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The Hunt for Bin Laden

Posted by Atilla89 on August 27, 2007

Normally I would say avoid Newsweek like the plague but this time they have actually got a good article here. It pretty much shows how much better the man hunt for Osama could have gone if the bureaucracy had kept their noses out of the process. As well as this, it demonstrates our fear of risk that has hobbled the war against militant Islam and Islamo-fascism. Hat tip to LGF for this one.

The Americans were getting close. It was early in the winter of 2004-05, and Osama bin Laden and his entourage were holed up in a mountain hideaway along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Suddenly, a sentry, posted several kilometers away, spotted a patrol of U.S. soldiers who seemed to be heading straight for bin Laden’s redoubt. The sentry radioed an alert, and word quickly passed among the Qaeda leader’s 40-odd bodyguards to prepare to remove “the Sheik,” as bin Laden is known to his followers, to a fallback position. As Sheik Said, a senior Egyptian Qaeda operative, later told the story, the anxiety level was so high that the bodyguards were close to using the code word to kill bin Laden and commit suicide. According to Said, bin Laden had decreed that he would never be captured. “If there’s a 99 percent risk of the Sheik’s being captured, he told his men that they should all die and martyr him as well,” Said told Omar Farooqi, a Taliban liaison officer to Al Qaeda who spoke to a NEWSWEEK reporter in Afghanistan.

The secret word was never given. As the Qaeda sentry watched the U.S. troops, the patrol started moving in a different direction. Bin Laden’s men later concluded that the soldiers had nearly stumbled on their hideout by accident. (One former U.S. intelligence officer told NEWSWEEK that he was aware of official reporting on this incident.)

And so it has gone for six years. American intelligence officials interviewed by NEWSWEEK ruefully agree that the hunt to find bin Laden has been more a game of chance than good or “actionable” intelligence. Since bin Laden slipped away from Tora Bora in December 2001, U.S. intelligence has never had better than a 50-50 certainty about his whereabouts. “There hasn’t been a serious lead on Osama bin Laden since early 2002,” says Bruce Riedel, who recently retired as a South Asia expert at the CIA. “What we’re doing now is shooting in the dark in outer space. The chances of hitting anything are zero.”

How can that be? With all its spy satellites and aerial drones, killer commandos and millions in reward money, why can’t the world’s greatest superpower find a middle-aged, possibly ill, religious fanatic with a medieval mind-set? The short answer, sometimes overlooked, is that good, real-time intelligence about the enemy is hard to come by in any war, and manhunts are almost always difficult, especially if the fugitive can vanish into a remote region with a sympathetic population. (Think how long—five years—it took the FBI to track down Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta Olympic bomber, in the wilds of North Carolina.) That said, the U.S. government has made the job harder than necessary. The Iraq War drained resources from the hunt, and some old bureaucratic bugaboos—turf battles and fear of risk—undermined the effort. The United States can’t just barge into Pakistan without upsetting, and possible dooming, President Pervez Musharraf, who seems to lurch between trying to appease his enemies and riling them with heavy-handed repression.

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2 Responses to “The Hunt for Bin Laden”

  1. Scouse said

    I don’t believe that O B L would have killed himself, or that his men would have fought to the death. Find O B L kill him and forget about him.

  2. […] I have been following the situation in Pakistan, you can check out some of me other posts here, here and […]

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