Cornered. CIA speaks [Dec. 2001] Email Print

2 CIA officials tell us Washington –twice– declined to send the reinforcements they asked for when bin Laden was cornered in Afghanistan in 2001.  By the time of the 2nd request by the CIA for troops, the special ops force could hear Osama on radio asking his followers for forgiveness for leading them to their imminent capture.  It was that close.

From Gary Bernsten, who led the CIA's paramilitary unit chasing bin Laden after he fled from Kabul (Christiane Amanpour interviewed him on CNN) –

AMANPOUR:  ... the CIA was sure it knew where he was, thanks in large part to a radio taken off a dead al Qaeda fighter.

BERNTSEN: We listened to bin Laden for several days using that radio, listened to his communications among him and his men. We listened to him apologize to them for having led them  –
          [-- crossposted at dailykos --]

– "into this trap and  having led them into a location where they would be having airstrikes called on them just relentlessly."

  . . . .

BERNTSEN: In the first two or three days of December, I would write a message back to Washington, recommending the insertion of U.S. forces on the ground. I was looking for 600 to 800 Rangers, roughly a battalion. They never came.

Bernsten's urgent message followed a direct briefing on troop needs and a request, in-person to President Bush in November by Henry "Hank" Crumpton [link], who was then CIA officer in D.C. heading the Afghanistan effort. (Now Crompton is in charge of counterterrorism at the State Department.) Crompton had learned of a CIA troop request that was never forwarded by the Pentagon to the White House.

Scripps News analyst Martin Schram writes of the meeting (as reported first by Ron Suskind).

"Crumpton strongly urged Bush to send more troops."

 "But Bush reportedly said Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf promised his troops would seal all escapes into north Pakistan. Crumpton explained Pakistani troops couldn't control that tribal region and satellite photos showed Pakistan's troops weren't there and wouldn't arrive in time.

   "'We're going to lose our prey if we're not careful,' Crumpton reportedly warned the president."

"But this time Bush asked if the Afghani forces could do the job. 'Definitely not, Mr. President,' said Crumpton. 'Definitely not.'"

More from Amanpour's interview with Gary Bernsten -

BERGEN: By my calculation, there were more American journalists than American soldiers at the battle of Tora Bora, and that fact kind of speaks for itself.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also hunting bin Laden in Tora Bora, then Afghan militia leader, General Mohamed Zahir.

(on camera) Do you have any idea how many American soldiers were at the battle of Tora Bora?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was not more than 50, 60, I think. There was not more than that at that time.

AMANPOUR: More than two weeks of bombing, solid intelligence, the U.S. had thrown its biggest bombs, ...  but somehow, some way  .... Osama bin Laden, looking frail and much older than his 44 years after the massive onslaught of Tora Bora, had escaped again.

My question for the White House (and Chris Wallace to boot) is:  2-3 months after Sept 11, if they weren't planning for this moment, then what were they planning for?


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