April 10, 2006

Did someone mention a distraction?

I wonder what Lt. General Newbold is referring to here?


From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

Or here?


General Newbold has been quoted previously describing his concerns about Iraq planning, including in "Cobra II," a book by Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine lieutenant general who is a former military correspondent for the newspaper. In the book General Newbold is described telling fellow officers that he considered the focus on Iraq to be a strategic blunder and a distraction from the real counterterror effort. He is also quoted as expressing concern about Mr. Rumsfeld's influence on war planning, in particular his emphasis on assigning fewer troops to the invasion.

Maybe this?


"Hey," Newbold said in his best take-notice voice, "I've got a real tough problem for you. The secretary's going to ask you to start looking at your Iraq planning in great detail - and give him a new commander's estimate."

"You got to be shitting me," Renuart said. "We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?"

"Well, yeah. It's coming. So stand by."

The current Iraq war plan, Op Plan 1003, was some 200 pages with 20-plus annexes numbering another 600 pages on logistics, intelligence, air, land and sea operations. According to this plan, it would take the United States roughly seven months to move a force of 500,000 to the Middle East before launching military operations. Renuart went to see General Franks, who had received only a vague indication there had been discussion in Washington about the Iraq war plan. Renuart now had more detail.

"Hey, boss," Renuart said, reporting that a formal request of a commander's estimate was coming. "So we'd better get on it."

Franks was incredulous. They were in the midst of one war, Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another, Iraq? "Goddamn," Franks said, "what the fuck are they talking about?"


Posted by Mike at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 19, 2006

Knock, knock, knockin' on Osama's Door

The Washington Post has a five page review of Jawbreaker online. Oddly worded title aside, it is worth a read:


Knocking on Osama's Cave Door

Gary Berntsen was known at CIA headquarters as an aggressive field operative, the type inclined to act first and ask permission later. But he possessed the right combination of brawn and brains for tough missions. When summoned to the front office in the Counterterrorist Center in October 2001, Berntsen recalls, his boss's orders were simple: "Gary, I want you killing the enemy immediately."

He left for Afghanistan the next day determined to eliminate one man in particular. By Berntsen's telling, he could have gotten Osama bin Laden -- if only they'd given him the troops and the time to get the job done.

Now whenever he sees the al Qaeda leader threatening attacks against Americans, "I'm horrified," Berntsen says. "I feel haunted by the fact that it wasn't done. I did every single thing I could do there."

So what to do next? Write a book. It seems to be a popular career afterlife for a growing number of spooks. Berntsen's contribution to the genre is "Jawbreaker," his score-settling insider's account of how bin Laden eluded capture at Tora Bora that December. Its cover advertises it as "The Book the CIA Doesn't Want You to Read!"

The world's most notorious terrorist has been in Berntsen's sights since 1998, when he investigated al Qaeda links to the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. In his book, Berntsen recounts a 23-year counterterrorism career, but the headline is this: Bin Laden escaped through snow-covered mountain passes into Pakistan, the ex-spy alleges, because U.S. generals failed to heed his call for 800 troops.

Ha, this is a great line:


Though "Jawbreaker" would seem to capture Berntsen's tough-guy persona, he says it was just a code word spit out by a computer.

"I'm grateful it came out with something good that I can make use of on the cover of my book." He chuckles. "It could have been 'Doorstop' or something like that."

Interestingly, Door Stop might have been a good code name for another operation, more commonly known as Polo Step:


Mr. President, Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward states that you asked General Franks to start planning for Iraq just two months after 9/11. Your own Vice President told ABC News at the time that he thought Bin Laden was at Tora Bora. Can you explain the timing of this distraction from the hunt for Al Qaeda?

Posted by Mike at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 08, 2006

Jawbreaker is #32 on Amazon

Looks like the word is getting out:


Amazon.com Sales Rank:
Today: #32 in Books
Yesterday: #40 in Books

Posted by Mike at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2006

This about sums it up

From the Financial Times:


Gary Berntsen, a CIA veteran who headed a paramilitary team called “Jawbreaker” during the Afghan war, said in a book published last week that one of his Arabic-speaking operatives found a radio on a dead al-Qaeda fighter during the Tora Bora battle and heard the terrorist leader repeatedly try to rally his troops.

“After the Spectre [gunship aircraft] cleared the area, Bilal heard a voice he recognised from dozens of tape recordings,” Mr Berntsen wrote, using a pseudonym for an Arab-American former Marine who was part of the CIA team. “It was Osama bin Laden telling his troops to keep fighting.”

Later on the same captured radio, “Bilal” and a second CIA agent, another American of Middle Eastern origin, reported hearing Mr bin Laden apologising for getting his men trapped in the mountains and killed in large numbers by American bombing, Mr Berntsen wrote. The book, titled Jawbreaker, was heavily edited by CIA censors.

Mr Berntsen also wrote that on the recommendation of a former Special Forces officer who was part of his team as a CIA contractor, he made a formal request for 800 US army Rangers to be deployed along the Pakistani border to prevent Mr bin Laden’s escape, a request that was never granted.


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December 27, 2005

Gary Berntsen interviewed on the Today Show

Well, my copy of "Jawbreaker" shipped this morning, and it turns out Gary Berntsen was interviewed by Campbell Brown on the Today Show.

You can see the video here, until they replace it with another clip. Intelligence Summit has a replay of the interview here, as well.

Hopefully the book will be waiting when I get back tomorrow night. If it does, you can be sure what I'll be reading Wednesday evening.

Posted by Mike at 11:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 07, 2005

Marines wanted to surround Tora Bora

Interesting details from a story by Mary Anne Weaver in the NY Times last month:


Three days later, on Dec. 3, in one of the war's more shambolic moments, Hazarat Ali announced that the ground offensive would begin. Word quickly spread through the villages and towns, and hundreds of ill-prepared men rushed to the mountain's base. The timing of the call to war was so unexpected that Hajji Zahir, one of its three lead commanders, told journalists at the time that he nearly slept through it.

On a map, it was little more than a mile from the bottom of the White Mountains to the first tier of the Qaeda caves, but the snow was thick and the slopes were steep and, for the Afghan fighters, it was a three-hour climb. They were ambushed nearly as soon as they arrived. The battle lasted for only 10 minutes before bin Laden's fighters disappeared up the slope and the Afghans limped away. Over the coming days, a pattern would emerge: the Afghans would strike, then retreat. On some occasions, a cave would change hands twice in one day. It was only on the third day of the battle that the three dozen Special Forces troops arrived. But their mission was strictly limited to assisting and advising and calling in air strikes, according to the orders of Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. Central Command, who was running the war from his headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

Even after the arrival of the Special Forces, the Afghan militias were making little headway in their efforts to assault the Qaeda caves - largely as a result of heavier resistance than they had expected - despite having launched simultaneous attacks from the east, west and north. They had sent none of their forces to the south, where the highest peaks of the White Mountains are bisected by the border with Pakistan. The commanders, according to news reports, argued vehemently among themselves on what the conditions on the southern side of the mountain were: some insisted it was uncrossable, closed in by snow; other commanders were far less sure.

By now, the Taliban's stronghold in Kandahar had fallen or, more correctly, had been abandoned by the soldiers of the regime. The Taliban retreat from Kandahar was emblematic of the war. None of Afghanistan's cities had been won by force alone. Taliban fighters, after intense bombing, had simply made strategic withdrawals. A number of American officers were now convinced that this was about to happen at Tora Bora, too.

One of them was Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis, the commander of some 4,000 marines who had arrived in the Afghan theater by now. Mattis, along with another officer with whom I spoke, was convinced that with these numbers he could have surrounded and sealed off bin Laden's lair, as well as deployed troops to the most sensitive portions of the largely unpatrolled border with Pakistan. He argued strongly that he should be permitted to proceed to the Tora Bora caves. The general was turned down. An American intelligence official told me that the Bush administration later concluded that the refusal of Centcom to dispatch the marines - along with their failure to commit U.S. ground forces to Afghanistan generally - was the gravest error of the war.

A week or so after General Mattis's request was denied, the turning point in the battle of Tora Bora came. It was Dec. 12. Hajji Zaman had by now realized that the Qaeda fighters were better armed than his men and that they were also prepared to die rather than surrender to him. He was also becoming increasingly irritated with Hazarat Ali and with the snow. And in a few days the feast of Eid al-Fitr, which ends Ramadan, would begin. The stalemate, the Americans' surrogate commander decided, simply had to end. So, through a series of intermediaries and then directly, Hajji Zaman made radio contact with some of bin Laden's commanders and offered a cease-fire. The Americans were furious. The negotiations - to which Hazarat Ali acquiesced since he, too, was now holding secret talks with Al Qaeda - continued for hours. By the time they came to an end, Hajji Zaman's interlocutor, hidden somewhere in the caves above, was probably bin Laden's son Salah Uddin. If the Qaeda forces surrendered, Hajji Zaman's contact said, it would be only to the United Nations. Then he requested additional time to meet with other commanders. He would be back in touch by 8 the following morning, the younger bin Laden said.

American intelligence officials now believe that some 800 Qaeda fighters escaped Tora Bora that night. Others had already left; still others stayed behind, including bin Laden. "You've got to give him credit," Gary Schroen, a former C.I.A. officer who led the first American paramilitary team into Afghanistan in 2001, told me. "He stayed in Tora Bora until the bitter end." By the time the Afghan militias advanced to the last of the Tora Bora caves, no one of any significance remained: about 20 bedraggled young men were taken prisoner that day, Dec. 17.

Here is a news report from November 25, 2001:


Afghanistan: Marines take control of airstrip

Posted: 11/25/2001 10:21 pm Last Updated: 2001-11-26 12:13:40-05
Near Kandahar, southern Afghanistan - In the first major seizure of Afghan territory by US ground forces, US Marines have secured a privately-owned airstrip within striking distance of Kandahar. General James Mattis says, "We now own a piece of Afghanistan." Mattis says the troops have set up landing lights so transport aircraft can land with more troops and supplies. The Pentagon says the capture of the airfield was carried out with "no difficulties."

Bush: "Dangerous period of time" for troops

About 500 U.S. Marines landed near Kandahar on Sunday, the largest deployment of U.S. ground troops since the war began. President Bush said it's a "dangerous period of time" during which the US military is "hunting down people responsible for bombing America." But he said, "We're patient, we're resolved, and we will stay the course until we achieve the objective."

Reports say the number of Marines deployed on the ground could increase to 1,000.

Mattis is exactly the man we should have sent in to get Bin Laden:


According to an audio recording of Mattis' remarks, he said, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot.... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

He added, "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Thursday, Gen. Mike Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement saying, "I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully."

"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said. "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor."

Hagee also praised Mattis, calling him "one of this country's bravest and most experienced military leaders."

He said the commitment of Marines "helps to provide us the fortitude to take the lives of those who oppress others or threaten this nation's security. This is not something we relish, yet we accept it as a reality in our profession of arms."


Posted by Mike at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 01, 2005

Publication date for Jawbreaker postponed

According to Amazon.com, the publication date for Jawbreaker by Gary Berntsen is postponed from it's original date, October 18th, to December 27th. In other words, you won't even be able to get it by Christmas. If the CIA wanted to hurt Berntsen's sales by holding up publication, it looks like they have succeeded. On the other hand, even though the book is not available yet, it has already sold more copies than the only other first hand account of the events at Tora Bora, Al Qaeda's Great Escape by Philip Smucker. They're ranked #106,633 and #154,391 respectively.

America's Secret War by George Friedman has a few pages summarizing what really happened at Tora Bora, probably from his sources in the CIA and the military. Here's the short version. Everyone knew Bin Laden was probably in the Jalalabad area by November 1st. By November 15, the CIA was confident Bin Laden was at Tora Bora. CENTCOM would not agree to bring in the 10th Mountain division to seal off the border, even though the CIA specifically asked them to do it and warned them the local Afghan militias could not be trusted. By December 15th, the Afghan militias had let all but a few Al Qaeda stragglers escape into Pakistan and the best chance we had to capture Bin Laden vanished into thin air.

Posted by Mike at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 19, 2005

Gary Berntsen's story is already public knowledge!

Found the court documents on Google, and this part in particular caught my eye:


7. Together with his draft manuscript Plaintiff also provided to the PRB 20 books and other printed references documenting the prior declassification or otherwise public domain status of all of the information set forth in his manuscript.

8. To date Plaintiff has not received his manuscript from the PRB and is informed that all but three of his supporting references have been lost or misplaced by Defendant.

9. Plaintiff also is informed that the Directorate of Operations (DO) has proposed a cumulative total of some 30 pages of redaction from his manuscript.

10. Plaintiff has a contract with Random House requiring him to deliver his manuscript by June 17, 2005. The delivery of Plaintiff's manuscript to his publisher is now weeks overdue causing him financial loss and imperils its proposed October, 2005 publication date.

In other words, the only reason that Porter Goss opposes the book is that Gary gives credibility to a story that has already been widely reported but repeatedly denied by the Bush administration. As Berntsen has said of Franks, "He was not on the ground out there. I was." These court documents make it clear, Goss is fighting the book not for reasons of national security - but because it embarrases Bush politically! There is no way in hell they can get away with this.

Remember, you can already pre-order the book today. Help keep this story alive!

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
GARY BERNTSEN )
Reston, VA 20191 ))
Plaintiff, ))
Civil Action No: 05CV1482 (CCK)
v. ))
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY )
Washington, D.C. 20505 ))
Defendant. )
COMPLAINT
Plaintiff Gary Bernsen brings this action against Defendant Central Intelligence Agency
for injunctive and declaratory relief pursuant to the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201, the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. §
1651, the Central Intelligence Agency s internal regulations and the First Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States. The Central Intelligence Agency has unlawfully imposed a
prior restraint upon Plaintiff by infringing on his right to publish his memoirs.
JURISDICTION
1. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 702 and
28 U.S.C. § 1331.
2. Venue is appropriate in the District under 5 U.S.C. § 703 and 28 U.S.C. § 1391.
3. Plaintiff was formerly employed by the Central Intelligence Agency as an
Operations Officer. He is required by virtue of a secrecy agreement to submit all
writings for prepublication review. He is a citizen of the United States and resides
in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 1 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 1 of 4

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4. Defendant Central Intelligence Agency (ôCIAö) is an agency as defined by
5 U.S.C. § 701. Its actions have prevented Plaintiff from publishing his
manuscript in its entirety.
FACTS
5. Plaintiff was formerly employed by the CIA as an Operations Officer from
October 4, 1982 to June 17, 2005.
6. On May 17, 2005 Plaintiff submitted, pursuant to one or more secrecy
agreements, a draft manuscript of his memoirs to the CIA s Office of
Prepublication Review (  PRB  ) for prepublication review. The CIA is required to
issue decisions regarding submissions within thirty days of receipt of the
document.
7. Together with his draft manuscript Plaintiff also provided to the PRB 20 books
and other printed references documenting the prior declassification or otherwise
public domain status of all of the information set forth in his manuscript.
8. To date Plaintiff has not received his manuscript from the PRB and is informed
that all but three of his supporting references have been lost or misplaced by
Defendant.
9. Plaintiff also is informed that the Directorate of Operations (  DO  ) has proposed
a cumulative total of some 30 pages of redaction from his manuscript.
10. Plaintiff has a contract with Random House requiring him to deliver his
manuscript by June 17, 2005. The delivery of Plaintiff s manuscript to his
publisher is now weeks overdue causing him financial loss and imperils its
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 1 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 2 of 4

