April 17, 2005

US decision to let Afghans chase Laden was mistake

BERLIN (AP): Osama bin Laden bribed Afghan militias to give him free passage into hiding after the US-led invasion in 2001, the head of Germany's spy agency was quoted Tuesday as saying, in remarks critical of the United States. "The principal mistake was made already in 2001, when one wanted Bin Laden to be apprehended by the Afghan militias in Tora Bora," August Hanning told the Handelsblatt daily. "There, bin Laden could buy himself free with a lot of money." The head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service did not explicitly blame the United States, whose forces used Afghans as their eyes and ears in the hunt for al-Qaeda and Taleban after the war, but the context was clear. Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan the US commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, acknowledged that some Afghans were probably accepting bribes to free al-Qaeda or Taleban fighters whom the US wished to interrogate - although he did not name Osama bin Laden himself.

Military experts warned at the time that many Afghan tribal leaders were working first to consolidate their own power, viewing the American goals of capturing al-Qaeda figures as secondary. The failure to catch bin Laden quickly allowed the terrorist leader - blamed by the United States for the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington - to slip away and insulate himself, Hanning said. "Since then, he has been able to create his own infrastructure in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and has won many friends from the tribal groups there," he said.

No comments: