WASHINGTON (AP) ― The U.S. cruise missile strike on an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1998 was meant to kill Osama bin Laden. But he apparently left shortly before the missiles struck, and newly declassified U.S. documents suggest the attack cemented an alliance with his Taliban protectors.
The State Department documents released Wednesday provide details of the evolving relationship between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al Qaeda chief bin Laden over four month in 1998. The period begins Aug. 21, 1998, one day after the missile attack — retaliation for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7 of that year.
Omar said publicly on Aug. 21 he would continue to protect bin Laden. But the next day, he told a State Department employee in private that he would be open to negotiating bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan, giving U.S. officials faint but ultimately false hope the Taliban might hand him over to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden had been in Afghanistan since he was expelled from Sudan in May 1996.
Those talks took place sporadically over the next few months in 1998, according to documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In the interim, however, bin Laden had traveled south in Afghanistan to Kandahar. There, he would be close to Omar, who wanted to “keep a watch on him,” said a secret cable sent from Islamabad, the capital of neighboring Pakistan, to U.S. diplomatic and military posts on Sept. 9, 1998.
By the end of that October, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad was concerned the tables had turned and Omar was falling under bin Laden’s political and philosophical sway. The U.S. once had believed the Taliban’s ambitions were confined to turning Afghanistan into a Sunni Muslim theocracy. Now, however, there were signs that Omar’s association with bin Laden was driving him toward a greater goal — pan-Islamism, the unification of all Muslims under a single Islamic state.
“I believe that bin Laden has been able to get into the good graces of Omar — who is very poorly educated and unsure of foreign affairs — and to influence him in his way of thinking,” according to a cable from Oct. 22. “The potential ramifications of a Mullah Omar who is drifting toward pan-Islamism are grim. First and foremost, it could mean that the Taliban would under no condition expel bin Laden because they see his cause as theirs.”
The rest of the documents detail months of unsuccessful U.S. attempts to persuade the Taliban to expel bin Laden.
“Time for a diplomatic solution may be running out. Taliban brush-off of our indictment and other evidence may indicate movement from tolerance” of bin Laden’s presence “to more active support,” said a Nov. 28 memo for then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Bin Laden remained in Afghanistan until after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he apparently was driven out by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. He is believed to be hiding in western Pakistan’s ungoverned border area.
After the bombings of the two American embassies, the U.S. launched 62 Tomahawk cruise missiles at two al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. It was believed bin Laden was at one of them meeting with several of his top men, but left shortly before the missiles struck.
DENVER (AP) ― Denver authorities are showing the media the makeshift holding cells they have set up in the event of mass arrests during the Democratic National Convention. CBS4 first reported on the center’s existence last week.
The cells are in an empty warehouse and were opened to reporters on Wednesday.
Suspects would be held there while waiting to be fingerprinted, issued a court date and released after posting bail.
City officials say they don’t expect mass arrests but have to be ready.
The ACLU in Colorado has raised questions about whether people held in the cells will have adequate access to bathrooms, running water and phones.
Protest groups have dubbed the center “Gitmo on the Platte,” referring to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and Denver’s South Platte River.
Mayor’s Office News Release
Mayor John Hickenlooper’s office sent a news release to CBS4 and other media explaining the purpose of the holding facility. It says there will be a community outreach program this week to explain the facility’s function
Video reposted to show some examples of what is stated in Article
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MOSCOW, Aug 20 (Reuters) – Russian soldiers rode into battle against Georgia perched on top of their armoured personnel carriers, not out of bravado but because a flaw in their armour can make it more dangerous to travel inside.
The conflict — Russia’s biggest combat operation outside its borders since the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan — showed its armed forces have emerged from years of neglect as a formidable fighting force, but revealed important deficiencies.
Those weaknesses, especially in missiles and air capability, leave Russia still lagging behind the image of a world-class military power it projects to the rest of the world.
“The victory over the Georgian army … should become for Russia not a cause for euphoria and excessive joy, but serve to speed up military transformations in Russia,” Ruslan Pukhov, director of Russia’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technology, wrote in a report.
The performance of the armed forces will be examined closely by NATO planners, who have been prompted by Russia’s newly assertive foreign policy to start viewing the Kremlin once again as a potential adversary.
It could also hold lessons for defence strategists in the Middle East: Russia supplies some of its hardware to countries such as Syria and Iran, while their foe Israel helps equip Georgia’s security forces.
CHINKS IN RUSSIAN ARMOUR
Russian forces were deployed in response to Georgian troops moving into Georgia’s Moscow-backed breakaway region, South Ossetia. Russia quickly crushed the Georgian army and its troops pressed on to within 45 km (30 miles) of the capital, Tbilisi.
It was never in doubt that Russia would defeat the much smaller and less well-equipped Georgian force, but the manner of the victory exposed some shortcomings:
* Anatoly Khrulyev, the commander of the 58th army which spearheaded the operation, was wounded in a Georgian attack on day two of the Russian deployment.
Media reports said he was travelling in a column of armoured personnel carriers (APCs), along with a group of Russian journalists, when they were ambushed by Georgian troops.
Analysts said Russian APCs are not well protected against strikes by large-calibre weapons or land mines, which is one reason why troops often prefer to travel on top.
* Russia said four of its aircraft — including one Tupolev-22 long-range supersonic bomber — were shot down by Georgia’s air defences.
“It was remarkable that they shot down a number of Russian fighters, which Russia probably did not expect,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. Marcel de Haas, Russia and security expert at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael.
Analysts said Russia failed to destroy Georgia’s anti-aircraft systems fast enough, probably because they did not have the aerial reconnaissance to establish where they were.
“Initial reconnaissance was difficult,” Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of Russia’s General Staff, told Reuters. “We will be introducing serious changes, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, for example.”
* Russia’s tactics broadly followed a Soviet pattern, with an air and artillery attack followed by the deployment of a large ground force.
Analysts said the need to send in a large ground force may have been dictated by a shortage of precision-guided missiles.
“Missiles and rockets would negate the need for large-scale troop deployments in the way they had to carry them out,” said Colonel Christopher Langton, Senior Fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Kremlin has declared modernising its armed forces a priority. Its defence budget for last year was 22 percent higher than in 2006 and it plans to spend $189 billion on new hardware over eight years.
Improvements were in evidence in the Georgian campaign. In contrast with the rag-tag conscripts humiliated in Russia’s rebel Chechnya region in the 1990s, commanders said the force in Georgia was made up entirely of professional soldiers.
Reuters reporters on the ground saw disciplined, well-equipped troops. Petrol trucks shuttled around the front line refuelling tanks and APCs, and trucks ferried supplies of rations to soldiers manning checkpoints.
But Langton said Russia’s campaign in Georgia left many questions about its military capability unanswered.
“There is no way they could say from this operation that they are capable of carrying out operations against something as sophisticated as NATO forces,” he said. “It wasn’t a serious test for them.” (Additional reporting by Aydar Buribaev in Moscow, James Kilner in Tbilisi and Oleg Shchedrov in Sochi; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Tim Pearce)