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proposed October, 2005 publication date.
COUNT I
FIRST AMENDMENT - RIGHT TO PUBLISH - CLASSIFICATION CHALLENGE
11. Plaintiff repeats and realleges the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 10
above, inclusive.
12. Plaintiff properly submitted, pursuant to one or more secrecy agreements, his draft
manuscript.
14. Defendant has failed to respond within its prescribed time effectively denying
Plaintiff the right to publish his manuscript.
15. Defendant has failed to show that Plaintiff s First Amendment right to publish is
outweighed by its interest in efficiently carrying out its mission by minimizing
harms that are real, not merely conjecture.
16. Defendant has failed to demonstrate the existence of substantial government
interests that would enable it to prohibit the publication of certain information
within Plaintiff s manuscript. Moreover, Defendant has imposed unreasonable
restrictions on Plaintiff s First Amendment activities.
17. Because Defendant has impermissibly infringed upon Plaintiff s right to publish
the information contained within his manuscript, it has violated Plaintiff s First
Amendment rights. Thus, Plaintiff has suffered actual adverse and harmful effects,
including, but not limited to, a delay in being able to publish in a timely fashion in
order to meet his contractual obligation and/or lost present or future financial
opportunities.
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 1 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 3 of 4

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WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that the Court award him the following relief:
(a) Issue a permanent injunction to block Defendant from further restraining the
publication of his manuscript;
(b) Declare that Plaintiff possesses a First Amendment right to publish the
information within his manuscript;
(c) Declare that Defendant has violated the Administrative Procedure Act and its
internal regulations governing prepublication review;
(d) Award Plaintiff the costs of this action and reasonable attorney fees under the
Equal Access to Justice Act or any other applicable law; and
(e) Grant such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
Respectfully submitted,
__________________________
Roy W. Krieger
(D.C. Bar #375754
KRIEGER & ZAID, PLLC
1920 N Street, N.W., Suite300
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 223-9050
Counsel For Plaintiff
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 1 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 4 of 4

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
GARY BERNTSEN ))
Plaintiff, ))
v. ) Civil Action No: 05CV1482 (CCK)
)
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY ))
Defendant )
PLAINTIFF S EX-PARTE MOTION FOR EXPEDITED PROCEEDINGS
NOW COMES Plaintiff, Gary Bernsen, by and through undersigned counsel, and moves
this Honorable Court, ex-parte, to order expedited proceedings in the above-captioned matter.
In support thereof, Plaintiff avers as follows:
PRELIMINARY STATEMENT
It is well settled that fragile First Amendment rights are often lost or prejudiced by delay.
Courts have therefore been willing to expedite proceedings involving First Amendment rights.
Bernard v. Gulf Oil Co., 619 F.2d 495, 470 (5th Cir. 1980), aff d, 452 U.S. 89 (1981).
This case presents a threat to the vitality of First Amendment rights among former and
current employees of the government arising from Defendant s effective imposition of a prior
restraint on publication. Defendant Central Intelligence Agency (  CIA  ) - has effectively blocked
the publication of Plaintiff s manuscript by failing to complete its pre-publication review in a
timely fashion.
Having absolutely no lawful authority to take these actions, the CIA endeavors to cloak
its behavior as legitimate by hiding behind an unconstitutional interpretation of the secrecy
agreement executed by Plaintiff, who is a former employee with the Agency. However, the
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 2 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 1 of 6

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ability of the government to inhibit First Amendment rights extends only to that information that
is classified. The dissemination of unclassified information, which much, if not all, of the
manuscript contains, cannot be blocked by the government.
Thus, this case presents sensitive and important First Amendment questions that cry out
for immediate resolution.
FACTUAL SUMMARY
Plaintiff was employed by the CIA as an Operations Officer from October 4, 1982 to June
17, 2005. One month prior to his resignation, on May 17, 2005 Plaintiff submitted, pursuant to
one or more secrecy agreements, a draft manuscript of his memoirs to the CIA s Office of
Prepublication Review (  PRB  ) for prepublication review. The CIA is required to issue decisions
regarding submissions within thirty days of receipt of the document. together with his draft
manuscript Plaintiff also provided to the PRB some 20 books and other printed references
documenting the prior declassification or otherwise public domain status of all of the information
set forth in his manuscript. To date, more than 60 days after its submission, Plaintiff still has not
received his manuscript from the PRB and is informed that all but three of his supporting
references have been lost or misplaced by Defendant. Plaintiff also is informed that the
Directorate of Operations (  DO  ) has proposed a cumulative total of some 30 pages of redaction
from his manuscript. Plaintiff has a contract with Random House requiring him to have delivered
his manuscript by June 17, 2005. The delivery of Plaintiff s manuscript to his publisher is now
weeks overdue causing him financial loss and imperils its proposed October, 2005 publication
date. (Complaint ¶¶ 5-10).
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 2 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 2 of 6

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Because of Defendant s actions, this litigation was commenced on July 27, 2005. Copies
of the Summons and Complaint are in the process of being sent to the CIA, the U.S. Attorney  s
Office for the District of Columbia and the Attorney General. Assuming normal mail delivery,
the U.S. Attorney s Office will most likely receive the documents on or about August 1, 2005.
Therefore, pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendant s response to the
Complaint would not be due on or about September 29, 2005.
ARGUMENT
I. EXPEDITED REVIEW IS REQUIRED BECAUSE OF THE SIGNIFICANT
AND SERIOUS FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AT ISSUE
One of the central purposes of the First Amendment is to allow publication to serve as
both a critical source of information for the public as well as an important government watchdog.
Plaintiff has written a book that contains unique information regarding his experiences. Although
Plaintiff properly and fully abided by the pre-publication review requirements imposed by his
secrecy agreement, Defendant has responded in a manner that has violated his First Amendment
rights. It has frustrated the publication of the book by failing to timely deliver his draft
manuscript and by asserting unsupportable classification decisions. Such conduct violates the
rights of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
It is well settled by courts throughout the United States that expedited attention should be
given to cases involving First Amendment interests. See, e.g., Action for Children s Television v.
FCC, 59 F.3d 1249, 1259 (D.C. Cir. 1995) cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1072 (1996)(finding that the
possibility that the agency s actions might similarly run afoul of the First Amendment demands
prompt judicial scrutiny); Bernard, 619 F.2d at 470 (  Fragile First Amendments rights are often
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 2 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 3 of 6

1 See, also, Auvil v. CBS  60 Minutes,  800 F. Supp. 928, 937 (E.D. Wash. 1992)(  The
public interest is best served by expeditious disposition of cases raising First Amendment
issues.  ); Collin v. Smith, 447 F. Supp. 676, 680 (N.D. Ill. 1978)(ordering  trial on an expedited
schedule in view of the compelling national interest in prompt resolution of cases implicating
First Amendment freedoms  ); American Camping Ass n v. Whalen, 465 F. Supp. 327, 330
(S.D.N.Y. 1978)(finding a  prompt trial on the merits is required  with First Amendment rights
at stake).
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lost or prejudiced by delay.Court have therefore been commendably willing to expedite
proceedings involving First Amendment right.  ); National Student Ass n v. Hershey, 412 F.2d
1103, 1115 (D.C.Cir. 1969)(recognizing  urgency of prompt protection for frail First
Amendment interests  ); Potwora v. Dillon, 386 F.2d 7, 76 (2d Cir. 1967)(hearing case on
expedited basis  [i]n light of plaintiffs  representation that the order deprived them of important
First Amendment rights  ).1
In the landmark case involving efforts by The New York Times and The Washington Post
to publish the  Pentagon Papers  thirty years ago, the entire litigation process - from the District
Courts to the Supreme Court of the United States - occurred within a two week time frame. This
was necessary because of the serious First Amendment issues at stake and despite the fact that
the documents in question had been in the newspapers  possession for several months prior to the
time of the desired publication. See, New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713, 724
(1971)(Douglas, J., concurring).
Defendant s conduct here is nothing less than what occurred three decades ago: an
unconstitutional attempt to preclude Plaintiff s right to publish information of which the
government has no authority to control. Courts have shown no tolerance for any attempt to
inhibit free expression that does not permit a prompt administrative and/or judicial review of the
efforts to repress speech. In the leading case of Freedman v. State of Maryland, 380 U.S. 51,
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 2 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 4 of 6

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59-60 (1965), the Supreme Court held that providing a mechanism for prompt review is
necessary to avoid offending constitutional protections. Numerous courts thereafter faced with
restrictions on the content of speech have gone to great lengths to ensure that prompt judicial
review was readily available. See, Collin v. Smith, 578 F.2d 1197, 1209 (7th Cir. 1978)( We
have endeavored to expedite decision, because to delay the exercise of First Amendment rights in
itself burdens them and may risk their destruction.  ); Quarter Action Group v. Hickel, 421 F.2d
1111, 1116 (D.C. Cir.1969)(noting  any delay in the exercise of First Amendment rights
constitutes an irreparable injury to those seeking such exercise  )(citation omitted).
Since Defendant s actions to frustrate the publication of Plaintiff s manuscript creates a
clear First Amendment issue, this Court should do no less than its predecessors and colleagues
and place this case on a expedited track. Therefore, Defendant should be required to respond to
Plaintiff s Complaint within five (5) days of receiving the Summons and Complaint.
CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court place this matter
on an expedited track for prompt resolution given the important First Amendment rights at stake.
Respectfully submitted,
_______________________________
Roy W. Krieger
D.C. Bar# 375754
KRIEGER & ZAID, PLLC
1920 N Street, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 223-9050
Counsel For Plaintiff
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 2 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 5 of 6

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CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I, Roy W. Krieger, do hereby certify, that a true and correct copy of the foregoing Motion,
together with a copy of the Complaint in this matter, were served via Certified Mail and telefax
this 28th day of July, 2005 upon the following:
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20530
General Counsel
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20505 (Served via Telefax on July 27th 2005)
____________________________________
Roy W. Krieger
Case 1:05-cv-01482-CKK Document 2 Filed 07/28/2005 Page 6 of 6

Posted by Mike at 02:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"I’d welcome the opportunity to meet White House officials"

Some more details from the London Times:


Dressed in flowing Afghan robes, Gary Berntsen led the CIA undercover team, codenamed Jawbreaker, assigned to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora during the dying days of the Afghan war.

Now he is on a new mission: to convince the White House — and the American public — that the Al-Qaeda chief was genuinely within his grasp. In his book Jawbreaker, scheduled for publication in October, he claims his team had pinpointed Bin Laden’s location and “knew for certain” he was there.



Berntsen’s manuscript is being vetted by the CIA. He is suing his former employers for taking too long to assess his material and for demanding excessive cuts.

A White House spokesman last week repeated a claim made during the presidential election by General Tommy Franks that, “We don’t know to this day whether Mr Bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001.”

Berntsen, 48, insists he can shoot down that “surprising” statement and has offered to provide proof to Andrew Card, President George W Bush’s chief of staff. “I’d welcome the opportunity to meet White House officials at any time to explain how we knew of Bin Laden’s presence there,” he said last week.

Berntsen’s claim is the most authoritative that the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks could have been captured. As commander of the Jawbreaker unit, he had the latest intelligence on Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Berntsen has been decorated by the CIA for counter-terrorist activities in the Middle East and east Africa. He is becoming persona non grata, however, because his account of the Afghan campaign conflicts with the White House version of events.

“Gary co-ordinated most of the boots on the ground,” said Roy Krieger, his lawyer. “We knew where Bin Laden was within a very circumscribed area. It was full of caves and tunnels but we could have bombed them or searched them one by one. The Pentagon failed to deploy sufficient troops to seal them off.”

Berntsen’s book may contain other secrets that the CIA would rather keep. “He wasn’t just involved in the hunt for Bin Laden,” said Krieger.

Berntsen helped to provide co-ordinates for American airstrikes and collected computers from bombed-out Al-Qaeda hiding places. In the book he describes how some Taliban leaders were lured to their capture and sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He also handed cash to Northern Alliance warlords to keep them on side. He was not impressed by their fighting ability and believes that the Pentagon was wrong to rely on their forces in Tora Bora.

For the moment Berntsen is unable to reveal more details. His CIA work is classified although he left the agency in June. It has the last word on what can appear in his book.

The CIA is meant to vet manuscripts in 30 days but has held on to Berntsen’s for nearly 90 days. The CIA said the time limit “could be extended if the book is lengthy or the subject complex”.

The real struggle may come over what the agency wants to cut. “As far as we know they are going for everything,” said Berntsen. “It is starting to look like a cover-up.”


Posted by Mike at 02:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 08, 2005

"He was not on the ground out there. I was."

More details emerge, via Newsweek:


During the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry battled about whether Osama bin Laden had escaped from Tora Bora in the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Bush, Kerry charged, "didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill" the leader of Al Qaeda. The president called his opponent's allegation "the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking." Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border.

But in a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora—intelligence operatives had tracked him—and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen's remarks, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones passed on 2004 statements from former CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001," Franks wrote in an Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed. "Bin Laden was never within our grasp." Berntsen says Franks is "a great American. But he was not on the ground out there. I was."

In his book—titled "Jawbreaker"—the decorated career CIA officer criticizes Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon's own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora, says Berntsen's lawyer, Roy Krieger. (Berntsen would not divulge the book's specifics, saying he's awaiting CIA clearance.) That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a "strategic disaster" because the Pentagon refused to deploy a cordon of conventional forces to cut off escaping Qaeda and Taliban members. Maj. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman, says the problem at Tora Bora "was not necessarily just the number of troops."


Posted by Mike at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 30, 2005

Holy Shit

Looks like I'm not crazy after all:


WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA is squelching publication of a new book detailing events leading up to Osama bin Laden's escape from his Tora Bora mountain stronghold during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, says a former CIA officer who led much of the fighting.
In a story he says he resigned from the agency to tell, Gary Berntsen recounts the attacks he coordinated at the peak of the fighting in eastern Afghanistan in late 2001, including how U.S. commanders knew bin Laden was in the rugged mountains near the Pakistani border and the al-Qaeda leader's much-discussed getaway.

Berntsen claims in a federal court lawsuit that the CIA is over-classifying his manuscript and has repeatedly missed deadlines written into its own regulations to review his book. His attorney, Roy Krieger, said he delivered papers to the U.S. District Court in Washington after hours Wednesday.

The CIA declined to comment because the suit had not yet been filed officially.

During the 2004 election, President Bush and other senior administration officials repeatedly said that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked there in 2001.

They rejected allegations by Sen. John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential nominee, that the United States had missed an opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden because they had "outsourced" the fighting to Afghan warlords.

"When I watched the presidential debates, it was clear to me ... the debate and discussions on Tora Bora were — from both sides — completely incorrect," said Berntsen, who won't provide details until the agency finishes declassifying his book. "It did not represent the reality of what happened on the ground."

A Republican and avid Bush supporter, Berntsen, 48, retired in June and hasn't spoken publicly before.

His book chronicles chapters of his 23 years with the agency. Berntsen spent most of his career as a case officer in the Middle East, serving as the top U.S. intelligence official in three countries.

It covers his role handling the agency's response to al-Qaeda's 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. And the book continues through late 2001 when he was assigned to command a CIA team inserted into Afghanistan, code-named "Jawbreaker" — the title of his book, tentatively due out in October.

Berntsen said the story highlights the actions of four brave Muslim American men who went with him.

It's also about decision-making: "Who stepped up, who didn't in all of this," said Berntsen, the recipient of two of the CIA's three highest medals, one for preventing Islamic extremists from assassinating the Indian prime minister in 1996.

He said he felt compelled to write his story. But he also acknowledges he retired two years early because he ruffled senior management feathers. It was clear he wouldn't get further promotions.

Krieger said his client's First Amendment rights are being violated. He's also suing under the Administrative Procedures Act, arguing that the agency has taken more than twice the 30 days allowed by regulation to review the 330-page book.

Berntsen's book is one of a handful written recently by former CIA officers who have wrestled with the agency over what could be published.

You can already pre-order it for October 18th.

