The Bin Laden Blues

It's bizarre that Rumsfeld ever claimed it wasn't certain Bin Laden was at
Tora Bora, the CIA/Special Forces teams there could hear him on the radio
apologizing to his fighters for leading them into what appeared to be a
death-trap where they were being pulverized by air strikes. The CIA man
leading those teams says dropping a couple of battalions of Army Rangers
behind Tora Bora would have kept Bin Laden from escaping, but his repeated
pleas for that to be done were ignored and then he was ordered home. Odd
that the goal of getting Bin Laden was put on the back burner about the time
the Bush administration was turning its eyes to Iraq, wasn't it. One almost
has to wonder if it occurred to them that capturing or killing BL would have
brought a sense of closure to what the American people were feeling about
9/11 and made it harder to sell them on the need to invade Iraq.

Senate report: Bin Laden was 'within our grasp'
Review could be seen as warning against opponents of a troop surge now
Associated Press
updated 7:15 a.m. PT, Sun., Nov . 29, 2009

WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops
in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the
crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive
force, a Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most
vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of
one man. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated
Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan,
it says.

Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic
majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John
Kerry, as President Barack Obama prepares to boost U.S. troops in

The Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate has
long argued the Bush administration missed a chance to get the al-Qaida
leader and top deputies when they were holed up in the forbidding
mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan only three months after the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Aimed at foes of surge?

Although limited to a review of military operations eight years old, the
report could also be read as a cautionary note for those resisting an
increased troop presence there now.

More pointedly, it seeks to affix a measure of blame for the state of the
war today on military leaders under former president George W. Bush,
specifically Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary and his top military
commander, Tommy Franks.

"Removing the al-Qaida leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not
have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," the report says. "But the
decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden
to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow
of money and inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job
represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the
conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism."

The report states categorically that bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora when
the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault with several thousand troops
at least. It says that a review of existing literature, unclassified
government records and interviews with central participants "removes any
lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our
grasp at Tora Bora."

Fewer than 100 U.S. commandos

On or about Dec. 16, 2001, bin Laden and bodyguards "walked unmolested out
of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area," where
he is still believed to be based, the report says.

Instead of a massive attack, fewer than 100 U.S. commandos, working with
Afghan militias, tried to capitalize on air strikes and track down their

"The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most
mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the
sidelines," the report said.

At the time, Rumsfeld expressed concern that a large U.S. troop presence
might fuel a backlash and he and some others said the evidence was not
conclusive about bin Laden's location.