Sunday, July 08, 2007

U.S. Scrapped '05 Raid on Top Al Qaeda Leaders

U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in ’05

WASHINGTON, July 7 — A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.

Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation, which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said. more

Now if you bought into The Path to 9/11's story this administration has something in common with the last. I can understand the logic of not violating your allies' border with a couple hundred troops. I'm sure there would have been serious political unrest in Pakistan had we done so with or without Mushareff's permission. I am however curious as to why we didn't bomb the meeting site. Perhaps the administration strongly preferred capturing them and pumping them for intel or would have rather let Zawahiri walk and hopefully lead us to Bin Laden.

One thing is for certain. It's going to be hard for the Administration to continue to bill itself as being tough on terror when its choosing to let them wander out of our sights.