Why did U.S. Let Osama bin Laden ESCAPE from Tora Bora?

An effort to expurgate ‘inconvenient knowledge’ about the 9.11 attack and the American response which followed gathered steam this week with two developments seemingly designed to remove from public  view several crucial aspects of recent history.

Legal threats were delivered last week to the German publisher of “Welcome to Terrorland” over the revelation that some of Mohamed Atta’s closest associates while in Florida were not Arabs or even Muslims but German nationals, several of whom attended meetings with the terrorist ringleader during which the  hijacking conspiracy appears to have been discussed.

If the efforts succeeds, it will remove from public record evidence unearthed during one of the only independent investigations done so far of the U.S. Government’s official story of the terrorist hijackers’ activities and associates while they were in the U.S. preparing  their attack… and future generation may never be the wiser.

A second effort with a similar objective was launched in an op-ed piece in Tuesday’s New York Times, by General Tommy Franks, commander of the Afghanistan operation. In it he attempts to re-write recent history and whitewash the growing scandal over the Bush Administrations feeble effort to apprehend Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan when he was cornered at Tora Bora.

The MadCowMorningNews reveals new details about the man authorities called “the terrorist ringleader,” in our second feature called  “Top Ten Things You Never Knew About Mohamed Atta.

(Read the first “Top Ten Things You Never Knew About Mohamed Atta” here.)

"Osama? He gone."

Until Democratic candidate Kerry recently summoned the courage to confront Bush (on an issue covered over a year ago by the MadCowMorningNews  in “George Bush Let Bin Laden Escape from Tora Bora”)

the fact that after President Bush's initial bravado over catching bin Laden "dead or alive," he had been  inexplicably allowed to escape during the Battle of Tora Bora had largely been forgotten.

Today’s response from Gen. Franks in the N.Y. Times denies it…

“On more than one occasion, Senator Kerry has referred to the fight at Tora Bora in Afghanistan during late 2001 as a missed opportunity for America. He claims that our forces had Osama bin Laden cornered and allowed him to escape. How did it happen? According to Mr. Kerry, we "outsourced" the job to Afghan warlords. As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality.”

Franks stated the debate should “focus on facts, not distortions of history.”

“First, take Mr. Kerry's contention that we "had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden" and that  ‘we had him surrounded.’ We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir,” Franks continued.
“But Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.”


"A lot of words meaning nothing whatever."
“We did not ‘outsource’ military action,” wrote Franks. “We did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora, a mountainous, geographically difficult region on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan…Killing and capturing Taliban and Qaeda fighters was best done by the Afghan fighters who already knew the caves and tunnels.”
“The Afghans weren't left to do the job alone. Special forces from the United States and several other countries were there, providing tactical leadership and calling in air strikes. Pakistani troops also provided significant help – as many as 100,000 sealed the border and rounded up hundreds of Qaeda and Taliban fighters,” said Franks.
“Contrary to Senator Kerry, President Bush never "took his eye off the ball" when it came to Osama bin Laden,” Franks wrote. “The war on terrorism has a global focus. It cannot be divided into separate and unrelated wars, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. Both are part of the same effort to capture and kill terrorists before they are able to strike America again.”

Franks seems to be stating that the war on terrorism’s global focus offered the rationale for why Bush cannot be said to have taken his eye off the “bin Laden ball.” The sentence doesn’t parse…

Not only does it not make sense… It isn’t even true. Proof to the contrary had already been reported by the very same N.Y. Times.

No zeal, No zest, no zoap

The actions of American military commanders in Afghanistan, reported the Times, in a Sept. 30, 2002 front page article (10-month Afghan Mystery: Is Bin Laden Dead or Alive?) did not reflect an emphasis on rigorous pursuit of the Al Qaeda chieftain.

People ‘on the ground’ in Afghanistan during the siege of Tora Bora believe that American commanders did not act with anything like the zeal you'd expect from people whose mission was hunting down America's Most Wanted Man, said the Times.

policydrift“American forces in Afghanistan have not been helped by the suspicion here at Tora Bora, where bin Laden was all but trapped, that indecisiveness on the part of American commanders, or perhaps reluctance to risk casualties, may have helped him (bin Laden) escape."

"If (bin Laden) fled to Pakistan," the Times reported, "he did so over snow-choked mountain trails that were not blocked by American or other allied troops until after the bombing—an oversight that some of the allies point to as having squandered the best opportunity of the war to snare America's most wanted man." (italics ours.)

When we read this we were dumbfounded.  Don't they teach that in General's school? “Cut 'em off, then bomb them back to the Stone Age?”

"Within weeks high-ranking British officers were saying privately that American commanders had vetoed a proposal to guard the high-altitude trails, arguing that the risks of a firefight, in deep snow, gusting winds and low-slung clouds, were too high," said the article.

Low-slung clouds? The snow was too deep?

"Similar accounts abound among Afghan commanders who provided the troops stationed on the Tora Bora foothills—on the north side of the mountains, facing the Afghan city of Jalalabad," continued the Times.  “Those troops played a blocking role that left the Qaeda fugitives only one escape route, to the south, over the mountains to Pakistan."

 One Afghan commander told the Times of pleading with Special Forces officers to block the trails to Pakistan. "Their attitude was, 'we must kill the enemy, but we must remain absolutely safe," said warlord Hajji  Zaher. "This is crazy."

It is inconceivable that U.S. Special Forces troops would insist on remaining absolutely safe in a fight to capture the leader of the forces that murdered 3000 people on Sept 11.

An order to 'stand down' must have come from above.

No explanation of this may ever be forthcoming. But we think warlord Hajjii Zaher got one thing right at least…

It is crazy. And the craziness seems a long way from being over.

Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.