Afghanistan War 'can't be solved with bullets and bombs,' says ex-SEAL who claims to have killed bin Laden

By RICK SOBEY | Boston Herald | Published: May 20, 2019

BOSTON (Tribune News Service) — The former Navy SEAL who claims to have fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 says the U.S. military needs a new strategy in Afghanistan, where troops eight years later continue to fight America’s longest war.

“That’s a difficult question,” Robert J. O’Neill said in response to a Herald reporter’s inquiry about the Afghanistan War, while he attended a veterans event Sunday in Malden. “It’s definitely worth trying to defeat the radical ideology we’re up against.

“Having been to combat so many times, the 43-year-old Rob O’Neill is not as eager to go to war as the 27-year-old Rob O’Neill was,” he added. “There’s a lot of stuff out there that can’t be solved with bullets and bombs. I hope there’s a better way.”

His comments at Boston’s Wounded Vets Run Motorcycle Ride come after violent Taliban attacks last week in Kabul. Militants attacked an American-run contractor, killing nine people. Twenty others were wounded.

American officials in the last six months have met with the Taliban several times in order to reach a peace agreement and withdraw from Afghanistan, but those meetings have not been fruitful. President Trump in April called the war “unfortunate” and “ridiculous,” and numerous Democratic candidates for president are calling for the the U.S. to end the conflict there.

O’Neill on Sunday cited education as a key in the Afghanistan strategy moving forward.

“It’s definitely worth trying to squash the ideology, but it’s also worth trying to educate people,” he said. “We can’t be raising children to hate off the bat. It’s worth being over there but we also need to evolve with what’s going on with the world.”

O’Neill first alleged that he had killed bin Laden in 2014, an announcement that the government has neither affirmed nor disputed. O’Neill’s initial plan — before that historic night in bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout — was to serve for 30 years in the Navy. Then everything changed after he shot the mastermind behind 9/11.

“Fifteen seconds after I shot Osama Bin Laden, one of my guys asked if I was OK,” O’Neill recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, what do we do now?’

“He said, ‘You just killed Osama bin Laden. Your life just changed. Now let’s get to work.’”

Now in the spotlight, he said he’s trying to help people who got injured in the wars, or who lost loved ones in the wars and on 9/11.

“There’s never gonna be closure for them, but it’s a healing process,” he said.

The money raised at Sunday’s event will benefit wounded veterans — to provide housing modifications, help meet recreational needs, provide cars and other needed forms of transportation, and other resources to help improve the quality of life for the disabled veterans and their families.

“The fact we’re getting recognition from people like Robert O’Neill means we’re doing the right thing, and he wants to be here to support our wounded veterans,” said former U.S. Marine Andrew Biggio, who started Boston’s Wounded Vets Run in 2011. “And the sky’s the limit.”

O’Neill at the event met 95-year-old World War II veteran John Katsaros, a Purple Heart recipient.

“Robert O’Neill, I love the guy,” Katsaros, a Haverhill resident, said after meeting him. “He did what I would have done.”

Dennis Moschella, who served during the Vietnam War, compared O’Neill killing bin Laden to someone from his era killing North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh.

“He killed a leader of a group that was against us,” Moschella said. “Just amazing.”

More than 5,000 motorcycle riders participated in Sunday’s fundraiser.

“It’s great to get the community together and to honor the veterans,” O’Neill said. “The message for the vets is you’re not alone. It’s important to realize you can call any other veteran even if you’ve never met them, even reach out to me.”

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