Sun. Nov 29, 2009
The Original Dither
Whenever Dick Cheney speaks about how he believes the Obama administration has put America at greater risk of terrorist attack, or whenever a right winger accuses Obama of dithering on Afghanistan, this reality needs to be thrown back in their face:
Osama Bin Laden was within military reach when the Bush administration allowed him to disappear into the mountains of Afghanistan rather than pursue him with a massive military force, a new Senate report says.
The report asserts that the failure to get the terrorist leader when he was at his most vulnerable in December 2001 — three months after the 9/11 attacks — led to today’s reinvigorated insurgency in Afghanistan.
The report calls then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, the top military commander at the time, to the carpet and asserts the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault on Bin Laden with several thousand troops.
Instead, fewer than 100 commandoes, working with Afghan militias, tried to capitalize on air strikes and track down the ragged band of terrorists.
At the time, Rumsfeld expressed concern over the backlash that could be created by a large U.S. troop presence…Senate report: Bush adminstration could’ve captured terrorist Osama Bin Laden in December 2001
It was The Original Dither. It’s been vastly detailed in books written by folks who were on the scene; “First In” by Gary Schroen, “Jawbreaker” by Gary Berntsen, “Al Qaeda’s Great Escape” by Philip Smucker, and “Kill Bin Laden” by Dalton Fury. And if books written by two CIA team leaders, a Special Forces officer, and a reporter who were all on the scene are not enough for you, read the 2007 history of the Tora Bora episode by the military’s own Special Operations Command.
And while Rumsfeld allegedly worried about backlash from a larger US troop presence in 2001, troop levels in Afghanistan during the Bush administration show a history of non-stop dithering: 2003 – 10,000; 2004 – 17,000; 2005 – 20,000; 2007 – 26,000; 2008 – 31,000.
I suppose you could argue they didn’t dither, they decided early on that we would never commit the number of troops needed to do the job, and stuck with it for eight years. Those troops would go to Iraq instead.
But now there are about 100,000 NATO forces there (including 68,000 US troops), with another 35-40,000 about to be ordered to join them over the next year. That will approach the troop levels we deployed to Iraq. And none of it should have been necessary.
Knowledgable and experienced people on the scene knew Bin Laden was at Tora Bora, special ops commanders on the scene requested reinforcement by Rangers or Marines who were available (or even just mines dropped in the escape passes), and it was ruled out by upper level command. You would think Darth Cheney would have at least called for a tactical nuke. But we did nothing.
The subject of Tora Bora has made me mad for a very long time, and the truth remains: At Tora Bora, we had the cat in the bag, and eight years later we’re chasing kittens all over Pakistan. It was The Original Dither.
Or as I said back in 2002, “by failing to prosecute war fully at the critical juncture, we have lengthened the war. There is hardly a worse sin.”