US President Barack Obama put off three times operations to kill world's most dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden before finally going ahead with the mission at the insistence of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a new book has claimed.
Citing unnamed sources within the joint operations command, Rich Miniter, a former 'Wall Street Journal' and 'Washington Times' reporter, claims that three 'kill' missions were called off by Obama in January, February and March 2011.
Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.
The president feared that the daring Navy SEALs operation to raid bin Laden's Pakistani hideout in Abbottabad "might go tragically wrong" and he would be blamed for it, the Mail Online reported claiming it had viewed excerpts of the book 'Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him'.
The book, which is slated for released today, claims that the White House's carefully-crafted narrative of Obama as a decisive leader who sanctioned the killing of the al-Qaeda supremo was a "myth" and challenges a key element of Obama's re-election bid - that his decision to kill Osama symbolises his resolute leadership.
At the start of his presidency, Miniter writes, Obama was "studiously undecided" about whether to kill the mastermind of 9/11. "He refused to weigh in or commit himself on even small matters related to a possible strike on bin Laden."
"Obama was often disengaged as the bin Laden operation took shape, he left critical decisions to the then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, then-Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton," the book says.
The book describes Obama as heavily influenced by three women Clinton, wife Michelle and longtime adviser and confidante Valerie Jarrett.
Jarrett, an old Chicago ally of Obama's, had opposed the idea since the beginning of his administration, Miniter said. "She worried about a backlash against the president if the operation failed, or even if it succeeded," the book says.
As a result, Obama was "studiously undecided" about what to do about bin Laden early in his term.
"He refused to weigh in or commit himself on even small matters related to a possible strike on bin Laden," Miniter wrote.
But Clinton, his 2008 primary foe whom he tapped as his secretary of state, fought for a military strike during her regular weekly meetings with the president.
"She knew her husband had paid a political price for failing to stop bin Laden before the September 11 attacks. She knew Obama's presidency could be mortally wounded if he had bin Laden in his gun sights and didn't fire," the book says.
As the two powerful women fought for the president's ear, the CIA overcame concerns regarding intelligence reports about the Abbottabad compound.
Clinton's ties to Panetta and David Petraeus, who led US and allied forces in Afghanistan at the time of the SEALs raid, played a crucial role in winning approval for the raid, the book says.
Obama's reluctance eventually eased. "He knew Clinton was right," the book claims. But he remained uneasy about giving the final "kill" order.
Meanwhile, the White House termed the report as "fabrication".
"That is an utter fabrication. It's seems pretty clear that Miniter doesn't know what he's talking about," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Story first published:
August 21, 2012 14:15 IST