Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Tora Bora, Bin Laden, and Outsourcing

A letter to the editor of the New York Times by Tommy Franks rebutts Kerrys assertions that America (ahem, Bush) "took his eye off the ball" and "outsourced" our military operations.

I've been waiting to see this. Kerry's insistence that "we had him cornered" and "let him go" by "outsourcing the job" (as if we turned our backs while the Warlords took bribes) probably cost Bush dearly in undecided votes -- because he didn't rebutt it. I'm not quite sure why that was.

But here's the crux of Tommy's letter:

First 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. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.

Second, we did not "outsource" military action. We did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora, a mountainous, geographically difficult region on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is where Afghan mujahedeen holed up for years, keeping alive their resistance to the Soviet Union. Killing and capturing Taliban and Qaeda fighters was best done by the Afghan fighters who already knew the caves and tunnels.

Third, 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.

So we did have Afghans and Pakistanis helping us, but we were there running the show. I guess "acting unilaterally" is good when Bush doesn't do it, and it's bad when he does. Make up your minds.

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