WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama described the lonely decision he made to kill Osama bin Laden and called the daring Navy SEAL raid a year ago the "most important single day" of his tenure.
In an interview to be broadcast later Wednesday, Obama related the anxious moments as he watched the operation, the cloak of secrecy that enveloped it and the moment he saw a photo of the dead Al-Qaeda leader.
"I did choose the risk," Obama told NBC News anchor Brian Williams, in the latest episode of a nearly week-long commemoration of the bin Laden killing, and attempts by his reelection campaign to use it to bolster his standing.
Obama spoke about how the operation was planned and conducted in utmost secrecy, and how he did not share knowledge of it with many of his staff, or even First Lady Michelle Obama.
"Even a breath of this in the press could have chased bin Laden away," Obama said. "We didn't know at that point whether there might be underground tunnels coming out of that compound that would allow him to escape," he said.
Other top officials told how Obama solicited final recommendations about the operation, before going away to make a final decision himself on whether to move on bin Laden's suspect hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
"It was never contentious because I think everybody understood both the pros and cons of the action," Obama said.
"People who were advocating action understood that if this did not work, if we proved to be wrong, there would be severe geopolitical consequences.
"Most importantly, we might be putting our brave Navy SEALs in danger."
The president said he collected the conflicting recommendations of his war cabinet before going back to the White House residence to have dinner with his family and retire to his study.
"Well, there is no doubt that you don't sleep as much that evening as you do on a normal night," he said. "I stayed up late and I woke up early."
The next day, he told his subordinates that he had decided to go ahead with the raid.
"You have some serenity in knowing that you've made the best possible decision that you can and, you know, in that situation you just, you do some praying," Obama said. (AFP)