In an interview on Now with Bill Moyers, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh elaborated on a New Yorker article he wrote last year. He tells reporter Jane Wallace that Delta Force clandestine operatives told him U.S. forces had cornered “the cream of the crop of al-Qaeda” in the village of Kunduz, which is 150 miles from Pakistan. However, U.S. commanders gave the order for the troops to hold their fire and allow planes to take off from Kunduz and evacuate “no less than 2,500, maybe 3,000” al-Qaeda operatives along with dozens of senior Pakistani military officers and “maybe even some of Bin Laden’s immediate family.”The United States, reasons Hersh, held its fire at the request of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. He needed the support of Inter Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s secret service, whose members had been in Afghanistan training the Taliban and al-Qaeda and were caught in the conflict. “The initial plan was to take out the Pakistani military,” Hersh says. “What happened is that they took out al-Qaeda with them. And we had no way of stopping it. We lost control. … Thousands of al-Qaeda got out.”On the bright side, al-Qaeda will still exist after Saddam is gone.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.