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Between the Lines

March 18, 2004

The man in the beautiful coat

That would be Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian physician who is Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man. He has been linked to a decade of deadly attacks on Americans, including the assault on U.S. troops in Somalia in 1993, the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and the attacks of 9/11.

According to AP and CNN, Pakistani troops have surrounded Zawahiri in the mountains along the border with Afghanistan – good news indeed if true.

AP reports that, “One intelligence official said captured fighters said al-Zawahri had been wounded.” Better yet, if true.

Pakistani troops began a major operation Tuesday in South Waziristan with hundreds of troops and paramilitary rangers, who fired artillery and used helicopter gunships to attack dug-in al-Qaida fighters. Dozens of fighters were killed and 18 were captured, an intelligence official said. U.S. forces are on a similar mission on the Afghan side of the border.

Al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden met in Afghanistan in the 1980s while fighting the Soviet army there. Al-Zawahiri went on to found a terror group called Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which merged with Bin Laden’s operation to form Al-Qaida. This New Yorker article provides a full, and creepy, portrait of the doctor who became a mass murderer. It’s long, but quite interesting.

Posted by tbrown at 03:01 PM

How Clinton and maybe Bush missed nailing Bin Laden

Someone passed NBC Nightly News a copy of secret, and quite remarkable, CIA camera footage of a man thought to be Osama bin Laden, taken over Afghanistan by a Predator drone in the fall of 2000.

The tape shows a tall man (Bin Laden is 6-foot-5) in white robes surrounded by aides at a known al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan where Bin Laden was thought to be living at the time.

When the footage was shot, Predators were used only for reconnaissance and had not yet been armed with the Hellfire missiles they commonly carry today. Nor did the Clinton administration strike with cruise missiles or manned aircraft. That clearly was a missed opportunity.

After George Bush won the presidency, the outgoing Clinton team made sure the new administration was aware of the Bin Laden tape and the plan, not yet implemented, to arm the Predator to take advantage of any such future opportunities. Getting armed Predators into the sky over Afghanistan proved time-consuming, however, in part due to infighting between the Pentagon and the CIA over who should pay for the missions – and who would take the blame if something went wrong. The result: armed Predators weren’t deployed until after 9/11, just about a year after the original tapes were shot. It’s unknowable, of course, whether a second opportunity to get Bin Laden would have presented itself before 9/11 if we’d had our equipment in place. But the nature of the tape obtained by NBC sure makes it seem possible.

The NBC segments are viewable at the MSNBC Web site:

Part I: Clinton

Part II: Bush

A third segment is scheduled to air tonight.

Posted by tbrown at 02:56 PM

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The man in the beautiful coat
How Clinton and maybe Bush missed nailing Bin Laden


Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Andrew Sullivan
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
Drudge Report
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
The Corner
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Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
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Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

L.A. Examiner

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Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online


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International Herald Tribune
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New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

Brad DeLong

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