The cover of the current issue of the New Republic blares, The Battle for Tora Bora: The Untold Story. It’s a good article, but it’s actually an old story. Some of the details are new, but I think it’s been at least five years since we’ve known that Bin Laden was cornered in the caves of Tora Bora in December of 2001, but the chain of command rejected a request to send in US ground forces. Instead we sent in some Afghan militia and Bin Laden got away.
The individual clearly responsible for this bad decision was Gen. Tommy Franks, the US commander of all forces in the region. Yet Peter Bergen, the story’s author, seems less concerned with explaining Franks’ flawed decision than with tantalizing hints that perhaps Bush and Rumsfeld’s early interest in Iraq somehow led Franks’ astray.
The twist, however, is that exposing GOP hawks’ incompetence in the past serves the purpose of scoring points against liberal doves in the present. Bergen writes,
Bin Laden was clearly at Tora Bora, and sending so few troops was indeed a major failure. It’s a lesson that bears remembering today as the United States continues to pursue Islamist militants in both Afghanistan and Pakistan: In the hunt for members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, there is simply no substitute for boots on the ground. Afghan proxies, Pakistani soldiers, drones–these are not unimportant tools in the war on terrorism. But they are not effective substitutes for U.S. troops. If we want to kill bin Laden and Zawahiri–and other top Al Qaeda leaders–we are probably going to have to do it ourselves.
So, next time a lefty protests’ Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan, I will say, “Even the liberal New Republic…”