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WASHINGTON - The US military could have captured or killed Osama bin Laden in 2001 if it had launched a "concerted attack" on his hideout in Afghanistan.
The report, prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, written by staff working for the Democratic majority on the committee, said the al Qaeda leader's escape was a lost opportunity that paved the way for insurgencies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
"Removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," the report said.
"But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide."
US soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the region after the Taliban government was removed from power.
The report said US commanders rejected requests for more troops to launch a rapid assault in the area, relying instead on air strikes and the Afghan militias to lead the attack and Pakistan's Frontier Corps to seal off escape routes. - Reuters