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111th Congress                                                  S. Prt.
  1st Session               COMMITTEE PRINT                      111-35
                          TORA BORA REVISITED: 

                     HOW WE FAILED TO GET BIN LADEN 

                        AND WHY IT MATTERS TODAY 


                          A Report To Members

                                 OF THE


                          UNITED STATES SENATE

                        John F. Kerry, Chairman

                     One Hundred Eleventh Congress

                             First Session

                           November 30, 2009


                        U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 

53-709 PDF                     WASHINGTON : 2009 

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Washington, DC 20402-0001 

                 COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS        

             JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts, Chairman        
CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut     RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana
RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin       BOB CORKER, Tennessee
BARBARA BOXER, California            JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey          JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho
BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland         JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
ROBERT P. CASEY, Jr., Pennsylvania   JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
JIM WEBB, Virginia                   ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
JEANNE SHAHEEN, New Hampshire        JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma
                  David McKean, Staff Director        
        Kenneth A. Myers, Jr., Republican Staff Director        


                            C O N T E N T S

  Letter of Transmittal..........................................     v

  Executive Summary..............................................     1

  1. Flight to Tora Bora.........................................     3

    The Sheikh Arrives...........................................     5

    Other Voices, Same Conclusion................................     7

    ``A Controversial Fight''....................................     9

  2. The Afghan Model: A Flawed Masterpiece or Just Flawed?......    10

    A Shift in Attention and Resources...........................    12

    ``We're Going to Lose Our Prey''.............................    13

    Flight from Tora Bora........................................    13

  3. An Alternative Plan.........................................    15

    Troops Were Ready to Go......................................    17

    The Price of Failure.........................................    19

  Endnotes.......................................................    21


Appendix I.--``A Flawed Masterpiece,'' Michael E. O'Hanlon, 
  Foreign Affairs, March/April 2002..............................    25

Appendix II.--United States Special Operations Command History, 
  6th Edition....................................................    33


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL


                              United States Senate,
                            Committee on Foreign Relations,
                                 Washington, DC, November 30, 2009.
    Dear Colleague: This report by the committee majority staff 
is part of our continuing examination of the conflict in 
Afghanistan. When we went to war less than a month after the 
attacks of September 11, the objective was to destroy Al Qaeda 
and kill or capture its leader, Osama bin Laden, and other 
senior figures in the terrorist group and the Taliban, which 
had hosted them. Today, more than eight years later, we find 
ourselves fighting an increasingly lethal insurgency in 
Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan that is led by many of 
those same extremists. Our inability to finish the job in late 
2001 has contributed to a conflict today that endangers not 
just our troops and those of our allies, but the stability of a 
volatile and vital region. This report relies on new and 
existing information to explore the consequences of the failure 
to eliminate bin Laden and other extremist leaders in the hope 
that we can learn from the mistakes of the past.
                                             John F. Kerry,

                          TORA BORA REVISITED:

                     HOW WE FAILED TO GET BIN LADEN

                        AND WHY IT MATTERS TODAY


                           Executive Summary

    On October 7, 2001, U.S. aircraft began bombing the 
training bases and strongholds of Al Qaeda and the ruling 
Taliban across Afghanistan. The leaders who sent murderers to 
attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon less than a 
month earlier and the rogue government that provided them 
sanctuary were running for their lives. President George W. 
Bush's expression of America's desire to get Osama bin Laden 
``dead or alive'' seemed about to come true.
    Two months later, American civilian and military leaders 
celebrated what they viewed as a lasting victory with the 
selection of Hamid Karzai as the country's new hand-picked 
leader. The war had been conceived as a swift campaign with a 
single objective: defeat the Taliban and destroy Al Qaeda by 
capturing or killing bin Laden and other key leaders. A unique 
combination of airpower, Central Intelligence Agency and 
special operations forces teams and indigenous allies had swept 
the Taliban from power and ousted Al Qaeda from its safe haven 
while keeping American deaths to a minimum. But even in the 
initial glow, there were concerns: The mission had failed to 
capture or kill bin Laden.
    Removing the Al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight 
years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist 
threat. But the decisions that opened the door for his escape 
to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic 
figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and 
inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job 
represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course 
of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international 
terrorism, leaving the American people more vulnerable to 
terrorism, laying the foundation for today's protracted Afghan 
insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering 
Pakistan. Al Qaeda shifted its locus across the border into 
Pakistan, where it has trained extremists linked to numerous 
plots, including the July 2005 transit bombings in London and 
two recent aborted attacks involving people living in the 
United States. The terrorist group's resurgence in Pakistan has 
coincided with the rising violence orchestrated in Afghanistan 
by the Taliban, whose leaders also escaped only to re-emerge to 
direct today's increasingly lethal Afghan insurgency.
    This failure and its enormous consequences were not 
inevitable. By early December 2001, Bin Laden's world had 
shrunk to a complex of caves and tunnels carved into a 
mountainous section of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora. 
Cornered in some of the most forbidding terrain on earth, he 
and several hundred of his men, the largest concentration of Al 
Qaeda fighters of the war, endured relentless pounding by 
American aircraft, as many as 100 air strikes a day. One 
15,000-pound bomb, so huge it had to be rolled out the back of 
a C-130 cargo plane, shook the mountains for miles. It seemed 
only a matter of time before U.S. troops and their Afghan 
allies overran the remnants of Al Qaeda hunkered down in the 
thin, cold air at 14,000 feet.
    Bin Laden expected to die. His last will and testament, 
written on December 14, reflected his fatalism. ``Allah 
commended to us that when death approaches any of us that we 
make a bequest to parents and next of kin and to Muslims as a 
whole,'' he wrote, according to a copy of the will that 
surfaced later and is regarded as authentic. ``Allah bears 
witness that the love of jihad and death in the cause of Allah 
has dominated my life and the verses of the sword permeated 
every cell in my heart, `and fight the pagans all together as 
they fight you all together.' How many times did I wake up to 
find myself reciting this holy verse!'' He instructed his wives 
not to remarry and apologized to his children for devoting 
himself to jihad.
    But the Al Qaeda leader would live to fight another day. 
Fewer than 100 American commandos were on the scene with their 
Afghan allies, and calls for reinforcements to launch an 
assault were rejected. Requests were also turned down for U.S. 
troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few 
miles away in Pakistan. The vast array of American military 
power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the 
Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines. Instead, 
the U.S. command chose to rely on airstrikes and untrained 
Afghan militias to attack bin Laden and on Pakistan's loosely 
organized Frontier Corps to seal his escape routes. On or 
around December 16, two days after writing his will, bin Laden 
and an entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora 
Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area. 
Most analysts say he is still there today.
    The decision not to deploy American forces to go after bin 
Laden or block his escape was made by Secretary of Defense 
Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, the 
architects of the unconventional Afghan battle plan known as 
Operation Enduring Freedom. Rumsfeld said at the time that he 
was concerned that too many U.S. troops in Afghanistan would 
create an anti-American backlash and fuel a widespread 
insurgency. Reversing the recent American military orthodoxy 
known as the Powell doctrine, the Afghan model emphasized 
minimizing the U.S. presence by relying on small, highly mobile 
teams of special operations troops and CIA paramilitary 
operatives working with the Afghan opposition. Even when his 
own commanders and senior intelligence officials in Afghanistan 
and Washington argued for dispatching more U.S. troops, Franks 
refused to deviate from the plan.
    There were enough U.S. troops in or near Afghanistan to 
execute the classic sweep-and-block maneuver required to attack 
bin Laden and try to prevent his escape. It would have been a 
dangerous fight across treacherous terrain, and the injection 
of more U.S. troops and the resulting casualties would have 
contradicted the risk-averse, ``light footprint'' model 
formulated by Rumsfeld and Franks. But commanders on the scene 
and elsewhere in Afghanistan argued that the risks were worth 
the reward.
    After bin Laden's escape, some military and intelligence 
analysts and the press criticized the Pentagon's failure to 
mount a full-scale attack despite the tough rhetoric by 
President Bush. Franks, Vice President Dick Cheney and others 
defended the decision, arguing that the intelligence was 
inconclusive about the Al Qaeda leader's location. But the 
review of existing literature, unclassified government records 
and interviews with central participants underlying this report 
removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin 
Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora.
    For example, the CIA and Delta Force commanders who spent 
three weeks at Tora Bora as well as other intelligence and 
military sources are certain he was there. Franks' second-in-
command during the war, retired Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, wrote 
in his autobiography that bin Laden was ``definitely there when 
we hit the caves''--a statement he retracted when the failure 
became a political issue. Most authoritatively, the official 
history of the U.S. Special Operations Command determined that 
bin Laden was at Tora Bora. ``All source reporting corroborated 
his presence on several days from 9-14 December,'' said a 
declassified version of the history, which was based on 
accounts of commanders and intelligence officials and published 
without fanfare two years ago.
    The reasons behind the failure to capture or kill Osama bin 
Laden and its lasting consequences are examined over three 
sections in this report. The first section traces bin Laden's 
path from southern Afghanistan to the mountains of Tora Bora 
and lays out new and previous evidence that he was there. The 
second explores new information behind the decision not to 
launch an assault. The final section examines the military 
options that might have led to his capture or death at Tora 
Bora and the ongoing impact of the failure to bring him back 
``dead or alive.''

                         1. Flight to Tora Bora

          Whether Osama bin Laden was at Tora Bora in late 2001 
        has been the topic of heated debate since he escaped 
        Afghanistan to the tribal belt of Pakistan. The 
        evidence is convincing that the Al Qaeda leader was in 
        the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in that critical 
        period. The information comes from U.S. military 
        officers at Tora Bora, from detainees who were in the 
        camps with bin Laden, from the senior CIA officer in 
        Afghanistan at the time, and from the official history 
        of the special operations forces. Based on that 
        evidence, it is clear that the Al Qaeda leader was 
        within reach of U.S. troops three months after the 
        attacks on New York and Washington.

