NYT: Rumsfeld cancelled operation to capture Zawahiri in 2005

posted at 5:52 pm on July 7, 2007 by Allahpundit

Ready for the punchline? It’s because it involved too many troops.

The officials acknowledge that they are not certain that Mr. Zawahri attended the 2005 meeting in North Waziristan, a mountainous province just miles from the Afghan border. But they said that the United States had communications intercepts that tipped them off to the meeting, and that intelligence officials had unusually high confidence that Mr. Zawahri was there…

Pentagon officials familiar with covert operations said that planners had to consider the political and human risks of launching a military campaign in a sovereign country, even in an area like Pakistan’s tribal lands where the government has only tenuous control…

Officials said that one reason Mr. Rumsfeld called off the 2005 operation was the number of troops involved in the mission had grown to several hundred, including Army Rangers, members of the Navy Seals and C.I.A. operatives, and he determined that the United States could no longer carry out the mission without General Musharraf’s permission. It is unlikely that the Pakistani president would have approved an operation of that size, officials said…

These political considerations have created resentment among some members of the military’s Special Operations forces.

“The Special Operations guys are tearing their hair out at the highest levels,” said a former Bush administration official with close ties to those troops. While they have not received good intelligence on the whereabouts of top Qaeda members recently, he said, they say they believe they have sometimes had useful information on lower-level figures.

“There is a degree of frustration that is off the charts, because they are looking at targets on a daily basis and can’t move against them,” he said.

The other punchline, I guess, is that if Bush had followed his own pro-democracy rhetoric and pushed Musharraf hard years ago to hold elections, we might have gotten a leader in Pakistan willing to move against these turds. As it is, we’ve got a five-day standoff at the mosque and an unmitigated disaster in the tribal areas.

Here’s some flashback video for you from last September. The Times can’t determine if Bush knew of Rumsfeld’s decision or not. Exit question: Why didn’t they just call in an airstrike on Zawahiri instead?


Update: Another peace dividend from Uncle Pervez:

An investigation published Friday by The News, a national daily, found that 88 seminaries belonging to various sects were giving religious education to more than 16,000 students in the capital. Moreover the number of students here attending religious schools belonging to the Deobandi sect, an anti-Western, pro-jihadi fundamentalist school of thought that inspired the Taliban, among other movements, has doubled in the last year alone…

“The reason for this big surge in the number of students is still not known to the government,” it said.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

Pakistan is to the Taliban in Afghanistan what Iran is to the Shi’a militias in Iraq. We lost Vietnam because we refused to address the source of the problem and apparently haven’t learned that lesson yet.

Buzzy on July 8, 2007 at 5:04 AM

I can see why Allah was getting agitated with this thread…

Yeah after 10 posts he calls the few that think differently truthers, such amazing powers of patience and restraint.

Dirk Sodsnot on July 8, 2007 at 7:24 AM

Whether they are 200 or 200,000 in number, Islamists will keep going and going and going until they’re dead or we are (or we are converted), in spite of the assassinations of those who step forward to call themselves leaders in the Jihad.

Estimates are 10% of muslims are hardcore. That’s 100 million. When are we going to stop pretending that there are moderate muslims? A few guys who’ve grown up in the US sound reasonable so we think they are a sign of a silent majority? There are NEVER muslim led protests about terrorism but they kill over cartoons. 1600 years of terror and conquest and we still can’t see the writing on the wall.

Post modernmoral relativism has not only destroyed critical thought, but those still capable of it are considered a bigger threat then islam.

peacenprosperity on July 8, 2007 at 7:28 AM

Allah, if the NYT story is true, I can understand why Rummy pulled the plug because of too many troops: if you are operating in a country without official permission, you have to keep the op small enough so that if things go sideways, you retain the element of political plausible deniability. A single squad? Yep, dear General, they were “rogue”. Sorry for the mistake. “Hundreds of troops”, though? Every paper on the planet would be spinning that one as the vanguard for an invasion. Ugly.

