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Thread: Did the SAS nearly capture Bin Laden?

  1. #1
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    Did the SAS nearly capture Bin Laden?

    Hi,

    I read today that in December 2001 the British "SBS" ("Special Boat Service" - maritime equivalent of the more widely known "SAS") were minutes away from capturing Bin Laden but were ordered to stand down to allow US special forces to finish the job. Unfortunately this delay gave Bin Laden the time he needed to escape.

    If this is true then surely this has to go down as one of the most short-sided and reckless decisions in history. Can anyone confirm if this is true or is it just a case of "America-bashing" by the British press?

    Here's the quote:

    "The differences between the way US and British special forces operate became clear early in the war on terror. In Afghanistan in December 2001 a four-man Special Boat Service (SBS) team was 20 minutes behind the fleeing Osama Bin Laden when it was ordered to let the Americans take over. By the time the US special operations troops arrived several hours later, Bin Laden had escaped."

    And here's the source:

    Secret war of the SAS - Times Online

    I have to accept that the tone of the rest of the article is quite disparaging of the US military, which makes me suspicious of the Bin Laden claim. However, if true, it does make you wonder about how serious the US is about capturing Bin Laden. If the issue was to do with the British possibly refusing to hand him over if he faced a death sentence (which breaches British Human Rights legislation) I'm pretty sure they would have found a way to get around it. The British government would not have been given too hard a time by the press or the public if they had handed him over in contravention of such a law.

  2. #2
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    much as i'd love to believe it - mainly because it would re-inforce my prejudices about the political ineptness both of the US civilian and military leadership - i don't think i do.

    thats not to say that i personally am not aware of incidents where US grandstanding nationalistic politics has directly affected a military operation and lead to its compromise/failure.

    it could be true because these things have happened before and since this alleged incident, but given the massive subsequent cost (in both blood and treasure) of not capturing our friend i'd be very surprised if the details had not leaked from US sources. those who made such a decision will want it buried forever, but those who know about it but who weren't responsible for it would have little to lose by ensuring that it appeared in the NYT.

    the inforrmation that a real, actionable opportunity to capture/kill OBL was sacrificed on the altar of having US troops getting the glory - probably on the highest political orders - is so juicy that its impossible that it hasn't leaked from the US side. it would of ended the careers of dozens of very senior officers as well as losing Bush the 2004 election. had it been leaked and confirmed in 2002 then Bush would probably been impeached, there is no way the US body politic would have stood for such a fcuk-up, despite its somewhat bizzare ideas about 'don't slag the President because then other people might realise he's a card-carrying member of the mouth-breathing window-licker club'.

    short version, if it had happened then Bush would no longer be President and half of CentCom would be unemployed.
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

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    Hey dave

    Hows you me old China, Hope life is treating well.

    Iv just read your post, and fully understand your logic in thinking.
    But unfortunaeley on political and military matters, logic does not apply.
    the article at hand above, holds some truth to it, it was not the first time the yanks intervened, holding back our troops, on the hunt of certain individuals.
    In a way they want to claim 'glory'.. justify the war and appease the American public.
    Do some reaserch m8, im sure you will dig up some stuff.
    In this day and age Politics..... supersedes Military affairs.

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    Defense Professional Dreadnought's Avatar
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    Gentlemen,
    If I may, I would not be concerned as to who collared him. I believe the feelings of relief and knowing he is in someones hands that will hold him and his chiefs accountable and deliver him to justice just the very same beit American,British,German,Dutch etc. Please do keep in mind we would not care about who got him just that one of you did. We would not care in the least and would look upon you in no less then heros in the WOT.All of you.

    P.S. Thank you for your efforts and sacrifices.
    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

  5. #5
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    When Jedis tell you that they're expecting high casualties, at the very least I want to increase their odds of survival if not mission success.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnought View Post
    Gentlemen,
    Please do keep in mind we would not care about who got him just that one of you did. We would not care in the least and would look upon you in no less then heros in the WOT.All of you.

    P.S. Thank you for your efforts and sacrifices.
    Shame there are not more people who think like you higher in the Echelons, Of the Penatgon and White House.!
    Maybe just maybe we would all be able to work, and do our job better..!!

    But alas that aint the real world.

  7. #7
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    Well, without knowing further information ... and I think we're treading very close to OPSEC violations here, meaning I neither expect nor want answers. However, BASED on the article ... which may be entirely false ...

