Why Aren't the Marines Searching Tora
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
Just has serious is our intelligence
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
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