What Bin Laden's Escape Means Today

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According to a new Senate report, in December 2001, Osama bin Laden was "in our grasp," but military leaders neglected to pursue him with sufficient force. The report, requested by Sen. John Kerry, concludes that bin Laden's escape ultimately invigorated the Afghan insurgency and fomented strife within Pakistan. The world-famous terrorist was reportedly hiding in the mountains of Tora Bora when U.S. military leaders, instead of sending an escalation of troops, pursued a "light footprint" strategy. The findings come as President Obama is set to announce a troop surge in Afghanistan. Bloggers weigh in on the missed opportunity and question the timing of the report:

  • The Original Dither, writes a blogger at The Daily Whim: "Whenever Dick Cheney speaks about how he believes the Obama administration has put America at greater risk of terrorist attack, or whenever a right winger accuses Obama of dithering on Afghanistan, this reality needs to be thrown back in their face"
  • A Reminder of Bush's Confused Strategy, writes Matthew Yglesias: "The main reason policy toward Afghanistan is so vexing, in my view, is that we basically failed in our main mission back in 2001 and 2002. Demands were made on the Taliban to hand over key al-Qaeda leaders, the Taliban refused, we went to war, and even though we succeeded in marginalizing the Taliban we didn’t succeed in achieving for ourselves what we’d been demanding the Taliban do. Having failed at that mission, we then shifted gears into a hazily defined effort to remake Afghanistan."
  • Reveals Cracks in the Military, writes Dan Plesch in The Guardian: "The report is also a good opportunity to address far deeper failings in the military effort these last eight years. The continued incompetence of the military operation indicates that the generals and the political elites in our societies are no more 'fit for purpose' than those that led the disasters of the [Britain's] 1914-18 war." Plesch's main complaint is that "The US-only and Nato forces each have separate generals in charge, and neither is able to give orders to the other."
  • Suspicious Timing, writes Slun at Fire Dog Lake: "How very convenient that the Senate Tora Bora report arrived in the news today--just in time to help build the case for bowing to Gen McChrystal's demand for a bigger war in Afghanistan." Because the report says a larger troop surge would've helped the U.S. capture Bin Laden, it helps Obama drum up support for his planned troop increase, argues Slun.
  • A Pointless Distraction writes a blogger at Political Byline: "Why is this even being printed? Oh, I know why! Because Obama’s poll numbers are dropping... Therefore, the Liberals are trying to find an excuse to blame Bush for something. It is the classical distraction from the real issues at hand; Works every time, for most people."
  • A Self-Serving Report, writes William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection: "Can't seem to get motivated to write in great detail about John Kerry's 'hey, look, I just issued a report about George W. deliberately letting Osama go in Tora Bora, you know, the same argument I have been making for several years and which failed to get me elected President; but this time I've got the goods on him, based on public information readily available for years which has been the basis for public reexamination of the military tactic of a light footprint; I just had to release this report on the eve of Obama announcing his intention to put more troops into Afghanistan subject to conditions, even though I've had this important information for years.'"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.