Laden’s Assassination

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Discussions regarding the actions and decisions of the U.S. government during the mission that led to bin Laden’s assassination were not entirely congratulatory. The actions of the U.S. troops on foreign soil have caused individuals and authorities to question the U.S. The serious doubts of Barack Obama regarding this mission were apparent in his highly deliberate analysis of the situation prior to and during the raid (Savage, 2015). Despite being widely acclaimed as a significant success, this operation brought up questions about the ethics of retaliatory killing and the laws of armed conflict (Schaller, 2015). However, there were factors that supported Barack Obama’s decision and confirmed the legality of the operation. In this paper, the proof of the legal status of the U.S. forces’ operation in Pakistan that led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden will be presented.

Background of the Event

Prior to establishing the case in favor of the legality of said mission, the short review of the events may shed light on Obama’s decision. The raid that occurred in May 2011 in Pakistan was a direct result of a prolonged analysis and surveillance of many possible locations of the head of Al-Qaeda (Schaller, 2015). The secrecy that has caused controversy on the political scene was essential to avoid any leaks, as only a small number of The operation was never a kill order, as the U.S. government genuinely looked a trial for bin Laden, which was apparent through preparations of transportation and incarceration methods for this criminal (Schaller, 2015). The raid itself posed a high risk to its participants, who entered the supposed location of bin Laden’s current residence while potential threats were not neutralized. Barack Obama and high-ranking generals were commanding the operation in real time, making decisions that made the operation as non-lethal as possible (Schaller, 2015). Overall, the actions during the event suggest that all the necessary precautions to avoid military crimes were taken.


Yet, there are controversies that some people perceive as factors that deem this operation illegal. The U.S. forces did not receive a permit from local authorities to perform this attack (Bowden, 2020). However, if there were doubts about the loyalty of the local government, it might have been the reason behind Obama’s decision to omit to notify Pakistani officials regarding the operation. There were also concerns regarding the possibility of execution instead of a capture operation since Osama bin Laden had to be tried for his crimes against the United States. If killing the leader of the terrorists would have been Obama’s true intention, bombing the facility would have been preferable, as the possibility of escape would have been cut short (Savage, 2015). While the intentions were apparent, the analysis of such actions was the key to their correct portrayal.


The legal side of the armed invasion remained to be clarified by legal representatives. It was essential to establish this case as an act of self-defense to ensure that the international humanitarian law would not have been broken. Bowden (2020) describes Al-Qaeda as “a small stateless terrorist group with which the United States was formally at war.” This exact statement serves as a justification for the United States’ actions against bin Laden. Only the direct confirmation via visual contact could have been deemed sufficient evidence under international law (Bowden, 2020). Lawfully, the troops were sent indiscretion since their actions were not directed at any citizens of judicially protected residents of Pakistan, making notifying the local authorities non-essential.

Moreover, to defend Obama’s decision not to notify the local authorities, there was the need to verify that the man in question was, in fact, Osama bin Laden. With his identity being confirmed via a high-stakes operation involving breaking and entering into what could have been a deadly trap, other facts were bound to fall in line. The next step was to expand on the idea of Pakistan’s possible lack of neutrality in this conflict, which would make it possible for the United States to ignore the sovereignty of this country. The presence of bin Laden on the country’s soil signified that the local authorities were either unwilling or unable to deal with severe threats to other countries’ national security (Savage, 2015). The lawyers have successfully expressed the concerns of the U.S. government regarding a possible legal shelter provided by Pakistan to bin Laden (Savage, 2015). With solid backing from facts and expert opinions, the raid was deemed permissible.

Laws of Armed Conflict

There are internationally accepted laws of armed conflict (LOAC) that can be used as a measurement for the legality of Obama’s decisions. The international human rights law covers the majority of cases where terrorists are to be targeted in military operations, insisting that their actions must possess a sufficient scope to be punishable by lethal force (Dunlap, 2019). The loss of lives during the 9/11 attacks was as disastrous as they were sufficient for this definition to apply to bin Laden. Dunlap (2019) reveals the final position of the lawmakers on the issue, confirming that “non-state terrorists who are members of organized armed groups engaged in continuous combat operations” are valid targets for neutralization. What was turned into an assassination was, in fact, a carefully prepared plan to counteract terrorism on a global scale with high precision and consideration to all involved sides. Barack Obama took risks that were legally justified, yet the lack of any precedents made it challenging to adequately present the position of the United States in this event in a positive light.


In conclusion, the mission to neutralize Osama bin Laden was entirely legal from a political and ethical standpoint since it was a war operation against an organization that had no affiliation with the local government. Moreover, the prioritized goal was to capture Osama bin Laden, with all necessary preparations done to ensure his safe and secure transportation to the maximum-level prison. It is difficult not to perceive these decisions of the U.S. president as an act of revenge for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, it was a carefully planned operation that had to be done for the safety of the country with no emotion involved during its entire length. Despite the questions of the morality of such actions, this raid was proven to be justified by a team of expert lawyers. The facts suggest that the rules of armed conflict under international law were respected, although the uniqueness of the situation presented a challenging case to defend. Osama bin Laden inexplicably did pose a potential threat to the United States, and his relentless pursuit and eventual killing are the ultimate deterrent for Al-Qaeda and many other terrorist organizations.


Bowden, M. (2020). Comparing Trump’s assassination of Soleimani to Obama’s killing of bin Laden. BostonGlobe.com. Web.

Dunlap, C. (2019). Yes, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was lawful. Lawfare. Web.

Savage, C. (2015). How 4 federal lawyers paved the way to kill Osama bin Laden. New York Times. Web.

Schaller, C. (2015). Using force against terrorists ‘Outside areas of active hostilities’—The Obama approach and the bin Laden raid revisited. Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 20(2), 195-227. Web.

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1. DemoEssays. "Osama bin Laden’s Assassination." March 12, 2023. https://demoessays.com/osama-bin-ladens-assassination/.


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