Tora Bora Among 'Greatest Military Blunders'

US had him pinned but held back on troops
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2009 11:51 AM CST
Soldiers on the ground in 2001 believe they may have been within a few thousand yards of the al-Qaeda leader.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Peter Berg has assembled what he calls the “definitive account” of "one of the greatest military blunders in recent US history"—the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in 2001 at Tora Bora in Afghanistan. The operation started out well enough, he writes in the New Republic after extensive interviews with the main players. A crack team of CIA operatives tracked the al-Qaeda leader there, and hastily began raining bombs down on his positions.

Then things went downhill. Control of the operation was handed over to the military, hamstrung troops were forbidden from close engagement, and top brass refused to supply sufficient bodies to stymie escape to Pakistan. Berg surmises this was out of fear of casualties, a focus on a “light footprint,” early preparations for the Iraq invasion, or all three. Whatever the reason, we’d do well to remember the lessons of Tora Bora now. "In the hunt for members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, there is simply no substitute for boots on the ground."

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