|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 Afghanistan.
... 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.
It is very difficult for me to believe in the content of the report. There was just too much Bush anti-sentiment against Al Qaeda for it to have been true at the time when it was supposedly to have happened. If he would have had the opportunity it would have been both in his interest as well as common sense to have apprehended Bin Laden. Just imagine what a prize that would have been for him at the time. There was a specific demand by President Bush that the Taliban should deliver the leaders of El Qaeda to the United states, which was made during his famous "Declaration of War against Terrorism" Speech to the Joint Congress and American People of 20 September 2001:
|And tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban: Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land. (Applause.) Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens, you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country. Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, and hand over every terrorist, and every person in their support structure, to appropriate authorities. (Applause.) Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating. And tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban: Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land. (Applause.) Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens, you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your country. Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, and hand over every terrorist, and every person in their support structure, to appropriate authorities. (Applause.) Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating. |
From the original source:
|Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Kerry |
A completely unbiased group of individuals with no motivation whatsoever for Bush-bashing, I'm sure.
That said, why bring up a failure from Bush's first term now?
(To make others look better by comparison?)
I don't care to speculate about who did or didn't do what, but I find it extremely odd and difficult to believe that we are truly incapable of taking Bin Laden out with relative ease.
The report didn't reveal anything new, even the report points that out. (If you wish to read it, you may find it at http://foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Tora_Bora_Report.pdf). The Christian Science Monitor published an excellent story in 2002 regarding the fight at Tora Bora and the failure to capture bin Laden: (How bin Laden got away). It's certainly nothing Senator Kerry didn't constantly bring up when he ran for president in 2004. The report reads like talking points for his presidential debates and campaign speeches. Senator Kerry consistently beat up on President Bush during the campaign for "outsourcing" the Afghanistan war.
I found no error in facts. Yet I believe the motivation, timing, and tone of the report serves political objectives.
However, most of the news headlines I saw or read (even on FOXNews) said things like, "United States decided not to pursue Bin Laden," which is blatantly false. Bin Laden arguably escaped because of the strategy utilized at the time, a strategy with which many, including myself, disagreed. The report certainly takes this position. However leaders like Rumsfeld and Franks didn't make the decision not to pursue bin Laden or pursue him with less vigor. They simply believed that their strategy (a strategy which, you may recall, toppled the Taliban government and put Al Qaeda on the run in a shockingly short amount of time) would work in Tora Bora.
When the war began in 2001, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks adopted a strategy of using a small number of special forces coupled with overwhelming airpower and the support of local allies. This reflects the "Rumsfeld Doctrine," which he also used in 2003 to prosecute Iraqi Freedom (a.k.a. Gulf War II), a nontraditional smaller land force and overwhelming air power. In Afghanistan the thought was, as the Tora Bora Report points out, that a smaller U.S. footprint would cause less problems with the locals. They didn't want to repeat the mistakes of the USSR in the 1980s. As RADM Calland, SOCCENT commander at the time stated, "Right off the bat we knew that the Northern Alliance was working, we knew the history that the Soviets had, and that bringing a large land force into Afghanistan was not the way to do business. So, it became quickly apparent that the way to do this was to get 5th Group and put them in place to start a UW campaign.” ("UW" is short for "Unconventional Warfare.")
|Tora Bora Report wrote: |
|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. |
This was widely known at the time and argued both in Washington and publicly. Others favored a more traditional approach of a large ground force, and I agreed with this traditional approach. But since the advent of air power in the early 20th Century, many have sought to use aircraft as a force multiplier, a game changer that didn't just add another dimension to warfare, but altered the very calculations of ground and naval forces. Part of Rumsfeld's military transformation included this belief, which he exercised in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
So, U.S. leadership didn't find bin Laden trapped and suddenly decided not to try and get him, they simply tried to get him with a strategy that in hindsight didn't really work as they intended. We depended too much upon the locals and allies. Afghan and Pakistani troops and tribesmen simply lacked the professionalism and reliability that we expected. As the character, Bellloq, told Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he took the golden fertility idol from Indy, "You chose the wrong friends. This time, it will cost you."
And so it cost us.
This is not to say that a more traditional strategy, like that advocated by the Tora Bora Report, would have worked. The report itself states:
|Tora Bora Report wrote: |
|It would have been a dangerous fight across treacherous terrain, and the injection of more U.S. troops and the resulting casualties would have contradicted the risk-averse, ‘‘light footprint’’ model formulated by Rumsfeld and Franks. |
I'm sure if Rumsfeld and Franks executed this plan and bin Laden had still escaped, we'd be hearing about all of the wasted American lives. There are no guarantees in war. We have a saying: "No plan survives first contact." Although using American forces in a sweep-and-block maneuver may have had a greater chance of success in hindsight, it doesn't make success certain.
