Monday, March 09, 2009

Whatever happened to bin Laden's Super-Fortress?

In the lead-up to the US invasion of Afghanistan, there was a lot of press about Osama bin Laden's super-fortress buried deep under the mountain of Tora Bora. The British press told us that bin Laden was holed up in a vast redoubt, a fortress buried as deep under the mountain as the World Trade Centre was high, powered with its own hydroelectric generators, housing 2,000 fanatical fighters and equipped with at least one Russian tank in perfect working order.

This story caught the imagination of the press corps, especially when the basic claims were repeated by American officials such as Donald Rumsfeld.

In December 2001 Afghan mujahadeen forces attacked the "impenetrable" fortress, assisted by American and British air-strikes and a small number of American, British and German special forces. According to Time Magazine, the battle cost the lives of one mujahadeen and seven Taliban fighters. Afterwards, American troops combed the mountain for bin Laden. No fortress was discovered, no hydroelectric generators, no massive hotel housing thousands of fighters, and no Russian tank.

They did however find a tube of deodorant.

(On a related note: Edward Jay Epstein also casts serious doubt on the box-cutter story from 9/11.)

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