The publisher is Crown Publishing. This book is important, because Gary Schroen, author of First In, left Afghanistan before Bin Laden had even fled to Tora Bora from the Al Qaeda stronghold in Jalalabad around November 13th.

Posted by Mike at 08:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 08, 2005

Open Source Book - How Bush Lost the War on Terror


As I was driving home from CENTCOM, I recalled a lesson from ancient history, when the tragic blunders of Athens in the Peloponnesian War ultimately led to its destruction. Upon looking it up again, I was struck by how trenchant the analogy was: In 413 BC, Athens, in the midst of a war with Sparta, decided to attempt to expand its empire by taking over Sicily. The campaign was disastrous. It led to the destruction of the Athenian navy and it weakened Athens to the point that Sparta was able to defeat it, effectively ending the Athenian empire and the classical age. As General Franks explained to me how America was shifting its efforts from Afghanistan to Iraq, I understood how Pericles must have felt when he said, "I am more afraid of our own mistakes than of our enemy's designs." -Senator Bob Graham, Intelligence Matters, Page 127


Click here for a timeline graphic with detailed references


9.11.2001 As dusk fell on the roof, I heard a strange sound, more like an electronic chime than anything animate. It was the sunset call of the owls of Athena, the tiny birds with huge eyes whose image first appeared on Greek coins 2500 years ago. Those little owls had sent their haunting calls across Aegean hills during centuries of peace and war. Now they announced the arrival of nightfall, on the first day of a war that might well last for decades. -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 244


9.12.2001 Before the attacks, the Pentagon had been working for months on developing a military option for Iraq. Everyone at the table believed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a menace, a leader bent on acquiring and perhaps using weapons of mass destruction. Any serious, full-scale war against terrorism would have to make Iraq a target - eventually. Rumsfeld was raising the possibility that they could take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Saddam immediately. -Bob Woodward, Bush at War, Page 49


9.15.2001 Though the U.S. military claims to be designed and equipped to fight two full-scale conflicts simultaneously, Powell thought the Defense Department was overestimating its ability to do two things at the same time from the same command, with the same commander and staff. Military attacks on both Afghanistan and Iraq would be under the jurisdiction of CENTCOM.

He hadn't articulated that point, but he figured it was his ace in the hole. No military plan had been presented for Iraq. No one, neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz, had told the president precisely what should be done in Iraq and how it might be done. Nobody had taken it to the next step and said, This is what we're talking about. The absence of a plan was a gaping hole. -Bob Woodward, Bush at War, Page 87


9.30.2001 "By the way, General," Rumsfeld had said at the end of one of our video conferences in late September, "don't forget about Iraq."

"I won't, Mr. Secretary," I'd said. "We've got aircrews flying in harm's way over Iraq every day." -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 268


10.7.2001 U.S. and British forces attacked Taliban military targets throughout Afghanistan with bombers and cruise missiles. The thirty targets included airfields, air defense systems, terrorist training camps, and troop concentrations facing Northern Alliance forces. President Bush announced the strikes from the White House Treaty Room at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, and said that he had consulted with Congressional leaders the day before. He said that over 40 countries had provided air transit or landing rights and that even more had shared information. Canada, Britain, Australia, France, and Germany had pledged military support. -U.S. State Department


10.29.2001 When I summarized the tactical picture for Musharraf, he predicted that the Taliban regime "must soon collapse - hopefully before Ramadan."

"I hope so, Mr. President," I said. "The Afghan people have suffered under the Taliban and al Qaeda long enough."

"Do you know where Osama bin Laden is?" he asked.

"No, Sir. Do you?"

Musharraf smiled. "We think he is still in Afghanistan, in the east - Tora Bora. My intelligence officers would know if he had crossed into Pakistan." -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 308


11.13.2001 American and British military planners are trying to suppress feelings of triumphalism, but they are ready to admit to a sense of satisfaction.

The rapid fall of Kabul has, they feel, proved the effectiveness of a bombing campaign which only a week ago was being questioned for its effectiveness and criticised for its brutal impact on civilians.

All the while, the Taleban was being taken apart and is now "scattered to the four winds", said one senior official in London. -BBC News, 11/13/2001


11.15.2001 "The Arab fighters are withdrawing to mountain redoubts just south of the city of Jalalabad, where they have stocks of supplies that can hold for weeks," says Pir Sayed Ishaq Gailani, an ethnic Pashtun, who warns the US against trusting too many of his own former anti-Soviet fighting colleagues. A former reporter for the Kabul Times, now inside Afghanistan, said yesterday in a phone interview that Taliban and Arab fighters are massing near the Logar River about 35 miles south of Kabul. -Christian Science Monitor, 11/15/2001


11.19.2001 Defense Department strategists are building a case for a massive bombing of Iraq as a new phase of President Bush's war against terrorism, congressional and Pentagon sources say. Proponents of attacking Iraq, spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, are now arguing privately that still-elusive evidence linking Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime to the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 is not necessary to trigger a military strike. -USA Today, 11/19/2001


11.21.2001 "Hey," Newbold said in his best take-notice voice, "I've got a real tough problem for you. The secretary's going to ask you to start looking at your Iraq planning in great detail - and give him a new commander's estimate."

"You got to be shitting me," Renuart said. "We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?"

"Well, yeah. It's coming. So stand by."

The current Iraq war plan, Op Plan 1003, was some 200 pages with 20-plus annexes numbering another 600 pages on logistics, intelligence, air, land and sea operations. According to this plan, it would take the United States roughly seven months to move a force of 500,000 to the Middle East before launching military operations. Renuart went to see General Franks, who had received only a vague indication there had been discussion in Washington about the Iraq war plan. Renuart now had more detail.

"Hey, boss," Renuart said, reporting that a formal request of a commander's estimate was coming. "So we'd better get on it."

Franks was incredulous. They were in the midst of one war, Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another, Iraq? "Goddamn," Franks said, "what the fuck are they talking about?" -Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Page 8


11.23.2001 Commander Ghamsharik said in his interview: "I'm absolutely sure that Osama bin Laden was in Jalalabad and that he dined with Pakistanis from the town of Paracinar."

He added that two important Taliban officials were now acting as a liaison between the Arabs in Tora Bora and the newly-appointed, Western-backed government in Jalalabad.

He said: "I am 70 per cent sure that Osama is still there in Tora Bora, though he could have fled further south." -Daily Telegraph, 11/23/2001


11.25.2001 Well the "New York Times" has a quote that I think I want you to see. And it says, quote: "We have some people who told us that three or four days ago Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora. I trust them like my mother or father." And that was Hazarat Ali, the law and order minister in Eastern Shura. -CNN Sunday Morning, 11/25/2001


11.26.2001 "Saddam is evil," said Mr Bush, the first time he had applied that adjective to the Iraqi dictator. "I think he's got weapons of mass destruction, and I think he needs to open up his country to let us inspect."

Mr Bush said it was obvious from Saddam's previous use of chemical weapons that he was a threat and harboured ambitions towards mass terrorism. "It's up to him to prove he's not," said Mr Bush, reversing the onus of proof.

Mr Bush used an interview with Newsweek magazine to identify Saddam as a target, and appeared to relish the prospect of finishing the job of neutralising the Iraqi dictator, which his father did not achieve after the Gulf war 10 years ago.

In effect, under a policy known within the administration as "coercive diplomacy", the Iraqi leadership will be told to readmit the expelled United Nations weapons inspectors or face military attack. -Daily Telegraph, 11/26/2001


11.27.2001 That morning, six days after the president's request on the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld flew to see General Franks at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa. After greeting everyone, he kicked Franks's staff as well as his own aides out of the room, even telling his military assistant, Vice Admiral Giambastiani, "Ed, I need you to step outside."

"Pull the Iraq planning out and let's see where we are," Rumsfeld told Franks when they were alone. -Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Page 36


11.28.2001 Between two and four days later, somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan. -Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/2002


11.29.2001 SAWYER: Do you believe he's in Tora Bora?

CHENEY: I think he's still in Afghanistan. I think he's probably in that general area.

SAWYER: Why do you think he's still there?

CHENEY: Because I think he was equipped to go to ground there. He's got what he believes to be fairly secure facilities, caves underground. It's an area he's familiar with. He operated there back during the war against the Soviets in the '80s. He's got a large number of fighters with him probably, a fairly secure personal security force that he has some degree of confidence in, and he'll have to he may try to leave, that is, he may depart for other territory, but that's not quite as easy as it would have been a few months ago. Anybody who contemplates providing sanctuary for bin Laden at this point has to keep in mind what happened to the Taliban when they did that. -ABC Primetime Live, 11/29/2001


12.1.2001 Four days later, December 1, a Saturday, Rumsfeld sent through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a Top Secret planning order to Franks asking him to come up with the commander's estimate to build the base of a new Iraq war plan. In two pages the order said Rumsfeld wanted to know how Franks would conduct military operations to remove Saddam from power, eliminate the threat of any possible weapons of mass destruction, and choke off his suspected support of terrorism. This was the formal order for thinking outside the box.

The Pentagon was supposed to give Franks 30 days to come up with his estimate - an overview and a concept for something new, a first rough cut. "He had a month and we took 27 days away," recalled Marine General Pete Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Rumsfeld favorite. Franks was to report in person three days later. -Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Page 38


12.3.2001 That's correct. General Franks has articulated he believes that the leadership of al Qaeda may be in the area south of Jalalabad, and that's why and where we've been concentrating our efforts there. -Admiral Stufflebeem, 12/3/2001


12.4.2001 That marked the end of the briefing. "Mr. Secretary, I know you are not fulfilled by what I've given you today. But it is a beginning, and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page on strategic assumptions and support options."

"Well, General, you have a lot of work ahead of you," he said, stacking the pages. "Today is Tuesday. Let's get together again next Wednesday, December 12. I want to hear more details at that time."

The screen went blank. Gene had been taking notes in his oversized journal; the staff called it the "Black Book of Death," because the workload it represented was enough to kill even the hardiest group of staff officers.

"Hey, Boss," Gene said. "Things are looking up. The Secretary just gave us eight whole days. Last time it was only a week." -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 335


12.5.2001 Afghan tanks supported by American bombers opened the long-heralded offensive against Osama bin Laden's suspected mountain-top fortress yesterday.

The earth quaked and the Afghan children cheered. Field Commander Halim Shah said: "The battle for Tora Bora has begun and will continue until we eradicate al-Qa'eda. We have already advanced and taken several caves." America and Britain have said bin Laden could be hiding in the maze of mountain tunnels, although there have been no sightings for a number of days. But it is known that hundreds of his foreign legionnaires, perhaps 2,000, are based in the complex. -Daily Telegraph, 12/6/2001


12.10.2001 Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, which controls eastern Afghanistan, says he was astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them.

"The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it," he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with a short list of the Al Qaeda fighters who were later taken prisoner. "And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters, had the Americans acted decisively. Al Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet."

The intelligence chief contends that several thousand Pakistani troops who had been placed along the border about Dec. 10 never did their job, nor could they have been expected to, given that the exit routes were not being blocked inside Afghanistan. -Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/2002


12.12.2001 "General," Rumsfeld said, smiling, "this is a good beginning, but I need more detail before I take it to the President. I don't know what he will decide to do, but you need to work more quickly than the military usually works."

I glanced at Gene again. We were iterating this exercise in one-week bites; it was hard to imaging moving any faster. I explained that I was leaving in a week to attend Hamid Karzai's inauguration in Kabul. "Sir, I'd like some time to refine our assumptions and analyze the elements we've identified as necessary to execute this concept. I recommend we begin the inter-agency work that will be necessary with State and the intelligence community."

"Let's talk next week," Rumsfeld had said. "I want this to be worked by a very small group. There are still too many leakers and this must not be leaked. Thanks, everyone." The screen went blank. -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 344


12.14.2001 The -- it -- what would cause one to say either he is in the Tora Bora area, vicinity of Jalalabad, or he has left? And obviously we use all sorts of technical means to gain insights into where he may be. We also listen to what these opposition leaders on the ground have to say, because they each have their own intelligence capability. And so when one looks at all these sources, then what happens is, you see all sorts of conflicting information, and I think that's why we always say you just don't know what you don't know. And so it's probably not a good idea to say with some certainty where he is. But we know where our current fight is, and that's in the Tora Bora area. -General Tommy Franks, 12/14/2001


12.17.2001 The site of the world's biggest stakeout certainly has all the appearances of a siege. Heavily armed Afghans race up mountain valleys with anti-aircraft guns in tow.

A US Special Forces team, sometimes hiding behind tinted pickup truck windows, directs the operations of the Afghan fighters and target US bombing runs. Together, they have hammered Al Qaeda forces and cleared two major mountain valleys near the Tora Bora cave complex.

But yesterday, after tribal fighters said they captured the last of the Al Qaeda positions, killing more than 200 fighters and capturing 25, there was still no sign of the world's most wanted terrorist - Osama bin Laden. And there were far fewer fighters both captured and killed than were originally thought present. -Christian Science Monitor, 12/17/2001


12.19.2001 Franks got only another week before Rumsfeld summoned him back to the Pentagon on December 19 for the third iteration. Once again Rumsfeld indicated he was not satisfied – “not fulfilled,” as he occasionally termed his sense of dissatisfaction.

Later Rumsfeld recalled during an interview in his Pentagon office, “I tend to ask a lot of questions of the people I work with and I tend to give very few orders. This place is so big and so complicated and there’s so much that I don’t know, that I probe and probe and probe and push and ask, Well why wasn’t this done or shouldn’t this be done, but it’s generally with a question mark at the end.”

Rumsfeld, certainly had to be aware that when the secretary of defense asks, “Why wasn’t this done?” or “Shouldn’t this be done?” or shows even the slightest discontent, it has the force of an order, even if concluded with a sincere question mark. -Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Page 43


12.22.2001 Combat operations had gone remarkably well. But I knew the war was not over. Hazrat Ali reported that a large group of Arabs had taken refuge in the redoubt of caves and tunnels southwest of the Kyber Pass. And Ali's Afghan troops had encountered fierce resistance from heavily armed fighters dug into concentric defensive rings. Tora Bora would be a "gunfight," and it would happen soon - before any al Qaeda leaders who might be holed up there could escape. -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 323


12.27.2001 On Thursday, December 27, we'd been airborne for about an hour, homeward bound after an overnight in Sicily, when I got down to work in the plane's small conference room. Cathy was resting, trying to catch up on lost sleep from the hectic leapfrog schedule around the AOR. In the past five days, we had visited Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, seven Coalition bases, and five U.S. Navy ships, spending Christmas with the sailors on two carriers in the northern Arabian Sea. We'd been on C-17s, C-130s, three kinds of helicopters, and a twin-turboprop Carrier Onboard Delivery plane (COD), which had given Cathy the thrill of her first flight-deck tailhook landing and catapult-launch takeoff.

Despite the pace of the trip, I was glad that Cathy and I had been able to spend Christmas together because I knew I wouldn't have much time at home in the coming weeks. With stability operations in Afghanistan moving ahead well, I would have to turn my attention to the task Secretary Rumsfeld had given me during the Thanksgiving holidays: bringing our Iraq planning up to date.

"Your homework, General," said Van Mauney, laying a stack of orange-bordered Top Secret file folders on the table before me.

The folders contained the latest "iteration" in the painstaking revision process that began in late November. In the four weeks since then, I had briefed Donald Rumsfeld several times, in person and via video conference. Hundreds of hours of work had gone into the effort. But as I opened the top folder, I knew we were just beginning a long, deliberate process. -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 329


1.29.2002 Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic. -President Bush, 1/29/2002


2.19.2002 At that point, General Franks asked for an additional word with me in his office. When I walked in, he closed the door. Looking troubled, he said, "Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq," he continued. "The Predators are being relocated. What we are doing is a manhunt. We have wrapped ourselves too much in trailing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. We're better at being a meat ax than finding a needle in a haystack. That's not our mission, and that's not what we are trained or prepared to do."