Ironically, Kerry's report cites Operation Anaconda as an example of how we could have done this, as if that operation is some shining example:
|Tora Bora Report wrote: |
|But Chinook helicopters, the work horse for rapid deployments, proved capable of carrying combat troops above 11,000-foot mountain ranges as part of Operation Anaconda, a similar block-and-sweep mission carried out in February 2002 in eastern Afghanistan. |
We study Operation Anaconda mostly to learn from the things that went wrong, not for the things that went right! If that's an example of how we should have planned the Battle of Tora Bora, capturing or killing bin Laden certainly would not have happened! We won the battle. But it was by no means certain and a lot of men died needlessly. We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in that one. (Was Operation Anaconda ill-fated from start?, Anaconda: Object Lesson In Poor Planning Or Triumph Of Improvisation?)
History is replete with "if only" hindsight.
- If only Admiral Kimmel had done this or that, then Pearl Harbor may have turned out differently.
- If only General Eisenhower wasn't so conservative and didn't so dislike General Devers, the Battle of the Bulge would have never happened, more than 80,000 Americans would not have died, and the war in Europe would have ended much earlier (not to mention the possible change in post-war borders).
- If only General Ewell had taken Culp's Hill on July 1, 1863, then Lee may have defeated Meade at the Battle of Gettysburg.
- Add military defeat and "if only" scenario here.
Hindsight is great when people use it to make better decisions in the future. Less valuable but still important is it's academic benefits for posterity. However I fear in this case it is being used for the least constructive and cheapest, but far more common, purpose: as a political bludgeon, just as it is in the creation of this thread.
If you wish to read the book upon which the Tora Bora Report draws some information, you may find it in it's entirety here: "United States Special Operations Command: 1987 - 2007" It is a large file (~33MB).
I totally agree with you. That is probably the biggest point. Why in all of these years has Ossama Bin Laden not been apprehended yet? For me it was the same with Saddam Hussein, who was a very visible leader. Why did it take so many years to apprehend him? So possibly you have a good point, and one can argue there there must have been an ulterior motive for keeping Bin Laden in place? One I can't fathom.
|liljp617 wrote: |
|I don't care to speculate about who did or didn't do what, but I find it extremely odd and difficult to believe that we are truly incapable of taking Bin Laden out with relative ease. |
@Moonspider. I can't remember the name of the movie, but I seem to recall one where they demonstrated the complete change in warfare in Afghanistan as described by you, I was totally bowled over by the movie, as that was a great strategy much more suitable to the terrain they are operating in, especially compared with the invasion of Iraq. Just very difficult for me to fathom this as the reason for not apprehending Bin Laden when there was an opportunity to do so. Sort of sounds a little bit "lame" especially given the very passionate atmosphere in September 2001 to apprehend the leaders of Al Qaeda? I agree with you however that it will probably be used in various ways to satisfy political points of view.
Interesting how it gets overlooked that Clinton chose not to take him out.
|In 1998, President Clinton announced, “We will use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice, no matter what or how long it takes.”
NBC News has obtained, exclusively, extraordinary secret video, shot by the U.S. government. It illustrates an enormous opportunity the Clinton administration had to kill or capture bin Laden. Critics call it a missed opportunity.
In the fall of 2000, in Afghanistan, unmanned, unarmed spy planes called Predators flew over known al-Qaida training camps. The pictures that were transmitted live to CIA headquarters show al-Qaida terrorists firing at targets, conducting military drills and then scattering on cue through the desert.
Also, that fall, the Predator captured even more extraordinary pictures — a tall figure in flowing white robes. Many intelligence analysts believed then and now it is bin Laden.
Why does U.S. intelligence believe it was bin Laden? NBC showed the video to William Arkin, a former intelligence officer and now military analyst for NBC. “You see a tall man…. You see him surrounded by or at least protected by a group of guards.”
Bin Laden is 6 foot 5. The man in the video clearly towers over those around him and seems to be treated with great deference.
‘It’s dynamite. It’s putting together all of the pieces, and that doesn’t happen every day.’
Another clue: The video was shot at Tarnak Farm, the walled compound where bin Laden is known to live. The layout of the buildings in the Predator video perfectly matches secret U.S. intelligence photos and diagrams of Tarnak Farm obtained by NBC.
