Osama bin Laden (presumably) has issued another audio tape, actually a video with OBL voiceover, this time a sort of eulogy for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader in Iraq who was killed last month:
CAIRO, Egypt – Osama bin Laden defended attacks by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi against civilians in Iraq, purportedly saying in a taped Web message Friday that the slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader was acting under orders to kill anyone who backs American forces.
Bin Laden paid tribute to al-Zarqawi in a 19-minute audio message posted on an Islamic militant Web site. The message has narration by a voice resembling bin Laden’s as a video shows an old photo of him in a split-screen next to images of al-Zarqawi taken from a previous video.
In the message, bin Laden demands President Bush hand over the body of al-Zarqawi to his family and effusively praises the Jordanian-born militant, often in rhyming couplets. His voice sounded breathy and fatigued at times.
“We will continue to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan to run down your resources and kill your men until you return defeated to your nation,” he said, addressing Bush.
It was the fourth message purportedly put out this year by bin Laden. All have featured his voice in audiotapes. New video images of him have not appeared since October 2004.
Andrew Cochran of Counterterrorism Blog provides early sensible commentary.
This new tape will, no doubt, provoke another round of breastbeating here in the United States, asking the question that’s been asked since 2001: why haven’t we captured Osama bin Laden?
Why haven’t we captured Osama bin Laden?
We haven’t captured Osama bin Laden because doing so would have required an instantaneous invasion of Afghanistan in force.
Why would an instantaneous invasion of Afghanistan have been necessary?
An instantaneous invasion of Afghanistan in force would have been necessary because, had we built up an invasion force over a period of months as we did in Gulf War I, OBL would have been able to escape over the unsecured border with Pakistan, as eventually he did (it’s thought) in any event.
Why would an invasion in force have been necessary?
An invasion in force was necessary because only a massive force would have been able to secure the borders with Iran on the west, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on the north, and Pakistan on the east and without securing those borders OBL would have been able to escape.
Why didn’t we invade in force anyway?
We didn’t invade in force for at least three reasons:
- Capturing Osama bin Laden was at least a secondary objective in the invasion.
- We didn’t have the ability to do so.
- An invasion in force would have been too imprudent.
Why didn’t we have the ability to do so?
We didn’t have the ability to mount an invasion of Afghanistan in force because the logistical requirements precluded it. Look at a map. The only avenues for mounting an invasion in force of Afghanistan are via Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, or Pakistan. None of those were interested in providing us with a staging area.
Why would it have been imprudent to invade in force?
Both the British and Soviets had bad experience with invasions of Afghanistan. Invasions in force have a tendency to mobilize opposition against them. The method selected, by a combination of special forces, air, and enlisting the cooperation of local warlords opposed to the Taliban was extremely ingenious.
The scale of the operation didn’t mobilize opposition and enlisting the cooperation coopted an important source of potential opposition to our invasion.
The Pakistanis are supposed to be our friends. Why didn’t Pakistan close the border with Afghanistan?
I don’t believe the Pakistanis are our friends. I believe that it’s expedient for the current government in Pakistan to enlist our support.
But the central government’s control over the country is tenuous: its president, Pervez Musharraf, faces opposition from domestic opponents including some within his own military. There have been multiple very nearly successful attempts on his life.
The central government’s control over areas like Waziristan that adjoin the Afghan border and where OBL is presumed to be in refuge is essentially nonexistent. Had Musharraf moved to secure those areas he would in all probability have faced revolt.
Why didn’t we invade Pakistan, then?
Pakistan is a country of some 140 million people, some of the wildest roughest terrain in the world, and it has nuclear weapons and, apparently, a history of proliferation. Not only would an invasion have risked tactical use of nuclear weapons by the Pakistanis, it would have risked those weapons falling into the hands of people who wouldn’t have hesitated to use them against the American homeland.
So, what do we do?
Basically, we do what we’ve done: maintain the pressure in both Afghanistan and Pakistan as best we can to prevent the Taliban regaining control of the country and keep it difficult for OBL to communicate with the outside world.
I opposed the invasion of Afghanistan but IMO the campaign went remarkably well there—far better than I expected—and it went well because we did what we did. I have no reason to believe that doing more would have had a better outcome.
In the final analysis Osama bin Laden is just not that important. I don’t believe in the “great man” theory of history. I think that OBL was created by a series of events over the last hundred years or so and had he not existed someone else would have taken his place. We’re not just fighting Osama bin Laden and his criminal gang: we’re fighting forces of tribalism and primitivism armed with modern weapons, high tech communications, and modern organization ideas and that fight will persist as long as those those notions tribalism and primitivism have force and the resources to gain access to weapons, communications, and means of organization.