It took me a while to digest what he had told me. General Franks's mission in Afghanistan - which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out - was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt. What's more, the most important tools for a manhunt, the Predators, had been redeployed to Iraq at the moment they were most needed in Afghanistan.

I was stunned. This was the first time I had been informed that the decision to go to war with Iraq had not only been made but was being implemented, to the substantial disadvantage of the war in Afghanistan. -Senator Bob Graham, Intelligence Matters, Page 125


3.13.2002 Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban. -President Bush, 3/13/2002


7.7.2004 White egrets stand at the edge of the pond near the flight line - stately birds the move gracefully, but have a raucous croak. Passing them, I remember the small gray owls of Athena that called across the roof of the Kydon Hotel on September 11, 2001, the first night of this long war. Almost three years have passed since that September evening in Greece.

We have won important battles... Yet the war is far from over. -General Tommy Franks, American Soldier, Page 537


10.31.2004 All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.

All Praise is due to Allah.

So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.

That being said, those who say that al-Qaida has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise, because when one scrutinises the results, one cannot say that al-Qaida is the sole factor in achieving those spectacular gains. -Osama bin Laden, 10/31/2004

Posted by Mike at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 10, 2005

Please just admit the answer already

Why is everyone still asking why? Is it so damn hard to figure out?

The reason CENTCOM was not paying enough attention to Tora Bora in late 2001 is that Rumsfeld considered the war over once Kabul fell on November 13th and told Franks to focus on Iraq instead November 21st!

Gary Schroen on Meet the Press:


MR. RUSSERT: In December of 2001, the battle of Tora Bora. This is what you write. "In early 2002, in the immediate aftermath of the battle of Tora Bora and the subsequent escape of Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahari, CIA and specially trained U.S. military Special Operations units began to organize teams in the provincial areas east and south of Kabul, along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan."

You have no doubt that bin Laden escaped at Tora Bora?

MR. SCHROEN: No doubt at all. When the first film--videotape that was made--that he made afterwards shows him that he was holding his left side and was probably wounded there in the battle, but every bit of information we had at the time indicated that he had escaped and moved into the Waziristan area which is south of Peshawar.

MR. RUSSERT: How did he get away?

MR. SCHROEN: We had done--followed the same lead we had taken since September of '01 in defeating the Taliban. We were attacking with U.S. military forces against the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, and we hired local tribal leaders to guard the escape routes into Pakistan. Unfortunately, many of those people proved to be loyal to bin Laden and sympathizers with the Taliban and they allowed the key guys to escape.

MR. RUSSERT: In the heat of the presidential campaign in 2004, John Kerry as part of his stump speech in effect would say things like this. Let's watch.

(Videotape, October 30, 2004):

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): As I have said for two years now, when Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, it was wrong to outsource the job of capturing them to Afghan warlords who a week earlier were fighting against us.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Should we have had more U.S. troops in Afghanistan circling Tora Bora to prevent his escape?

MR. SCHROEN: In hindsight that would have been ideal. We fought a special operations war. It was CIA and Army Green Berets on the ground directing the bombing campaign. It was only late in the campaign that U.S. ground forces came in, and the evolution, I think, simply we didn't take it far enough. If we'd have had one more battle after Tora Bora, we probably would have gotten it right.

MR. RUSSERT: Again, in October of 2004, in the presidential campaign, after John Kerry made those charges, General Tommy Franks offered this observation. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. ...Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp."

You just disagree with that?

MR. SCHROEN: I absolutely do, yes.

MR. RUSSERT: And President Bush and Vice President Cheney all quoted General Franks, saying: "We don't know if bin Laden was at Tora Bora." You have no doubt.

MR. SCHROEN: I have no doubt that he was there.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn again to your book. "The United States is continuing to pour billions of dollars and sacrifice the lives of American soldiers in order to bring peace and democracy to Iraq. This is being done at the expense of Afghanistan. ... Given the total preoccupation with Iraq, I am not confident that the U.S. government will make the policy adjustments necessary to improve conditions for the success of the democratic experiment in Afghanistan, or refocus diplomatic and military efforts back to the South Asia region in order to capture Osama bin Laden and defeat al-Qa'ida. The opportunity to make these changes exists now; if we fail in these efforts, we do so at our peril."

Are you suggesting--do you believe that Iraq is a distraction, a preoccupation, and it is really limiting our ability to capture Osama bin Laden and secure Afghanistan?

MR. SCHROEN: I absolutely do. Afghanistan gets a distant second on all aspects, whether it's going to be military or aid that's going to be given to the country. Afghanistan is--the elections were successful. There is a beginning of democracy there. It's very fragile. The--but I think the entire population wants peace. It's a matter of how they share the pie. And we could do a lot more to bring that democracy to full birth if we would focus more attention, more money on that country.

MR. RUSSERT: Which is more important, do you believe, to the war on terrorism, Afghanistan or Iraq?

MR. SCHROEN: At this point, unfortunately, the Iraqi situation has gotten so large that it's become a major issue that has to be dealt with. I think, though, that ultimately we owe it to Afghanistan and to ourselves to end this al-Qaeda threat there and defeat the Taliban completely and let that country move forward so it doesn't become a safe haven for terrorism again.


Posted by Mike at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 31, 2005

Three and a half years later

Document: Bin Laden Evaded U.S. Forces


Tue Mar 22, 6:24 PM ET

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON - A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a commander for Osama bin Laden during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document.

The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." It is the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden was at Tora Bora and evaded U.S. pursuers.

The detainee is not identified by name or nationality. He is described as being "associated with" al-Qaida and having called for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States.

In an indication that he might be a higher-level operative, the document says he "had bodyguards" and collaborated with regional al-Qaida leadership. "The detainee was one of Osama bin Laden's commanders during the Soviet jihad," it says, referring to the holy war against Soviet occupiers.

The events at Tora Bora were a point of contention during last year's presidential race, and Bush as well as Vice President Dick Cheney asserted that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was there when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked the area in December 2001.

Cheney said last Oct. 26 that Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had "stated repeatedly it was not at all certain that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. He might have been there or in Pakistan or even Kashmir," the Indian-controlled Himalayan region.

Franks, now retired, wrote in an opinion column in The New York Times last Oct. 19, "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001." He added that intelligence assessments of his location varied, but bin Laden was "never within our grasp."

On several occasions in the days following publication of that column, Bush cited it on the campaign trail as evidence that bin Laden could have been in any of several countries in December 2001. "That's what Tommy Franks, who knew what he's talking about, said," Bush said on Oct. 27.

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, lambasted Bush during the campaign for having missed a chance to capture or kill bin Laden at Tora Bora, a mountainous area along the Pakistan border that became al-Qaida's last stand in Afghanistan. U.S. warplanes bombarded the area in December 2001, and Franks had Afghan soldiers lead the ground assault, backed by several thousand U.S. ground troops, including Special Forces, in a cave-to-cave search.

The newly revealed statement is contained in a document the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" against one of 558 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It was provided to the AP this week.

The evidence was summarized last December 14 for a Guantanamo Bay hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an "enemy combatant."

The assertion about his efforts and bin Laden's escape is made as a statement of fact; it does not indicate how the information was obtained.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Board for which the document was prepared, said Tuesday he could not elaborate on the Tora Bora statement, or its sources, because the statement was derived from classified information.

Bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terrorist organization was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, had operated from Afghanistan until the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

He remains at large. For many months, officials have said they believe bin Laden probably is hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, although last week Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to endorse that view, saying bin Laden's whereabouts were unknown.

In mid-December 2001, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, told reporters there had been "indicators" of bin Laden's presence at Tora Bora in early December.

"And now indicators are not there," Stufflebeem said. "So maybe he still is there, maybe he was killed, or maybe he's left."

Among documents stating the U.S. government's evidence against other detainees at Guantanamo Bay is a September 2004 assertion that an unidentified detainee, described as a member of al-Qaida, had traveled from the United States to Afghanistan in November 2001 ? two months after the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The document does not elaborate on the detainee's U.S. connection, but says he arrived in Afghanistan via Bahrain and Iran. He was "present at Tora Bora," crossed the Afghan border into Pakistan in December 2001, and surrendered to Pakistani authorities, the document says.

The detainee also was arrested by Saudi authorities for questioning in the 1996 terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force, the document says.

Posted by Mike at 02:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 16, 2004

Rumsfeld's biggest mistake?

$4 billion dollars can't fix this one.

In light of recent calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, it might be a good time for some prominent Democrats to take a second look at how Rumsfeld distracted Franks with rushed planning for Iraq during the exact four week period when Osama escaped from Tora Bora to Pakistan in late November, early December 2001. Better late than never, right?

You can review the timeline here.

Posted by Mike at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 06, 2004

Can one blogger drive a story?

There are two things blogs can do. Affect a current news story or break an obvious scandal. Not much else. One blog can do very little to affect the susbtantive debate, or get anyone to consider important facts that have been overlooked, major angles that have not been pursued, or actions that political leaders have never fully explained. In effect, we are constrained by the news media, because our main source of input is the news media, and and main source of impact is the same. What's the phrase? Garbage in, garbage out? Seriously though, the news industry makes the editorial decisions. Blogs can help fill in the content. Bring to light new details of a breaking story? Sure. Catch some Washington intent kissing and telling in her blog? Yes. But have any impact on bringing an issue, or policy, or event to public awareness. Not very likely.

I am far from a blog triumphalist. After my futile efforts to get the story out about Bush's distraction of CENTCOM with rushed planning for Iraq at the exact moment Bin Laden was in Tora Bora, I am very skeptical. Everyone who read it thought it was an important story, but I couldn't get the right people to read it. Several of the sites in my blogroll linked to it. Eventually, I came up with a catchy graphic that conveyed the major points. Finally, two weeks before the election, I bought advertising space on several major blogs out of pure desparation. Several other blogs picked up on it. But it was not "news" in the sense that the events were all old. The New York Times can make Al Qaqaa a story. Joe Blogger really can not.
Joe Blogger can only make it a story if the powers that be agree.

Even after one high traffic blog linked to the story, it was a one sentence blurb neither backing it up or tearing it down. The major sites read my story, said they liked it, but didn't think it was something to post on their site. It wasn't news. Al Qaqaa was. Why?
That's a good question. The point is, it is very hard for one blogger to get a story out. Even if it is relevant to a breaking story, or documents some previously unknown scandal or abuse, the "viral effect" where more and more bloggers link to it, is just not an effective way to distribute information. It is a random system, and the odds are against you. You have to get multiple major sites to not just post a link, but drive the story. Just like the New York Times drove the Al Qaqaa story while Bush's distraction of CENTCOM when Bin Laden was at Tora Bora has never been covered, even today. It's all up to the editors of the leading papers and blogs.

In a political context, the parties can break a story any time, too. That's a different subject, though. Good luck getting a campaign to take interest in your story, even if it could effect the election. The bottom line is that bloggers can not drive coverage. They can spin a story, break a new scandal, or organize a protest. But one blogger can not make a diffence, no matter how big the story. If they do, trust me, it has as much to do with luck as anything else.

In part, it is because there are so many raving lunatics out there, people dismiss you off the bat. In part, there are so many people trying to contact anyone who could make a difference that they will simply never hear your message. In part it is because the blogosphere has the same limitations as the New York Times, just different editors making the decisions. There will always be certain number of widely read blogs who can drive a story. If you don't run one of these blogs, or know anyone who does, you are not going to be able to get your story out unless you get lucky. Simple as that. At least the New York Times has op-ed columns, and letters to the editor.

Posted by Mike at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 25, 2004

How Bin Laden Got Away

Mr. President, Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward states that you asked General Franks to start planning for Iraq just two months after 9/11. Your own Vice President told ABC News at the time that he thought Bin Laden was at Tora Bora. Can you explain the timing of this distraction from the hunt for Al Qaeda?

Don't miss Bob Kemper's summary of the distraction for the Atlanta Journal Constitution on 10/27, either.

You can also see my previous posts on this subject, here, here, and here.


Here are some of the references that establish the timeline:

September 12, 2001


Bush at War by Bob Woodward: Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq. Why shouldn't we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? he asked. Rumsfeld was speaking not only for himself when he raised the question. His deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war on terrorism.

Before the attacks, the Pentagon had been working for months on developing a military option for Iraq. Everyone at the table believed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a menace, a leader bent on acquiring and perhaps using weapons of mass destruction. Any serious, full-scale war against terrorism would have to make Iraq a target - eventually. Rumsfeld was raising the possibility that they could take advantage of the opportunity offered by the terrorist attacks to go after Saddam immediately.

Powell, who opposed striking Iraq at this point, countered that they were focusing on al Qaeda because the American people were focused on al Qaeda. "Any action needs public support. It's not just what the international coalition supports; it's what the American people want to support. The American people want us to do something about al Qaeda." (Page 49)

September 13, 2001


Bush at War by Bob Woodward: The Pentagon press briefing that day was conducted by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who had been a senior defense official under Cheney during the first Bush administration. Wolfowitz often voiced the views of an outspoken group of national security conservatives in Washington, many of them veterans of the Reagan and senior Bush administrations. These were men who believed that there was no greater menace in the world than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and they argued that if the president was serious about going after those who harbor terrorists, he had to put Hussein at the top of the list.

Iraq posed nearly as serious a problem for the president and his team as Afghanistan, they held. If Saddam, a wily and unpredictable survivor, decided to launch a terrorist attack or even a limited military strike on U.S. facilities after September 11 and the president had failed to move against him, the recriminations might never end.

Rumsfeld had raised Iraq during the previous day's national security meetings with the president. Now Wolfowitz wanted to issue a public warning to terrorist states. It was another effort to prod hte president to include Iraq in his first round of targets.

"It's not simply a matter of capturing people," he said, "and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism.

"It will be a campaign, not a single action. And we're going to keep after these people and the people who support them until it stops." (Page 60)

Bush at War by Bob Woodward: Earlier in the week, Powell had approached Shelton and rolled his eyes after Rumsfeld had raised Iraq as a potential taget.

"What the hell, what are these guys thinking about?" asked Powell, who had held Shelton's job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. "Can't you get these guys back in the box?"

Shelton could not have agreed more. He had been trying, arguing practicalities and priorities, but Wolfowitz was fiercely determined and committed. (Page 61)

Late September 2001


American Soldier by Tommy Franks: "By the way, General," Rumsfeld had said at the end of one of our video conferences in late September, "don't forget about Iraq."

"I won't, Mr. Secretary," I'd said. "We've got aircrews flying in harm's way over Iraq every day." (Page 268)

October 29, 2001


State Department Bureau of Public Affairs: After a meeting with U.S. Army General Tommy R. Franks in Islamabad, President Musharraf called for a bombing pause during Ramadan. In Washington, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said that the terrorists "are unlikely to take [a] holiday" and observed that there were many historical examples of Muslim countries continuing to wage war during Ramadan. In London, however, British Secretary of Defense Geoff Hoon told reporters that a bombing pause would not be ruled out.

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: When I summarized the tactical picture for Musharraf, he predicted that the Taliban regime "must soon collapse - hopefully before Ramadan."

"I hope so, Mr. President," I said. "The Afghan people have suffered under the Taliban and al Qaeda long enough."

"Do you know where Osama bin Laden is?" he asked.

"No, Sir. Do you?"

Musharraf smiled. "We think he is still in Afghanistan, in the east - Tora Bora. My intelligence officers would know if he had crossed into Pakistan."

"We're going after him," I emphasized. "We won't stop until we get him." (Page 308)

November 14, 2001


BBC from Kabul: The Afghan capital Kabul remains calm, one day after troops of the Northern Alliance arrived to take over control after the withdrawal of the Taleban.