For those who wondered “whither the airstrike(s)?” even those are difficult, because of that little thingy called sovereignty. The few airstrikes that have been made by Predator drones get reams of bad press and people up in arms; can you imagine one performed by a manned fighter?

And that’s not even getting into the “what if the op causes the Pakistani government to destablise, and the nukes fall into the hands of the Taliban (or other islamoterrorist group)?” punditry territory.

NYT, IMHO, is always “for” a strategy, after the fact, that ends up being the direct opposite of what Bush and his commanders do, regardless of anything they may have said beforehand. After all, it’s much easier to snipe from the sidelines afterwards, than to weigh the potential consequences of various options in the heat of the moment, with the [often] limited information at hand. Just ask anyone who slams Bush about his administration’s conduct leading up to 9/11…

Wanderlust on July 8, 2007 at 8:08 AM

Rumsfeld is a great man!
Perfect? of coarse not.
TheSitRep on July 7, 2007 at 9:57 PM
Please explain how not being perfect makes one great.
(Using proper spelling, of course.)
;-)
infidel4life on July 7, 2007 at 10:05 PM

Sorry for my coarse spelling InfidelforLife. I like to think I don’t misspell, I just spell differently. Did you know, spelling is a very new concept in literature?
My usage of GREAT is subjective as it is my opinion here check out the definition and connotations.

TheSitRep on July 8, 2007 at 9:25 AM

a first strike capability against the US
FloatingRock on July 8, 2007 at 4:34 AM

Pakistan? Strike the US. With mortal enemy nuclear India next door. Have you looked at a globe recently?

infidel4life on July 8, 2007 at 12:11 PM

Exit question: Why didn’t they just call in an airstrike on Zawahiri instead?

Why indeed.

Assuming this story is true – and given its provenance, I’m not at all sure about that – then the only reason I can think of why we wouldn’t just send in a Predator with a couple of Hellfire missiles would be because we wanted Zawahiri to stay alive, so we could track his movements as well as identify and track who he was hanging out with.

But the trouble with that is, we’ve already evidently tried once to take out Zawahiri with an airstrike, so it seems doubtful that letting him live was the motivation for not trying it again.

Bottom line: I can understand not wanting to stage a large-scale raid with ground troops, but there’s no satisfactory explanation of why we wouldn’t have tried another airstrike. Again, assuming that the story is true at all, more details are needed to make more sense of it.

Spurius Ligustinus on July 8, 2007 at 12:47 PM

I agree with you that it’s probable the instability an invasion would have caused the Musharraf regime was a major factor in deciding to scrub the mission.

FloatingRock on July 8, 2007 at 4:17 AM

This would have been the ONLY reason not to have carried out the op, though I still would have carried it out, had it been my choice. I feel that it is more important for the US to impress on the muslims the idea that they will find no safe haven on Earth. In addition, Musharraf is going to fall eventually, anyway. It’s almost a miracle that the guy is still alive today!

However, Pakistan is a nexus of Islamism in the world and that problem needs to be dealt with.

FloatingRock on July 8, 2007 at 4:17 AM

I’m with you on this, which is why I wrote in my first post:

Bush’s decision to bind tightly to Pakistan never struck me as smart, since the Pakistani nuclear arsenal (and complex) must eventually be destroyed.

progressoverpeace on July 7, 2007 at 6:02 PM

progressoverpeace on July 8, 2007 at 2:49 PM

Pakistan? Strike the US. With mortal enemy nuclear India next door. Have you looked at a globe recently?

infidel4life on July 8, 2007 at 12:11 PM

Yeah, it’s in storage, but I’ve spent a lot of time looking at maps and globes over the years. Why do you ask?

FloatingRock on July 8, 2007 at 3:18 PM

I agree with Allah 100%. This article is entirely consistent with the Bush administration’s resolve in fighting our enemy since day one. Recall, we said nothing when Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, we said nothing when they ceded Warziristan to the Taliban, we haven’t authorized any major offensives into Pakistan, where Al Qaeda is. Bush and company honestly believe that Musharraf is an ally in this great struggle, much the same as they believe Islam is a religion of piece. I’m sorry, a blunder this egregious by the Bush administration is entirely believable, and likely. Don’t shoot the messenger.