    In the middle of August 2001, two Pakistani nuclear 
scientists sat down in a mud-walled compound on the outskirts 
of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, the spiritual and tactical 
headquarters of Taliban fundamentalists who controlled most of 
the country. Seated with them were bin Laden and Ayman al-
Zawahiri, the Egyptian surgeon who was his chief deputy and 
strategist. The four men spent two days discussing Al Qaeda's 
determination to obtain nuclear weapons before bin Laden and 
Zawahiri abruptly excused themselves and left the compound. 
Before departing, bin Laden promised the Pakistanis that 
something momentous was going to happen soon.
    American intelligence had already picked up indications 
that something momentous was coming. George Tenet, who was 
Director of Central Intelligence at the time, later testified 
before the 9/11 Commission that the ``system was blinking red'' 
from July 2001 until the actual attacks. The first reports of 
possible attacks on the United States had been picked up in 
June and the warnings increased steadily from then on. On July 
12, Tenet went to Capitol Hill to provide a top-secret briefing 
for Senators about the rising threat of an imminent attack. 
Only a handful of Senators turned up in S-407, the secure 
conference room in the Capitol, to hear the CIA Director warn 
that he was extremely worried that bin Laden and Al Qaeda were 
preparing an attack on U.S. soil. Tenet told them the attack 
was not a question of if, but when.
    Less than a month later, on August 6, President Bush's 
daily briefing repeated the warning under the ominous headline 
``Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in U.S.'' The text described 
previous plots carried out by Al Qaeda against American targets 
overseas and said the FBI had uncovered ``patterns of 
suspicious activity in this country consistent with 
preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, 
including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New 
York.'' At the time, President Bush later told the 9/11 
Commission that he regarded the warning as historical in 
nature. The Commission's voluminous report said its 
investigators ``found no indication of any further discussion 
before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of 
the possibility of a threat of an Al Qaeda attack in the United 
    Bin Laden's movements in the days surrounding September 11 
remain sketchy. Some facts have emerged from reputable 
journalists, U.S. military and intelligence sources and Afghans 
who said they saw the Al Qaeda leader at various points along 
his path to Tora Bora. He was spotted in Khost in eastern 
Afghanistan around September 11. On November 8, he and Zawahiri 
met in Kabul with Hamid Mir, a respected Pakistani journalist. 
By then, U.S. special operations forces and Northern Alliance 
troops were closing in on the Afghan capital. The Al Qaeda 
leaders had risked the trip to attend a memorial service 
honoring the Uzbek militant leader Juma Khan Namangani, who had 
been killed in a U.S. airstrike. Before Kabul fell, bin Laden 
and Zawahiri traveled 5 hours east to the ancient trading 
center of Jalalabad. From there, by all reliable accounts, they 
went to ground at Tora Bora, one of bin Laden's old haunts from 
the days of fighting the Soviets in the 1980s.
    Tora Bora is a district about 30 miles southeast of 
Jalalabad. Rather than a single place, the name covers a 
fortress-like section of the White Mountains that stretches 
about six miles long and six miles wide across a collection of 
narrow valleys, snow-covered ridgelines and jagged peaks 
reaching 14,000 feet. During the 1980s, when he was fighting 
the Soviets in Afghanistan, bin Laden turned the site into a 
formidable stronghold. He built a rough road from Jalalabad and 
brought in heavy equipment to fortify the natural caves and dig 
new ones. He supervised the excavation of connecting tunnels so 
fighters could move unseen between locations in the fights 
against Soviet troops.
    After the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989, bin Laden 
left Afghanistan and eventually set up the operations of his 
fledgling terrorist organization in the northeastern African 
nation of Sudan. After pressure from the United States, Sudan 
expelled bin Laden in 1996 and he flew with his wives and 
children to Jalalabad on a chartered jet. Upon his return to 
Afghanistan, bin Laden began expanding the fortress at Tora 
Bora, building base camps at higher elevations for himself, his 
wives and numerous children, and other senior Al Qaeda figures. 
Some rooms were reported to be concealed 350 feet inside the 
granite peaks. The mountainsides leading to those upper reaches 
were steep and pitted with well-built bunkers cloaked in 
camouflage. In the years that followed, Bin Laden got to know 
the surrounding geography well from spending hours on long 
hikes with his children. His familiarity with the worn trails 
used over the centuries by traders and smugglers to traverse 
the few miles into Pakistan would serve him well.
    The United States rightly anticipated that bin Laden would 
make his last stand at Tora Bora. The precise dates of his 
arrival and departure are hard to pin down, but it's clear that 
U.S. intelligence picked up his trail well before he got there. 
The CIA had evidence that bin Laden was headed for the mountain 
redoubt by early November, according to Tenet, the former CIA 
Director. Outside experts like Peter Bergen, the last American 
to interview bin Laden, estimate that he arrived by the end of 
November, along with 1,000 to 1,500 hardened fighters and 
bodyguards. In a television interview on November 29, 2001, 
Vice President Cheney said he believed the Al Qaeda leader was 
in the general area of Tora Bora. ``He's got a large number of 
fighters with him probably, a fairly secure personal security 
force that he has some degree of confidence in, and he'll have 
to try to leave, that is, he may depart for other territory, 
but that's not quite as easy as it would have been a few months 
ago,'' Cheney said.
The Sheikh Arrives
    Bin Laden's presence was more than conjecture. A major with 
the Army's Delta Force, who is now retired and uses the pen 
name Dalton Fury, was the senior U.S. military officer at Tora 
Bora, commanding about 90 special operations troops and support 
personnel. He and his fellow commandos from the elite and 
secretive Delta Force arrived in early December, setting up 
headquarters in a former schoolhouse near the mountains 
alongside a handful of CIA operatives who were already there. 
The Americans were there to direct airstrikes on Tora Bora and 
work with Afghan militias assembled by two local warlords who 
had been paid by the CIA to help flush out bin Laden and the Al 
Qaeda contingent. The Delta Force soldiers were disguised to 
blend in with the Afghan militia, wearing local clothing, 
growing bushy beards and sometimes carrying the same types of 
    Fury recounted his experiences in a book, Kill Bin Laden, 
which was published in 2008. He expanded on them in interviews 
with committee staff. Both the book and the interviews left no 
doubt that Fury's team knew bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora 
and that he was eager to go get him. In the interviews, he 
explained that Al Qaeda fighters arrayed in the mountains used 
unsecure radios, which meant their communications were easily 
intercepted by his team and by a sophisticated listening post a 
few miles from the mountain. As a result, the Delta Force and 
CIA operatives had real-time eavesdropping capabilities on Al 
Qaeda almost from their arrival, allowing them to track 
movements and gauge the effectiveness of the bombing. Even more 
valuable, a few days after arriving, one of the CIA operatives 
picked up a radio from a dead Al Qaeda fighter. The radio gave 
the Americans a clear channel into the group's communications 
on the mountain. Bin Laden's voice was often picked up, along 
with frequent comments about the presence of the man referred 
to by his followers as ``the sheikh.''
    Fury, who still uses his pen name to protect his identity, 
said there was no doubt the voice on the radios was bin Laden. 
``The CIA had a guy with them called Jalal and he was the 
foremost expert on bin Laden's voice,'' he said. ``He worked on 
bin Laden's voice for seven years and he knew him better than 
anyone else in the West. To him, it was very clear that bin 
Laden was there on the mountain.''
    Another special operations expert who speaks fluent Arabic 
and heard the intercepted communications in real time in 
Afghanistan told the committee staff that it was clearly bin 
Laden's voice. He had studied the Al Qaeda leader's speech 
pattern and word choices before the war and he said he 
considered the communications a perfect match.
    Afghan villagers who were providing food and other supplies 
for the Al Qaeda fighters at Tora Bora also confirmed bin 
Laden's presence. Fury said some of the villagers were paid by 
the CIA for information about precise locations of clusters of 
fighters that could be targeted for bombing runs. The locals 
also provided fragmentary information on bin Laden's movements 
within the Al Qaeda compound, though the outsiders never got 
near the sheikh. The cooperating villagers were given 
rudimentary global positioning devices and told to push a 
button at any spot where they saw significant numbers of 
fighters or arms caches. When the locals turned in the devices 
to collect their payments, the GPS coordinates recorded by 
pushing the buttons were immediately passed along to targeting 
officers, who programmed the coordinates into bombing runs.
    For several days in early December, Fury's special ops 
troops moved up the mountains in pairs with fighters from the 
Afghan militias. The Americans used GPS devices and laser range 
finders to pinpoint caves and pockets of enemy fighters for the 
bombers. The Delta Force units were unable to hold any high 
ground because the Afghans insisted on retreating to their base 
at the bottom of the mountains each night, leaving the 
Americans alone inside Al Qaeda territory. Still, it was clear 
from what they could see and what they were hearing in the 
intercepted conversations that relentless bombing was taking 
its toll.
    On December 9, a C-130 cargo plane dropped a 15,000-pound 
bomb, known as a Daisy Cutter, on the Tora Bora complex. The 
weapon had not been used since Vietnam, and there were early 
fears that its impact had not been as great as expected. But 
later reports confirmed that the bomb struck with massive 
force. A captured Al Qaeda fighter who was there later told 
American interrogators that men deep in caves had been 
vaporized in what he called ``a hideous explosion.'' That day 
and others, Fury described intercepting radio communications in 
which Al Qaeda fighters called for the ``red truck to move 
wounded'' and frantic pleas from a fighter to his commander, 
saying ``cave too hot, can't reach others.''
    At one point, the Americans listened on the radio as bin 
Laden exhorted his men to keep fighting, though he apologized 
