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US 'let terror chiefs off hook'

US 'let terror chiefs off hook'

Author: Toby Harnden in Washington
Publication: The Telegraph, U.K.
Date: November 19, 2001

American pilots have had senior Taliban and al-Qa'eda targets in their sights as many as 10 times in the past six weeks but were unable to open fire because authorisation did not come through in time, it was reported yesterday.

A US Air Force officer said: "We knew we had some of the big boys. But the process is so slow that by the time we got the clearances and everybody had put in their two cents we called it off."

If they sight a target, pilots or controllers of Predator unmanned aircraft have to inform their operational commanders, who must then request permission to fire from the US Central Command in Florida.

"Imagine you have a target in sight, you have to wake up people in the middle of the night and they say, 'Uhhhhh'. It's a scandal," one officer told the Washington Post.

Mohammed Atef, Osama bin Laden's military commander, was killed last week but other al-Qa'eda leaders have been given a second chance on other occasions.

Capt Shelly Young, a US Navy officer and the Judge Advocate General, who gives legal advice to the overall war commander, Gen Tommy Franks, has been criticised for repeatedly second-guessing senior US Air Force officers.

On one occasion, Capt Young was said to have refused to approve an air strike on a Taliban military convoy because of the possibility that children could have been put in the vehicles as a trick to get American forces to kill civilians.

18 November 2001: Al-Qa'eda massacre Taliban
17 November 2001: Taliban's last stronghold falls
17 November 2001: Ramadan begins to the sound of US bombing
16 November 2001: Air raid kills Bin Laden aides at talks
15 November 2001: We're glad they have gone, say Muslims
29 October 2001: Innocent victims
29 October 2001: Bombed by mistake, but villagers tell  US to keep up air strikes
 


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