The Northern Alliance's political leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, is expected in the capital during the day.

November 15, 2001


Christian Science Monitor: The hunt for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network is already looking like a game of "show me the money." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said this week that he hoped US dollars would "begin to talk." Part of the problem, however, is knowing whom to trust in an environment where Taliban and Al Qaeda loyalists can lurk over the next mountain pass or in the next mud hut.

"The Arab fighters are withdrawing to mountain redoubts just south of the city of Jalalabad, where they have stocks of supplies that can hold for weeks," says Pir Sayed Ishaq Gailani, an ethnic Pashtun, who warns the US against trusting too many of his own former anti-Soviet fighting colleagues. A former reporter for the Kabul Times, now inside Afghanistan, said yesterday in a phone interview that Taliban and Arab fighters are massing near the Logar River about 35 miles south of Kabul.

November 16, 2001


CNN from Kabul: Eight C-130 aircraft carrying 160 U.S. and British forces have landed at an airfield outside Kabul to secure and inspect it for possible use in aid missions.

Al Qaeda's Great Escape by Philip Smucker: As Kabul fell, Mulholland sent one of his own twenty-two man “A teams” to Bagram, the old Soviet-built airfield an hour’s drive north of the capital.

The Green Beret’s force still spearheaded the U.S. military’s operations, but after the fall of Kabul they had an added mission – the long anticipated manhunt for senior Al Qaeda leaders. Both the CIA and Green Berets were trying desparately to track the mastermind’s movements. “In mid-November we had reports of him going to numerous locations, one being to Tora Bora, south of Jalalabad,” Mulholland told me, running his thick finger along the still disputed “Durand Line,” the Afghan-Pakistan border drawn by the British. (Page 37)

November 17, 2001


TIME Magazine from July 17, 2002: An officer of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), speaking on condition of anonymity, tells TIME that bin Laden was last seen on November 17, departing the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan in anticipation of the imminent collapse of the Taliban regime. The officer says bin Laden headed for the Tora Bora area in a convoy of 25 vehicles that included four trucks carrying his family members and personal belongings.

November 19, 2001


Daily Telegraph: Several hundred of the best Arab fighters in the al-Qa'eda terrorist network have vowed to make a last stand at their Tora Bora mountain redoubt south of Jalalabad.

Two pro-Western regional commanders are arguing over who has the right and the might to attack the Arab base.

Their dispute is the result of a power-sharing deal worked out at the weekend when tribal elders gave the region's senior police post to a mountain warlord Hazret Ali, who has far more military hardware than his rival, Haji Zaman Ghamsharik.

USA Today: Defense Department strategists are building a case for a massive bombing of Iraq as a new phase of President Bush's war against terrorism, congressional and Pentagon sources say. Proponents of attacking Iraq, spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, are now arguing privately that still-elusive evidence linking Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime to the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 is not necessary to trigger a military strike.

November 20, 2001


Denver Post: Northern Alliance soldiers say they are planning to raid a Taliban base in the mountains near here, where they hope to find Osama bin Laden or some of his top men.

"We are preparing our next offensive," said Palawan, a 35-year-old soldier who uses only one name.

He said he's one of 400 troops based at Jalalabad's military headquarters readying an attack on the mountain stronghold of Tora Bora.

November 21, 2001


Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: President George W. Bush clamped his arm on his secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, as a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room was just finishing on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. It was the day before Thanksgiving, just 72 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the eleventh month of Bush's presidency.

"I need to see you," the president said to Rumsfeld. The affectionate gesture sent a message that important presidential business needed to be discussed in the utmost privacy. Bush knew it was dramatic for him to call the secretary of defense aside. The two men went into one of the small cubbyhole offices adjacent to the Situation Room, closed the door and sat down.

"I want you..." the president began, and as is often the case he restarted his sentence. "What kind of a war plan do you have for Iraq? How do you feel about the war plan for Iraq?" (Page 1)

"Let's get started on this," Bush recalled saying. "And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to." He also asked, Could this be done on a basis that would not be terribly noticeable? (Page 2)

When he was back at the Pentagon, two miles from the White House across the Potomac River in Virginia, Rumsfeld immediately had the Joint Staff begin drafting a Top Secret message to General Franks requesting a "commander's estimate," a new take on the status of the Iraq war plan and what Franks thought could be done to improve it. The general would have about a week to make a formal presentation to Rumsfeld. (Page 5)

"Hey," Newbold said in his best take-notice voice, "I've got a real tough problem for you. The secretary's going to ask you to start looking at your Iraq planning in great detail - and give him a new commander's estimate."

"You got to be shitting me," Renuart said. "We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?"

"Well, yeah. It's coming. So stand by."

The current Iraq war plan, Op Plan 1003, was some 200 pages with 20-plus annexes numbering another 600 pages on logistics, intelligence, air, land and sea operations. According to this plan, it would take the United States roughly seven months to move a force of 500,000 to the Middle East before launching military operations. Renuart went to see General Franks, who had received only a vague indication there had been discussion in Washington about the Iraq war plan. Renuart now had more detail.

"Hey, boss," Renuart said, reporting that a formal request of a commander's estimate was coming. "So we'd better get on it."

Franks was incredulous. They were in the midst of one war, Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another, Iraq? "Goddamn," Franks said, "what the fuck are they talking about?" (Page 8)

President Bush: Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terror. There are other terrorists who threaten America and our friends, and there are other nations willing to sponsor them. We will not be secure as a nation until all of these threats are defeated. Across the world and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win.

November 23, 2001


Daily Telegraph: Osama bin Laden helped negotiate a peaceful handover of power in Jalalabad under cover of darkness 10 days ago, according to residents who have worked closely with the terrorist leader in the past.

A convoy of more than 100 lorries and armoured vehicles left that same night for the al-Qa'eda base at Tora Bora in the nearby White Mountains, said two Jalalabad residents....

Babrak gave his account to the Telegraph in an interview at his house. He said that bin Laden had been wearing loose grey clothing covered by a camouflaged jacket and was holding a small "Kalakov" machinegun, a shorter version of a Kalashnikov.

Babrak did not ask for money for his information and he also volunteered to try to videotape bin Laden, who he believes is still hiding in the nearby terrorist base known as Tora Bora....

Commander Ghamsharik said in his interview: "I'm absolutely sure that Osama bin Laden was in Jalalabad and that he dined with Pakistanis from the town of Paracinar."

He added that two important Taliban officials were now acting as a liaison between the Arabs in Tora Bora and the newly-appointed, Western-backed government in Jalalabad.

He said: "I am 70 per cent sure that Osama is still there in Tora Bora, though he could have fled further south."

November 25, 2001


CNN Transcript: Well the "New York Times" has a quote that I think I want you to see. And it says, quote: "We have some people who told us that three or four days ago Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora. I trust them like my mother or father." And that was Hazarat Ali, the law and order minister in Eastern Shura.

Newsweek Magazine: And in his interview with Newsweek, President Bush for the first time declared that "Saddam is evil." In Bush's moral algebra, that would seem to mean that Saddam Hussein is a legitimate, indeed necessary, target, writes Fineman. "I think Saddam is up to no good," said Bush. "I think he's got weapons of mass destruction. And I think he needs to open up his country to let us inspect ... Show the world he's not [evil]. It's up to him to prove he's not. He is the one guy who has used weapons of mass destruction -- not only against his neighbors in Iran, but against people in his own country. He gassed them." Asked if there is a time limit for letting U.N. weapons inspectors back in, Bush replies: "I just told him."

November 26, 2001


Christian Science Monitor: The hunt for Osama bin Laden may be narrowing to a network of caves near the village of Tora Bora, in Afghanistan's eastern White Mountains.

Mr. Bin Laden has been seen in the last four days, spending his days in caves and moving around on horseback by night, according to local intelligence reports.

November 27, 2001


Daily Telegraph from February 23, 2002: Squatting in the dark cave with a glass of green tea in hand, Osama bin Laden must have felt awkward. It was late November, the 11th day of Ramadan.

In a cavern high in the mountain complex, bin Laden delivered a diatribe on "holy war" to his elite al-Qa'eda fighters, telling them that unity and belief in Allah would lead to victory over the Americans.

Even as he spoke, he was planning to abandon them. Part of the audience that day were three of his most loyal Yemeni fighters.

One of them was Abu Baker, a square-faced man with a rough-hewn beard. He recalled his leader's words.

"He said, `hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom'," Baker later told his Afghan captors. "He said, `I'll be visiting you again, very soon'."

Between three and four days later, according to lengthy and detailed accounts gathered by The Telegraph in eastern Afghanistan, the world's most wanted man left through pine forests in the direction of Pakistan.

NBC Nightly News: MIKE TAIBBI reporting: We were searching for caves, as close as we could get to where Osama bin Laden is reportedly hiding in Tora Bora, south of Jalalabad, and we found these. The boat that would take us there was three inner tubes loosely lashed together. We crossed the river and then hiked to a 1,000-year-old complex of more than a dozen caves in the same mountain range as bin Laden's reported underground maze but some 20 miles away. Mahmahoud knows the history of Afghanistan's caves and has heard bin Laden's hideout is vast.

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: That morning, six days after the president's request on the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld flew to see General Franks at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa. After greeting everyone, he kicked Franks's staff as well as his own aides out of the room, even telling his military assistant, Vice Admiral Giambastiani, "Ed, I need you to step outside."

"Pull the Iraq planning out and let's see where we are," Rumsfeld told Franks when they were alone. (Page 36)

"Let's put together a group that can just think outside the box completely," Rumsfeld ordered. "Certainly we have traditional military planning, but let's take away the constraints a little bit and think about what might be a way to solve this problem."

After the meeting, Rumsfeld and Franks appeared before the news media to brief on the ongoing Afghanistan war called Operation Enduring Freedom. Franks, a head taller than Rumsfeld, loomed over him physically. But there was no question who was boss. The war in Afghanistan was essentially won, at least the first phase. Widespread predictions of a Vietnam-style quagmire had been demolished, at least for the time being, and Rumsfeld was in a bouyant mood. (Page 37)

General Franks: The question about Tora Bora. There are two areas that are very interesting to us, one of them for the leadership of the Taliban, and that is out in the vicinity of Kandahar, well reported and true; and the other is in the area between Kabul and Khyber, to include the Jalalabad area and down toward Tora Bora, which you mentioned.

And so these are the two areas that we're paying very, very careful attention to.

Atlanta Journal Constitution from October 27, 2004: Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and a supporter of Bush's re-election, recently acknowledged that "we did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora." But he said U.S. Special Forces also were there "providing tactical leadership and calling in air strikes."

"The senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality," Franks wrote in The New York Times. "Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp."

But in April 2002, U.S. intelligence officials leaked to the media a report concluding that they had "high confidence" that bin Laden had been at Tora Bora. The report called the decision to rely on Afghan troops one of the gravest mistakes in the war against al-Qaida.

Franks also now disputes Kerry's claim that U.S. forces were distracted during the battle by the administration's growing focus on Iraq. But Franks had a very different view at the time, according to "Plan of Attack," a book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who had access to top administration officials.

The book reports that in November 2001, just as the assault on Tora Bora was beginning, Franks got a call from Washington asking him to develop a plan for the invasion of Iraq.

"[Expletive], what the [expletive] are they talking about?" Franks is quoted as saying.

New York Daily News from October 27, 2004: Franks has since written a history of his own, the book "American Soldier." Franks reports that on Nov. 27, 2001, he and Gen. Gene Renuart were working on the air support for the Afghan proxies moving into Tora Bora. He was interrupted by a phone call from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Gen. Franks, the President wants us to look for options for Iraq," Rumsfeld said, by Frank's account. "What is the status of your planning?"

Franks said they had something called OPLAN 1003, but it was "out of date."

"Please dust it off and get back to me next week," Rumsfeld directed.

The book recounts Franks saying to himself, "Son of a bitch. No rest for the weary." He turned to the general with whom he had been planning air support at Tora Bora.

"Gene ... new work to be done," Franks said.

As the plan for Iraq was updated, the plan in Afghanistan unraveled. A well-sourced dispatch in the Christian Science Monitor reported that one of the warlords paid an underling $5,000 to guard the escape routes from Tora Bora. Al Qaeda reportedly topped that and the underling guided the terrorists to safety.

By this account, Bin Laden simply walked out of the supposed encirclement sometime between Nov. 28 and Nov. 30, or between one and three days after the Rumsfeld phone call.

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: On the morning of November 27, 2001, I received an unexpected call from Secretary Rumsfeld. At the time I was working with Gene Renuart and the operations staff on air support for Afghan units pushing into the Spin Mountains around Tora Bora.

"General Franks, the President wants us to look at options for Iraq. What is the status of your planning?"

Throughout the operation in Afghanistan, the situation in Iraq had remained an issue - it was always within my peripheral vision. The pattern of attacks on our aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones had triggered Response Options at varying levels. It was a low-grade war, but a war just the same. Every morning as I jotted my daily notes on a fresh index card, I listed "Air crew shootdown in Iraq" as a likely challenge.

"Mr. Secretary," I said, "we have a plan, of course. OPLAN 1003."

"What's your opinion of it, General?"

"Desert Storm II. It's out of date, under revision because conditions have changed. We have different force levels in the region than we had when the plan was written. And we obviously have learned some valuable lessons about precision weapons and Special Operations from our experience in Afghanistan."

"Okay, Tom," Rumsfeld said. "Please dust it off and get back to me next week."

Son of a bitch, I thought. No rest for the weary.

"Gene," I said. "Grab Jeff Kimmons and come see me. New work to be done." (Page 315)

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: What the SecDef had requested on November 27 was not a new plan. He'd asked me to give him a "Commander's Concept" - the philosophical underpinnings of what might eventually become a plan. It was that concept, which had taken three weeks to complete, that filled the folders. (Page 329)

November 29, 2001


Christian Science Monitor from March 4, 2002: Between two and four days later, somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan.

ABC Primetime Live: Do you believe he's in Tora Bora?

CHENEY: I think he's still in Afghanistan. I think he's probably in that general area.

SAWYER: Why do you think he's still there?

CHENEY: Because I think he was equipped to go to ground there. He's got what he believes to be fairly secure facilities, caves underground. It's an area he's familiar with. He operated there back during the war against the Soviets in the '80s. He's got a large number of fighters with him probably, a fairly secure personal security force that he has some degree of confidence in, and he'll have to he may try to leave, that is, he may depart for other territory, but that's not quite as easy as it would have been a few months ago. Anybody who contemplates providing sanctuary for bin Laden at this point has to keep in mind what happened to the Taliban when they did that.

November 30, 2001


Daily Telegraph: America is planning how best to attack the Tora Bora mountain cave complex where Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'eda leaders are believed to be hiding, it emerged yesterday.

Defence officials have met Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, the leading military commander in eastern Afghanistan, to discuss the assault.

Bin Laden fled to Tora Bora more than two weeks ago with his best fighters and could still be there, Afghan and western sources said.

December 1, 2001


Christian Science Monitor from March 4, 2002: On Dec. 11, in the village of Upper Pachir - located a few miles northeast of the main complex of caves where Al Qaeda fighters were holed up - a Saudi financier and Al Qaeda operative, Abu Jaffar, was interviewed by the Monitor. Fleeing the Tora Bora redoubt, Mr. Jaffar said that bin Laden had left the cave complexes roughly 10 days earlier, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan.

Washington Post from April 17, 2002: The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.

Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. Though there remains a remote chance that he died there, the intelligence community is persuaded that bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.

After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader. Without professing second thoughts about Tora Bora, Franks has changed his approach fundamentally in subsequent battles, using Americans on the ground as first-line combat units.

