September 3, 2006

War Sabotage Report

Shadow Boxing in the Caves of Tora Bora

Part 3: Aftermath of a Miracle
– Continued from Part 2 –

U.S. Army helicopter in Tora Bora
U.S. Dept. of Defense
Searching All Over Again: A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook heli­copter resupplies Marines in Tora Bora during Operation Celtics, yet another mission looking for Taliban guerrillas after U.S. forces abandoned the area previously (May, 2005).
While the Afghan Communists of the Northern Alliance were protecting the “Taliban” guerrillas in eastern Afghanistan by stalling for time and misdirecting U.S. air power, Fabian Socialists in the Bush Administration were progressively maneuvering American forces into a weaker position from which victory would become impossible. Throughout the first two weeks of December, 2001, the battle of Tora Bora was slowly turning into a vice grip of doom for the U.S.

Every day of delay made the bombing campaign harder; as winter approached, it brought bad weather that interfered with plane flight and cloud cover that protected the Taliban guerrillas.1 Yet during the entire charade, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a member of the subversive Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and its affiliated Project for the New American Century (PNAC), endlessly provided cover for the treacherous Afghan milita “allies” on the ground. “The less we intrude on the Afghans themselves, the more successful we’ll be,” he said with a straight face to Americans frustrated at the delays and lack of victory in Tora Bora.2

Wolfowitz not only worked to leave the ground battle under the control of the Communist militias, he also steadily eroded American morale. Instead of making public statements to rally Americans together in the expectation of rapid victory, he constantly tried to lower expectations and blur the definition of success, leaving completely unclear just what would constitute victory or how to know when it had been achieved. Just trying to find enemy forces would be “a very long and difficult job,” Wolfowitz promised.3 The Taliban remnants, he insisted, were “very dangerous and they can take a long time to clear out,”4 and that the U.S. could expect to be bogged down in a messy conflict with unclear objectives for many months.5 Wolfowitz certainly didn’t come across like a Douglas MacArthur or a George Patton.

Creating a quagmire, no-win conflict required slowly introducing American troops into ground combat, but not quickly enough to turn the tide of battle. Accordingly, Wolfowitz reinforced his gloomy predictions with a call for more soldiers on the ground, but didn’t ask for entire divisions fully equipped with heavy armor.6 The object wasn’t to make any dramatic assaults or to capture territory, but merely to dabble in low-intensity conflict.

Wolfowitz’s boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, another member of the CFR-affiliated PNAC, quietly began inserting American troops into the ground fighting. He kept the numbers small, just enough to produce two American casualties.7 The bait was pulling the U.S. into the trap.

Paul Wolfowitz
U.S. Dept. of Defense
Saboteur for the Communist Enemy: Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
But unknown to American forces amidst the swirl of deception and confusion, one factor was taking the Communists by surprise. Reputedly dug into hardened granite and gneiss rock, the caves of Tora Bora were supposedly tough enough to withstand aerial bombardment.8 Yet the bombing, even using ordinary munitions, had been exacting a steady, destructive toll on the hidden network of caves and tunnels, the majority of which collapsed astonishingly easily into rubble.9 By mid-December, the Taliban guerrillas realized their time had run out, and they badly needed to escape Tora Bora to avoid disaster.

The guerrillas needed diversionary cover and protection while they fled. So the Northern Alliance forces of Commander Haji Mohammed Zaman silenced their guns and initiated yet another round of cease-fire negotiations right on the verge of victory, leaving American military observers bewildered but paralyzed.10 The next day, Zaman’s Afghan militia entered deep into Tora Bora, forcing the U.S. to cancel bombing strikes. Then they declared victory, claiming there was no longer any need for American soldiers to enter the valley.11 Meanwhile, Afghan locals, under the control of the Communist militias, suddenly and without explanation stopped guiding American and British forces into Tora Bora, leaving the soldiers helpless to stop Taliban forces from fleeing and preventing them from searching the caves before key evidence could be cleaned out — or planted.12

By the time American troops could finally enter the area days later, the Taliban and foreign guerrillas had mysteriously vanished — escaping right through the lines of Zaman’s militia, which did nothing to stop them.13 So did the militias themselves, who promptly turned around and left Tora Bora as if totally uninterested in pursuing the fleeing guerrillas.14

