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Nov 29th, 2009


Senate Report: Bin Laden Was ‘Within Our Grasp’

Review seen as warning against resisting Afghanistan troop surge

Image: Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden
Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, shown here in 1998, was within reach of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in late 2001, a new U.S. Senate report says. (Photo credit: Getty Images)


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 Afghanistan.

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.

Video
Bin Laden was ‘within our grasp’ (MSNBC, Nov. 29, 2009) — Alex Witt talks with military analyst Jack Jacobs about the Senate report. (03:18)

“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 prey.

“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.

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Related report on this site


Osama bin Laden — Personality profile

——

FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — November 29, 2008


A child holds a poster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in support of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact in central Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP)

2 Dead in Green Zone Attack

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that a rocket attack on a U.N. compound in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone killed two foreigners and wounded 15, while a suicide bomber struck Shiite worshippers at a mosque run by followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killing at least 12 people, a day after Iraqi lawmakers approved a status-of-forces agreement with the Bush administration setting a timeline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

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4 Responses to “Rumsfeld Rap for Bin Laden Escape”
  1. - Are You Riled Up? - » Blog Archive » Tora Bora Says:

    […] Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Rumsfeld Rap for Bin Laden Escape […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bin Laden Rails Against Obama Says:

    […] 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 in December 2001 not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, according to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report that affixes a measure of blame for the state of the Afghanistan war today on military leaders under former president George W. Bush, specifically Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary and his top military commander, Gen. Tommy Franks. […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Bin Laden Personality Profile Says:

    […] According to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, the failure to kill or capture Osama 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. […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » USA Surpasses USSR in Afghanistan Says:

    […] Rumsfeld Rap for Bin Laden Escape […]

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