Osama bin Laden was “within the grasp” of US forces in late 2001 but escaped because then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements, a US Senate report says.
Dated for release Monday, the hard-hitting study comes as President Barack Obama prepares to announce a major escalation of the Afghan conflict, now in its ninth year, with the expected deployment of some 34,000 more US troops.
It points the finger directly at Rumsfeld for turning down requests for reinforcements as Bin Laden was trapped in December 2001 in caves and tunnels in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora.
“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,” the report says.
“Instead, the US 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.”