Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Into Thin Air*

A looong article in Newsweek:

He's still out there. The hunt for bin Laden.

The common saying among intelligence and Special Ops officers is that all the thugs have been killed by now = but the smart guys have survived, and become smarter.

The Americans will not find top Qaeda leaders unless they can win the trust of local tribesmen who may know their whereabouts. Johnson, an Afghan expert, spent last February at Forward Operating Base Salerno near the Pakistan border, briefing commanders on the tribal custom of Pashtunwali. He says only about 5 percent of American troops in Afghanistan ever leave their bases—a statistic, he believes, that explains better than any other why Americans are struggling in the battle for intelligence. He says most soldiers in Afghanistan don't know simple phrases like "stop," "go," or "put your hands up." Americans continually make cultural blunders, like using canine units to search people's homes (dogs are considered unclean in Muslim culture). Meanwhile the Taliban works at winning the trust and confidence of villagers—or intimidating them. "They go into villages and say, 'The Americans have the watches but we have the time. We might not come back in a week or a year, but you bet your britches we'll eventually come back'," says Johnson.

A Dec. 27, 2001, video, nicknamed by analysts "the Gaunt Tape," shows a haggard-looking bin Laden, who seems to be unable to move his left arm. "But the doctors couldn't pinpoint any problems with his health," says Scheuer.

Shoulda had Frist look at it...

CIA analysts began calling bin Laden "Elvis" because he was here, there, but really nowhere.

Good piece, a 'recommended read' if you are interested in why we can't catch him.

Shorter: Risk aversion, bureaucratic bungling, U.S./Pakistan relations, intra-service squabbles ('Snake-eaters' v. Big Picture Straight Legs), and, oh yeah, Osama's in his Briar Patch wid his homies. No mention of the Bush and Saudi Royal Families, which is understandable given that Newsweek would like to continue publishing. I want them to as well - my subscription's paid up for another year.

*The 'thin air' of the Spin Ghars and Tora Bora should not be confused with the GOOD Thin Air of the Eastern Sierra.

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