    Here's what I read.

    22SAS was fatiqued but still combat effective. They can get the motherfreak but would be rendered combat ineffective afterwards.

    To this mech brigade OpsO, this sounds like a high probability of mission failure no matter how confident 22SAS was. If a unit cannot stay combat effective after an engagement, it means that its ineffective point during the engagement was probably unacceptable.

    There is a fresh force just hours away and the motherfreak showed no signs of trying to break out. Just based on these conditions, I think I can understand the tactical decisions that were made.

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    In Memoriam Military Professional dave lukins's Avatar
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    It' the sort of article you have read at least twice for it to sink in, in what it's trying to portray. Not for one minute do I belief the SAS called off the chance to capture OBL to allow US ops to take over, who were "hours away." That decision can only come from the Very Top. Quite a lot of that report doesn't make tactical sense to either side.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave lukins View Post
    It' the sort of article you have read at least twice for it to sink in, in what it's trying to portray. Not for one minute do I belief the SAS called off the chance to capture OBL to allow US ops to take over, who were "hours away." That decision can only come from the Very Top. Quite a lot of that report doesn't make tactical sense to either side.
    Tactical Sence does not always take precidence.
    OBL is more then just a Military target.... It is a Huge Political one.
    And yes the order would of come from way high up, between Pentagon/White House Level.

  10. #10
    In Memoriam Military Professional dave lukins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simullacrum View Post
    Tactical Sence does not always take precidence.
    OBL is more then just a Military target.... It is a Huge Political one.
    And yes the order would of come from way high up, between Pentagon/White House Level.
    And at a Very High level. If it was a targeted mission it goes as far as No10 if it involves Uk SF

  11. #11
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    All the way back to London/Washington? That kind of decision making turnaround would've caused the very delay the 22SAS was trying to avoid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    All the way back to London/Washington? That kind of decision making turnaround would've caused the very delay the 22SAS was trying to avoid.
    depends on the Job. they have a somewhat shortened CoC on occasions, i personally am aware of intances where those on the ground have spoken to - and received their orders from - Downing St on the satelite phone and the rest of the Army plays catch-up.

    i have no doubt that in the case of a sufficiently vital national interest like catching OBL by the larger of his testes then they would have contacted Downing St directly (and immediately) to say that their mission was being compromised by US grandstanding. what they then did would be on the direct orders of the PM.
    before criticizing someone, walk a mile in their shoes.................... then when you do criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  13. #13
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    This reminds me of a Documentary I saw on the BBC last year, it was a general overview of Afghanistan, the sort of thing that bangs on about the CIA having no boots on the ground pre 9/11 and how unprepared everyone was.

    They actually interviews a retired spook who was a handler in Afghanistan, and he said there was an occasion where British Special forces (he didn't say SAS or SBS) where in a position to move on Bin Laden early on in the Afghan campaign. However there was a request to deploy a couple hundred rangers ahead of Bin Laden and the Brits to just shepherd him towards them.

    Basically it took so long for the word to be given (he said there was some risk of very high casualties) that by the time the Rangers were ever told to get ready for action night was already falling and something like 6 hours had passed.

    I don't know if that show, or that link are correct, but there seems to be alot of stories flying around with a very similar theme.

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    Micromanaging from on high has been a big problem for the military, since someone discovered how to communicate over great distances. I believe that the only time the US has been free of it was when Roosevelt was incapacitated from his medical condition in WWII. Advances in communication to real time mean that those prone to micromanaging can really get involved and muck things up. Having missions interfered with by pencil pushers when the troops are on the clock borders on criminal negligence. Most of the problems in Afghanistan and Iraq can be attributed to political and/or bureaucratic interference, to ensure that the soldiers can't effectively do their jobs. They need flinching chairborne rangers like they need grenades with 0 second fuses.
    Work is the curse of the drinking class.

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    i wouldn't easily doubt the veracity of an article from the times. i can understand why such an order would be given - doubtless bin laden means more to americans than he does to brits - but apparently pride is worth even more, and the lives of soldiers much less (an obvious result of a prolonged conflict).
    am i right to be surprised that bush-haters in the us haven't seized upon this article to further villify him? or does its very absence demonstrate that the us "second-to-none" identity supersedes even repub/demo politics (which are notorious even across the pond). i dearly hope not.

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