Monday, May 16


Has anyone seen or heard former CIA agent ?Gary Schroen on TV or radio promoting his newly released book, "First In: How the "? He's pretty credible, calm and knowledgeable (he was former station chief in both Kabul and Islamabad). He says he is surprised that the CIA has still not managed to track down Bin Laden after all this time. He's convinced he's in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but says the Pakistanis won't cooperate with us on Bin Laden -- the people of the region where he's hiding consider him a hero.

Little Tim interviewed him on MTP yesterday:

MR. RUSSERT:  How did he get away?

MR. SCHROEN:  We had done--followed the same lead we had taken since September of '01 in defeating the Taliban.  We were attacking with U.S. military forces against the al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, and we hired local tribal leaders to guard the escape routes into Pakistan.  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...
MR. RUSSERT:  Should we have had [as John Kerry declared during the presidential campaign] more U.S. troops in Afghanistan circling Tora Bora to prevent his escape?

MR. SCHROEN:  In hindsight that would have been ideal.  We fought a special operations war.  It was CIA and Army Green Berets on the ground directing the bombing campaign.  It was only late in the campaign that U.S. ground forces came in, and the evolution, I think, simply we didn't take it far enough.  If we'd have had one more battle after Tora Bora, we probably would have gotten it right.

MR. RUSSERT:  Again, in October of 2004, in the presidential campaign, after John Kerry made those charges, General Tommy Franks offered this observation. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001.  ...Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp."

You just disagree with that?

MR. SCHROEN:  I absolutely do, yes.

MR. RUSSERT:  And President Bush and Vice President Cheney all quoted General Franks, saying:  "We don't know if bin Laden was at Tora Bora."  You have no doubt.

MR. SCHROEN:  I have no doubt that he was there.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn again to your book.  "The United States is continuing to pour billions of dollars and sacrifice the lives of American soldiers in order to bring peace and democracy to Iraq.  This is being done at the expense of Afghanistan. ... Given the total preoccupation with Iraq, I am not confident that the U.S. government will make the policy adjustments necessary to improve conditions for the success of the democratic experiment in Afghanistan, or refocus diplomatic and military efforts back to the South Asia region in order to capture Osama bin Laden and defeat al-Qa'ida.  The opportunity to make these changes exists now; if we fail in these efforts, we do so at our peril."

Are you suggesting--do you believe that Iraq is a distraction, a preoccupation, and it is really limiting our ability to capture Osama bin Laden and secure Afghanistan?

MR. SCHROEN:  I absolutely do.


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