PRCalDude on July 8, 2007 at 3:40 PM

Allah, if the NYT story is true, I can understand why Rummy pulled the plug because of too many troops: if you are operating in a country without official permission, you have to keep the op small enough so that if things go sideways, you retain the element of political plausible deniability. A single squad? Yep, dear General, they were “rogue”. Sorry for the mistake. “Hundreds of troops”, though? Every paper on the planet would be spinning that one as the vanguard for an invasion. Ugly.

Hundreds of SEALs and Rangers don’t exactly stick out like a sore thumb. They like to be discreet as possible. Even if they were noticed, there aren’t a dearth of reporters in that region to let the world know. Any Western reporter that steps out of Islamabad goes the way of Danny Pearl, and they know it.
Bush didn’t care what the papers thought before invading Iraq, did he? He went in anyway. Why would Pakistan be any different?

PRCalDude on July 8, 2007 at 3:44 PM

infidel4life;

I’ve reviewed your opinions in this thread and will try to infer from the an answer to your last post, in which you referred to my looking at a globe.

First, Pakistan doesn’t need long-range ICBMs to reach India, so if Pakistan develops them they will not add a significant MAD deterrent for India.

In my posts above where I refer to a possible first strike capability, I wasn’t suggesting, necessarily, that if Musharraf falls his successor will immediately strike the US, but rather that due to MAD we will have to stay our hand while there is a possibility that some of Pakistan’s nukes could be smuggled into the west to be used for blackmail or whatever else they might desire.

To address another point that you may have been inferring, that perhaps the shortest path for an ICBM to the US would pass over India, thus risk provoking them into a retaliatory strike on Pakistan: I think it would depend upon the range of the hypothetical Pak ICBM’s to determine if launching over India would be necessary. My globe is in storage so it’s difficult for me to gauge relative distances at this time.

But in essence, the general point of my posts above wasn’t that a sane person would actually launch a first strike, but that the capability to do so would preclude us from interfering in Pakistani internal affairs and thus Al Qaeda would have a secure base of operations that we couldn’t touch without risking a full blown traditional nuclear war. Also, there is no guarantee that Musharraf’s successor will be sane.

On a related note, I seem to recall that when Musharraf visited the US a while back, which was around the time he was promoting his new book, I seem to recall that he made some statements that suggested he wouldn’t have been as cooperative with the US if he hadn’t felt as threatened as he was. That being the case, if he can develop his arsenal to enforce MAD with the USA, I’m of the opinion that his cooperation would likely end.

FloatingRock on July 8, 2007 at 3:52 PM

First, Pakistan doesn’t need long-range ICBMs to reach India, so if Pakistan develops them they will not add a significant MAD deterrent for India.

By that I mean that if Pakistan were to hypothetically launch ICBMs at the USA, Pakistan would still have their shorter-range nukes with which to enforce a MAD strategy with India.

FloatingRock on July 8, 2007 at 4:00 PM

I am a little better informed now that I have read some background on the raid into Afghanistan.

The SEALs plan was to go in a small group and do the work. By the time it reached Rumsfeld the plan had turned into a full scale military operation.

Rumsfeld didn’t veto a commando attack. He vetoed a major incursion into Pakistan.

What the SEALs were going to do could have been explained away by both the US and Pakistani governments. The final plan could not.

A number of times in the past we have seen the military hierarchy increase the numbers required to a level where the civilian leadership might be loath to proceed. Afghanistan and Iraq come to mind.

Might be interesting to find out who finalised this plan.

davod on July 9, 2007 at 7:20 AM

Sorry “raid into Afghanistan” should read Pakistan.

davod on July 9, 2007 at 7:21 AM

PS:

If Bush had pushed Musharraff to Democracy we might have Gaza in Pakistan.

davod on July 9, 2007 at 7:24 AM

Comment pages: 1 2