A U.S. Senate report says top military leaders during the Bush administration had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in December 2001 in Afghanistan, but they failed to send enough American troops to attack his hideout.
The report, by staff of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, concludes that U.S. special forces, CIA officers and Afghan troops had chased the al Qaida leader and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahri, to the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan, but former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the top U.S. military commander, General Tommy Franks, rejected requests for a massive contingent of American troops to attack the area.
At the time, top officials said there was not conclusive evidence bin Laden was in the cave complex and there were fears that a large U.S. troop presence could spark a backlash among locals.
The U.S. military mainly relied on air strikes and Afghan militias and bin Laden escaped into Pakistan.
The Senate report concludes that removing the al Qaida leader would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat, but his survival has allowed him to become a "potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide."
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry requested the report. Kerry has been a longtime critic of the operation at Tora Bora, and repeatedly raised the issue during his failed 2004 campaign for president.
The report's release comes days before President Barack Obama is expected to announce the United States will send more troops into Afghanistan.