In the fight for Tora Bora, corrupt local militias did not live up to promises to seal off the mountain redoubt, and some colluded in the escape of fleeing al Qaeda fighters. Franks did not perceive the setbacks soon enough, some officials said, because he ran the war from Tampa with no commander on the scene above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The first Americans did not arrive until three days into the fighting. "No one had the big picture," one defense official said.

Associated Press from March 23, 2005: A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document.

The document, provided in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee ''assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora.'' It is the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden was at Tora Bora and evaded U.S. pursuers.

The detainee is not identified by name or nationality. He is described as being ''associated with'' al-Qaida and having called for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States.

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: Four days later, December 1, a Saturday, Rumsfeld sent through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a Top Secret planning order to Franks asking him to come up with the commander's estimate to build the base of a new Iraq war plan. In two pages the order said Rumsfeld wanted to know how Franks would conduct military operations to remove Saddam from power, eliminate the threat of any possible weapons of mass destruction, and choke off his suspected support of terrorism. This was the formal order for thinking outside the box.

The Pentagon was supposed to give Franks 30 days to come up with his estimate - an overview and a concept for something new, a first rough cut. "He had a month and we took 27 days away," recalled Marine General Pete Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Rumsfeld favorite. Franks was to report in person three days later. (Page 38)

December 3, 2001


Enduring Freedom Operational Update: That's correct. General Franks has articulated he believes that the leadership of al Qaeda may be in the area south of Jalalabad, and that's why and where we've been concentrating our efforts there.

Washington Post from April 17, 2002: The Bush administration has never acknowledged that bin Laden slipped through the cordon ostensibly placed around Tora Bora as U.S. aircraft began bombing on Nov. 30. Until now it was not known publicly whether the al Qaeda leader was present on the battlefield.

But inside the government there is little controversy on the subject. Captured al Qaeda fighters, interviewed separately, gave consistent accounts describing an address by bin Laden around Dec. 3 to mujaheddin, or holy warriors, dug into the warren of caves and tunnels built as a redoubt against Soviet invaders in the 1980s. One official said "we had a good piece of sigint," or signals intelligence, confirming those reports.

December 4, 2001


Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: An impatient Rumsfeld wanted the first formal presentation on the Iraq war plan from Franks three days later on December 4 at the Pentagon. It was to be done in the strictest secrecy. Franks asked who he could bring to their meetings. Rumsfeld said that Major General Gene Renuart, Franks's operations director, could attend and even accompany them to the White House for the NSC meetings with the president. Renuart had commanded a fighter squadron during the Gulf War and flown 34 combat missions himself. Before becoming Franks's J-3, he had spent a year in Saudi Arabia commanding the Southern Watch no-fly zone enforcement, so he had the most immediate on-the-ground knowledge of the region and intelligence on Iraq.

"Look, if Gene is around, you can bring Gene into anything as far as I'm concerned," Rumsfeld told Franks.

So on December 4, Franks and Renaurt came to Rumsfeld's Pentagon office. Franks began by saying that in the short period of time all he had been able to do was tinker with Op Plan 1003. He now had it trimmed down to a force level of 400,000 over six months, having cut 100,000 and one month from the base plan. (Page 40)

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: On the afternoon of December 4, 2001, seven days after that conversation, Gene Renuart and I met in the J-2 conference room in the SCIF and presented the first iteration of my Commander's Concept to Rumsfeld and the JCS Chairman Dick Myers in the Pentagon via secure VTC. (Page 329)

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: The next chart was UNILATER OPTION. "Here we assume minimum staging, basing, and overflight - our only operating bases would be in Kuwait and on carriers in the Gulf. This operation would be absolutely sequential. We would have to introduce our ground forces gradually, because there is simply not enough infrastructure in Kuwait to stage large formations at the same time. This is not an option we would want to execute."

That marked the end of the briefing. "Mr. Secretary, I know you are not fulfilled by what I've given you today. But it is a beginning, and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page on strategic assumptions and support options."

"Well, General, you have a lot of work ahead of you," he said, stacking the pages. "Today is Tuesday. Let's get together again next Wednesday, December 12. I want to hear more details at that time."

The screen went blank. Gene had been taking notes in his oversized journal; the staff called it the "Black Book of Death," because the workload it represented was enough to kill even the hardiest group of staff officers.

"Hey, Boss," Gene said. "Things are looking up. The Secretary juts gave us eight whole days. Last time it was only a week."

"Piece of cake, J-3," I said.

The staff was already working seven sixteen-plus-hour days a week. But I knew that producing this next iteration of the Commander's Concept wouldn't be too demanding - because I already had a model in mind.

For the next several days I spent my time brainstorming; when I wasn't in my office with Gene, I was with our senior Operations staff or with Jeff Kimmons, and the Intel crew in the SCIF. During the hectic twenty-six days we'd just spent planning for Afghanistan, I had developed a planning technique that focused on "Lines of Operation" - the tasks any given mission would call for - and "Slices," the various aspects of the country that would be affected by the lines of operation. (Page 335)

December 5, 2001


Al Qaeda’s Great Escape by Philip Smucker: If the warlords looked unkempt and unprepared as they raced to the front on the first full day of battle, December 5, 2001, the press corps, myself included, was in equal disarray. (Page 90)

Daily Telegraph from December 6, 2001: AFGHAN tanks supported by American bombers opened the long-heralded offensive against Osama bin Laden's suspected mountain-top fortress yesterday.

The earth quaked and the Afghan children cheered. Field Commander Halim Shah said: "The battle for Tora Bora has begun and will continue until we eradicate al-Qa'eda. We have already advanced and taken several caves." America and Britain have said bin Laden could be hiding in the maze of mountain tunnels, although there have been no sightings for a number of days. But it is known that hundreds of his foreign legionnaires, perhaps 2,000, are based in the complex.

December 7, 2001


Al Qaeda's Great Escape by Philip Smucker: Mulholland, ensconced at the Bagram Air Base and in daily contact with General Fahim’s Northern Alliance, was also doing what he could to achieve the proper mass and mix of forces to begin the battle of Tora Bora.

“In the third and fourth weeks of November, we were still fighting some pretty heavy firefights across Afghanistan,” he said. Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual and military stronghold in the south of the country, did not fall until December 7, and the Fifth Group’s few hundred troops were tied up with that battle, with the help and firepower of the Marines. (Page 82)

December 9, 2001


United Press International from November 18, 2002: With fresh evidence that Osama Bin Laden is still alive and kicking and with his friends and protectors about to take over the provincial governments of two of Pakistan's four provinces, as well as a share in the new national coalition that will now run the country (under the watchful eye of President Pervez Musharraf), a key question for the U.S. intelligence community remains unanswered: Why has the CIA ignored for 11 consecutive months the only anti-al Qaida Pakistani tribal leader who had tracked bin Laden's movements ever since his escape from Tora Bora last Dec. 9? In their quest to find bin Laden dead or alive, CIA operatives doled out millions of dollars in cash to buy the loyalty of tribal chieftains whose tribes straddle the unmarked, mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border. There was one glaring omission: a tribal leader who commands the loyalty of 600,000 people who is also a respected, national figure. His adobe abode near Peshawar is Spartan. He is a former Marxist of Cold War vintage and is not interested in money. A good news source of this writer, his information was prescient and invariably accurate. At his request, we agreed not to reveal his name.

In late November 2001, this tribal chief contacted us via a mutual friend. He said his people knew where bin Laden was in the Tora Bora mountain range. He agreed to put some of his tribal scouts and horses at our disposal and on Dec. 11 we set out on horseback for the Tirah Valley, on the southside of Tora Bora, where "Afghan Arab" survivors of U.S. bombing were expected to make their escape. Shortly after we began our journey, a messenger caught up with us and advised us to dismount, as "you will almost certainly be kidnapped for ransom." Wearing national dress, our party, including a prominent Pakistani American and two security guards, detoured around the valley to another pass on the border. Upon our return, we stopped off to see the tribal leader. Bin Laden, he informed us, had indeed come out through the Tirah Valley on horseback two days before we got there, on Dec. 9. He and a party of about 50 had turned their horses over to local tribesmen, and continued in 4x4s and SUVs into Peshawar, 2 hours away.

December 10, 2001


Christian Science Monitor from March 4, 2002: Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, which controls eastern Afghanistan, says he was astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them.

"The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it," he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with a short list of the Al Qaeda fighters who were later taken prisoner. "And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters, had the Americans acted decisively. Al Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet."

The intelligence chief contends that several thousand Pakistani troops who had been placed along the border about Dec. 10 never did their job, nor could they have been expected to, given that the exit routes were not being blocked inside Afghanistan.

December 11, 2001


American Soldier by Tommy Franks: By the night of Tuesday, December 11, we were ready for a walk-through of the next afternoon's VTC with Donald Rumsfeld. Because the iterative evolution of the Commander's Concept was a sensitive and highly classified process, I'd limited staff participation to a handful of senior officers. And Gene had personally supervised a trooper in the Operations shop as he produced the graphics.

I knew there would be adjustments to the Lines and Slices - additions, consolidations, and swap-outs - as we worked through future iterations. As I examined the work my staff had produced under extreme time contraints, though, I believed we had a template that could produce a decisive victory - should the President decide that the time had come to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. (Page 341)

December 12, 2001


Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: This time Franks was given eight days to come back with more, and on December 12 he and Renuart returned to the Pentagon to give Rumsfeld their update. This was called the second iteration of the commander’s estimate, and it was kept as secret as possible, delivering on President Bush’s strong desire to prevent any leaks. (Page 42)

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: And interested he was. Our VTC the following afternoon, scheduled for forty-five minutes, ran twice as long.

"General Franks," Rumsfeld asked when I'd completed the breifing, "what's next?"

Aware that we might move from the conceptual to the practical at any time, I chose my words carefully. "Mr. Secretary," I said, "we want to begin now to improve our force posture in the region." (Page 341)

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: "General," Rumsfeld said, smiling, "this is a good beginning, but I need more detail before I take it to the President. I don't know what he will decide to do, but you need to work more quickly than the military usually works."

I glanced at Gene again. We were iterating this exercise in one-week bites; it was hard to imaging moving any faster. I explained that I was leaving in a week to attend Hamid Karzai's inauguration in Kabul. "Sir, I'd like some time to refine our assumptions and analyze the elements we've identified as necessary to execute this concept. I recommend we begin the inter-agency work that will be necessary with State and the intelligence community."

"Let's talk next week," Rumsfeld had said. "I want this to be worked by a very small group. THere are still too many leakers and this must not be leaked. Thanks, everyone." The screen went blank. (Page 344)

December 14, 2001


Daily Telegraph: According to senior al-Qa'eda sources, who did not know they were being debriefed, Osama bin Laden is on the run again.

His absence, according to the sources, led to a lapse in morale that improved only when he sent his son, Sallah Uddin, to rally the forces.

It seems incredible that bin Laden could have moved out of the showdown in Tora Bora even as the US military was narrowing its focus on the bolthole. But according to Abu Jaffar, the al-Qa'eda financier, and senior Afghan sources in Jalalabad, bin Laden has moved at will around eastern Afghanistan during the month of Ramadan.

"He left Tora Bora on two occasions and on the last time, he never returned," he said in an interview on Wednesday, before himself fleeing the region. "We believe he arrived in Pakistan."

"He is like a butterfly resting on a flower and America is like a child chasing it with a cricket bat," said Shams Khan, an Afghan commander assigned to try to capture Tora Bora.

General Franks: Yeah. Yeah, Osama bin Laden -- what -- my point was that we receive a great many reports. I think that it's well reported by media in the area of Tora Bora that one will hear suggestions that bin Laden may remain in Afghanistan, possibly in the Tora Bora area.

Also widely reported is the possibility that -- or speculation that bin Laden may have in fact moved to Pakistan. That's what I was referring to. And at this point we simply don't know where he is.

Q Sir, if I could simply follow up here, are you saying that the evidence that Osama bin Laden is in the Tora Bora area is based on either sightings or communication from bin Laden? Are you saying it's based on the lack of evidence that his anywhere else? And are you suggesting the possibility that he has left the country -- left the country?

GEN. FRANKS: Well, I wouldn't suggest the probability, I guess I'd say, that he has left the country. Certainly it's a possibility that bin Laden has left the country. It's -- I think we've said all along that there are many, many, many crossing points. And it is true that our efforts to get at the al Qaeda network there and this group of al Qaeda people in the vicinity of Tora Bora are being much assisted by the Pakistanis.

The -- it -- what would cause one to say either he is in the Tora Bora area, vicinity of Jalalabad, or he has left? And obviously we use all sorts of technical means to gain insights into where he may be. We also listen to what these opposition leaders on the ground have to say, because they each have their own intelligence capability. And so when one looks at all these sources, then what happens is, you see all sorts of conflicting information, and I think that's why we always say you just don't know what you don't know. And so it's probably not a good idea to say with some certainty where he is. But we know where our current fight is, and that's in the Tora Bora area.

Q General Franks, Bob Franken at the Pentagon, from CNN. Operating on the assumption, your hope that he in fact is in the Tora Bora area and that -- perhaps may be captured, do you have a plan in place and can you share the plan with us, to some degree, what you would do if in fact you captured him, how you would remove him, what you would do with him?

GEN. FRANKS: Yes, we certainly do have a plan in place for either the capture of bin Laden or the capture of any of the other people which you have seen on our list of what we call the top 20 or the top 40 al Qaeda and Taliban leadership personalities.

December 17, 2001


Daily Telegraph: OSAMA BIN LADEN was believed last night to have fled the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan as anti-Taliban forces expressed confidence that they were on the verge of capturing the mountain range and its entrenched caves.

Standing at the foot of the mountains, Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, eastern Afghanistan's most senior military official, said: "This is the last day for al Qa'eda in Afghanistan."

Christian Science Monitor: The site of the world's biggest stakeout certainly has all the appearances of a siege. Heavily armed Afghans race up mountain valleys with anti-aircraft guns in tow.

A US Special Forces team, sometimes hiding behind tinted pickup truck windows, directs the operations of the Afghan fighters and target US bombing runs. Together, they have hammered Al Qaeda forces and cleared two major mountain valleys near the Tora Bora cave complex.

But yesterday, after tribal fighters said they captured the last of the Al Qaeda positions, killing more than 200 fighters and capturing 25, there was still no sign of the world's most wanted terrorist - Osama bin Laden. And there were far fewer fighters both captured and killed than were originally thought present.

December 19, 2001


Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: Franks got only another week before Rumsfeld summoned him back to the Pentagon on December 19 for the third iteration. Once again Rumsfeld indicated he was not satisfied – “not fulfilled,” as he occasionally termed his sense of dissatisfaction.

Later Rumsfeld recalled during an interview in his Pentagon office, “I tend to ask a lot of questions of the people I work with and I tend to give very few orders. This place is so big and so complicated and there’s so much that I don’t know, that I probe and probe and probe and push and ask, Well why wasn’t this done or shouldn’t this be done, but it’s generally with a question mark at the end.”

Rumsfeld, certainly had to be aware that when the secretary of defense asks, “Why wasn’t this done?” or “Shouldn’t this be done?” or shows even the slightest discontent, it has the force of an order, even if concluded with a sincere question mark. (Page 43)

American Soldier by Tommy Franks: On the morning of Wednesday, December 19, I spoke briefly to Secretary Rumsfeld just before a scheduled VTC in which I would give President Bush a situation report on Afghanistan.

"We've killed a lot of Taliban and al Qaeda, Mr. Secretary," I told him. "The terrorists are literally heading for the hills, toward their traditional refuges in the Spin Mountains. And we've received intelligence reporting that hundreds of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorists were killed during the Northern Alliance November offensives."

"President Karimov will be please, General," Rumsfeld said. "Are you making progress on Iraq?"

