A US Senate report reveals that in late 2001, in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden was cornered by US forces, who had "massive force" at their disposal.
The idiot US defence secretary apparently concluded that a show of force could trigger a 'backlash' and was not completely confident the intelligence was correct. This is the same guy who thought Osama Bin Laden was living inside a hollowed out mountain complex like something out of a James Bond movie.
In other words, Rumsfeld let Osama Bin Laden get away :
The report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden in December 2001, three months after the September 11 attacks, has had lasting and disastrous consequences. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.
In an introduction to the report, which will be published on Monday, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, writes: "When we went to war less than a month after the attacks of September 11, the objective was to destroy Al Qaeda and kill or capture its leader, Osama bin Laden and other senior figures ... Our inability to finish the job in late 2001 has contributed to a conflict today that endangers not just our troops and those of our allies, but the stability of a volatile and vital region."
The report, entitled: "Tora Bora revisited: how we failed to get Bin Laden and why it matters today" will offer some support to President Obama as he prepares to announce this week that he is to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.
The report lays the blame for the state of Afghanistan and Pakistan today at the feet of the military leaders who served former President Bush, notably Donald Rumsfeld, the then Defence Secretary, and his most senior military commander General Tommy Franks.
"Removing the al-Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," the report says. "But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism."
It states categorically that bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora when the US had the means to mount a rapid assault with several thousand troops. A review of existing literature, unclassified Government records and interviews with central participants "removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora" it adds.
"Cornered in some of the most fobidding terrain on earth, he and several hundred of his men endured relentless pounding by American aircraft, as many as 100 air strikes a day," it says. "Bin Laden expected to die," it claims. "His last will and testament, written on December 14, reflected his fatalism. He instructed his wives not to remarry and apologised to his children for devoting himself to jihad."
But the expected final attack never came. "Requests were turned down for US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan," it says. "The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army was kept on the sidelines."
Instead of a massive attack, fewer than 100 US commandos, working with Afghan militias, tried to capitalise on air strikes and track down their prey it says.
"On or around December 16, two days after writing his will, bin Laden and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area. Most analysts say he is still there today.
"The decision not to deploy American fores to go after bin Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, General Tommy Franks."
It stresses that there were more than enough US troops in Afghanistan to capture the terror leader and although the ensuing battle would be difficult and dangerous, "commanders on the scene and elsewhere in Afghanistan argued that the risks were worth the reward."
At the time, Mr Rumsfeld expressed concern that a large US troop presence might fuel a backlash and he and some others said the evidence was not conclusive about bin Laden's location.