Saturday, October 23, 2004

Osama Takes a Hike 

Via Raw Story: In case you missed it, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who served on the 9/11 commission, claims that U.S. forces know exactly where bin Laden is holed up:
Bin Laden is living in South Waziristan in the Baluchistan Mountains of the Baluchistan region, Lehman told The San Bernardino Sun after delivering a keynote speech on terrorism at Pitzer College in Claremont.

In the exclusive interview, Lehman noted, "There is an American presence in the area, but we can't just send in troops. If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now."

"We'll get (bin Laden) eventually, just not now," he said. Asked how bin Laden was surviving, Lehman said he was getting money from outside countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and high-ranking ministers inside Saudi Arabia.
Since OBL is back in the news (is there an election coming up?), we dipped into the Zemblan archives for a Telegraph story from February 2002, explaining how bin Laden walked out of Tora Bora right under the noses of Tommy Franks's rented warlords:
"He said, `hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom'," Baker later told his Afghan captors. "He said, `I'll be visiting you again, very soon'."

Between three and four days later, according to lengthy and detailed accounts gathered by The Telegraph in eastern Afghanistan, the world's most wanted man left through pine forests in the direction of Pakistan . . . .

[I]n retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade, a deliberate ploy to cover bin Laden's quiet escape.

US generals made it clear by the end of November that they believed senior al-Qa'eda operatives were inside Tora Bora.

A convoy of several hundred Arab fighters, including bin Laden and his close associates, entered it from Jalalabad on the night of Nov 12, and the US bombing around the base intensified three days later.

The US strategy bore little logic for those suffering the brunt of the attacks.

"When we round up a pack of stray sheep, we send in shepherds from four sides, not just one," said Malik Osman Khan, a one-eyed tribal chief whose 16-year-old son Wahid Ullah was one of more than 100 Afghan civilians killed in the intense US bombing.

"At first, we thought that the US military was trying to frighten the Arabs out, since they were only bombing on one side."

Haji Zahir, one of the three Afghan commanders whose ill-prepared fighters led the charge up the southern slopes of Tora Bora, agreed that the US bombing worked against his efforts on the ground. "They started the bombing before they surrounded the area."

When the ground attack came, co-ordination between the disparate elements was woeful. Commander Zahir said he only learned that the offensive against Tora Bora was due to begin by watching a CNN broadcast in early December.

Three and a half hours later he had 700 fighters assembled, but none of them had winter clothing . . . .

Bin Laden had left some days previously, and even as the US military's proxy war got under way, the rush of his fighters out of Tora Bora, which had been a trickle and then a stream, now became a mad dash for freedom.

"The only problem for the Arabs was the first five to 10 kilometres from Tora Bora to our village. The bombing was very heavy. But after you arrived in our village, there were no problems. You could ride a mule or drive a car into Pakistan."

The eastern Afghanistan intelligence chief for the country's new government, Pir Baksh Bardiwal, was astounded that the Pentagon planners of the battle for Tora Bora had failed to even consider the most obvious exit routes.

He said: "The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it. And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters had the Americans acted decisively. Al-Qa'eda escaped right out from under their feet" . . . .

"No one told us to surround Tora Bora," complained the nephew of the slain anti-Taliban Afghan leader Abdul Haq. "The only ones left inside for us were the stupid, the foolish and the weak."
Of course it would be wrong to criticize Gen. Franks's strategy too harshly; he was, after all, running the campaign from Tampa, Florida.

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