I wanted to be well prepared for the next iteration, and I knew Gene and JEff Kimmons could use the time I'd be spending inthe AOR to work on the matrix. "I'll have something to show you when I get back on December 27, Mr. Secretary."

"The President will want to see the concept soon, General," Rumsfeld said. (Page 345)

December 22, 2001


American Soldier by Tommy Franks: Combat operations had gone remarkably well. But I knew the war was not over. Hazrat Ali reported that a large group of Arabs had taken refuge in the redoubt of caves and tunnels southwest of the Kyber Pass. And Ali's Afghan troops had encountered fierce resistance from heavily armed fighters dug into concentric defensive rings. Tora Bora would be a "gunfight," and it would happen soon - before any al Qaeda leaders who might be holed up there could escape. (Page 323)

December 27, 2001


American Soldier by Tommy Franks: On Thursday, December 27, we'd been airborne for about an hour, homeward bound after an overnight in Sicily, when I got down to work in the plane's small conference room. Cathy was resting, trying to catch up on lost sleep from the hectic leapfrog schedule around the AOR. In the past five days, we had visited Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, seven Coalition bases, and five U.S. Navy ships, spending Christmas with the sailors on two carriers in the northern Arabian Sea. We'd been on C-17s, C-130s, three kinds of helicopters, and a twin-turboprop Carrier Onboard Delivery plane (COD), which had given Cathy the thrill of her first flight-deck tailhook landing and catapult-launch takeoff.

Despite the pace of the trip, I was glad that Cathy and I had been able to spend Christmas together because I knew I wouldn't have much time at home in the coming weeks. With stability operations in Afghanistan moving ahead well, I would have to turn my attention to the task Secretary Rumsfeld had given me during the Thanksgiving holidays: bringing our Iraq planning up to date.

"Your homework, General," said Van Mauney, laying a stack of orange-bordered Top Secret file folders on the table before me.

The folders contained the latest "iteration" in the painstaking revision process that began in late November. In the four weeks since then, I had briefed Donald Rumsfeld several times, in person and via video conference. Hundreds of hours of work had gone into the effort. But as I opened the top folder, I knew we were just beginning a long, deliberate process. (Page 329)

February 19, 2002


Intelligence Matters by Bob Graham: At that point, General Franks asked for an additional word with me in his office. When I walked in, he closed the door. Looking troubled, he said, "Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq," he continued. "The Predators are being relocated. What we are doing is a manhunt. We have wrapped ourselves too much in trailing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. We're better at being a meat ax than finding a needle in a haystack. That's not our mission, and that's not what we are trained or prepared to do."

It took me a while to digest what he had told me. General Franks's mission in Afghanistan - which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out - was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt. What's more, the most important tools for a manhunt, the Predators, had been redeployed to Iraq at the moment they were most needed in Afghanistan.

I was stunned. This was the first time I had been informed that the decision to go to war with Iraq had not only been made but was being implemented, to the substantial disadvantage of the war in Afghanistan. (Page 125)

Intelligence Matters by Bob Graham: As I was driving home from CENTCOM, I recalled a lesson from ancient history, when the tragic blunders of Athens in the Peloponesian War ultimately led to its destruction. Upon looking it up again, I was struck by how trenchant the analogy was: In 413 BC, Athens, in the midst of a war with Sparta, decided to attempt to expand its empire by taking over Sicily. The campaign was disastrous. It led to the destruction of the Athenian navy and it weakened Athens to the point that Sparta was able to defeat it, effectively ending the Athenian empire and the classical age. As General Franks explained to me how America was shifting its efforts from Afghanistan to Iraq, I understood how Pericles must have felt when he said, "I am more afraid of our own mistakes than of our enemy's designs." (Page 127)

March 13, 2002


President Bush: And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.

October 13, 2004


President Bush: Gosh, I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. That's kind of one of those exaggerations.

November 2, 2004


GeorgeWBush.com: Suggested reading list

Thank You, President Bush
by Aman Verjee and Rod D. Martin

A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush
by Ronald Kessler

Misunderestimated
by Bill Sammon

The New War: The Web of Crime That Threatens America's Security
by John Kerry

Plan of Attack
by Bob Woodward

Ten Minutes from Normal
by Karen Hughes

Letters to My Daughters
by Mary Matalin





















UPDATED 11/1: Slowly, the story is getting out. Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times, who was at the scene near Tora Bora, has started to realize the connection to Plan of Attack. Michael Daly of the New York Daily News brings Frank's own book, American Soldier into the mix. Matthew Clark of the Christian Science Monitor is asking the right questions. Now he just needs a copy of Plan of Attack. Should have checked the Bush campaign's Suggested Reading List, I guess. Yup, there it is, Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward. Al Qaeda expert Peter Bergen, and Josh Marshall both look to be on the case. Paul Krugman has hinted at it now, too. Josh is also tying in an explosive new article from Russ Baker. Josh has also linked to my timeline now. Bob Kemper wrote a perfect summary of Bush's distraction of General Franks on Wednesday, and I missed it until now. If ever an article was worth the Atlanta Journal Constitution free registration, this is it. I've also pasted the relevant part below for those who refuse to register for news. Buzzflash is linking here now, too.

Two months after 9/11, late November 2001, Bush distracted our top military commanders from the hunt for Bin Laden with rushed plans for a new war in Iraq. This shifted their focus at a critical moment, when we had Osama cornered at Tora Bora. The facts now show that it helped Bin Laden escape. The details are all public information, but the story never got out. Until now.

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Data show slips in bin Laden hunt


By BOB KEMPER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/27/04

WASHINGTON ? The battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, initiated two years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Osama bin Laden, is still raging this week on the presidential campaign trail.

Sen. John Kerry has accused President Bush of inept leadership for allowing bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora in December 2001.

Bush shot back Wednesday that bin Laden may not even have been at Tora Bora. He said Kerry's "wild claim" is "part of a pattern of saying almost anything to get elected."

But unlike the partisan feud over the 380 tons of explosives missing in Iraq, about which facts are still being learned, the story of Tora Bora has already been written in official after-action reports and intelligence documents.

Kerry contends bin Laden was among al-Qaida leaders holed up in the caves of Tora Bora in December 2001. Bush and Cheney now claim that the intelligence on bin Laden's location was more ambiguous.

But at the time of the battle, Bush and Cheney both said bin Laden was in Tora Bora and dismissed reports he might have been in Kashmir or Pakistan.

"He was equipped to go to ground there," Cheney told ABC News in late November 2001. "He's got what he believes to be fairly secure facilities, caves underground. It's an area he's familiar with."

Kerry contends the administration and its commanders erred in sending Afghan troops after bin Laden instead of using more extensively trained and reliable U.S. troops. The Afghans failed to secure critical areas of the mountains and may have aided bin Laden's escape, U.S. officials said at the time.

Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and a supporter of Bush's re-election, recently acknowledged that "we did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora." But he said U.S. Special Forces also were there "providing tactical leadership and calling in air strikes."

"The senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality," Franks wrote in The New York Times. "Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp."

But in April 2002, U.S. intelligence officials leaked to the media a report concluding that they had "high confidence" that bin Laden had been at Tora Bora. The report called the decision to rely on Afghan troops one of the gravest mistakes in the war against al-Qaida.

Franks also now disputes Kerry's claim that U.S. forces were distracted during the battle by the administration's growing focus on Iraq. But Franks had a very different view at the time, according to "Plan of Attack," a book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, who had access to top administration officials.

The book reports that in November 2001, just as the assault on Tora Bora was beginning, Franks got a call from Washington asking him to develop a plan for the invasion of Iraq.

"[Expletive], what the [expletive] are they talking about?" Franks is quoted as saying.

Posted by Mike at 01:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (7)

October 13, 2004

Bush distracted Franks with Iraq two months after 9/11

I still don't understand why this story doesn't get more coverage.

In late November 2001, Bin Laden fled to Tora Bora as the Taliban regime collapsed around him. Kabul had fallen to the Northern Alliance and Kandahar was under seige. November 16th, British and US forces landed at Bagram Airbase north of Kabul - less than one hundred miles from Tora Bora - and met no resistance. By November 18th, Afghan warlords were preparing for a showdown with over 1,000 Al Qaeda fighters at Tora Bora. To most Americans watching at home, it seemed for the first time that we might really get Osama.

Yet on November 21st, according to Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack, President Bush asked Don Rumsfeld to have General Franks start working on war plans for a new enemy - Iraq. Rumsfeld immediately sent orders to Franks and told him to get to work planning for Iraq - despite the fact that as CENTCOM commander, Franks' reponsibilities include both Afghanistan and Iraq. Frank's assistant couldn't believe it. He said, "You got to be shitting me. We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?" When Franks received the news, he asked, "Goddamn, what the fuck are they talking about?" The same day, Bush gave a speech at Fort Campbell. He said that Afghanistan was "just the beginning" of the war on terror.

On November 25th, the New York Times published a report that Bin Laden had been spotted at Tora Bora. The same day, in an interview with Newsweek President Bush declared, "I think Saddam is up to no good." On November 26th, Bin Laden addressed hundreds of his fighters at the Tora Bora complex. The same day, Christian Science Monitor published an article which claimed the search for Bin Laden had started to focus on the mountains of Tora Bora. The Bush administration must have known that the hunt for Bin Laden had reached a critical phase. Just two months earlier, Bush had said that Osama Bin Laden was "Wanted, Dead or Alive." Still, they focused on Iraq.

According to Bob Woodward's book, Rumsfeld flew to CENTCOM headquarters on November 27th for a progress report from Franks on the war plans for Iraq, not Afghanistan. Rumsfeld asked Franks to put a team together that could think outside the box about this problem - Iraq. That same day, NBC News reported that Bin Laden was believed to be hiding in Tora Bora. On November 29th, Dick Cheney told ABC's Primetime Live that he thought Osama might be in Tora Bora. "I think he was equipped to go to ground there," Mr. Cheney said. "He's got what he believes to be a fairly secure facility. He's got caves underground; it's an area he's familiar with."

After the fact, many sources agree that by the first day of December 2001, Bin Laden had left Tora Bora. He escaped the world's most powerful military machine by simply walking through the mountains across the border into Pakistan. That same day, December 1st, Rumsfeld issued more orders for Franks to think outside the box about Iraq. The Pentagon even ordered Franks to report on the war plans for Iraq in person at the Pentagon three days later, December 4th. All of this is detailed in Plan of Attack.

By December 10th, Pakistani troops arrived to help secure the Afghan-Pakistani border. Afghan commanders later complained that the US had not paid enough attention to securing the border until it was too late. Now, thanks to Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack - now in paperback - we know why they were not paying more attention. They were busy rushing to plan for war in Iraq! The facts are widely acknowledged. Plan of Attack is even on the Bush campaign's suggested reading list. What has not been acknowledged is that Bush's focus on Iraq in November 2001 distracted CENTCOM at a critical moment, and actually helped Bin Laden escape.

Posted by Mike at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 24, 2004

Anatomy of a Debacle

Bush's misguided focus on Iraq in November 2001 helped Bin Laden get away.

If you can explain to me why this catastrophic failure has not been a campaign issue, please feel free to contact me. Otherwise, please help spread the word.

November 17, 2001

Time Magazine:


An officer of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), speaking on condition of anonymity, tells TIME that bin Laden was last seen on November 17, departing the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan in anticipation of the imminent collapse of the Taliban regime. The officer says bin Laden headed for the Tora Bora area in a convoy of 25 vehicles that included four trucks carrying his family members and personal belongings.

November 18, 2001

The Daily Telegraph:


According to Afghan military commanders, some of whom were already on Western payrolls when bin Laden was leaving, the al-Qa'eda base held between 1,500 and 1,600 of the best Arab and Chechen fighters in the al-Qa'eda network.

Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, one of the warlords who attacked Tora Bora, said on Nov 18 - 10 days before bin Laden's departure - that the fight would be a tough one.

November 19, 2001

USA Today:


WASHINGTON ? Defense Department strategists are building a case for a massive bombing of Iraq as a new phase of President Bush's war against terrorism, congressional and Pentagon sources say. Proponents of attacking Iraq, spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, are now arguing privately that still-elusive evidence linking Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime to the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 is not necessary to trigger a military strike.

November 21, 2001

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:


President George W. Bush clamped his arm on his secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, as a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room was just finishing on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. It was the day before Thanksgiving, just 72 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the eleventh month of Bush's presidency.

"I need to see you," the president said to Rumsfeld. The affectionate gesture sent a message that important presidential business needed to be discussed in the utmost privacy. Bush knew it was dramatic for him to call the secretary of defense aside. The two men went into one of the small cubbyhole offices adjacent to the Situation Room, closed the door and sat down.

"I want you..." the president began, and as is often the case he restarted his sentence. "What kind of a war plan do you have for Iraq? How do you feel about the war plan for Iraq?" (Page 1)

"Let's get started on this," Bush recalled saying. "And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to." He also asked, Could this be done on a basis that would not be terribly noticeable? (Page 2)

When he was back at the Pentagon, two miles from the White House across the Potomac River in Virginia, Rumsfeld immediately had the Joint Staff begin drafting a Top Secret message to General Franks requesting a "commander's estimate," a new take on the status of the Iraq war plan and what Franks thought could be done to improve it. The general would have about a week to make a formal presentation to Rumsfeld. (Page 5)

"Hey," Newbold said in his best take-notice voice, "I've got a real tough problem for you. The secretary's going to ask you to start looking at your Iraq planning in great detail - and give him a new commander's estimate."

"You got to be shitting me," Renuart said. "We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?"

"Well, yeah. It's coming. So stand by."

The current Iraq war plan, Op Plan 1003, was some 200 pages with 20-plus annexes numbering another 600 pages on logistics, intelligence, air, land and sea operations. According to this plan, it would take the United States roughly seven months to move a force of 500,000 to the Middle East before launching military operations. Renuart went to see General Franks, who had received only a vague indication there had been discussion in Washington about the Iraq war plan. Renuart now had more detail.

"Hey, boss," Renuart said, reporting that a formal request of a commander's estimate was coming. "So we'd better get on it."

Franks was incredulous. They were in the midst of one war, Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another, Iraq? "Goddamn," Franks said, "what the fuck are they talking about?" (Page 8)

Remarks by the President to Troops and Families at Fort Campbell


Afghanistan is just the beginning on the war against terror. There are other terrorists who threaten America and our friends, and there are other nations willing to sponsor them. We will not be secure as a nation until all of these threats are defeated. Across the world and across the years, we will fight these evil ones, and we will win.

November 25, 2001

New York Times:


On November 25th, the New York Times printed the following text: "... Law and Order Minister for Eastern Shura, Afghanistan, says Osama bin Laden was seen this week at the large and well-fortified encampment in Tora Bora; aides to [the minister] say as many as 2,000 'Afghan Arabs,' or foreign fighters, are at Tora Bora, armed with rifles, machine guns and surface-to-surface missiles."

Newsweek:


And in his interview with Newsweek, President Bush for the first time declared that "Saddam is evil." In Bush's moral algebra, that would seem to mean that Saddam Hussein is a legitimate, indeed necessary, target, writes Fineman. "I think Saddam is up to no good," said Bush. "I think he's got weapons of mass destruction. And I think he needs to open up his country to let us inspect ... Show the world he's not [evil]. It's up to him to prove he's not. He is the one guy who has used weapons of mass destruction -- not only against his neighbors in Iran, but against people in his own country. He gassed them." Asked if there is a time limit for letting U.N. weapons inspectors back in, Bush replies: "I just told him."

November 26, 2001

Christian Science Monitor:


The hunt for Osama bin Laden may be narrowing to a network of caves near the village of Tora Bora, in Afghanistan's eastern White Mountains.