``for getting them trapped and pounded by American 
airstrikes.'' On December 11, Fury said bin Laden was heard on 
the radio telling his men that he had let them down and it was 
okay to surrender. Fury hoped the battle was over, but he would 
soon determine that it was part of an elaborate ruse to allow 
Al Qaeda fighters to slip out of Tora Bora for Pakistan.
    Fury is adamant that bin Laden was at Tora Bora until mid-
December. ``There is no doubt that bin Laden was in Tora Bora 
during the fighting,'' he wrote in Kill Bin Laden. ``From 
alleged sightings to the radio intercepts to news reports from 
various countries, it was repeatedly confirmed that he was 
Other Voices, Same Conclusion
    Fury was not alone in his conviction. In some cases, 
confirmation that bin Laden was at Tora Bora has come from 
detainees at Guantanamo Bay. A ``summary of evidence'' prepared 
by the Pentagon for the trial of an unnamed detainee says 
flatly that the man ``assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden 
from Tora Bora.'' The detainee was described as one of bin 
Laden's commanders in the fight against the Soviets. The 
document, which was released to the Associated Press in 2005 
through a Freedom of Information request, was the first 
definitive statement by the Pentagon that the mastermind of 9/
11 was at Tora Bora during the American bombing before slipping 
away into Pakistan.
    Another confirmation came from the senior CIA paramilitary 
commander in Afghanistan at the time. Gary Berntsen was working 
at the CIA's counterterrorist center in October 2001 when his 
boss summoned him to the front office and told him, ``Gary, I 
want you killing the enemy immediately.'' Berntsen left the 
next day for Afghanistan, where he assumed leadership of the 
CIA's paramilitary operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. 
His primary target was bin Laden, and he was confident that the 
Al Qaeda leader would make his last stand at Tora Bora. His 
suspicions were confirmed when he learned bin Laden's voice had 
been intercepted there.
    From the outset, Berntsen says he was skeptical about 
relying on Afghan militias ``cobbled together at the last 
minute'' to capture or kill the man who ordered the 9/11 
attacks. ``I'd made it clear in my reports that our Afghan 
allies were hardly anxious to get at al Qaeda in Tora Bora,'' 
he wrote in his own book, Jawbreaker, which was published in 
late 2005. He also knew that the special operations troops and 
CIA operatives on the scene were not enough to stop bin Laden 
from escaping across the mountain passes. In the book, Berntsen 
uses exclamation points to vent his fears that the most wanted 
man in the world was about to slip out of our grasp.
    ``We needed U.S. soldiers on the ground!'' he wrote. ``I'd 
sent my request for 800 U.S. Army Rangers and was still waiting 
for a response. I repeated to anyone at headquarters who would 
listen: We need Rangers now! The opportunity to get bin Laden 
and his men is slipping away!!''
    At one point, Berntsen recalled an argument at a CIA 
guesthouse in Kabul with Maj. Gen. Dell Dailey, the commander 
of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan at the time. 
Berntsen said he renewed his demand that American troops be 
dispatched to Tora Bora immediately. Following orders from 
Franks at U.S. Central Command (CentCom) headquarters at 
MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Dailey refused to 
deploy U.S. troops, explaining that he feared alienating Afghan 
    ``I don't give a damn about offending our allies!'' 
Berntsen shouted. ``I only care about eliminating al Qaeda and 
delivering bin Laden's head in a box!''
    Dailey said the military's position was firm and Berntsen 
replied, ``Screw that!''
    For those like Franks, who later maintained that bin Laden 
might not have been at Tora Bora, Berntsen is respectfully 
scornful. ``We could have ended it all there,'' he said in an 
    Berntsen's views were generally shared by Gary Schroen, 
another senior CIA operative in Afghanistan. Schroen, who had 
spent years cultivating ties to Afghanistan's opposition 
elements, bemoaned the reliance on local tribal leaders to go 
after bin Laden and guard escape routes. ``Unfortunately, many 
of those people proved to be loyal to bin Laden and 
sympathizers with the Taliban and they allowed the key guys to 
escape,'' Schroen, who retired from the CIA, said in a 
television interview in May 2005. He added that he had no doubt 
that bin Laden was at Tora Bora.
    Franks' second-in-command during the war, General DeLong, 
was convinced that bin Laden was at Tora Bora. In his memoir, 
Inside CentCom, DeLong described the massive, three-week 
bombing campaign aimed at killing Al Qaeda fighters in their 
caves at Tora Bora. ``We were hot on Osama bin Laden's trail,'' 
he wrote. ``He was definitely there when we hit the caves. 
Every day during the bombing, Rumsfeld asked me, `Did we get 
him? Did we get him?' I would have to answer that we didn't 
know.'' The retired general said that intelligence suggested 
bin Laden had been wounded during the bombings before he 
escaped to Pakistan, a conclusion reached by numerous 
journalists, too.
    DeLong argued that large numbers of U.S. troops could not 
be dispatched because the area surrounding Tora Bora was 
controlled by tribes hostile to the United States and other 
outsiders. But he recognized that the Pakistani Frontier Corps, 
asked to block any escape attempt by bin Laden, was ill-
equipped for the job. ``To make matters worse, this tribal area 
was sympathetic to bin Laden,'' he wrote. ``He was the richest 
man in the area, and he had funded these people for years.''
    The book was published in September 2004, a year after 
DeLong retired from the Army. That fall, the failure to capture 
or kill bin Laden had become an issue in the presidential 
campaign. Franks had retired from the Army in 2003 and he often 
defended the events at Tora Bora. On October 19, 2004, he wrote 
an opinion article in The New York Times saying that 
intelligence on the Al Qaeda leader's location had been 
inconclusive. ``We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden 
was at Tora Bora in December 2001,'' he wrote. ``Some 
intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in 
Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. 
Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Qaeda operatives, many 
of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never 
within our grasp.''
    Two weeks after the Franks article was published and barely 
two months after publication of his own book, DeLong reversed 
the conclusion from his autobiography and echoed his former 
boss in an opinion article on November 1 in The Wall Street 
Journal. After defending the decision to rely heavily on local 
militia and the Pakistani Frontier Corps, DeLong wrote: 
``Finally, most people fail to realize that it is quite 
possible that bin Laden was never in Tora Bora to begin with. 
There exists no concrete intel to prove that he was there at 
the time.''
    DeLong said in an interview with committee staff that the 
contradiction between his book and the opinion article was the 
result of murky intelligence. ``What I put in the book was what 
the intel said at the time,'' he said. ``The intel is not 
always right. I read it that he was there. We even heard that 
he was injured. Later intel was that he may or may not have 
been there. Did anybody have eyeballs on him? No. The intel 
stated that he was there at the time, but we got shot in the 
face by bad intel many times.''
    DeLong amplified the reasons for not sending American 
troops after bin Laden. ``The real reason we didn't go in with 
U.S. troops was that we hadn't had the election yet,'' he said 
in the staff interview, a reference to the installation of 
Hamid Karzai as the interim leader of Afghanistan. ``We didn't 
want to have U.S. forces fighting before Karzai was in power. 
We wanted to create a stable country and that was more 
important than going after bin Laden at the time.''
``A Controversial Fight''
    Military and intelligence officers at Tora Bora have 
provided ample evidence that bin Laden was there. Al Qaeda 
detainees have maintained that he was there. And the Pentagon's 
own summary of evidence in the case against a former senior 
jihadi commander at Guantanamo Bay concluded the detainee 
helped bin Laden escape. But the most authoritative and 
definitive unclassified government document on bin Laden's 
location in December 2001 is the official history of the United 
States Special Operations Command.
    The Special Operations Command, based alongside CentCom at 
MacDill Air Force Base, oversees the special forces of the 
Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The heavy reliance on 
special operations forces during the first stages of the Afghan 
campaign meant that the command played a central role in 
executing the war plan. Its units included the Delta Force team 
on the scene at Tora Bora. In preparing the official history of 
the command, a team of historians working for the command 
interviewed military and intelligence officials from every 
branch of the armed forces. The unclassified version of the 
history was published in 2007 and includes a lengthy section on 
the operations at Tora Bora.
    The section opens by saying that bin Laden and a large 
contingent of Al Qaeda troops had fled the area around Kabul 
for Nangahar Province and its provincial capital, Jalalabad, in 
early November. ``Analysts within both the CIA and CentCom 
correctly speculated that UBL would make a stand along the 
northern peaks of the Spin Ghar Mountains at a place then 
called Tora Gora,'' says the history. ``Tora Bora, as it was 
redubbed in December, had been a major stronghold of AQ for 
years and provided routes into Pakistan.'' The history said bin 
Laden had ``undoubtedly'' chosen to make his last stand there 
prior to the onset of winter, along with between 500 and 2,000 
others, before escaping into Pakistan.
    In the concluding passage assessing the battle of Tora 
Bora, the historians from the Special Operations Command wrote: 
``What has since been determined with reasonable certainty was 
that UBL was indeed at Tora Bora in December 2001. All source 
reporting corroborated his presence on several days from 9-14 
December. The fact that SOF (special operations forces) came as 
close to capturing or killing UBL as U.S. forces have to date 
makes Tora Bora a controversial fight. Given the commitment of 
fewer than 100 American personnel, U.S. forces proved unable to 
block egress routes from Tora Bora south into Pakistan, the 
route that UBL most likely took.''
    Franks declined to respond to any questions about the 
discrepancies about bin Laden's location or the conclusion of 
the Special Operations Command historians. ``We really don't 
have time for this,'' one of his aides, retired Col. Michael T. 
Hayes, wrote in an email to the committee staff. ``Focused on 
the future, not the past. Gen Franks made his decisions, based 
on the intel at the time.''

