Saturday, November 27, 2004

Skywriting at Tora Bora 

As previously reported, I am working my way through George Friedman's book, America's Secret War, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I am not the only person who thinks this -- Professor Bainbridge discussed the book and a review of it yesterday.

Apart from the broader insights of the book, on which I will report at some future date, Friedman includes all sorts of fascinating anecdotes from the war on Islamist jihad. One of his stories recounts the events of December 13 and 14, 2001, when Afghan proxies and American Special Forces were closing in on Tora Bora. In a series of transactions that eventually gave rise to John Kerry's famous "outsourcing" attack on the Bush Administration's handling of the war, General Zaman, one of the leaders of the Afghani "Eastern Alliance" supposedly hunting al Qaeda, suddenly announced that he had negotiated a cease-fire with al Qaeda that would start at 0800 on December 13. This set off intensive bickering and negotiations among the Afghan forces attacking Tora Bora from the north, and enraged the Americans who organized the attack:
While everyone watched, Americans called in a new round of air strikes on Tora Bora, letter al Qaeda -- and Zaman -- know that the U.S. was not honoring any cease-fire. As important, they were letting Zaman know that the money he undoubtedly collected from al Qaeda for calling the cease-fire was his death warrant with bin Laden, who would now see him as having taken the payoff without having delivered. Zaman was now completely dependent on the United States.

The United States did something even more startling. A B-52 bomber flew over Tora Bora. It started releasing white smoke, and traced a figure eight in the air - representing 8 a.m., the time the ceasefire was to start. The bomber then traced two other letters: NO. A B-52 bomber had played skywriter over Tora Bora, letting al Qaeda know that whatever deal they thought they had was null and void.

Imagine what an amazing sight that must have been, to see a B-52 spell out American defiance in the air over Tora Bora. Of course, the history buff inside me wishes that bomber pilot had written "nuts," but you can't have everything.


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