Still, what the Americans discovered in Tora Bora shockingly bore out the reputation of Northern Alliance militias as notorious liars.15 They had no idea their bombing campaign had been so effective, reducing caves, bunkers, and armed camps to ruins; Zaman’s militia had kept the whole thing a secret.16 Amidst the rubble were Soviet Russian tanks, something the “Taliban guerrillas” weren’t supposed to have and which, if not destroyed by the bombing, would have exacted a high toll on American forces fighting without tanks of their own.17 In fact, the whole notion that Americans couldn’t bring tanks into Tora Bora had been a colossal lie; during the battle, Zaman’s militia had driven its own Soviet Russian tanks into the valley, which turned out to be large enough to accommodate heavy armor after all.18

Myths about the identity of the so-called “Al Qaeda” forces in Tora Bora also fell apart. Afghan sources connected with the Soviet Russian-backed Northern Alliance had fed the Americans stories about unspecified “Arabs” and “Chechens” holed up in the caves in early December, creating the impression of a band of fanatic Muslims under the control of Usama bin Laden.19 But when over 100 of the fleeing guerrillas were captured over the border in Pakistan in late December, they were primarily from such countries as Communist Egypt, Communist Yemen, and Soviet Tajikistan.20 There was no sign of Bin Laden and nothing to connect these soldiers with him; for that matter, the guerrillas had not chosen to stay and die as martyrs in Tora Bora as promised by the Northern Alliance. Their composition instead suggested well-trained, professional soldiers led by Soviet commanders.

But despite having days to escape, the guerrillas mysteriously left behind “laptop computers, cellphones, and training manuals” for American forces to discover.21 The “information” in those items has been believed and heavily relied upon by American intelligence services ever since, creating a picture of the alleged “Al Qaeda” organization that continues to be proven wrong.

The accidental, miraculous American victory at Tora Bora wasn’t going to stand in the way of plans for a quagmire conflict. By the end of December, President George Bush was again lowering expectations of winning, stating that American soldiers would be fighting in Afghanistan “for quite a long period of time,” and that finding Bin Laden wasn’t so important after all.22 Just two months later, the Communists were again luring the U.S. into a tactical nightmare further south in what became known as Operation Anaconda.


1. Arkin, W.M., “Dropping 15,000 pounds of frustration,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 2001, p. A10.

2. Ibid.

3. Richter, P. & Stack, M.K., “War now hunt for ‘man on the run’,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 11, 2001, pp. A1, A10-A11.

4. Neuman, S., “Rival tribal factions settle on governor of Kandahar, as planes hunt bin Laden,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10, 2001, p. A3.

5. Cummins, C., “Afghan forces have captured Taliban officers,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 11, 2001, pp. A3, A4; Arkin, W.M., Op cit.

6. Neuman, S., Op cit.

7. Stack, M.K. & Hendren, J., “Taliban foes gain ground in Tora Bora,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 2001, pp. A1, A16.

8. Hendren, J., “Search for Bin Laden will use U.S. gadgetry, Afghan hunters,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 20, 2001, pp. A1, A9.

9. Lamb, D., “From terror camp to ghost town,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19, 2001, pp. A1, A5.

10. Lamb, D. & Stack, M.K., “Al Qaeda fighters take hits, foes say,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 16, 2001, pp. A1, A17.

11. “Afghans claim victory in last al Qaeda stronghold,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2001, pp. A3, A20.

12. Cummins, C., “More U.S. troops may join the hunt for bin Laden,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 27, 2001, pp. A3, A14.

13. Richter, P. & Daniszewski, J., “Bin Laden trail grows fainter, Pentagon says,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 18, 2001, pp. A1, A8.

14. Lamb, D., “From terror camp to ghost town,” Op cit.

15. Lamb, D., “Al Qaeda routed, militias claim, but no Bin Laden,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 17, 2001, pp. A1, A14.

16. Lamb, D., “From terror camp to ghost town,” Op cit.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.; Cummins, C., “Afghan forces have captured Taliban officers,” Op cit.

19. Stack, M.K. & Hendren, J., “Gun battle starts attack on cave lair,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 5, 2001, pp. A1, A8.

20. “Al Qaeda turn against guards; 14 die in fight,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20, 2001, p. A3.

21. Cummins, C., “U.S. shifts focus, troops from Tora Bora,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 9, 2002, pp. A3, A8.

22. Gerstenzang, J. & Rubin, A.J., “Time on U.S. side, Bush says of hunt,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 29, 2001, pp. A1, A5.