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Tora Bora Decision Revisited

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    For those that might have forgotten, the Bush Adminstration had Osama bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora in December 2001, just three months after 9/11.  The military knew he was there from radio communications. The military had a plan to get him.  It just required some additional trooops to cut off his escape route into Pakistan. 

    A bipartisan Senate Committee issued a report on November 30, 2009: TORA BORA REVISITED: HOW WE FAILED TO GET BIN LADEN AND WHY IT MATTERS TODAY. A few extracts from the executive summary of the report:

    "By early December 2001, Bin Laden’s world had shrunk to a complex of caves and tunnels carved into a mountainous section of
    eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora. Cornered in some of the most forbidding terrain on earth, he and several hundred of his
    men, the largest concentration of Al Qaeda fighters of the war, endured relentless pounding by American aircraft, as many as 100 air
    strikes a day. One 15,000-pound bomb, so huge it had to be rolled out the back of a C-130 cargo plane, shook the mountains for miles.
    It seemed only a matter of time before U.S. troops and their Afghan allies overran the remnants of Al Qaeda hunkered down in the thin, cold air at 14,000 feet.

    Bin Laden expected to die. His last will and testament, written on December 14, reflected his fatalism. ‘‘Allah commended to us that when death approaches any of us that we make a bequest to parents and next of kin and to Muslims as a whole,’’ he wrote, according to a copy of the will that surfaced later and is regarded as authentic. ‘‘Allah bears witness that the love of jihad and death in the cause of Allah has dominated my life and the verses of the sword permeated every cell in my heart, ‘and fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together.’ How many times did I wake up to find myself reciting this holy verse!’’ He instructed his wives not to remarry and  pologized to his children for devoting himself to jihad.

    But the Al Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their Afghan allies and calls for reinforcements to launch an assault were rejected. Requests were also turned down for U.S. troops to block
    the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan. 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. Instead, the U.S. command chose
    to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack bin Laden and on Pakistan’s loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal
    his escape routes. On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked
    unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today.

    The decision not to deploy American forces to go after bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense Donald
    Rumsfeld and his top commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, the architects of the unconventional Afghan battle plan known as Operation
    Enduring Freedom. Rumsfeld said at the time that he was concerned that too many U.S. troops in Afghanistan would create an
    anti-American backlash and fuel a widespread insurgency. Reversing the recent American military orthodoxy known as the Powell
    doctrine, the Afghan model emphasized minimizing the U.S. presence by relying on small, highly mobile teams of special operations
    troops and CIA paramilitary operatives working with the Afghan opposition. Even when his own commanders and senior intelligence
    officials in Afghanistan and Washington argued for dispatching more U.S. troops, Franks refused to deviate from the plan.

    There were enough U.S. troops in or near Afghanistan to execute the classic sweep-and-block maneuver required to attack bin Laden
    and try to prevent his escape...the review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants underlying this report removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora.

    ...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, leaving the American people more vulnerable to terrorism, laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan."


    Tora Bora has been a nagging question in my mind for nine years.  "Why couldn't we have finished the job then...indeed why didn't we?"

    I watched yesterday (May 11th) as Ed Shultz interviewed Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson and was struck by a statement made by Wilkerson (10:40 into video clip) that seemed to get passed over: "I don't think they really wanted to get bin Laden..."

    I think Wikerson has answered my question...
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    Getting Bin laden was never a priority, or even the reason for the Afg invasion.  His early capture would have made it difficult to continue the war.  There were pipelines to lay, and rare earths to mine.

    If you recall, Bush demanded Bin Laden be turned over or we would invade.  Shockingly, the Taliban was willing to comply, but the US cut diplomatic ties that would make that possible.

    Afg and Iraq were to be invaded before 9/11.  Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'neil blew the whistle on that.