Sunday, November 29, 2009
In a skewering U.S. Senate report set for release tomorrow, Osama bin Laden was “within the grasp” of American forces in late 2001 but escaped because then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements.
The report is intended to help learn the lessons of the past just as President Obama prepares to announce a major escalation of the Afghanistan war — now lumbering into its ninth year, with up to 35,000 additional U.S. troops.
The report points the finger directly at Rumsfeld for turning down requests for reinforcements as Bin Laden was trapped in December 2001 inside caves and tunnels in a remote, mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora.
Entitled: “Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed to Get Bin Laden and Why It Matters Today,” the report — commissioned by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says Bin Laden expected to die and had even written a will.
The report says:
“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 US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan. 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, General Tommy Franks.”
Rumsfeld’s argument at the time, the report says, was that deploying too many American troops could jeopardize the mission by creating an anti-US backlash among the local populace.
The report dismisses arguments at the time from Franks, Vice President Dick Cheney and others defending the decision and arguing that the intelligence was inconclusive about Bin Laden’s location.