Monday, November 30, 2009

Senate Report: Rumsfeld Let Bin Laden Escape

The next time Dick Cheney criticizes President Obama's defense of the country in favor of the Bush record, remember which administration had Osama bin Laden in its grasp and let him go. A Senate report commissioned by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, concluded:

Osama bin Laden was "within the grasp" of US forces in late 2001 but escaped because then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [left] rejected calls for reinforcements, a US Senate report says.

...It points the finger directly at Rumsfeld for turning down requests for reinforcements as Bin Laden was trapped in December 2001 in caves and tunnels in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora.

"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," the report says.

"Instead, the US command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained Afghan militias to attack Bin Laden and on Pakistan's loosely organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes."

...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 decision haunts the U.S. to this day:

"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," it says.

"The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism, leaving the American people more vulnerable to terrorism, laying the foundation for today's protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan."

Cheney, constant critic of the current administration, was wrong in his defense of Rumsfeld:

The report, which Kerry says in a foreword "relies on new and existing information," dismisses statements from [General Tommy] Franks, Vice President Dick Cheney and others defending the decision and arguing that the intelligence was inconclusive about Bin Laden's location.

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