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Reid, Levin Praise Obama’s Strategy for Targeting bin Laden

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special operations forces was a “direct result” of President Barack Obama’s vow to concentrate his foreign and military policy on fighting the war in Afghanistan and finding the terrorist mastermind.

The Nevada Democrat praised Obama’s decision to treat “Afghanistan and Pakistan as a central battleground in our fight against terror.”

“Over the past two and a half years, the Obama administration has significantly escalated our military, diplomatic, intelligence and economic efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan and around the world,” Reid said.

He made his remarks during a late morning news conference on Capitol Hill by Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Both heaped praise on American military and intelligence personnel for accomplishing the mission. Both Senators cautioned that the war on terror was far from over and that threats remained.

“My first reaction was great satisfaction and relief that a true mass murderer was brought to justice,” Levin said, adding: “This is a victory, but it is not the final victory over terrorism. This morning’s statement by [Palestinian militant group] Hamas condemning the killing of bin Laden, calling him a martyr, reinforces our resolve that this war has got to continue to be fought.”

Levin said he learned of bin Laden’s death via a telephone call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates while he was at the Detroit airport waiting to board a flight to Washington, D.C. Reid said he received a phone call from a very “somber” Obama around 9:30 Sunday night.

However, a senior Democratic Senate aide said Reid had been briefed for months by CIA Director Leon Panetta about the Pakistani compound where bin Laden was hiding and where he was shot and killed by U.S. military forces.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.