                2. The Afghan Model: A Flawed Masterpiece 
                            Or Just Flawed?

        Writing in Foreign Affairs in the spring of 2002, the 
        military analyst Michael O'Hanlon declared Operation 
        Enduring Freedom ``a masterpiece of military creativity 
        and finesse.'' The operation had been designed on the 
        fly and O'Hanlon praised Rumsfeld, Franks and CIA 
        Director George Tenet for devising a war plan that 
        combined limited American power and the Afghan 
        opposition to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda with only 
        30 U.S. casualties in the first five months. But 
        O'Hanlon tempered his praise, calling the plan ``a 
        flawed masterpiece'' because of the failure to capture 
        or kill bin Laden and other enemy leaders. The 
        resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in recent years, 
        and the turmoil they have wrought in Afghanistan and 
        Pakistan, raise the question of whether the plan was a 
        flawed masterpiece--or simply flawed.

    The Afghan model required elite teams of American commandos 
and CIA paramilitary operatives to form alliances with Afghans 
who opposed the Taliban and had the militias to help topple the 
religious fundamentalists. Some of these Afghans were 
legitimate ethnic and tribal leaders who chafed at the 
restrictions of the Taliban and the sanctuary it provided to Al 
Qaeda. Others were allies of convenience, Taliban rivals who 
held power by force and paid their men by collecting tolls and 
taxes on legitimate commerce and trafficking in heroin. By 
providing money and weapons, the U.S. forces helped the 
warlords destroy their rivals and expand their personal power. 
Many later entered the Afghan government and remain influential 
figures. The strategy was a short cut to victory that would 
have consequences for long-term stability in Afghanistan.
    When it came to bin Laden, the special operations forces 
relied on two relatively minor warlords from the Jalalabad 
area. Haji Hazarat Ali had a fourth-grade education and a 
reputation as a bully. He had fought the Soviets as a teenager 
in the 1980s and later joined the Taliban for a time. The 
other, Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, was a wealthy drug smuggler who 
had been persuaded by the United States to return from France. 
Ghamsharik also had fought the Soviets, but when the Taliban 
came to power, he had gone into exile in France. Together, they 
fielded a force of about 2,000 men, but there were questions 
from the outset about the competence and loyalties of the 
fighters. The two warlords and their men distrusted each other 
and both groups appeared to distrust their American allies.
    The Delta Force commandos had doubts about the willingness 
and ability of the Afghan militias to wage a genuine assault on 
Tora Bora almost from the outset. Those concerns were 
underscored each time the Afghans insisted on retreating from 
the mountains as darkness fell. But the suspicions were 
confirmed by events that started on the afternoon of December 
    Haji Ghamsharik approached Fury and told him that Al Qaeda 
fighters wanted to surrender. He said all they needed to end 
the siege was a 12-hour ceasefire to allow the fighters to 
climb down the mountains and turn in their weapons. Intercepted 
radio chatter seemed to confirm that the fighters had lost 
their resolve under the relentless bombing and wanted to give 
up, but Fury remained suspicious.
    ``This is the greatest day in the history of Afghanistan,'' 
Ghamsharik told Fury.
    ``Why is that?'' asked the dubious American officer.
    ``Because al Qaeda is no more,'' he said. ``Bin Laden is 
    The Special Operations Command history records that CentCom 
refused to back the ceasefire, suspecting a ruse, but it said 
the special ops forces agreed reluctantly to an overnight pause 
in the bombing to avoid killing the surrendering Al Qaeda 
fighters. Ghamsharik negotiated by radio with representatives 
of Al Qaeda. He initially told Fury that a large number of 
Algerians wanted to surrender. Then he said that he could turn 
over the entire Al Qaeda leadership. Fury's suspicions 
increased at such a bold promise. By the morning of December 
12, no Al Qaeda fighters had appeared and the Delta Force 
commander concluded that the whole episode was a hoax. 
Intelligence estimates are that as many as 800 Al Qaeda 
fighters escaped that night, but bin Laden stuck it out.
    Despite the unreliability of his Afghan allies, Fury 
refused to give up. He plotted ways to use his 40 Delta Force 
soldiers and the handful of other special ops troops under his 
command to go after bin Laden on their own. One of the plans 
was to go at bin Laden from the one direction he would never 
anticipate, the southern side of the mountains. ``We want to 
come in on the back door,'' Fury explained later, pointing on a 
map to the side of the Tora Bora enclave facing Pakistan. The 
peaks there rose to 14,000 feet and the valleys and precipitous 
mountain passes were already deep in snow. ``The original plan 
that we sent up through our higher headquarters, Delta Force 
wants to come in over the mountain with oxygen, coming from the 
Pakistan side, over the mountains and come in and get a drop on 
bin Laden from behind.'' The audacious assault was nixed 
somewhere up the chain of command. Undeterred, Fury suggested 
dropping hundreds of landmines along the passes leading to 
Pakistan to block bin Laden's escape. ``First guy blows his leg 
off, everybody else stops,'' he said. ``That allows aircraft 
overhead to find them. They see all these heat sources out 
there. Okay, there is a big large group of Al Qaeda moving 
south. They can engage that.'' That proposal was rejected, too.
    About the time Fury was desperately concocting scenarios 
for going after bin Laden and getting rejections from up the 
chain of command, Franks was well into planning for the next 
war--the invasion of Iraq.
A Shift in Attention and Resources
    On November 21, 2001, President Bush put his arm on Defense 
Secretary Rumsfeld as they were leaving a National Security 
Council meeting at the White House. ``I need to see you,'' the 
President said. It was 72 days after the 9/11 attacks and just 
a week after the fall of Kabul. But Bush already had new plans.
    According to Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, the 
President said to Rumsfeld: ``What kind of a war plan do you 
have for Iraq? How do you feel about the war plan for Iraq?'' 
Then the President told Woodward he recalled saying: ``Let's 
get started on this. And get Tommy Franks looking at what it 
would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we 
have to.'' Back at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld convened a meeting of 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draft a message for Franks asking 
for a new assessment of a war with Iraq. The existing 
operations plan had been created in 1998 and it hinged on 
assembling the kind of massive international coalition used in 
Desert Storm in 1991.
    In his memoir, American General, Franks later described 
getting the November 21 telephone call from Rumsfeld relaying 
the President's orders while he was sitting in his office at 
MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Franks and one of his aides 
were working on air support for the Afghan units being 
assembled to push into the mountains surrounding Tora Bora. 
Rumsfeld said the President wanted options for war with Iraq. 
Franks said the existing plan was out of date and that a new 
one should include lessons about precision weapons and the use 
of special operations forces learned in Afghanistan.
    ``Okay, Tom,'' Rumsfeld said, according to Franks. ``Please 
dust it off and get back to me next week.''
    Franks described his reaction to Rumsfeld's orders this 
way: ``Son of a bitch. No rest for the weary.''
    For critics of the Bush administration's commitment to 
Afghanistan, the shift in focus just as Franks and his senior 
aides were literally working on plans for the attacks on Tora 
Bora represents a dramatic turning point that allowed a 
sustained victory in Afghanistan to slip through our fingers. 
Almost immediately, intelligence and military planning 
resources were transferred to begin planning on the next war in 
Iraq. Though Fury, Berntsen and others in the field did not 
know what was happening back at CentCom, the drain in resources 
and shift in attention would affect them and the future course 
of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.
``We're Going to Lose Our Prey''
    In his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, former CIA 
Director Tenet said it was evident from the start that aerial 
bombing would not be enough to get bin Laden at Tora Bora. 
Troops needed to be in the caves themselves, he wrote, but the 
Afghan militiamen were ``distinctly reluctant'' to put 
themselves in harm's way and there were not enough Americans on 
the scene. He said that senior CIA officials lobbied hard for 
inserting U.S. troops. Henry Crumpton, the head of special 
operations for the CIA's counterterrorism operation and chief 
of its Afghan strategy, made direct requests to Franks. 
Crumpton had told him that the back door to Pakistan was open 
and urged Franks to move more than 1,000 Marines who had set up 
a base near Kandahar to Tora Bora to block escape routes. But 
the CentCom commander rejected the idea, saying it would take 
weeks to get a large enough U.S. contingent on the scene and 
bin Laden might disappear in the meantime.
    At the end of November, Crumpton went to the White House to 
brief President Bush and Vice President Cheney and repeated the 
message that he had delivered to Franks. Crumpton warned the 
President that the Afghan campaign's primary goal of capturing 
bin Laden was in jeopardy because of the military's reliance on 
Afghan militias at Tora Bora. Crumpton showed the President 
where Tora Bora was located in the White Mountains and 
described the caves and tunnels that riddled the region. 
Crumpton questioned whether the Pakistani forces would be able 
to seal off the escape routes and pointed out that the promised 
Pakistani troops had not arrived yet. In addition, the CIA 
officer told the President that the Afghan forces at Tora Bora 
were ``tired and cold'' and ``they're just not invested in 
getting bin Laden.''
    According to author Ron Suskind in The One Percent 
Solution, Crumpton sensed that his earlier warnings to Franks 
and others at the Pentagon had not been relayed the President. 
So Crumpton went further, telling Bush that ``we're going to 
lose our prey if we're not careful.'' He recommended that the 
Marines or other U.S. troops be rushed to Tora Bora.
    ``How bad off are these Afghani forces, really?'' asked 
Bush. ``Are they up to the job?
    ``Definitely not, Mr. President,'' Crumpton replied. 
``Definitely not.''
Flight from Tora Bora
    On December 14, the day bin Laden finished his will, Dalton 
Fury finally convinced Ali and his men to stay overnight in one 
of the canyons that they had captured during daylight. Over the 
next three days, the Afghan militia and their American advisers 
moved steadily through the canyons, calling in airstrikes and 
taking out lingering pockets of fighters. The resistance seemed 
to have vanished, prompting Ali to declare victory on December 
17. Most of the Tora Bora complex was abandoned and many of the 
caves and tunnels were buried in debris. Only about 20 
stragglers were taken prisoner. The consensus was that Al Qaeda 
fighters who had survived the fierce bombing had escaped into 
Pakistan or melted into the local population. Bin Laden was 
nowhere to be found. Two days later, Fury and his Delta Force 
colleagues left Tora Bora, hoping that someone would eventually 
find bin Laden buried in one of the caves.
    There was no body because bin Laden did not die at Tora 
Bora. Later U.S. intelligence reports and accounts by 
journalists and others said that he and a contingent of 
bodyguards departed Tora Bora on December 16. With help from 
Afghans and Pakistanis who had been paid in advance, the group 
made its way on foot and horseback across the mountain passes 
and into Pakistan without encountering any resistance.
    The Special Operations Command history noted that there 
were not enough U.S. troops to prevent the escape, 
acknowledging that the failure to capture or kill bin Laden 
made Tora Bora a controversial battle. But Franks argued that 
Tora was a success and he praised both the Afghan militias and 
the Pakistanis who were supposed to have protected the border. 
``I think it was a good operation,'' he said in an interview 
for the PBS show Frontline on the first anniversary of the 
Afghan war. ``Many people have said, `Well, gosh, you know bin 
Laden got away.' I have yet to see anything that proves bin 
Laden or whomever was there. That's not to say they weren't, 
but I've not seen proof that they were there.''
    Bin Laden himself later acknowledged that he was at Tora 
Bora, boasting about how he and Zawahiri survived the heavy 
bombing along with 300 fighters before escaping. ``The 
bombardment was round-the-clock and the warplanes continued to 
fly over us day and night,'' he said in an audio tape released 
on February 11, 2003. ``Planes poured their lava on us, 
particularly after accomplishing their main missions in 
    In the aftermath of bin Laden's escape, there were 
accusations that militiamen working for the two warlords hired 
by the CIA to get him had helped the Al Qaeda leader cross into 
Pakistan. Michael Scheuer, who spent 15 years working on 
Afghanistan at the CIA and at one point headed the agency's bin 
Laden task force, was sharply critical of the war plan from the 
start because of its reliance on Afghan allies of dubious 
loyalty. ``Everyone who was cognizant of how Afghan operations 
worked would have told Mr. Tenet that he was nuts,'' Scheuer 
said later. ``And as it turned out, he was. ... The people we 
bought, the people Mr. Tenet said we would own, let Osama bin 
Laden escape from Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan into 
    The American forces never had a clear idea how many Al 
Qaeda fighters were arrayed against them. Estimates ranged as 
high as 3,000 and as low as 500, but the consensus put the 
figure around 1,000--at least until so many escaped during the 
fake surrender. Regardless of the exact number of enemy 
fighters, assaulting Tora Bora would have been difficult and 
probably would have cost many American and Afghan lives. The 
Special Operations Command's history offered this tightly 
worded assessment: ``With large numbers of well-supplied, 
fanatical AQ troops dug into extensive fortified positions, 
Tora Bora appeared to be an extremely tough target.''
    For Dalton Fury, the reward would have been worth the risk. 
``In general, I definitely think it was worth the risk to the 
force to assault Tora Bora for Osama bin Laden,'' he told the 
committee staff. ``What other target out there, then or now, 
could be more important to our nation's struggle in the global 
war on terror?''

