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Why Aren't the Marines Searching Tora Bora?!

Critical Element of Effort "To Save Civilization Itself" Entrusted to Local Afghan Commander

December 27, 2001

Doesn't there still seem to be a massive disconnect between the claimed vital importance and urgency of our effort to stop Osama bin Laden, and the manner in which the Bush administration is carrying out certain aspects of that undertaking?

Early in the conflict I wrote about the slow-motion, take-our-time nature of the war that U.S. forces were waging.  Other people with undoubtedly greater access to Bush's ear complained also, since the pace was soon stepped up and the Taliban routed.

What I'm referring to now is the decision to not have the Marines search the caves of Tora Bora, but to bribe a local Afghan commander to do so. 

The search's purpose would be to look for a dead or injured Osama bin Laden and/or other Al Qaeda leaders, as well as to gather any intelligence information -- including a "paper trail" -- that may have been left behind in the caves.  Such intelligence information could give clues to bin Laden's whereabouts, and might even reveal plans for future terrorist attacks.

It goes without saying that the search is thus of critical importance.  That it should be done in the quickest possible time frame would also seem to be obvious, since any delay in apprehending bin Laden just gives him that much more time to plan and order implementation of future terrorist atrocities.

Last week, accordingly, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld did the logical thing and ordered 500 Marines and Army troops to prepare for such an effort to begin in a matter of days.

But now, apparently because of concerns that the Marines could be at risk from mines, remnants of Al Qaeda forces or hostile villagers, that order has been reversed.  Instead, local Afghan commander Hazarat Ali will be offered money, weapons and winter clothing as incentives to have his own troops conduct the search.

Especially in the intelligence-gathering aspects of this mission, wouldn't highly-trained Marines and Special Ops forces, with technologically advanced equipment, be much more effective in scouring the caves for useful intelligence?

And of course, there's simply the question of motivation -- Hazarat Ali, like many Afghans, may have a confluence of conflicting loyalties, and I for one wouldn't be 100% certain of the integrity of his search effort.

As many have complained about since the beginning of the Afghan War, we have been greatly hindered by the absence of U.S. troops on the ground.  Our intelligence is so bad that Secretary Rumsfeld resorted today to a joking characterization to cover up the total failure of our security officials to track bin Laden:

"We do know of certain knowledge he is either in Afghanistan or some other country or dead and we know of certain knowledge that we don't know which of those happens to be the case."

Just has serious is our intelligence gap?:

But in a telling comment on how elusive bin Laden has proved, a senior defense official revealed that since the United States started its attacks on Afghanistan in October, its forces had never come close enough to finding the Saudi-born radical to attack his location.

The United States never had "actionable intelligence,'' or information that could be acted on immediately, on bin Laden's whereabouts since launching its military campaign in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, the senior defense official said.

"If there had been, we would have gotten him,'' said the official, who asked not to be named.

And the guy we're depending on to conduct this cave-to-cave search apparently isn't too well-informed either.  Two weeks ago, Hazarat Ali said "There is one cave surrounded by my forces. I think Osama bin Laden is there."

Maybe Hazarat Ali will eventually get the job done properly, but do we have the time to wait?

George Bush, in his speech to the Joint Session of Congress, stated that "We wage a war to save civilization itself."  If that's so, I'd prefer the Marines be entrusted with that job, not Hazarat Ali.

Send in the Marines, before it's too late!

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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