Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Gen. Tommy Franks: Kerry Outsourcing Truth About Tora Bora

War of Words
By TOMMY FRANKS
President Bush and Senator John Kerry have very different views of the war
on terrorism, and those differences ought to be debated in this presidential
campaign. But the debate should focus on facts, not distortions of history.

On more than one occasion, Senator Kerry has referred to the fight at
Tora Bora in Afghanistan during late 2001 as a missed opportunity for America.
He claims that our forces had Osama bin Laden cornered and allowed him to
escape. How did it happen? According to Mr. Kerry, we "outsourced" the job to
Afghan warlords. As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was
responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the
senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality.

First, take Mr. Kerry's contention that we "had an opportunity to
capture or kill Osama bin Laden" and that "we had him surrounded." We don't know
to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. 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.

Second, we did not "outsource" military action. We did rely heavily on
Afghans because they knew Tora Bora, a mountainous, geographically difficult
region on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is where Afghan mujahedeen
holed up for years, keeping alive their resistance to the Soviet Union. Killing
and capturing Taliban and Qaeda fighters was best done by the Afghan fighters
who already knew the caves and tunnels.

Third, the Afghans weren't left to do the job alone. Special forces
from the United States and several other countries were there, providing
tactical leadership and calling in air strikes. Pakistani troops also provided
significant help - as many as 100,000 sealed the border and rounded up hundreds
of Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Contrary to Senator Kerry, President Bush never "took his eye off the
ball" when it came to Osama bin Laden. The war on terrorism has a global focus.
It cannot be divided into separate and unrelated wars, one in Afghanistan and
another in Iraq. Both are part of the same effort to capture and kill terrorists
before they are able to strike America again, potentially with weapons of mass
destruction. Terrorist cells are operating in some 60 countries, and the United
States, in coordination with dozens of allies, is waging this war on many
fronts.

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