                     3. An Alternative Battle Plan

          Rather than allowing bin Laden to escape, Franks and 
        Rumsfeld could have deployed American troops already in 
        Afghanistan on or near the border with Pakistan to 
        block the exits while simultaneously sending special 
        operations forces and their Afghan allies up the 
        mountains to Tora Bora. The complex mission would have 
        been risky, but analysis shows that it was well within 
        the reach and capability of the American military.

    In the years following the Vietnam War, the U.S. military 
developed a doctrine intended to place new constraints on when 
the country went to war and to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 
and prolonged conflict in Southeast Asia. In its most 
simplistic form, the doctrine focused on applying overwhelming 
and disproportionate military force to achieve concrete 
political goals. It called for mobilizing the military and 
political resources necessary for ending conflicts quickly and 
leaving no loose ends. The concept was known informally as the 
Powell doctrine, named for General Colin Powell, who outlined 
his vision at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
    The Afghan model constructed by Rumsfeld and Franks in 
response to the attacks on September 11 stood the Powell 
doctrine on its head. The new template was designed to deliver 
a swift and economical knockout blow through airpower and the 
limited application of troops on the ground. Instead of 
overwhelming force, the Afghan model depended on airpower and 
on highly mobile special operations forces and CIA paramilitary 
teams, working in concert with opposition warlords and tribal 
leaders. It was designed as unconventional warfare led by 
indigenous forces, and Franks put a ceiling of 10,000 on the 
number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Despite the valor of the 
limited American forces, the doctrine failed to achieve one of 
its most concrete political goals--eliminating the leadership 
of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The result has turned out to be 
nothing close to decisive victory followed by quick withdrawal.
    Assembling the size force required to apply overwhelming 
force across a country as large and rugged as Afghanistan would 
have taken many weeks. The only country in the region likely to 
provide the major bases required to prepare an invasion by tens 
of thousands of troops was Pakistan, and political 
sensitivities there would have made full cooperation both 
doubtful and risky for its leadership. The Pakistanis provided 
limited bases for U.S. operations in the early stages of 
planning and the invasion; the footprint was kept small to 
avoid a public outcry. But soldiers and scholars alike have 
argued that there were sufficient troops available in 
Afghanistan and nearby Uzbekistan to mount a genuine assault on 
Osama bin Laden's position at Tora Bora. And they could have 
been augmented within about a week by reinforcements from the 
Persian Gulf and the United States.
    The most detailed description of the assault option was 
laid out in an article in the journal Security Studies by Peter 
John Paul Krause of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
Entitled ``The Last Good Chance: A Reassessment of U.S. 
Operations at Tora Bora,'' the article described a large-scale 
operation called a block and sweep. The plan is simple enough: 
One group of American forces would block the likely exit 
avenues to Pakistan on the south side of Tora Bora while a 
second contingent moved against Al Qaeda's positions from the 
north. Simplicity should not be mistaken for sure success: 
Variables like weather conditions, the effectiveness of the 
remaining Al Qaeda fighters and the ability to close the escape 
routes would have made the mission risky. The dangers of 
attacking fortified positions manned by hardened fighters would 
likely have resulted in significant U.S. casualties.
    The assault would not have required thousands of 
conventional forces. A large number of troops would have taken 
too long to deploy and alerted Al Qaeda to the approaching 
attack. ``My opinion is that bin Laden would have left even 
earlier as soon as he received word that the U.S. troops were 
surrounding him,'' Fury told the committee staff. ``I think he 
only stayed as long as he did because he thought the mujahedin 
would not aggressively pursue him.''
    The preferred choice would have been a small, agile force 
capable of deploying quickly and quietly and trained to operate 
in difficult terrain against unconventional enemies. The U.S. 
military has large numbers of soldiers and Marines who meet 
those criteria--Delta Force, Green Berets, Navy Seals, Marine 
special operations units and Army Rangers and paratroopers. The 
effectiveness of U.S. special operations commandos, even in 
small numbers, was demonstrated on December 10. Two U.S. 
soldiers were able to get close enough to the Al Qaeda 
positions to call in air strikes for 17 straight hours, forcing 
enemy fighters to retreat and enabling the Afghan militia to 
capture key terrain near bin Laden's suspected location. It was 
an example of what a larger U.S. force could have accomplished, 
with support from available air power.
    The CIA's Berntsen had requested a battalion of Rangers, 
about 800 soldiers, and been turned down by CentCom. A 
battalion would have been a substantial increase in the U.S. 
presence, but it probably would not have been enough to both 
assault the stronghold from the north and block the exits on 
the south. Krause estimated that as few as 500 troops could 
have carried out the initial northern assault, with 
reinforcements arriving over the course of the battle. At least 
twice as many troops would have been required to execute the 
blocking mission on the southern, eastern and western reaches 
of Tora Bora. Krause proposed spreading about 1,500 troops to 
capture or kill anyone trying to flee. O'Hanlon estimated that 
closing off escape routes to Pakistan would have required 1,000 
to 3,000 American troops. In all, an initial force of roughly 
2,000 to 3,000 troops would have been sufficient to begin the 
block-and-sweep mission, with reinforcements following as time 
and circumstances allowed.
Troops Were Ready to Go
    Assembling the troops to augment the handful of special ops 
commandos under Fury's leadership at Tora Bora would have been 
a manageable task. Franks had set the ceiling of 10,000 U.S. 
troops to maintain a light footprint. Still, within that number 
there were enough ready and willing to go after bin Laden. In 
late November, about the time U.S. intelligence placed bin 
Laden squarely at Tora Bora, more than 1,000 members of the 
15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units, among the military's 
most mobile arms, established a base southwest of Kandahar, 
only a few hours flight away. They were primarily interdicting 
traffic and supporting the special operations teams working 
with Afghan militias. Another 1,000 troops from the Army's 10th 
Mountain Division were split between a base in southern 
Uzbekistan and Bagram Air Base, a short helicopter flight from 
Tora Bora. The Army troops were engaged mainly in military 
police functions, according to reports at the time.
    Both forces are trained in unconventional warfare and could 
have been redeployed rapidly for an assault. Lt. Col. Paul 
Lacamera, commander of a 10th Mountain battalion, later said 
that his men had been prepared to deploy anywhere in 
Afghanistan since mid-November. ``We weren't just sitting there 
digging holes and looking out,'' said Lacamera, whose actions 
in a later assault on Al Qaeda forces won him a Silver Star. 
``We were training for potential fights because eventually it 
was going to come to that.''
    The commander of the Marines outside Kandahar, Brig. Gen. 
James N. Mattis, told a journalist that his troops could seal 
off Tora Bora, but his superiors rejected the plan. Everyone 
knew that such an operation would have conflicted with the 
Afghan model laid down by Franks and Rumsfeld. But there were 
other reasons to hesitate. One former officer told the 
committee staff that the inability to get sufficient medical-
evacuation helicopters into the rough terrain was a major 
stumbling block for those who considered trying to push for the 
assault. He also said there were worries that bad weather would 
ground transport helicopters or, worse, knock them out of the 
    In addition to the troops in country, a battalion of Army 
Rangers was stationed in the Persian Gulf country of Oman, and 
200 of them had demonstrated their abilities by parachuting 
into an airfield near Kandahar at night in October. In Krause's 
analysis, a battalion of about 800 soldiers from the 82nd 
Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, could have 
been deployed to Tora Bora in less than a week, covering the 
7,000 miles in C-17 transport aircraft.
    No one should underestimate the logistical difficulty and 
danger of deploying even specially trained troops into hostile 
territory at altitudes of 7,000 to 10,000 feet. Landing zones 
for helicopters would likely have come under fire from Al Qaeda 
positions and drop zones for paratroopers were few and far 
between in the jagged terrain. But Chinook helicopters, the 
work horse for rapid deployments, proved capable of carrying 
combat troops above 11,000-foot mountain ranges as part of 
Operation Anaconda, a similar block-and-sweep mission carried 
out in February 2002 in eastern Afghanistan.
    Former U.S. military officers said that sending American 
troops into Tora Bora was discussed at various times in late 
November and early December of 2001. The CIA's Afghan chief, 
Hank Crumpton, made specific requests to Franks for U.S. troops 
and urged President Bush not to rely on Afghan militias and 
Pakistani paramilitary troops to do the job. CentCom went so 
far as to develop a plan to put several thousand U.S. troops 
into Tora Bora. Commanders estimated that deploying 1,000 to 
3,000 American troops would have required several hundred 
airlift flights by helicopters over a week or more.
    DeLong defended the decision not to deploy large numbers of 
American troops. ``We didn't have the lift,'' he told the 
committee staff. ``We didn't have the medical capabilities. The 
further we went down the road, the easier the decision got. We 
wanted Afghanistan to be peaceful for Karzai to take over. 
Right or not, that was the thinking behind what we did.''
    The Afghan model proved effective in some instances, 
particularly when Afghan opposition forces working with 
American advisers were arrayed against poorly trained Taliban 
foot soldiers. The precision bombs and overwhelming airpower 
also played a major role in dispersing the Taliban forces and 
opening the way for the rapid takeover of the country, though 
critics now say scattering the Taliban simply allowed them to 
regroup later. In the early days at Tora Bora, the light 
footprint allowed a handful of CIA and special operations 
operatives to guide bombs that killed dozens, if not hundreds, 
of Al Qaeda fighters. But the model was ineffective when it 
came to motivating opposition militiamen of questionable skills 
and doubtful resolve to carry the fight to the biggest 
concentration of Al Qaeda fighters of the war, particularly 
when the jihadis were battling to protect their leader. Fewer 
than 100 special operations force soldiers and CIA operatives 
were unable to turn the tide against those odds.
    Some critics said bin Laden escaped because the United 
States relied too heavily on Afghan militias to carry the fight 
forward at Tora Bora and on Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier 
Corps to block any escape. As Michael O'Hanlon pointed out, our 
allies did not have the same incentives to stop bin Laden and 
his associates as American troops. Nor did they have the 
technology and training to carry out such a difficult mission. 
The responsibility for allowing the most wanted man in the 
world to virtually disappear into thin air lies with the 
American commanders who refused to commit the necessary U.S. 
soldiers and Marines to finish the job.
    The same shortage of U.S. troops allowed Mullah Mohammed 
Omar and other Taliban leaders to escape. A semi-literate 
leader who fled Kandahar on a motorbike, Mullah Omar has re-
emerged at the helm of the Taliban-led insurgency, which has 
grown more sophisticated and lethal in recent years and now 
controls swaths of Afghanistan. The Taliban, which is aligned 
with a loose network of other militant groups and maintains 
ties to Al Qaeda, has established shadow governments in many of 
Afghanistan's provinces and is capable of mounting increasingly 
complex attacks on American and NATO forces. Bruce Riedel, a 
former CIA officer who helped develop the Obama 
administration's Afghan policy, recently referred to the 
mullah's return to power ``one of the most remarkable military 
comebacks in modern history.''
    Ironically, one of the guiding principles of the Afghan 
model was to avoid immersing the United States in a protracted 
insurgency by sending in too many troops and stirring up anti-
American sentiment. In the end, the unwillingness to bend the 
operational plan to deploy the troops required to take 
advantage of solid intelligence and unique circumstances to 
kill or capture bin Laden paved the way for exactly what we had 
hoped to avoid--a protracted insurgency that has cost more 
lives than anyone estimates would have been lost in a full-
blown assault on Tora Bora. Further, the dangerous contagion of 
rising violence and instability in Afghanistan has spread to 
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed ally of the United States which is 
now wracked by deadly terrorist bombings as it conducts its own 
costly military campaign against a domestic, Taliban-related 
The Price of Failure
    Osama bin Laden's demise would not have erased the 
worldwide threat from extremists. But the failure to kill or 
capture him has allowed bin Laden to exert a malign influence 
over events in the region and nearly 60 countries where his 
followers have established extremist groups. History shows that 
terrorist groups are invariably much stronger with their 
charismatic leaders than without them, and the ability of bin 
Laden and his terrorist organization to recover from the loss 
of their Afghan sanctuary reinforces the lesson.
    Eight years after its expulsion from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda 
has reconstituted itself and bin Laden has survived to inspire 
a new generation of extremists who have adopted and adapted the 
Al Qaeda doctrine and are now capable of attacking from any 
number of places. The impact of this threat is greatest in 
Pakistan, where Al Qaeda's continued presence and resources 
have emboldened domestic extremists waging an increasingly 
bloody insurrection that threatens the stability of the 
government and the region. Its training camps also have spawned 
new attacks outside the region--militants trained in Pakistan 
were tied to the July 2005 transit system bombings in London 
and several aborted plots elsewhere in Europe.
    Closer to home, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says 
two recent suspected plots disrupted by U.S. authorities 
involved long-time residents of the United States who had 
traveled to Pakistan and trained at bases affiliated with Al 
Qaeda. One of the plots involved two Chicago men accused in 
late October of planning to attack the Danish newspaper that 
published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. In the other, an 
Afghan-born man who drove a shuttle bus in Denver was arrested 
on suspicion of plans to detonate improvised explosives in the 
United States. Court papers said the man had been trained in 
weapons and explosives in Pakistan and had made nine pages of 
handwritten notes on how to make and handle bombs.
    For American taxpayers, the financial costs of the conflict 
have been staggering. The first eight years cost an estimated 
$243 billion and about $70 billion has been appropriated for 
the current fiscal year--a figure that does not include any 
increase in troops. But the highest price is being paid on a 
daily basis in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where 68,000 American 
troops and hundreds of U.S. civilians are engaged in the ninth 
year of a protracted conflict and the Afghan people endure a 
third decade of violence. So far, about 950 U.S. troops and 
nearly 600 allied soldiers have lost their lives in Operation 
Enduring Freedom, a conflict in which the outcome remains in 
grave doubt in large part because the extremists behind the 
violence were not eliminated in 2001.

                           executive summary
   1. One 15,000-pound bomb: ``Daisy Cutter bomb produced flurry of 
            intel,'' United Press International, December 12, 2001; 
            Benjamin Lambeth, Air Power Against Terror: America's 
            Conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom, p 149 (RAND, Santa 
            Monica, 2005).

   2. Bin Laden expected to die: ``Al-Majallah Obtains Bin Laden's 
            Will,'' Al-Majallah, October 27, 2002.

   3. Fewer than 100: Accounts of the small American troop presence and 
            Tora Bora and the requests for reinforcements are 
            plentiful. The CIA commander in Afghanistan at the time, 
            Gary Berntsen, wrote in his book Jawbreaker: The Attack on 
            Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (Crown, New York, 2005) about his 
            requests for 800 Army Rangers and his disputes with the 
            military over its refusal to provide the troops. In his 
            book, Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of 
            the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man, (St. Martin's 
            Press, New York, 2008) Dalton Fury said one of the key 
            mistakes by U.S. commanders was not committing enough 
            conventional troops to the battle at Tora Bora and not 
            using U.S. forces to seal the escape routes. Writing an 
            article, entitled ``Lost at Tora Bora,'' in The New York 
            Times Magazine on September 11, 2005, Mary Anne Weaver said 
            that Brig. Gen. James Mattis, the commander of at least 
            1,200 Marines at a base outside Kandahar in November 2001, 
            was convinced his troops could seal off Tora Bora. Michael 
            E. O'Hanlon said the U.S. Central Command made preparations 
            for sending several thousand troops to Tora Bora but 
            rejected the plan in ``A Flawed Masterpiece,'' Foreign 
            Affairs, Volume 81 No. 3 (March/April 2002) p.57-58.

   4. On December 16: Berntsen, pp 307-308. The date of bin Laden's 
            escape remains imprecise. In his book, Fury concluded that 
            bin Laden had fled Tora Bora by December 17, when U.S. 
            troops entered the complex. Peter Bergen, the last American 
            to interview bin Laden and highly regarded authority on Al 
            Qaeda, told the committee staff that bin Laden left around 
            December 14. Other accounts put the date on or around 
            December 16, the end of Ramadan.

   5. Rumsfeld said at the time: O'Hanlon, p 57. For a thorough 
            discussion of the Afghan model and its reliance on the CIA 
            and special operations forces, see Henry A. Crumpton, 
            ``Intelligence and War 2001-2002,'' Transforming U.S. 
            Intelligence (Georgetown University Press, 2005).

   6. There were enough: Peter John Paul Krause, ``The Last Good 
            Chance: A Reassessment of U.S. Operations at Tora Bora,'' 
            Security Studies, pp 644-684, Volume 17, 2008. Krause's 
            well-documented article is the most thorough examination of 
            the alternatives available to military commanders at Tora 
            Bora. For a broader overview of the Afghan model, see 
            Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan and the Future of Warfare: 
            Implications for Army and Defense Policy (Carlisle 
            Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War 
            College, 2003).

   7. For example, CIA: Committee staff interview with Fury, October 
            2009; Berntsen, pp 314-315.

   8. Franks' second-in-command: Michael DeLong, Inside CentCom: The 
            Unvarnished Truth About the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 
            pp 57-58 (Regnery Publishing, Chicago, 2004).

   9. ``All source reporting: U.S. Special Operations Command History, 
            p 101, sixth edition, March 2008 (www.socom.mil/SOCOMHome/
            Documents/history6thedition.pdf). The history was first 
            published in 2007, but the internet link here is to the 
            most recent edition; the section on Tora Bora is unchanged 
            from the 2007 version.

  10. In the middle of August: Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, 
            The Man From Pakistan: The True Story of the World's Most 
            Dangerous Nuclear Smuggler, pp 263-264 (Twelve Books, New 
            York, 2007). George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: My 
            Years at the CIA, p 266 (HarperCollins, New York, 2007).

                         1. flight to tora bora
  11. The first reports: The 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of 
            the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the 
            United States, pp 259-260.

  12. Only a handful of senators: U.S. Senate records and committee 
            staff interview.

  13. Less than a month: The 9/11 Commission Report, pp 261-263.

  14. Bin Laden's movements: Hamid Mir, ``Osama claims he has nukes: If 
            US uses N-arms it will get same response,'' Dawn, November 
            10, 2001.The article included a photo of Mir with bin 
            Laden. Hamid Mir, ``How Osama bin Laden escaped death four 
            times after 9/11,'' The News, September 11, 2007. Philip 
            Smucker, ``A day-by-day account of how Osama bin Laden 
            eluded the world's most powerful military machine,'' The 
            Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2002.

  15. After pressure: Steve Coll, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in 
            the American Century, pp 461-462 (The Penguin Press, New 
            York, 2008).

  16. U.S. intelligence had: Tenet, p 225.

  17. Outside experts like: Committee staff interview with Peter 
            Bergen, October 2009.

  18. ``He's got a large: ABC News Prime Time, Diane Sawyer interview 
            with Vice President Dick Cheney, November 29, 2001.

  19. Bin Laden's presence: Fury; staff interviews with Fury and one of 
            his colleagues who requested anonymity because he is not 
            authorized to speak about classified matters, October and 
            November 2009.

