Officer: Best Plan To Kill Osama Was Nixed

* We knew it all along, but now it’s confirmed: 

CIA officer wants To Set The Record Straight On The 2001 Hunt For Bin Laden At Tora Bora

“Dalton Fury” is the pseudonym of this former Army major who led the secret Delta Force mission to try to kill Osama bin Laden nine weeks after 9/11. (CBS) Video here

(CBS) The man who led the Pentagon’s mission to kill Osama bin Laden says the Afghan allies he was forced to use may have undermined his operation. He also tells correspondent Scott Pelley his superiors scuttled the most effective plan of attack against the al Qaeda leader. 

The former Delta Force officer, who uses the pseudonym “Dalton Fury,” tells his story for the first time on 60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. 

Ten weeks after 9/11, Fury and a team of U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers joined CIA operatives and Afghan fighters known as mujahideen under the command of a warlord named General Hazrat Ali, to whom the CIA paid millions in cash. The Americans and Afghans pursued bin Laden and an estimated 1,000 al Qaeda fighters into the Tora Bora Mountains, near the border with Pakistan. The U.S. strategy, says Fury, was to let Afghan allies do most of the fighting, while U.S. Special Operations Forces directed air strikes and provided support. 

The problem, according to Fury, was that Ali’s mujahideen would attack up the mountain by day and retreat at night, giving up territory they’d won. Today, Fury wonders whether some of the supposedly friendly Afghans were really conspiring with al Qaeda. “The mujahideen would go up and get into a skirmish…lose a guy or two, maybe kill an al-Qaeda guy or two and then they leave…almost like it was an agreement…Put on a good show and then leave,” recalls Fury, a retired Army major. 

As the U.S. and Afghan forces listened to bin Laden’s radio communications, Fury noticed the Afghan’s demeanor. “These guys in my opinion were more in awe of Osama bin Laden than they were willing to kill him,” he tells Pelley. “…They could almost see him and feel his presence and they just stood there with wide eyes and somewhat in awe that here is the leader of the jihad…and they’re actually hearing his voice over the radio.” 

Fury’s soldiers continued their frontal assault on the Tora Bora mountainside battlefield by day, when Ali’s mujahideen would rejoin them. But that’s not the plan Fury thought would work best. “We wanted to come in on the back door.” The initial plan to climb the mountain from the Pakistan side and surprise the enemy was denied. “Whether that was central command [or] all the way up to the president of the United States, I’m not sure,” he says. 

Such a denial was unheard of, according to Fury. “In my experience, in my five years at Delta, never before.” His superiors also rejected a plan to drop landmines from the air on bin Laden’s likely escape route to Pakistan. 

At one point, Fury led a team deep into Tora Bora to rescue Americans who had come under fire. That rescue mission may have brought Fury as close as he ever came to bin Laden. But, it was night and Afghan allies had gone home. Fury was under orders to have Afghan fighters take the lead, and intelligence said bin Laden was protected by more than a thousand hardened fighters. Fury decided to postpone the attack until morning. 

“Had we gone up that ridgeline towards that location, Osama bin Laden may have been 500 meters away. We might have run right into him,” Fury tells Pelley. In the book Fury wrote about the mission,Kill Bin Laden, he writes that his decision to abort that effort left him with the feeling he had let down the nation. In his interview with Pelley, he says, “It wasn’t worth the risk at that particular moment to go up there and play cowboy.” 

The next time Delta had a lead on bin Laden, they thought he entered a cave with about 50 men. The Americans called in every available bomb and bombarded the cave for hours. Fury believed they’d killed the al Qaeda leader at that time. When bin Laden released a video in 2004, Fury was disappointed. Now he believes, based on intelligence, that bin Laden was injured in the shoulder by shrapnel and then treated and hidden by local sympathizers. He escaped to Pakistan days later, perhaps by car. “He moved as far as he could and then got out and either walked across or was carried across into Pakistan, free and clear,” Fury tells Pelley.