Wire: Democrat Report Slams Military's Effort to Get Bin Laden
Off the Wire:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that a report written by staff working for the Democratic majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the U.S. military could have captured or killed Osama bin Laden in 2001 if it had launched a full-scale attack on his location in Afghanistan.
The report said the al Qaeda leader's escape was a lost opportunity that altered the course of the war and paved the way for insurgencies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, according to an article published by the Reuters news service.
"Removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," the report said.The report was especially critical of military leaders including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top military commander, retired General Tommy Franks.
"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."
U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the region with supporters after the Taliban government was removed from power.
U.S. military leaders allowed Afghan militiamen to spearhead the assault and bin Laden managed to escape.
The report said U.S. commanders rejected requests for more troops to launch a rapid assault in the area, relying instead on air strikes and the Afghan militias to lead the attack and Pakistan's Frontier Corps to seal off escape routes.
"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," it said.
Democratic Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the committee, has complained the Bush administration missed a chance to get bin Laden and his top lieutenants in Tora Bora just months after the September 11 attacks, Reuters said.
Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election to Bush.
(Report from newswire sources.)