It seems the federal government blew its chance in 2002 to stop Osama Bin Laden from escaping American forces in Afghanistan and building up Al Qaeda into the considerably more formidable force it is now. American intelligence now says, "we haven’t a clue where he is" at least according to Peter Bergen, author of "The Osama bin Laden I know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda's Leader" in his excellent interview today on NPR. In The New Republic, "The Battle for Tora Bora" is an article about Peter Bergen's book, excerpted here to highlight a few points. Here's how the battle in 2002 went down:
- American forces are "haunted by the moment on December 10  when bin Laden may have been less than 2,000 meters away."
- “For the most important mission to date in the global war on terror,” Dalton Fury wrote, “our nation was relying on a fractious bunch of AK-47-toting lawless bandits and tribal thugs who were not bound by any recognized rules of warfare.”
- Brig.Gen.Mattis, commander of Marines in the Afghan theater, reportedly asked to send his men into Tora Bora, but his request was turned down...There were more journalists--about 100...around Tora Bora than there were Western soldiers."
- "Between December 4 and 7  alone, U.S. bombers dropped 700,000 pounds of ordnance on the mountains...But bin Laden was not dead. A subsequent account on an Al Qaeda website offered an explanation of how he saved himself: Bin Laden had dreamed about a scorpion descending into one of the trenches that his men had dug, so he evacuated his trench. A day or so later, it was destroyed by a bomb."
- "Osama bin Laden, who slipped into Pakistan, largely disappeared from U.S. radar, and slowly began rebuilding his organization."
Fast-forward to December 2009, and for the project of containing Al Qaeda and capturing Osama bin Laden: "with contractors included, a total of 522,230 personnel are engaged in the overall U.S. war effort from the Middle East to Afghanistan, according to a report released this week by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), using data from September 2009." NPR.org. That number doesn't include supportive family and businesses back in America.