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What are your thoughts on Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda?   Was it a victory?

Dear FRONTLINE,

THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I watched this show on Sept. 11th and it was without a doubt the best and most comprehensive show I've seen on the military campaign in Afghanistan. I have been in the Air Force/Air National Guard for over 9 years and I have no problem giving credit to my amazing Army Special Ops brothers...I hope that, regardless of the continuing debate over whether or not (or how) we should use military force, people see how truly phenomenal these guys are.

Sheryl Bruce
anchorage, alaska


Dear FRONTLINE,

One of the questions I have about the U.S.'s campaign in Afghanistan is why the Bush Administration seems so confident about militarily intervening in a country known not only as a terrorist haven, but for years of factional and ethnic stife as well. It seems inconsistent with previous gov't policies of not attacking sponsor states of terrorism, such as Iran and Libya during the 1980's. Of course, the difference being this colossal act of destruction on our own soil, but haven't diplomatic efforts to isolate state sponsors of terrorism worked before (i.e. Libya for the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988)? Perhaps this Administration acted too hastily and without proper judgement against a terrorist organization, which by definiton is slippery and difficult to catch, and against a regieme in a country where central authority is virtually impossible to enforce. Couple that with its plans for a war with Iraq, and you wonder where this Administration is headed.

Zack Miller
takoma park, maryland


Dear FRONTLINE,

Much of this report was extremely informative. However, the first half hour or so was marred by what appeared to be self-serving Bush Administration "disinformation." Again and again, in the early portion of the report, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other administrative spokespeople claimed that there had been no prior plan U.S. to attack al-Quaeda and the Taliban in response to the series of attacks against American targets culminating on 9/11. Again and again, Rice and your narrator implied that the Bush administration had to start "from scratch" in formulating a plan of attack. That is simply untrue. During the closing weeks of the Clinton administration--particularly in the aftermath of the attack on the U. S. S. Cole in Yemen in October 2000--Richard Clarke, the chair of Clinton's interagency Counter- Terrorism Security Group (CSG) had put together a comprehensive and aggressive plan to "take the fight" both to al-Quaeda and to the Taliban. As a lame duck administration, with only a few weeks left in office, the Clinton team were in no position to launch such a comprehensive counter-attack, but in briefings for incoming Bush administration officials (including, notably, C. Rice), Clarke thoroughly presented the Clinton administration plan for military action against al-Queda and the Taliban--and the outgoing Clinton National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, personally impressed upon Rice the urgent need for the Bush administration to deal with al-Quaeda. Tragically, the Clinton-Clarke plan--which, as one high Bush Administration official conceded, included "everything we've done since 9/11"--sat on the back-burner for 8 months as it was nibbled to death by a low-level Bush Administration policy review. Thus, for 8 months--from January through September 11, 2001--the Bush Administration team, lead by Dick Cheney (in charge of the Administration's task force on terrorism) and Condoleezza Rice dawdled, giving al-Quaeda, fully funded and completely secure at their bases in Afghanistan, ample time to prepare their devastating "suck punch" against the United States. No wonder Condoleezza Rice wants to prevent the American people from learning about the Clinton Administration's Clarke Plan! For the sake of readers and viewers who heard nothing about any of this in the Frontline report, here is a summary of the Clarke Plan, as presented to incoming Bush Administration officials, including C. Rice, in January 2001, quoted from the August 12, 2002 issue of *Time Magazine*:

"Clarke's proposals called for the 'breakup' of al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of their personnel. The financial support for its terrorist activities would be systematically attacked, its assets frozen, its funding from fake charities stopped. Nations where al-Quaeda was causing trouble . . . would be given aid to fight the terrorists. Most important, Clarke wanted to see a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to 'eliminate the sanctuary' where al-Qaeda had its terrorist training camps and bin Laden was being protected by the radical Islamic Taliban regime. . . . Clarke supported a substantial increase in American support for the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban. . . . At the same time, the U.S. military would start planning for air strikes on the camps and for the introduction of special-operations forces into Afghanistan. . . . In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to 'everything we've done since 9/11.'"

So when Condoleezza Rice and other Administrative spokespeople try to create the false impression that there was no previously existing American plan to take on the Taliban--and that they had to plan the war in Afghanistan from scratch--they are simply engaging in the typical obfuscatory tactics of bureaucrats who have screwed-up "big time": more specifically, they are trying to protect themselves and their bosses (Bush and Cheney) from the American people's outrage at their 8 fateful months of appalling negligence and incompetence--culminating in the national tragedy of 9/11. It is obvious why Rice, et al, would want to perpetuate this cover-up of the Clarke plan and of the Bush Administrations 8 months of disasterous inaction--but why in the world would FRONTLINE want to implicate itself in this Bush Administration obfuscation of the historical record?