  20. Fury, who still uses: Staff interview with Fury.

  21. Another special: Staff interview with the Delta Force participant 
            referenced in Note 19.

  22. Afghan villagers: Staff interview with Fury. In another staff 
            interview, a former CIA counter-terrorism officer confirmed 
            elements of the information, including the agency's use of 
            push-button GPS devices.

  23. On December 9: ``Daisy Cutter bomb produced flurry of intel;'' 
            Lambeth, p 149; Fury, p 153, p 225; Berntsen, p 295.

  24. But later reports: Staff interview with the former CIA counter-
            terrorism officer who described the interrogation report of 
            a detainee from Tora Bora.

  25. At one point: Staff interview with Fury; various press reports.

  26. ``There is no doubt: Fury, p 281, a view he repeated in his staff 

  27. A ``summary of: ``U.S. holding man who allegedly helped terror 
            leader flee Tora Bora,'' Associated Press, March 23, 2005.

  28. Another confirmation: Berntsen, p 86.

  29. ``We needed U.S. soldiers: Ibid., pp 306-307.

  30. ``We could have: Richard Leiby, ``Knocking on Osama's Cave 
            Door,'' The Washington Post, February 16, 2006.

  31. ``Unfortunately, many: NBC News Meet the Press, Tim Russert 
            interview with Gary Schroen, May 10, 2005.

  32. In his memoir: DeLong, pp 56-59.

  33. ``To make matters: Ibid.

  34. On October 19: Tommy Franks, ``War of Words'', The New York 
            Times, October 19, 2004.

  35. Two weeks after: Michael DeLong, ``Setting the Record Straight on 
            Tora Bora,'' The Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2004.

  36. DeLong said: Committee staff interview with DeLong, October 2009.

  37. The section opens: U.S. Special Operations Command History, p 97.

  38. In the concluding: Ibid., p 101.

  39. Franks declined: E-mail response from Michael T. Hayes, 
            admin@tommy franks.com, October 27, 2009.
       2. the afghan model: a flawed masterpiece or just flawed?
  40. Writing in Foreign Affairs: O'Hanlon, pp 47-63.

  41. When it came: Weaver, ``Lost at Tora Bora;'' Smucker, ``A day-by-
            day account of how Osama bin Laden eluded the world's most 
            powerful military machine.''

  42. Haji Ghamsharik: Fury, pp 217-218.

  43. The Special Operations: U.S. Special Operations Command History, 
            p 100; staff interview with Fury.

  44. Despite the unreliability: Staff interview with Fury; CBS New 60 
            Minutes, ``Elite Officers Recalls Bin Laden Hunt,'' October 
            5, 2008.

  45. According to Bob: Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, p 8 (Simon & 
            Shuster, New York, 2008).

  46. In his memoir: Tommy Franks, American Soldier, p 315 (Regan 
            Books, New York, 2004).

  47. In his memoir: Tenet, pp 226-227.

  48. According to author: Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep 
            Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, pp 58-
            59 (Simon & Shuster, New York, 2006).

  49. On December 14: Fury, pp 270-275.

  50. ``I think it was: PBS Frontline, ``Campaign Against Terror,'' 
            October 2, 2002.

  51. Bin Laden himself: Bin Laden audio and translation provided by 
            the Intel Center at http://www.intelcenter.com.

  52. ``Everyone who was: PBS Frontline, ``Campaign Against Terror.''

  53. The Special Operations: U.S. Special Operations Command History, 
            p 97.

  54. ``In general: Staff interview with Fury.

                         3. an alternative plan
  55. In the years following: Michael A. Cohen, ``The Powell Doctrine's 
            Enduring Relevance,'' World Politics Review, July 22, 2009.

  56. The most detailed: Krause, ``The Last Good Chance: A Reassessment 
            of U.S. Operations at Tora Bora.''

  57. ``My opinion: Staff interview with Fury.

  58. The effectiveness of U.S. special: U.S. Special Operations 
            Command History, p 100.

  59. Krause proposed: Krause, pp 657-661.

  60. O'Hanlon estimated: O'Hanlon, p 57.

  61. Assembling the troops: Ibid., p 53, 58; Krause, pp 655-657; 
            various press accounts.

  62. Lt. Col. Paul Lacamera: Philip Smucker, Al Qaeda's Great Escape, 
            p 83 (Potomac Books, Washington DC, 2004).

  63. The commander of the Marines: Weaver, ``Lost at Tora Bora.'' The 
            Pentagon declined to make General Mattis, who remains on 
            active duty, available to the committee for an interview.

  64. One former officer: Staff interview with DeLong.

  65. Former U.S. military: Committee staff interviews with former 
            intelligence and military officers who requested anonymity 
            because the matter remains classified, October and November 

  66. DeLong defended: Staff interview with DeLong.

  67. Bruce Riedel: Scott Shane, ``A Dogged Taliban Chief Rebounds, 
            Vexing U.S.,'' The New York Times, October 11, 2009.

  68. Closer to home: David Johnston and Eric Schmitt, ``Small 
            Terrorism Plots Pose Threat, Officials Say,'' The New York 
            Times, November 1, 2009.

                          A P P E N D I X E S


  Appendix I.--``A Flawed Masterpiece,'' Michael E. O'Hanlon, Foreign 
                       Affairs, March/April 2002

                        A Flawed Masterpiece\1\

    \1\ This article originally appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine, 
May/June 2002, Volume 81, Number 3. It is reproduced here with 
permission. Michael E. O'Hanlon is Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy 
Studies at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Defense 
Policy Choices for the Bush Administration, 2001-2005.