“It’s dynamite. It’s putting together all of the pieces, and that doesn’t happen every day.… I guess you could say we’ve done it once, and this is it,” Arkin added.
The tape proves the Clinton administration was aggressively tracking al-Qaida a year before 9/11. But that also raises one enormous question: If the U.S. government had bin Laden and the camps in its sights in real time, why was no action taken against them?
“We were not prepared to take the military action necessary,” said retired Gen. Wayne Downing, who ran counter-terror efforts for the current Bush administration and is now an NBC analyst.
“We should have had strike forces prepared to go in and react to this intelligence, certainly cruise missiles — either air- or sea-launched — very, very accurate, could have gone in and hit those targets,” Downing added.
Gary Schroen, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan, says the White House required the CIA to attempt to capture bin Laden alive, rather than kill him.
What impact did the wording of the orders have on the CIA’s ability to get bin Laden? “It reduced the odds from, say, a 50 percent chance down to, say, 25 percent chance that we were going to be able to get him,” said Schroen.
A Democratic member of the 9/11 commission says there was a larger issue: The Clinton administration treated bin Laden as a law enforcement problem.
@jewellsy. Excellent point, I looked it up as well, and found some interesting info at Factcheck.org as well.
Clinton apparently said this during a speech in 2002 and then later denied that he said it. (He was quite good with denying things and got into trouble for that as well during a different occasion .... )
|Clinton: So we tried to be quite aggressive with them [al Qaeda]. We got – well, Mr. bin Laden used to live in Sudan. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, then he went to Sudan. And we'd been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start dealing with them again. They released him. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America, so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America. So I pleaded with the Saudis to take him, 'cause they could have. But they thought it was a hot potato and they didn't and that's how he wound up in Afghanistan. |
I liked this description by Factcheck.org, sort of sounds like a pretty typical "hands-off" strategy:
|Wright and the 9/11 Commission do agree that the Clinton administration encouraged Sudan to deport bin Laden back to Saudi Arabia and spent 10 weeks trying to convince the Saudi government to accept him. One Clinton security official told The Washington Post that they had "a fantasy" that the Saudi government would quietly execute bin Laden. When the Saudis refused bin Laden’s return, Clinton officials convinced the Sudanese simply to expel him, hoping that the move would at least disrupt bin Laden’s activities.
|jwellsy wrote: |
|Interesting how it gets overlooked that Clinton chose not to take him out.
While Clinton's lapse was inopportune, and happened for more grievously outrageous resons (one occasion being that he was too busy with a golf game at the time), it is still a different case.
Pre-2001, Osama wasn't nearly as important a figure. Hindsight is 20/20, but there's no way Clinton could have known what Osama would do in the future.
That is not completely accurate. The US did know that Bin Laden had plans to do great damage against the United States. There were the common sense indicators: the bomb blast in New York in 1993 and then the bomb blasts at US embassies in Africa after that, particularly the brutal one in Kenya that took many lives. There was a lot of intelligence that came from that but not enough to justify the capture and extradition of Bin Laden to the United States. Clinton did know something bad was being planned as if he had not, he would not have put up as much resources in tracking El Qaeda. Then when he did track El Qaeda down in 2000 perhaps he did not have enough evidence of the kind to justify a decision to send in troops and capture and extradite Bin Laden and other El Qaeda operatives.
|ocalhoun wrote: |
|Pre-2001, Osama wasn't nearly as important a figure. Hindsight is 20/20, but there's no way Clinton could have known what Osama would do in the future. |
I'm not sure how accepting the world would have been about Clinton knocking off "random people" (Bin Laden wasn't exactly random, but he certainly wasn't seen at the threat level he has been since 2001). I'm not saying the world's perception of us is more important than the lives Bin Laden supposedly took, but the situation was different prior to 2001 and it probably wouldn't have been seen in that great of a light had Clinton ordered Bin Laden to be taken out at all costs, so to speak.
I agree. It would have been all the ingredients of a GITMO scandal before its time. Bush went that route and got thoroughly lynched for it.
|liljp617 wrote: |
|I'm not sure how accepting the world would have been about Clinton knocking off "random people" (Bin Laden wasn't exactly random, but he certainly wasn't seen at the threat level he has been since 2001). I'm not saying the world's perception of us is more important than the lives Bin Laden supposedly took, but the situation was different prior to 2001 and it probably wouldn't have been seen in that great of a light has Clinton ordered Bin Laden to be taken out at all costs, so to speak. |