I strongly urge FRONTLINE to post this message and invite the producers of this report to respond.

Daniel Cohen
miami, florida

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
It is true that in the fall of 2000 during the last months of the Clinton administration, there was a set of proposals developed in the National Security Council for more vigorous steps against bin Laden including "troops on the ground." (See Time, August 12, 2002) But these proposals, including more funds for covert action, went nowhere while Clinton was president. The joint chiefs rejected the idea of sending special operations troops, and the CIA had had little luck on the ground in penetrating the Al Qaeda network. When the Bush administration came in, they listened to these ideas but decided to do their own policy review. Perhaps the Bush team can be criticized for failing to act sooner, but FRONTLINE is correct when it states that "the U.S. military had no contingency plans for an all-out war in Afghanistan." FRONTLINE quotes deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz saying: "There was no war plan of any kind for this operation . . I mean, it was so far from what we were thinking of, we were really starting from scratch." Proposals are not the same thing as operational plans.


Dear FRONTLINE,

i cant shake the image of the young soldier who told of riding horseback for days through the mountains only to be told that bush wanted quicker results

will we see his children on the front lines?

montpelier, vt


Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent show. Truly great television. I'm amazed at the level of access Frontline gained. The interviews with the central players in this drama.

The interviews with the U.S. Special Forces operatives were my favorite.

boston, ma


Dear FRONTLINE,

I found several of the comments made by National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice in her interview with you to be deeply disturbing.

She spoke of how, early on September 11th, "everybody assumed it was Al Qaeda" despite scant evidence at that point. "I don't think there was ever a doubt in anyone's mind, because we knew enough about the organization to know this is exactly the kind of thing they would try to do," she said; and "We had had a number of discussions of the Al Qaeda network, going all the way back to when we first came into office in January of 2001." If the danger was so well known, why was nothing done? Why were the American people never told?

She also spoke of the Saturday meeting at Camp David: "...when we put the map (of Afghanistan) out on the table...I think the color kind of drained from everybody's faces." Was this the first time the principals of the National Security Council even pulled out a map of the area?

So much has been said about the 'intelligence failure' prior to 9/11. It seems to me that failure had less to do with the various agencies that have been implicated than it has to do with the administration officials meeting in that room, as well as their predecessors in the previous administration.

This is the investigation I would like to see Frontline investigate further: The western journalist's televised interview with Osama bin Laden himself...the actions taken again Al Qaeda by the Clinton administration...what forces -- political or otherwise -- caused this nation to look the other way?

san diego, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

A very fascinating program - as much as I didn't want to see it - I couldn't turn away from it.

I was surprised that we admitted that we blew up bldgs that were already abandoned or destroyed. Then what we were aiming for? Human beings, right? So why the fuss about the freighter full of men who died? Is there a difference between blowing them up and suffocating them? What human rights issues are you referring to?

I thought we were going to attack the network of Al Quaeda? Through their accounts, through their connections in various countries. Yes, I believe we are still 'waging that war'. I never saw the point of going over to Afghanistan to drop bombs. It seemed like a 'bullyish' thing to do. {you hit us, so we hit you] Then we went around the world 'bullying' and bribing other countries to be on our side. I hope that Pakistan remembers that we 'lent' them over a billion dollars to be our 'friends'.

I hope Afghanistan can begin to build a new and strong country...with Karzai or others to lead the way. In the mean time, we have thousands of missing and abused children in America, drug and alcohol problems, spousal abuse, children murdering parents and classmates..... let's get our soldiers back home to police our own streets - I want to be a free American.

j o
slc, ut


Dear FRONTLINE,

... The Frontline documentary on the war in Afghanistan was quite informative in the areas you chose to explore. It appeared in many ways to resemble informative evenhandedness of your usual carefully researched productions.But after it was over I found myself wondering why the editorial staff chose to leave so much vital background information out of this story.For example was there a plan in place to topple the Taleban before 9/11? How much did energy policy considerations have to do with this war? Did the newly installed leader of Afghanistan work for UNICAL negotiating the oil pipeline with the Taleban ? I find it impossible to believe that your staff was unaware of these reports or the role of Enron and Halliburton in the development of a oil pipeline through Afghanistan......

sacramento, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

we have so far been successful in this war and I am impressed with the Bush administrations use of diplomacy, covert operations and limited use of ground troops to achieve this success. I am not a Bush supporter but I believe his experienced cabinet has had much to do with the conduct of the war so far. However, there is yet much left to be done and it will be years before we can proclaim a total victory. I have yet to hear from those Americans that are opposed to this war an altermative solution for protecting our citizens.

port, or


Dear FRONTLINE,

That depends on what is meant by victory. The Talaban is eliminated. Their 'training camps' no longer produce more murderers. That is one of the stated objectives. There is victory in that.