                          Michael E. O'Hanlon


                     assessing the afghan campaign
    Throughout most of the twentieth century, the U.S. armed forces 
were seen as an overmuscled giant, able to win wars through brute 
strength but often lacking in daring and cleverness. This basic 
strategy worked during the two world wars, making the United States 
relatively tough to challenge. But it failed in Vietnam, produced 
mediocre results in Korea, and worked in the Persian Gulf War largely 
because the terrain was ideally suited to American strengths.
    What a difference a new century makes. Operation Enduring Freedom 
has been, for the most part, a masterpiece of military creativity and 
finesse. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Central Command 
(centcom) head General Tommy Franks, and Director of Central 
Intelligence George Tenet devised a plan for using limited but well-
chosen types of American power in conjunction with the Afghan 
opposition to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda. Secretary of State Colin 
Powell helped persuade Pakistan to sever its ties with the Taliban, 
work with Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, provide the bases and 
overflight rights needed by U.S. forces, and contribute to the general 
war effort. Besides pushing his national security team to develop an 
innovative and decisive war-fighting strategy, President George W. Bush 
rallied the American people behind the war effort and established a 
close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, making it far 
easier for the United States to work militarily in Central Asia. The 
U.S. effort to overthrow the Taliban deprived al Qaeda of its sanctuary 
within Afghanistan and left its surviving leaders running for their 
    \2\ Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, ``At Camp David, Advise and 
Dissent,'' The Washington Post, January 31, 2002, p. A1; Bill Keller, 
``The World According to Powell,'' The New York Times Magazine, 
November 25, 2001, pp. 61-62.
    At their peak, the U.S. forces involved in the war effort numbered 
no more than 60,000 (about half of which were in the Persian Gulf), and 
Western allies added no more than 15,000. But the U.S.-led military 
campaign has hardly been small in scale. By the end of January, the 
United States had flown about 25,000 sorties in the air campaign and 
dropped 18,000 bombs, including 10,000 precision munitions. The number 
of U.S. sorties exceeded the number of U.S. sorties flown in the 1999 
Kosovo war, and the United States dropped more smart bombs on 
Afghanistan than NATO dropped on Serbia in 1999. In fact, the total 
number of precision munitions expended in Afghanistan amounted to more 
than half the number used in Operation Desert Storm. (In addition, more 
than 3,000 U.S. and French bombs were dropped on surviving enemy forces 
in March during Operation Anaconda, in which some 1,500 Western forces 
and 2,000 Afghans launched a major offensive against about 1,000 enemy 
troops in the mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan.)
    If the U.S. strategy has had many virtues, however, it has also had 
flaws. Most important, it has apparently failed to achieve a key war 
goal: capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and other top enemy leaders. 
Such hunts are inherently difficult, but the prospects for success in 
this case were reduced considerably by U.S. reliance on Pakistani 
forces and Afghan militias for sealing off enemy escape routes and 
conducting cave-to-cave searches during critical periods. If most al 
Qaeda leaders stay at large, the United States and other countries will 
remain more vulnerable to terrorism than they would be otherwise--
perhaps significantly so.
    But on balance, Operation Enduring Freedom has been very 
impressive. It may wind up being more notable in the annals of American 
military history than anything since Douglas MacArthur's invasion at 
Inchon in Korea half a century ago. Even Norman Schwarzkopf's famous 
``left hook'' around Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm was less 
bold; had it been detected, U.S. airpower still could have protected 
coalition flanks, and American forces could have outrun Iraqi troops 
toward most objectives on the ground. By contrast, Operation Enduring 
Freedom's impressive outcome was far from preordained. Too much 
American force (e.g., a protracted and punishing strategic air campaign 
or an outright ground invasion) risked uniting Afghan tribes and 
militias to fight the outside power, angering the Arab world, 
destabilizing Pakistan, and spawning more terrorists. Too little force, 
or the wrong kind of force, risked outright military failure and a 
worsening of Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis--especially given the 
limited capabilities of the small militias that made up the anti-
Taliban coalition.
                               zeroing in
    Beginning on October 7, Afghans, Americans, and coalition partners 
cooperated to produce a remarkable military victory in Afghanistan. The 
winning elements included 15,000 Northern Alliance fighters (primarily 
from the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups), 100 combat sorties a day by 
U.S. planes, 300-500 Western special operations forces and intelligence 
operatives, a few thousand Western ground forces, and thousands of 
Pashtun soldiers in southern Afghanistan who came over to the winning 
side in November. Together they defeated the Taliban forces, estimated 
at 50,000 to 60,000 strong, as well as a few thousand al Qaeda 
    Various Western countries, particularly several NATO allies and 
Australia, played important roles as well. A formal NATO role in the 
war was neither necessary nor desirable, given the location of the 
conflict and the need for a supple and secretive military strategy. 
Still, NATO allies stood squarely by America's side, invoking the 
alliance's Article V mutual-defense clause after September 11, and 
demonstrated that commitment by sending five awacs aircraft to help 
patrol U.S. airspace. Forces from the United Kingdom, Australia, 
France, and Canada appear to have frequently contributed to the effort 
in Afghanistan; forces from Denmark, Norway, and Germany also 
participated in Operation Anaconda in March. Allied aircraft flew a 
total of some 3,000 sorties on relief, reconnaissance, and other 
missions. As noted, France dropped bombs during Operation Anaconda, and 
the United Kingdom fired several cruise missiles on the first day of 
battle as well. Numerous countries, including the Netherlands, Italy, 
and Japan, deployed ships to the Arabian Sea. The cooperation continues 
today, as major Western allies constitute the backbone of the un-
authorized stability force in Kabul.
    The short war has had several phases. The first began on October 7 
and lasted a month; the second ran through November and saw the Taliban 
lose control of the country; the third was characterized by intensive 
bombing of suspected al Qaeda strongholds in the Tora Bora mountain and 
cave complex in December; the fourth began with the inauguration of 
Hamid Karzai as interim prime minister and continues to date.
    During the first part of the war, Taliban forces lost their large 
physical assets such as radar, aircraft, and command-and-control 
systems, but they hung on to power in most regions. Most al Qaeda 
training camps and headquarters were also destroyed. Although Taliban 
forces did not quickly collapse, they were increasingly isolated in 
pockets near the major cities. Cut off from each other physically, they 
were unable to resupply or reinforce very well and had problems 
communicating effectively.
    In the first week of the war, U.S. aircraft averaged only 25 combat 
sorties a day, but they soon upped that total to around 100. (Some 70 
Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired in the early going; a total of 
about 100 had been used by December.) The United States comparably 
increased the number of airlift, refueling, and other support missions. 
U.S. air strikes by b-52 and b-1 bombers operating out of Diego Garcia 
typically involved six sorties a day; other land-based aircraft, 
primarily f-15es and ac-130 gunships from Oman, flew about as much. 
Planes from the three U.S. aircraft carriers based in the Arabian Sea 
provided the rest of the combat punch. Reconnaissance and refueling 
flights originated from the Persian Gulf region and Diego Garcia. Some 
air support and relief missions also came from, or flew over, Central 
Asia, where U.S. Army soldiers from the Tenth Mountain Division helped 
protect airfields.
    Most air attacks occurred around Afghanistan's perimeter, because 
the rugged central highlands were not a major operating area for the 
Taliban or al Qaeda. By the middle of October, most fixed assets worth 
striking had already been hit, so combat sorties turned to targeting 
Taliban and al Qaeda forces in the field. Aircraft continued to fly at 
an altitude of at least 10,000 feet, because the Pentagon was fearful 
of antiaircraft artillery, Soviet sa-7 and sa-13 portable antiaircraft 
missiles, and some 200-300 Stinger antiaircraft missiles presumed to be 
in Taliban or al Qaeda possession. But most precision-guided weapons 
are equally effective regardless of their altitude of origin, provided 
that good targeting information is available--as it was in this case, 
thanks to U.S. troops on the ground.
    The first month of the war produced only limited results and had 
many defense and strategic analysts worried about the basic course of 
the campaign. Some of those critics began, rather intemperately and 
unrealistically, to call for a ground invasion; others opposed an 
invasion but thought that a substantial intensification of efforts 
would prove necessary.
    In phase two, beginning in early November, that intensification 
occurred. But it was due not so much to an increased number of 
airplanes as to an increase in their effectiveness. By then, 80 percent 
of U.S. combat sorties could be devoted to directly supporting 
opposition forces in the field; by late November, the tally was 90 
percent. In addition, the deployment of more unmanned aerial vehicles 
and Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (jstars) aircraft 
to the region helped the United States maintain continuous 
reconnaissance of enemy forces in many places. Most important, the 
number of U.S. special operations forces and CIA teams working with 
various opposition elements increased greatly. In mid-October, only 
three special operations ``A teams,'' each consisting of a dozen 
personnel, were in Afghanistan; in mid-November, the tally was 10; by 
December 8, it was 17. This change meant the United States could 
increasingly call in supplies for the opposition, help it with tactics, 
and designate Taliban and al Qaeda targets for U.S. air strikes using 
global positioning system (gps) technology and laser range finders. The 
Marine Corps also began to provide logistical support for these teams 
as the war advanced.
    As a result, enemy forces collapsed in northern cities such as 
Mazar-i-Sharif and Taloqan over the weekend of November 9-11. Taliban 
fighters ran for their lives, provoking their leader, Mullah Muhammad 
Omar, to broadcast a demand that his troops stop ``behaving like 
chickens.'' Kabul fell soon afterward. By November 16, Pentagon 
officials were estimating that the Taliban controlled less than one-
third of the country, in contrast to 85 percent just a week before. 
Reports also suggested that Muhammad Atef, a key al Qaeda operative, 
was killed by U.S. bombs in mid-November. Kunduz, the last northern 
stronghold of enemy forces where several thousand Taliban and al Qaeda 
troops apparently remained, fell on November 24-25.
    In late November, more than 1,000 U.S. marines of the 15th and 26th 
Marine Expeditionary Units established a base about 60 miles southwest 
of Kandahar, which the Taliban continued to hold. They deployed there 
directly from ships in the Arabian Sea, leapfrogging over Pakistani 
territory at night (to minimize political difficulties for the 
government of President Pervez Musharraf) and flying 400 miles inland 
to what became known as Camp Rhino. Their subsequent resupply needs 
were largely met using Pakistani bases. Once deployed, they began to 
interdict some road traffic and carry out support missions for special 
operations forces.
    Meanwhile, Pashtun tribes had begun to oppose the Taliban openly. 
By November, they were accepting the help of U.S. special forces, who 
had previously been active principally in the north of the country. Two 
groups in particular--one led by Hamid Karzai, the other by another 
tribal leader, Gul Agha Shirzai--closed in on Kandahar. Mullah Omar 
offered to surrender in early December but in the end fled with most of 
his fighters, leaving the city open by December 8-9. Pockets of Taliban 
and al Qaeda resistance, each with hundreds of fighters or more, 
remained in areas near Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul, Kandahar, and possibly 
elsewhere, but the Taliban no longer held cities or major 
transportation routes.
    Why this part of the campaign achieved such a rapid and radical 
victory remains unclear. Taliban forces presumably could have held out 
longer if they had hunkered down in the cities and put weapons near 
mosques, hospitals, and homes, making their arsenal hard to attack from 
the air. Opposition fighters were too few to defeat them in street-to-
street fighting in most places, and starving out the Taliban would have 
required the unthinkable tactic of starving local civilian populations 
as well.
    Most likely, the Taliban got caught in positions outside major 
cities that they could neither easily escape nor defend. Once the 
Afghan opposition began to engage the enemy seriously in November and 
Taliban forces returned fire, they revealed their positions to American 
special operations personnel who could call in devastating air strikes. 
Sometimes they were tricked into revealing their locations over the 
radio. Even trench lines were poor defenses against 2-ton bombs 
delivered within 10 to 15 meters of their targets. Just what Taliban 
fighters could have done differently, once stranded in that open 
terrain, is unclear. They might have been better advised either to go 
on the offensive or to try to escape back into urban settings under 
cover of night or poor weather, although many U.S. reconnaissance 
assets work well under such conditions. But both approaches would have 
been difficult and dangerous, especially for a relatively 
unsophisticated military force such as the Taliban.
    The third main phase of the war began in early December. By this 
time, U.S. intelligence had finally pinpointed much of al Qaeda's 
strength near Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan. In particular, al 
Qaeda forces, including Osama bin Laden, were supposedly holed up in 
the mountain redoubts of Tora Bora. Traveling with perhaps 1,000 to 
2,000 foreign fighters, most of them fellow Arabs, bin Laden could not 
easily evade detection from curious eyes even if he might elude U.S. 
overhead reconnaissance. Thus, once Afghan opposition fighters, 
together with CIA and special operations forces, were deployed in the 
vicinity, U.S. air strikes against the caves could become quite 
effective. By mid-December, the fight for Tora Bora was over. Most 
significant cave openings were destroyed and virtually all signs of 
live al Qaeda fighters disappeared. Sporadic bombing continued in the 
area, and it was not until mid-January that a major al Qaeda training 
base, Zawar Kili, was destroyed. But most bombing ended by late 2001.
    So why did bin Laden and other top al Qaeda leaders apparently get 
away? The United States relied too much on Pakistan and its Afghan 
allies to close off possible escape routes from the Tora Bora region. 
It is not clear that these allies had the same incentives as the United 
States to conduct the effort with dogged persistence. Moreover, the 
mission was inherently difficult. By mid-December, the Pentagon felt 
considerably less sure than it had been of the likely whereabouts of 
bin Laden, even though it suspected that he and most of his top 
lieutenants were still alive.
    Although estimates remain rough, Taliban losses in the war were 
considerable. According to New York Times correspondent Nicholas 
Kristof, as many as 8,000 to 12,000 were killed--roughly 20 percent of 
the Taliban's initial fighting capability. Assuming conservatively at 
least two wounded for every person killed, Taliban losses could have 
represented half their initial fighting strength, a point at which most 
armies have traditionally started to crumble. Another 7,000 or more 
were taken prisoner. Kristof's tally also suggests that Afghan civilian 
casualties totaled only about 1,000, a mercifully low number despite 
several wrongly targeted U.S. bombings and raids during the war. 
Although a couple of those U.S. mistakes probably should have been 
prevented, they do not change the basic conclusion that the war caused 
relatively modest harm to innocents.
    U.S. forces had lost about 30 personnel by the middle of March: 
about a dozen on the battlefield (8 during Operation Anaconda) and the 
rest in and around Afghanistan through accidents. Most were Marine 
Corps and Army troops, but other personnel were lost as well, including 
a CIA operative. The casualty total was 50 percent greater than those 
of the invasions of Grenada and Haiti in the 1980s but less than the 
number of troops killed in Somalia in 1992-93.
                           follow the leader
    On the whole, Operation Enduring Freedom has been masterful in both 
design and execution. Using specially equipped CIA teams and special 
operations forces in tandem with precision-strike aircraft allowed for 
accurate and effective bombing of Taliban and al Qaeda positions. U.S. 
personnel also contributed immensely to helping the Northern Alliance 
tactically and logistically. By early November, the strategy had 
produced mass Taliban retreats in the north of the country; it had 
probably caused many Taliban casualties as well.
    More notably, the U.S. effort helped quickly galvanize Pashtun 
forces to organize and fight effectively against the Taliban in the 
south, which many analysts had considered a highly risky proposition 
and centcom had itself considered far from certain. Had these Pashtun 
forces decided that they feared the Northern Alliance and the United 
States more than the Taliban, Afghanistan might have become effectively 
partitioned, with al Qaeda taking refuge exclusively in the south and 
the war effort rendered largely futile. Convincing these Pashtun to 
change sides and fight against the Taliban required just the right mix 
