More On Tora Bora
Knight Ridder reporters Barry Schlachter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Jonathan S. Landay and photographers Carl Juste and Peter Andrew Bosch of The Miami Herald were at Tora Bora during the battle, and photographer David Gilkey of the Detroit Free Press and reporter Drew Brown traveled there a year later, interviewed Afghan fighters, retraced al-Qaida escape routes and talked to Pakistani intelligence officers who were tracking al Qaida.
Their reporting found that Franks and other top officials ignored warnings from their own and allied military and intelligence officers that the combination of precision bombing, special operations forces and Afghan forces that had driven the Taliban from northern Afghanistan might not work in the heartland of the country's dominant Pashtun tribe.
While more than 1,200 U.S. Marines sat at an abandoned air base in the desert 80 miles away, Franks and other commanders relied on three Afghan warlords and a small number of American, British and Australian special forces to stop al-Qaida and Taliban fighters from escaping across the mountains into Pakistan.
"We did rely heavily on Afghans because they knew Tora Bora . . . ," Franks wrote.U.S. intelligence analysts estimated that 1,000 to 1,100 al-Qaida fighters, along with some of the group's top leaders, escaped the American dragnet at Tora Bora.
A Pakistani official later told Knight Ridder that intelligence reports suggested that some 4,000 al-Qaida members escaped and that 50 to 80 top leaders paid Zaman or Ali as much as $40,000 apiece for safe passage out of Tora Bora.