New Evidence Shows Bush Had No Plan to Catch bin Laden After 9/11
New evidence from former
That failure was directly related to the fact that top administration officials gave priority to planning for war with
As a result, the
Because it had not been directed to plan for that contingency, the
On Nov. 12, 2001, as Northern Alliance troops were marching on
The war had ended much more quickly than expected only days earlier. CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks, who was responsible for the war in
Franks asked Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, commander of Army Central Command (ARCENT), whether his command could provide a blocking force between al Qaeda and the Pakistani border, according to David W. Lamm, who was then commander of ARCENT
Lamm, a retired Army colonel, recalled in an interview that there was no way to fulfill the CENTCOM commander's request, because ARCENT had neither the troops nor the strategic lift in
Franks apparently already realized that he would need Pakistani help in blocking the al Qaeda exit from Tora Bora. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a National Security Council meeting that Franks "wants the (Pakistanis) to close the transit points between Afghanistan and Pakistan to seal what's going in and out," according to the National Security Council meeting transcript in Bob Woodward's book Bush at War.
Bush responded that they would need to "press Musharraf to do that."
A few days later, Franks made an unannounced trip to
A deputy to Franks, Lt. Gen. Mike DeLong, later claimed that Musharraf had refused Franks' request for regular Pakistani troops to be repositioned from the north to the border near the Tora Bora area. DeLong wrote in his 2004 book Inside Centcom that Musharraf had said he "couldn't do that" because it would spark a "civil war" with a hostile tribal population.
But U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, who accompanied Franks to the meeting with Musharraf, provided an account of the meeting to this writer that contradicts DeLong's claim.
Chamberlin, now president of the Middle East Institute in
Although Musharraf admitted that the Pakistani government had never exercised control over the border area, the former diplomat recalled, he said this was "a good time to begin." The Pakistani president offered to redeploy 60,000 troops to the area from the border with
But the Pakistani redeployment never happened, according to Lamm, because it wasn't logistically feasible. Lamm recalled that it would have required an entire aviation brigade, including hundreds of helicopters, and hundreds of support troops to deliver that many combat troops to the border region -- far more than were available.
Lamm said the ARCENT had so few strategic lift resources that it had to use commercial aircraft at one point to move
Even if the helicopters had been available, however, they could not have operated with high effectiveness in the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region near the Tora Bora caves, according to Lamm, because of the combination of high altitude and extreme weather.
Franks did manage to insert 1,200 Marines into
The Marines patrolled roads in the
U.S. troops probably would also have faced armed resistance from the local tribal population in the border region, according to DeLong. The tribesmen in local villages near the border "liked bin Laden," he said, "because he had given them millions of dollars."
Had the Bush administration's priority been to capture or kill the al Qaeda leadership, it would have deployed the necessary ground troops and airlift resources in the area over a period of months before the offensive in Afghanistan began.
"You could have moved American troops along the Pakistani border before you went into Afghanistan," said Lamm. But that would have meant waiting until spring 2002 to take the offensive against the Taliban, according to Lamm.
The views of Bush's key advisers, however, ruled out any such plan from the start. During the summer of 2001, Rumsfeld had refused to develop contingency plans for military action against al Qaeda in Afghanistan despite a National Security Presidential Directive adopted at the Deputies' Committee level in July and by the Principles on Sept. 4 that called for such planning, according to the 9/11 Commission report.
Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz resisted such planning for Afghanistan because they were hoping that the White House would move quickly on military intervention in Iraq. According to the 9/11 Commission, at four deputies' meetings on Iraq between May 31 and July 26, 2001, Wolfowitz pushed his idea to have U.S. troops seize all the oil fields in southern Iraq.
Even after Sept. 11, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney continued to resist any military engagement in Afghanistan, because they were hoping for war against Iraq instead.
Bush's top-secret order of Sept. 17 for war with Afghanistan also directed the Pentagon to begin planning for an invasion of Iraq, according to journalist James Bamford's book A Pretext for War.
Cheney and Rumsfeld pushed for a quick victory in Afghanistan in National Security Council meetings in October, as recounted by both Woodward and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. Lost in the eagerness to wrap up the Taliban and get on with the Iraq War was any possibility of preventing bin Laden's escape to Pakistan.