The majority of the leaders, the perpetrators, the dangerous ones, appear to have escaped capture, death or prosecution. Their activities may have only been temporarily interupted. To that extent 'victory' is temporary.

This Operation is a step that will require further steps in the same direction. Where that leads us no one knows. There can never be a final victory because we do not know where this will take us. But we must go there.

The only victories will be those along the way as we take more steps to reduce or eliminate threats to the peace and well being of the world.

War and victory must necessarily be viewed through the lens of the management by objective model. Thus war and victory are redefined again and again as we take each step.

War and victory are just not what it used to be. Victory is a verb and war a state of mind.

Peter Charest
las vegas, nv


Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent program! I believe the operation did achieve a victory in establishing a coalition government, reopening our embassy, and in the alliances formed and message sent to terrorist groups. I traveled across Afghanistan by bus in 1973 and even back then all the men carried rifles - so the Special Forces soldiers should be given credit for not getting killed outright by those men on horseback - just because they're "tribesmen" doesn't mean they're not extremely tough guys, as was shown when they took off for Tora Bora without even having food with them. Remember, these are the descendants of Genghis Khan! To get them to cooperate with each other in Bonn was quite a victory.

Christine Giannini
everett, washington


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am confused as to why U.S. military forces did not secure the city of Kabul. I understnad the concern that the U.S. must avoid appearing as if it were occupying Kabul indefinitely and an increased number of troops might be perceived as such. However, U.S. intentions of precluding the escape of Al Qaida supporters could have been explained to Kabul civilians via karzhai. It seems as if the events that transpired in the liberation of Kabul was in part tantamount to the U.S. attempts in Iraq under the administration of George H. Bush. In other words, the ultimate objectives of capturing Saddam Hussain and Osama Bin Laden were not fulfilled.

Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson
portland, oregon


Dear FRONTLINE,

As a former Federal Agent, I was surprised by the direct and honest report by Frontline.

Though I feel at times that most of the interviews with the Presidents administration were done with ground rules established.

You cannot ask certain questions about the goal for U.S. interest in oil in that area. But overall Frontline did a good job. Mainstream media needs to take notice of Frontline.

los angeles, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

We will not know what we have done until the Bush Administration accounts for every precious human casualty, counts the cost of all property destroyed, details the cost and time-table of the clean up especially of all live munitions and mines and of the rebuilding, and we determine if this Afghanistan "victory" emboldens us to start down the tragic and fatal war path. War is a black hole. It could suck up the total gross national product. War has become obsolete. It is the enemy - the way of fools and the blind. War does not lead to peace but to truces. It destroys the prospects for peace and sews the seeds for the next war. It is a great destroyer - the enemy.

Robert Williams
clarinda, ia


Dear FRONTLINE,

The war in Afghanistan was a tremendous victory. Anyone who will take a moment to study that nation's war-ridden past will see that a handful of American Soldiers backed by the USAF and a previously impossible coalition of Afghans managed to do in weeks that which numerous Empires failed to accomplish in decades and even centuries. HURRAH FOR THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION!!!!! WELL DONE. I would also like to add that no war is without civilian casualties, and this one had virtually none compared to the previous administration's activity in Serbia and Kosovo. Where are the reports on those???

James Cromer
hendersonville, tn


Dear FRONTLINE,

Did I miss it entirely, or was there absolutely no mention during your broadcast nor in this website section about the 4 Canadian Armed Forces members killed by US friendly?

I saw your mention of the 3,400 Canadian service persons participation, and the "worst incident of friendly fire" in which 3 US ground troops lost their lives - but I didn't seen any mention of the 4 Canadians killed (I've got to have missed it - could you point me to where I can find it on your site - this incident is also under investigation, with conflicting reports about who gave the orders drop the bombs on these Canadian guys who were undertaking training in a well-known training area - the US pilot saying that he received orders; the US command denying it; etc. etc.

Neil Hodgins
windsor, ontario

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
The tragic incident to which the writer refers occurred in April 2002. It was not mentioned in FRONTLINE's report because our report covered the period September 2001 to January 2002.

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