Democratic Senate Report Says Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks Let Osama bin Laden Escape to Pakistan

Monday, November 30, 2009

While President Barack Obama prepares to announce his decision regarding a troop increase for Afghanistan, Senate Democrats have released a report that argues that the Bush administration failed to capture Osama bin Laden when it had the chance in late 2001. The report (Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed To Get Bin Laden and Why It Matters Today) pins the blame on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the top U.S. commander at the time, General Tommy Franks, for not sending enough troops into the Tora Bora region where bin Laden was hiding and from which he eventually escaped into Pakistan. The failure to grab al Qaeda’s leader allowed him “to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide,” reads the report from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The committee’s report relies on previous accounts, including books by two CIA officers, Gary Berntsen and Gary Schroen, Lt. General Michael DeLong, and an Army special ops commander, who criticized the tactics used at Tora Bora in December 2001.
According to the report, bin Laden, who was hiding in a cave complex along with a top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, expected to die and made out his will on December 14, 2001. However, fewer than 100 U.S. commandos were in the area, and the U.S. command turned down the requests of the CIA and Afghan allies to send in more American troops. Instead, Rumsfeld and Franks relied on air attacks and untrained Afghan militia to go after bin Laden. In addition, the U.S. leaders refused to allow U.S. troops to be used to seal the border with Pakistan, instead relying on Pakistan’s tribally-based Frontier Corps to do the job. Two days after writing his will, bin Laden traveled by foot and horseback from Tora Bora across the border into Pakistan;s mountainous tribal area, where many observers believe he remains today.
Senate Democrats have suggested that had the Bush administration sent more troops into Afghanistan, the U.S. might also have captured the Taliban’s top leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, who also fled to Pakistan in 2001, but is now active once again.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


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