Hamilton: Bin Laden, could he have been stopped?
Could President Bill Clinton have averted the 9/11 attacks? Sean Naylor’s Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command (2015) reveals President Bill Clinton called off two Delta Force operations that could have nailed Osama bin Laden long before September 11, 2001.
But Relentless Strike is just one of several books about “special operations” that merit reading: Tony Geraghty’s Inside the S.A.S: The Story of the Amazing Elite British Commando Force (1980), Christopher Robbins’ Air America from World War II to Vietnam: The Explosive True Story of the CIA’s Secret Airline (2001), and Major General John K. Singlaub’s Hazardous Duty: An American Soldier in the Twentieth Century (1991).
A common theme emerges from these histories: Be it the famed “Flying Tigers” of pre-World War II that led to the creation of the CIA’s post-World War II Air America or the creation of Great Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) or U.S. Special Forces (AKA Green Berets) or the Army’s Delta Force or the Army’s Ranger Regiment or the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, all of these “special” forces had to overcome the objections of old-fashioned generals and admirals, who fought against every dollar allocated to “special forces.”
Prior to the Obama Era, it could be said that our all-volunteer “conventional” forces were “special” — fit, strong, and combat-ready — as evidenced by the quick victories of Gulf War I, the decimation of the Taliban in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, and the quick toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But that is no longer the case. More training hours are now devoted to racial/gender/cultural sensitivity and menstrual-cycle/lactation-understanding training than are devoted to learning how to move, shoot, and communicate.
The Navy’s official report on the January 12 capture of ten American sailors aboard two highly armed Riverine Command Boats in the Persian Gulf states: “…This incident was the result of failed leadership at multiple levels from the tactical to the operational.” The report found the crews were poorly prepared, their boats not properly maintained, communication almost entirely lacking, and their conduct after being captured by the Iranians was not up to military standards…”
The main support, however, for “special forces” has come from American presidents or British prime ministers who want to have highly competent forces at their beck and call. But not all of our commanders-in-chief, Bill Clinton being a prime example, have been willing to use “special forces.”
Shortly after Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and attacked the USS Cole, Delta Force was assigned the task of killing bin Laden. In 1998, a Delta ground force and SEAL TEAM 6 snipers were ready to insert operators on a dry lake bed near bin Laden’s compound outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. The SEALs and the cargo planes carrying attack helicopters were ready for take-off. At the very last moment, President Clinton decided the operation was “too risky.” In 1999, after training for months at Ft. Bragg and White Sands Missile Range, Delta was all set to kill bin Laden with an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. President Clinton scrapped that mission as well. As they say, the rest is history. We report. You decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the Army Language School, the George Washington University, the Infantry School, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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