Mr. Bin Laden has been seen in the last four days, spending his days in caves and moving around on horseback by night, according to local intelligence reports.

The Daily Telegraph:


Squatting in the dark cave with a glass of green tea in hand, Osama bin Laden must have felt awkward. It was late November, the 11th day of Ramadan.

In a cavern high in the mountain complex, bin Laden delivered a diatribe on "holy war" to his elite al-Qa'eda fighters, telling them that unity and belief in Allah would lead to victory over the Americans.

Even as he spoke, he was planning to abandon them. Part of the audience that day were three of his most loyal Yemeni fighters.

One of them was Abu Baker, a square-faced man with a rough-hewn beard. He recalled his leader's words.

"He said, `hold your positions firm and be ready for martyrdom'," Baker later told his Afghan captors. "He said, `I'll be visiting you again, very soon'."

Between three and four days later, according to lengthy and detailed accounts gathered by The Telegraph in eastern Afghanistan, the world's most wanted man left through pine forests in the direction of Pakistan.

November 27, 2001

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:


That morning, six days after the president's request on the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld flew to see General Franks at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa. After greeting everyone, he kicked Franks's staff as well as his own aides out of the room, even telling his military assistant, Vice Admiral Giambastiani, "Ed, I need you to step outside."

"Pull the Iraq planning out and let's see where we are," Rumsfeld told Franks when they were alone. (Page 36)

"Let's put together a group that can just think outside the box completely," Rumsfeld ordered. "Certainly we have traditional military planning, but let's take away the constraints a little bit and think about what might be a way to solve this problem."

After the meeting, Rumsfeld and Franks appeared before the news media to brief on the ongoing Afghanistan war called Operation Enduring Freedom. Franks, a head taller than Rumsfeld, loomed over him physically. But there was no question who was boss. The war in Afghanistan was essentially won, at least the first phase. Widespread predictions of a Vietnam-style quagmire had been demolished, at least for the time being, and Rumsfeld was in a bouyant mood. (Page 37)

Remarks of General Tommy Franks:


I'm sorry, I did forget that. The question about Tora Bora. There are two areas that are very interesting to us, one of them for the leadership of the Taliban, and that is out in the vicinity of Kandahar, well reported and true; and the other is in the area between Kabul and Khyber, to include the Jalalabad area and down toward Tora Bora, which you mentioned.

And so these are the two areas that we're paying very, very careful attention to.

November, 28, 2001

Christian Science Monitor:


Between two and four days later, somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan.

November 29, 2001

ABC's Primetime Live:


On November 29th, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC's "Primetime Live" that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. "I think he was equipped to go to ground there," Mr. Cheney said. "He's got what he believes to be a fairly secure facility. He's got caves underground; it's an area he's familiar with."

December 1, 2001

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:


Four days later, December 1, a Saturday, Rumsfeld sent through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a Top Secret planning order to Franks asking him to come up with the commander's estimate to build the base of a new Iraq war plan. In two pages the order said Rumsfeld wanted to know how Franks would conduct military operations to remove Saddam from power, eliminate the threat of any possible weapons of mass destruction, and choke off his suspected support of terrorism. This was the formal order for thinking outside the box.

The Pentagon was supposed to give Franks 30 days to come up with his estimate - an overview and a concept for something new, a first rough cut. "He had a month and we took 27 days away," recalled Marine General Pete Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Rumsfeld favorite. Franks was to report in person three days later. (Page 38)

Christian Science Monitor:


On Dec. 11, in the village of Upper Pachir - located a few miles northeast of the main complex of caves where Al Qaeda fighters were holed up - a Saudi financier and Al Qaeda operative, Abu Jaffar, was interviewed by the Monitor. Fleeing the Tora Bora redoubt, Mr. Jaffar said that bin Laden had left the cave complexes roughly 10 days earlier, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan.

December 4, 2001

Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:


An impatient Rumsfeld wanted the first formal presentation on the Iraq war plan from Franks three days later on December 4 at the Pentagon. It was to be done in the strictest secrecy. Franks asked who he could bring to their meetings. Rumsfeld said that Major General Gene Renuart, Franks's operations director, could attend and even accompany them to the White House for the NSC meetings with the president. Renuart had commanded a fighter squadron during the Gulf War and flown 34 combat missions himself. Before becoming Franks's J-3, he had spent a year in Saudi Arabia commanding the Southern Watch no-fly zone enforcement, so he had the most immediate on-the-ground knowledge of the region and intelligence on Iraq.

"Look, if Gene is around, you can bring Gene into anything as far as I'm concerned," Rumsfeld told Franks.

So on December 4, Franks and Renaurt came to Rumsfeld's Pentagon office. Franks began by saying that in the short period of time all he had been able to do was tinker with Op Plan 1003. He now had it trimmed down to a force level of 400,000 over six months, having cut 100,000 and one month from the base plan. (Page 40)

December 10, 2001

Christian Science Monitor:


Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, which controls eastern Afghanistan, says he was astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them.

"The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it," he said, leaning back in his swivel chair with a short list of the Al Qaeda fighters who were later taken prisoner. "And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters, had the Americans acted decisively. Al Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet."

The intelligence chief contends that several thousand Pakistani troops who had been placed along the border about Dec. 10 never did their job, nor could they have been expected to, given that the exit routes were not being blocked inside Afghanistan.

Posted by Mike at 06:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

July 09, 2004

How Bush let bin Laden escape

In late November 2001, the United States had a unique opportunity to get rid of Osama bin Laden. The tide had turned in the war in Afghanistan, and the remnants of the Taliban were largely cornered in Tora Bora. Osama bin Laden was headed there, too. Unfortunately, through a combination of mistakes and misunderstandings on the part of the Bush administration, CENTCOM was distracted, and bin Laden got away. Clearly, Bush did not intend to distract CENTCOM (Central Command for the Middle East, South-Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa). It is even possible Rumsfeld did not understand the effect, on CENTCOM's ability to execute the war in Afghanistan, when he made an urgent request for an updated Iraq war plan. It is likely General Tommy Franks - not used to failure - did his best to fulfill both missions with the same staff. He could not ignore an order from his superior, the secretary of defense. Some of the details are still unclear, classified, or unknown. Yet, what is clear is that CENTCOM was preoccupied with Iraq, at exactly the moment when they had a real chance to kill or capture bin Laden.

In the first 50 pages of his new book, Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward describes in detail three key events, all of which happened in the same timeframe. On an unspecified date in late November, the US received intelligence that Pakistani scientists were selling nuclear secrets, and British intelligence had been able to arrange a buy. On November 21st, President Bush asked Donald Rumsfeld to get General Franks working on a plan to invade Iraq. Within hours, Rumsfeld ordered General Franks to prepare a "commander's estimate" for Iraq and formally present it to him six days later, on November 27th. What is not in the book, is that late November is the same time that bin Laden was able to escape from Tora Bora.

When the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, contacted Washington with the information that Pakistani scientists were selling the designs for nuclear weapons, a second report was also received, which seemed to show bin Laden already had nuclear materials and plans for a weapon. As Woodward describes:


It was an electric moment when all this came together for the President.

"George," Bush told Tenet, "I want you to go over there and get what you need." Get on your plane and fly to Pakistan immediately. Pull out all the stops.

Within hours Tenet was halfway around the world. A large, hulking man with a charged, raspy, infectious voice, he tends to take over whatever space he is occupying. He went to see the head of the Pakistani intelligence service with the intent of raising holy hell. After the 16-hour flight, Tenet was surging. Naturally disinclined to underestimated, he cajoled and threatened.

"I can't tell my president," Tenet told the Pakistani chief, "that there isn't a nuclear weapon in the United States! If there is, and it goes off, it will be your fault!" (p. 46)

What is not clear from the book is whether this intelligence from MI6 was received before or after Bush's secretive conversation with Rumsfeld about planning for war in Iraq. However, the following article from Dawn, a major English-language newspaper in Pakistan, provides one heck of a clue:


Interrogation of Nuclear scientist at US embassy condemned

Dawn, Karachi, Nov. 25, 2001.
By Our Staff Reporter

LAHORE, NOV. 24: The Pak-Afghan Defence Council?s Punjab chapter on Saturday condemned the arrest of Pakistan?s nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and his colleagues, and their interrogation at, what it said, the American embassy.

Adopting a resolution at a meeting chaired by its president Hafiz Muhammad Idrees of the Jammat-i-Islami, the council termed the scientist as a national hero who played a key role in making Pakistan a nuclear power while ignoring all international temptations. The way the rulers had recognized his services was condemnable, it said....

Meanwhile Jammat-i-Islamic acting amir Syed Munawwar Hasan said the Pakistani people?s support to Afghanistan would continue. He alleged that America and Pakistan government were responsible for the bloodshed in Afghanistan and stressed the need for protecting the Kashmir cause and Pakistan?s nuclear assets under the circumstances.

Speaking at the party?s central executive council meeting he said American attack of Afghanistan was a part of the international conspiracy being hatched for the past quite some time against Islam and ummat.

Mr. Hasan said the ties between Paksitan and Afghanistan would not be over. He said after destroying Afghanistan the West was now after Kashmir and Pakistan?s nuclear installations.

He said the Pak-Afghan Defence Council would continue its movement against America during Ramazan and it would announce its programme for the post-Eidul Fitr days shortly.

Now, if this meeting was held on the 24th, it stands to reason the interrogation took place at least the day before, if not earlier. It also seems reasonable to assume there would be at least some delay between an order going out from the US to locate and interrogate these scientists, and their being located and hauled in. Factor in the time difference between Pakistan and the US, and it is hard to see how the intelligence from MI6 could have been received much later than November 21st, the day Bush asked Rumsfeld to look into war on Iraq:


President George W. Bush clamped his arm on his secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, as a National Security Council meeting in the White House Situation Room was just finishing on Wednesday, November 21, 2001. It was the day before Thanksgiving, just 72 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the eleventh month of Bush's presidency.

"I need to see you," the president said to Rumsfeld. The affectionate gesture sent a message that important presidential business needed to be discussed in the utmost privacy. Bush knew it was dramatic for him to call the secretary of defense aside. The two men went into one of the small cubbyhole offices adjacent to the Situation Room, closed the door and sat down.

"I want you..." the president began, and as is often the case he restarted his sentence. "What kind of a war plan do you have for Iraq? How do you feel about the war plan for Iraq?" (p. 1)

..."Let's get started on this," Bush recalled saying. "And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to." He also asked, Could this be done on a basis that would not be terribly noticeable? (p. 2)

Putting two and two together, Newsweek states the obvious conclusion:


'I Haven't Suffered Doubt'

In the months after 9/11, Woodward writes, Bush was obsessed with the threat of another attack. The president's fears peaked in late November 2001, when British intelligence ran a sting operation on a Pakistani atomic expert who was ready and willing to sell plans for a nuclear weapon or a "dirty bomb" to Islamic extremists. Although Woodward's just-the-facts narrative doesn't put it this way, the implication is that Bush couldn't very well attack Pakistan, America's new ally in the war on terror. But Bush could go after Saddam, who (Bush believed) had weapons of mass destruction and a willingness to share them or use them. Bush did not want to play "small ball," he told his speechwriter Michael Gerson. He wanted to strike pre-emptively. Hence Bush's "Axis of Evil" State of the Union Message in January 2002. (The inclusion of North Korea and Iran was mostly cover for Bush's secret war planning, writes Woodward.)

Whether or not you believe that Bush intended to blame Iraq for a nuclear attack by Al Qaeda with Pakistani nukes, one thing is clear. Bush's request to Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld's orders to the Pentagon drew attention away from Afghanistan at exactly the moment when we had a chance to corner bin Laden - before he slipped over the border to Pakistan. Again, from Woodward's book:


When he was back at the Pentagon, two miles from the White House across the Potomac River in Virginia, Rumsfeld immediately had the Joint Staff begin drafting a Top Secret message to General Franks requesting a "commander's estimate," a new take on the status of the Iraq war plan and what Franks thought could be done to improve it. The general would have about a week to make a formal presentation to Rumsfeld.... (p. 5)

"Hey," Newbold said in his best take-notice voice, "I've got a real tough problem for you. The secretary's going to ask you to start looking at your Iraq planning in great detail - and give him a new commander's estimate."

"You got to be shitting me," Renuart said. "We're only kind of busy on some other things right now. Are you sure?"

"Well, yeah. It's coming. So stand by."

..."Hey, boss," Renuart said, reporting that a formal request of a commander's estimate was coming. "So we'd better get on it."

Franks was incredulous. They were in the midst of one war, Afghanistan, and now they wanted detailed planning for another, Iraq? "Goddamn," Franks said, "what the fuck are they talking about?" (p. 8)

An order was an order, so Franks started secretly working on plans for Iraq:


That morning, six days after the president's request on the Iraq war plan, Rumsfeld flew to see General Franks at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa. After greeting everyone, he kicked Franks's staff as well as his own aides out of the room, even telling his military assistant, Vice Admiral Giambastiani, "Ed, I need you to step outside."

"Pull the Iraq planning out and let's see where we are," Rumsfeld told Franks when they were alone.... (p. 36)

"Let's put together a group that can just think outside the box completely," Rumsfeld ordered. "Certainly we have traditional military planning, but let's take away the constraints a little bit and think about what might be a way to solve this problem."

After the meeting, Rumsfeld and Franks appeared before the news media to brief on the ongoing Afghanistan war called Operation Enduring Freedom. Franks, a head taller than Rumsfeld, loomed over him physically. But there was no question who was boss. The war in Afghanistan was essentially won, at least the first phase. Widespread predictions of a Vietnam-style quagmire had been demolished, at least for the time being, and Rumsfeld was in a bouyant mood. (p. 37)

Four days later, December 1, a Saturday, Rumsfeld sent through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a Top Secret planning order to Franks asking him to come up with the commander's estimate to build the base of a new Iraq war plan. In two pages the order said Rumsfeld wanted to know how Franks would conduct military operations to remove Saddam from power, eliminate the threat of any possible weapons of mass destruction, and choke off his suspected support of terrorism. This was the formal order for thinking outside the box.

The Pentagon was supposed to give Franks 30 days to come up with his estimate - an overview and a concept for something new, a first rough cut. "He had a month and we took 27 days away," recalled Marine General Pete Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a Rumsfeld favorite. Franks was to report in person three days later. (p. 38)

Now, what is so significant about the last week of November?


How Osama bin Laden got away

The Afghan warlords estimated that Tora Bora held between 1,500 and 1,600 of the best Arab and Chechen fighters in bin Laden's terror network....

And on Nov 29, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC's "Primetime Live" that, according to the reports that were coming in, bin Laden was in Tora Bora."I think he was equipped to go to ground there," Mr. Cheney said. "He's got what he believes to be a fairly secure facility. He's got caves underground; it's an area he's familiar with."

...somewhere between Nov. 28 to Nov. 30 - according to detailed interviews with Arabs and Afghans in eastern Afghanistan afterward - the world's most-wanted man escaped the world's most-powerful military machine, walking - with four of his loyalists - in the direction of Pakistan.

On Dec. 11, in the village of Upper Pachir - located a few miles northeast of the main complex of caves where Al Qaeda fighters were holed up - a Saudi financier and Al Qaeda operative, Abu Jaffar, was interviewed by the Monitor. Fleeing the Tora Bora redoubt, Mr. Jaffar said that bin Laden had left the cave complexes roughly 10 days earlier, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan.

That's right. Osama bin Laden walked over the border to Pakistan despite being cornered at Tora Bora, while CENTCOM and General Tommy Franks were pre-occupied rushing together a new war plan for Iraq. Why hasn't this story been more widely reported? That's a good question. It's all right there in Woodward's book. And Plan of Attack is still on the Bush campaign's suggested reading list!

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