A report put together for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and scheduled to be released tomorrow, says the United States blew its opportunity to get Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora back in 2001. Nobody should be all that surprised.
I clearly remember getting the call. It was a network photographer friend calling from Tora Bora, via satellite phone. I could hear what sounded like bombs exploding in the background. He confirmed for me that the bombing had started. He said that from his perspective it felt like our troops were closing in on Osama bin Laden. After a short conversation the frequency of the bombing increased and he had to get off the line. I remember thinking it probably wouldn’t be long before bin Laden was either dead or captured with the former being the more likely outcome. Neither, of course, ever happened.
And then came the book “Kill bin Laden,” and the report from CBS News Correspondent Scott Pelley about “Dalton Fury” on CBS-TV. It was “60 Minutes” that ran the story on”Fury,” a nom de plume used by the commander in charge of a Delta Force unit sent in to get bin Laden. According to “Fury” the U.S. could have taken bin Laden at Tora Bora, but missed the chance because higher-ups refused to approve requests that would have given U.S. forces the ability to get the job done.
‘Delta developed an audacious plan to come at bin Laden from the one direction he would never expect.
“We want to come in on the back door,” Fury explains. “The original plan that we sent up through our higher headquarters, Delta Force wants to come in over the mountain with oxygen, coming from the Pakistan side, over the mountains and come in and get a drop on bin Laden from behind.”
But they didn’t take that route, because Fury says they didn’t get approval from a higher level. “Whether that was Central Command all the way up to the president of the United States, I’m not sure,” he says.
The next option that Delta wanted to employ was to drop hundreds of landmines in the mountain passes that led to Pakistan, which was bin Laden’s escape route.
“First guy blows his leg off, everybody else stops. That allows aircraft overhead to find them. They see all these heat sources out there. Okay, there a big large group of Al Qaeda moving south. They can engage that,” Fury explains.
But they didn’t do that either, because Fury says that plan was also disapproved. He says he has “no idea” why.
“How often does Delta come up with a tactical plan that’s disapproved by higher headquarters?” Pelley asks.
“In my experience, in my five years at Delta, never before,” Fury says.’ -CBS News
There are other accounts as well, including the book “Jawbreaker” by former CIA field commander Gary Berntsen, who complains that higher-ups refused to listen to the CIA, which wanted to use U.S. troops to seal off the passes into Pakistan, and instead decided to leave the job in the hands of Afghan warlords, many of whom had ties to bin Laden and his fighters.
And now comes the new report prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that appears to support what others have been saying, that the U.S. missed its shot at getting bin Laden at Tora Bora because of poor decision making by “higher-ups.”
Among other things, the report charges that “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.” According to the AP, the report is highly critical of former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and General Tommy Franks.
The new report is expected to provide some support to President Obama, who will soon announce his intention to send additional troops into Afghanistan. Nobody should be all that surprised.