TORA BORA….Members of the Bush administration have claimed for years that we didn’t know in December 2001 whether or not Osama bin Laden was really trapped at Tora Bora ? and still don’t to this day. Today, Newsweek reports that the CIA commander on the ground says bin Laden was there, and they knew it at the time:
In a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency’s Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora ? intelligence operatives had tracked him ? and could have been caught. “He was there,” Berntsen tells Newsweek.
….In his book ? titled “Jawbreaker” ? the decorated career CIA officer criticizes Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon’s own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora….That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a “strategic disaster” because the Pentagon refused to deploy a cordon of conventional forces to cut off escaping Qaeda and Taliban members.
So if the CIA had “definitive intelligence,” how is it that the Pentagon ignored it? I guess we’ll have to wait for the book to hear the rest of Berntsen’s story. It’s due in October.