of diplomacy, military momentum and finesse, and battlefield assistance 
from CIA and special operations teams.
    Yet despite the overall accomplishments, mistakes were made. The 
Pentagon's handling of the al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo 
Bay, Cuba, was one of them. Whether these men should have been 
designated as prisoners of war can be debated. Neither group fought for 
a recognized government, and al Qaeda fighters satisfied virtually none 
of the standard criteria associated with soldiers. The Bush 
administration's decision not to designate the detainees as pows is 
thus understandable, particularly since it did not want to be forced to 
repatriate them once hostilities in Afghanistan ended. But it probably 
would have been wiser to accord the detainees pow rights initially, 
until a military tribunal could determine them ineligible for pow 
status, as the Geneva Conventions stipulate.
    The pow issue aside, the administration's initial reluctance to 
guarantee the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions to Taliban 
soldiers and its continued refusal to apply them to al Qaeda were 
unwise. These decisions fostered the impression that the detainees were 
not being treated humanely. This perception was wrong, but it became 
prevalent. Rumsfeld had to go on the defensive after photos circulated 
around the world showing shackled prisoners kneeling before their open-
air cells; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers talked 
somewhat hyperbolically about how the detainees might gnaw through 
hydraulic cables on airplanes if not forcibly restrained; and some 
Pentagon officials even suggested that the detainees did not 
necessarily deserve Geneva treatment, given the crimes of al Qaeda on 
September 11. But Rumsfeld's comments came too late, and America's 
image in the Arab world in particular took another hit.
    The big U.S. mistake, however, concerned the hunt for top al Qaeda 
leaders. If Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Zubaydah, and other 
top al Qaeda officials are found to have survived, the war will have 
failed to achieve a top objective. Rather than relying on Afghan and 
Pakistani forces to do the job in December near Tora Bora, Rumsfeld and 
Franks should have tried to prevent al Qaeda fighters from fleeing into 
Pakistan by deploying American forces on or near the border. U.S. 
troops should also have been used in the pursuit of Mullah Omar and 
remnants of the Taliban, even though this mission was less important 
than the one against al Qaeda leaders.
    Admittedly, there were good reasons not to put many Americans in 
Afghanistan. First, Washington feared a possible anti-American 
backlash, as Rumsfeld made clear in public comments. Complicating 
matters, the United States would have had a hard time getting many tens 
of thousands of troops into Afghanistan, since no neighboring country 
except Pakistan would have been a viable staging base--and Pakistan was 
not willing to play that role.
    But even though Rumsfeld's reasoning was correct in general, it was 
wrong for Tora Bora. Putting several thousand U.S. forces in that 
mountainous, inland region would have been difficult and dangerous. Yet 
given the enormity of the stakes in this war, it would have been 
appropriate. Indeed, centcom made preparations for doing so. But in the 
end, partly because of logistical challenges but perhaps partly because 
of the Pentagon's aversion to casualties, the idea was dropped. It is 
supremely ironic that a tough-on-defense Republican administration 
fighting for vital national security interests appeared almost as 
reluctant to risk American lives in combat as the Clinton 
administration had been in humanitarian missions--at least until 
Operation Anaconda, when it may have been largely too late.
    Furthermore, local U.S. allies were just not up to the job in Tora 
Bora. Pakistan deployed about 4,000 regular army forces along the 
border itself. But they were not always fully committed to the mission, 
and there were too few well-equipped troops to prevent al Qaeda and 
Taliban fighters from outflanking them, as many hundreds of enemy 
personnel appear to have done. Afghan opposition forces were also less 
than fully committed, and they were not very proficient in fighting at 
    What would have been needed for the United States to perform this 
mission? To close off the 100 to 150 escape routes along the 25-mile 
stretch of the Afghan-Pakistani border closest to Tora Bora would have 
required perhaps 1,000 to 3,000 American troops. Deploying such a force 
from the United States would have required several hundred airlift 
flights, followed by ferrying the troops and supplies to frontline 
positions via helicopter. According to centcom, a new airfield might 
have had to be created, largely for delivering fuel. Such an operation 
would have taken a week or more. But two Marine Corps units with more 
than 1,000 personnel were already in the country in December and were 
somewhat idle at that time. If redeployed to Tora Bora, they could have 
helped prevent al Qaeda's escape themselves. They also could have been 
reinforced over subsequent days and weeks by Army light forces or more 
marines, who could have closed off possible escape routes into the 
interior of Afghanistan. Such an effort would not have assured success, 
but the odds would have favored the United States.
    How much does it matter if bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and their 
cohorts go free? Even with its top leaders presumably alive, al Qaeda 
is weaker without its Afghan sanctuary. It has lost training bases, 
secure meeting sites, weapons production and storage facilities, and 
protection from the host-country government. But as terrorism expert 
Paul Pillar has pointed out, the history of violent organizations with 
charismatic leaders, such as the Shining Path in Peru and the Kurdistan 
Workers' Party (pkk) in Turkey, suggests that they are far stronger 
with their leaders than without them. The imprisonment of Abimael 
Guzman in 1992 and Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 did much to hurt those 
organizations, just as the 1995 assassination of Fathi Shikaki of the 
Palestinian Islamic Jihad weakened that group significantly. Some 
groups may survive the loss of an important leader or become more 
violent as a result--for example, Hamas flourished after the Israelis 
killed ``the Engineer'' Yahya Ayyash in 1996. But even they may have a 
hard time coming up with new tactics and concepts of operations after 
such a loss.
    If bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and other top al Qaeda leaders continue 
to evade capture, they may have to spend the rest of their lives on the 
run. And their access to finances may be sharply curtailed. But they 
could still inspire followers and design future terrorist attacks. If 
successful, their escape would be a major setback.
                     evolution in military affairs
    Even though advocates of the famous ``revolution in military 
affairs'' have generally felt frustrated over the past decade, a number 
of important military innovations appeared in Operation Enduring 
Freedom. They may not be as revolutionary as blitzkrieg, aircraft-
carrier war, and nuclear weapons, but they are impressive nonetheless. 
Advocates of radical change have tended to underestimate the degree to 
which the U.S. military can and does innovate even without dramatic 
    Several developments were particularly notable. First, there was 
the widespread deployment of special operations forces with laser 
rangefinders and gps devices to call in extremely precise air strikes. 
Ground spotters have appeared in the annals of warfare for as long as 
airplanes themselves, but this was the first time they were frequently 
able to provide targeting information accurate to within several meters 
and do so quickly.
    Second, U.S. reconnaissance capabilities showed real improvement. 
Unmanned aerial vehicles (uavs), together with imaging satellites and 
jstars, maintained frequent surveillance of much of the battlefield and 
continuous coverage of certain specific sites--providing a capability 
that General Myers described as ``persistence.''
    Also notable were advances in battlefield communications. The 
networks established between uavs, satellites, combat aircraft, and 
command centers were faster than in any previous war, making 
``persistence'' even more valuable. The networks were not always fast 
enough, especially when the political leadership needed to intercede in 
specific targeting decisions. Nor were they available for all combat 
aircraft in the theater; for example, the Air Force's ``Link 16'' data 
links are not yet installed on many strike aircraft. But they did often 
reduce the time between detecting a target and destroying it to less 
than 20 minutes.
    Perhaps most historic was the use of CIA-owned Predator uavs to 
drop weapons on ground targets. Aside from cruise missiles, this was 
the first time in warfare that an unmanned aircraft had dropped bombs 
in combat, in the form of ``Hellfire'' air-to-ground missiles. There 
were also further milestones in the realm of precision weapons, which 
for the first time in major warfare constituted the majority of bombs 
dropped. They were dropped from a wide range of aircraft, including 
carrier-based jets, ground-based attack aircraft, and b-52 as well as 
b-1 bombers. The bombers were used effectively as close-air support 
platforms, loitering over the battlefield for hours until targets could 
be identified. They delivered about 70 percent of the war's total 
    In addition to the laser-guided bomb, the weapon of choice for the 
United States quickly became the joint direct attack munition (jdam). 
First used in Kosovo, it is a one-ton iron bomb furnished with a 
$20,000 kit that helps steer it to within 10 to 15 meters of its target 
using gps and inertial guidance. It is not quite as accurate as a 
laser-guided bomb but is much more resistant to the effects of weather. 
In the Kosovo war, only the b-2 could deliver it, but now the jdam can 
be dropped by most U.S. attack aircraft. By the end of January, the 
United States had dropped more than 4,000 laser-guided bombs and more 
than 4,000 jdams as well.
    Other ordnance was also important. Up to 1,000 cluster bombs were 
used, with accuracy of about 30 meters once outfitted with a wind-
correcting mechanism. Although controversial because of their dud rate, 
cluster bombs were devastating against Taliban and al Qaeda troops 
unlucky enough to be caught in the open. A number of special-purpose 
munitions were used in smaller numbers, including cave-busting 
munitions equipped with nickel-cobalt steel-alloy tips and special 
software; these could penetrate up to 10 feet of rock or 100 feet of 
    The ability to deliver most U.S. combat punch from the air kept the 
costs of war relatively modest. Through January 8, the total had 
reached $3.8 billion, while the military costs of homeland security 
efforts in the United States had reached $2.6 billion. The bills in 
Afghanistan included $1.9 billion for deploying troops, $400 million 
for munitions, $400 million for replacing damaged or destroyed 
equipment, and about $1 billion for fuel and other operating costs.
                         lessons for the future
    What broad lessons emerge from this conflict? First, military 
progress does not always depend on highly expensive weapons platforms. 
Many important contemporary trends in military technology and tactics 
concern information networks and munitions more than aircraft, ships, 
and ground vehicles. To take an extreme example, b-52 bombers with jdam 
were more useful in Operation Enduring Freedom than were the stealthy 
b-2s. Second, human skills remain important in war, as demonstrated 
best by the performance of special operations forces and CIA personnel. 
The basic infantry skills, foreign language abilities, competence and 
care in using and maintaining equipment, and physical and mental 
toughness of U.S. troops contributed to victory every bit as much as 
did high-tech weaponry.
    Third, military mobility and deployability should continue to be 
improved. The Marine Corps did execute an impressive ship-to-objective 
maneuver, forgoing the usual ship-to-shore operation and moving 400 
miles inland directly. But most parts of the Army still cannot move so 
quickly and smoothly. Part of the solution may be the Army's long-term 
plans for new and lighter combat equipment. (The Marine Corps' v-22 
Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft may be useful, too, at least in modest 
numbers and once proven safe.) But the Army could also emulate the 
Marine Corps' organization, training, and logistics where possible--and 
soon. The task is hardly hopeless; Army forces were tactically quite 
mobile and impressive in Operation Anaconda.
    Finally, the war showed that more joint-service experimentation and 
innovation are highly desirable, given that the synergies between 
special operations forces on the ground and Air Force and Navy aircraft 
in the skies were perhaps the most important keys to victory.
    How do these lessons match up with the Bush administration's 
Quadrennial Defense Review of September 30, 2001, and its long-term 
budget plan of February 4, 2002? The administration has basically 
preserved the force structure and weapons modernization plan that it 
inherited from the Clinton administration, added missile defense and 
one or two other priorities--and thrown very large sums of money into 
the budget. The Bush administration envisions a national security 
budget (Pentagon spending plus nuclear weapons budgets for the 
Department of Energy) that will grow to $396 billion in 2003 and $470 
billion in 2007. (It was $300 billion when Bush took office and is $350 
billion in 2002.) The war on terrorism cannot explain this growth; its 
annual costs are currently expected to be less than $10 billion after 
2003. That $470 billion figure for 2007 is a whopping $100 billion more 
than the Clinton administration envisioned for the same year in its 
last budget plan.
    For many critics who tend to focus on weapons procurement, the 
problem with Bush's plan is that it protects the traditional weapons 
priorities of the military services without seeking a radical enough 
transformation of the U.S. armed forces. But this common criticism is 
only half right. The Bush administration has an aggressive program for 
so-called defense transformation, principally in research, development, 
and experimentation, where it envisions spending an additional $100 
billion between 2002 and 2007. If anything, these plans are slightly 
too generous and ambitious.
    In fact, the problem is the traditional one: the unwillingness to 
set priorities and to challenge the military services to do so as well, 
especially in the procurement accounts. Despite the lack of a 
superpower rival, the administration proposes replacing most major 
combat systems with systems often costing twice as much, and doing so 
throughout the force structure. This plan would drive up the 
procurement budget to $99 billion by 2007 from its present level of $60 
    A more prudent modernization agenda would begin by canceling at 
least one or two major weapons, such as the Army's Crusader artillery 
system. But the more important change in philosophy would be to 
modernize more selectively in general. Only a modest fraction of the 
armed forces need to be equipped with the most sophisticated and 
expensive weaponry. That high-end or ``silver bullet'' force would be a 
hedge against possible developments such as a rapidly modernizing 
Chinese military. The rest of the force should be equipped primarily 
with relatively inexpensive, but highly capable, existing weaponry 
carrying better sensors, munitions, computers, and communications 
systems. For example, rather than purchase 3,000 joint-strike fighters, 
the military would buy only 1,000 of those and then add aircraft such 
as new f-16 Block 60 fighters to fill out its force structure.
    Other parts of the proposed Bush plan deserve scrutiny, too. After 
several successive years of increases, military pay is now in fairly 
good shape. In most cases, compensation is no longer poor by comparison 
with private-sector employment; as such, the administration's plans for 
further large increases go too far. The proposed research and 
development budgets, meanwhile, exceed the already hefty increases 
promised by Bush during his presidential campaign; given that research 
and development were not severely cut during the 1990s, such growth 
seems excessive now. Finally, the Pentagon needs to reform the way it 
provides basic services such as military health care, housing, and 
various base operations. Unfortunately, if budgets get too big, the 
Pentagon's incentives to look for efficiencies often weaken. On 
balance, the planned increases in defense spending are roughly twice as 
much as necessary for the years ahead.
    A final assessment of Operation Enduring Freedom depends on whether 
bin Laden and his top lieutenants have escaped Afghanistan. It could be 
a while before anyone knows; indeed, Rumsfeld has speculated that U.S. 
troops could remain in Afghanistan into 2003. A verdict will also have 
to await a better sense of where Afghanistan is headed. Whatever the 
stability of the post-Taliban government, it is doubtful that the 
Taliban and al Qaeda will ever control large swaths of the country 
again. But if pockets of terrorists remain in the country, or if 
Afghanistan again descends into civil war, the victory will be 
incomplete. In the former case, Afghanistan could still be an important 
if diminished asset for al Qaeda; in the latter, the U.S. image 
throughout the Islamic world may take another blow as critics find more 
fuel for their claims that Americans care little about the fate of 
Muslim peoples.
    To prevent such outcomes, Washington needs to work hard with other 
donors to make reconstruction and aid programs succeed in Afghanistan. 
The Bush administration also needs to rethink its policy on 
peacekeeping. Its current unwillingness to contribute to a stability 
force for Afghanistan is a major mistake that U.S. allies may not be 
able to redress entirely on their own. A force of 20,000 to 30,000 
troops is clearly needed for the country as a whole; several thousand 
troops in Kabul will probably not suffice.
    That said, the situation in Afghanistan has improved enormously 
since October 7--and so has U.S. security. The Afghan resistance, the 
Bush administration, its international coalition partners, the U.S. 
armed forces, and the CIA have accomplished what will likely be 
remembered as one of the greater military successes of the twenty-first 
            Appendix II.--United States Special Operations 
                      Command History, 6th Edition