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Afghanistan: Is Osama bin Laden Alive and Well? (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-News.com
President Bush says it is time again to get bin Laden.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Many Americans have concluded that Osama bin Laden met his death long ago, but an Islamic Website says he published a new message this week, set to coincide with the sixth anniversary of September 11th attacks against the United States.
Now U.S. President George W. Bush is again asserting his desire to capture the elusive Al-Qaida leader. Today Bush said that the war on terrorism is not just against this particular terror network leader. Most Americans figured that out when we shifted our military emphasis in recent years to Iraq.
It should be noted however, that nobody is uncertain whether or not the new video released this week by an Islamic militant group actually featured bin Laden. In fact, the tape has only a still image of Osama bin Laden, as it it turns out. So there is no proof that this tape actually originates from bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, or "The Base," there is no way to be certain.
A documentary called "Loose Change" examines a number of inconsistencies with the FBI's portrayal of bin Laden. The program claims that the federal government's story has changed significantly since 2001. The documentary also claims that the actual bin Laden issued a statement shortly after September 11th, 2001 stating that he had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on the United States.
It certainly would not fit well with the story the federal government has maintained, and that two major wars erupted over. But Al Jazeera and other non-U.S. news groups are reporting the same thing, so perhaps bin Laden is indeed alive and well.
If he isn't alive, and since the tape "has not been authenticated," it strikes some of us as a risk to assume these are the true words of the terrorist kingpin as hundreds of media outlets have already done. Perhaps it is just one more way for the national and world media to behave in a non-challenging capacity.
The documentary "Loose Change" loosechange911.com/claims that the man represented in multiple video tape releases as bin Laden has even been recorded writing with the wrong hand.
So it is up to the public to evaluate this report and suggestion that Osama bin Laden is alive and well. It seems that the the United States and foreign press are remarkably willing to accept the word of an Islamic Website making this claim.
When I was in Afghanistan last winter, I had many opportunities to talk to Afghan citizens there about bin Laden, and learn their bottom line thoughts on this man that by so many accounts, is a dedicated enemy of the west.
What I was told by many people there is that bin Laden represents an extremely pure interpretation of Islam to most Afghan people. Osama bin Laden is not an Afghan, he is Saudi Arabian. His family is still fighting lawsuits and claims that they cut him off 14 years ago from his share of his father's inheritance. A bin Laden spokesman in Saudi Arabia also formally denounced Osama recently.
The people of Afghanistan believe that turning bin Laden in to the U.S. or Coalition military would be a bit like Americans turning over James Baker to the United Nations. Even if he is a crook, he is still tauted by the religious community as a spiritual leader, and so is bin Laden. The Taliban are Afghanistan's "religious right" in fact, placing doctrine over public policy at every bend in the road.
Reliable Hazaras Soldiers
They are an ethnic group found primarily in the central region of Afghanistan, and integrated into the ranks of the Afghan National Army. They are the most reliable people our soldiers there have an opportunity to work with, and they do not support the Taliban at all.
One reason is the fact that the Taliban "made a sport of massacring them" as one reporter put it, when they were in power. The Hazara, the only Afghan ethnic group with pronounced Asian features, has been treated harshly in Afghanistan for a long time.
U.S. soldiers say the information that the Hazaras convey is always right on target. A friend of mine at a forward mountain base at Gardez named Specialist Ryan "Vandy" Vandewalker, said the Hazaras literally saved the lives of some of his friends by alerting them that they were approaching an anti-Coalition militia encampment.
"We would have just walked up on them otherwise. They still had food cooking," Vandy said. By alerting the Americans to the presence of the camp, the Hazaras proved once again that they are supportive of the mission to rid Afghanistan of Taliban and other militias.
So one of of five distinct cultural groups in Afghanistan can be trusted almost explicitly, not bad. The Hazara support is also something our soldiers can identify, as these are the only people in Afghanistan who bear Asian features. That is a rare gift in a difficult war.
The other thing about George Bush "getting" bin Laden, is that Afghanistan is one of the most remote nations in the world. There are networks of caves that people have used for thousands of years, IED's to injure our people, and more land mines than in any other country in the entire world.
This means that when you drive a convoy of HUMVEE's through Afghanistan, you keep them on the road at all times. The land mine hazard is an ever present threat. I went to a remote village with Oregon soldiers from the 41st Brigade Combat Team to distribute humanitarian aid to the poor people who live there. At the very site they used to distribute clothing and essentials, there were white and red rocks designating a land mine field. The Afghan people seemed to pay little attention, while all Americans were careful.
My point is that taking off on the trail of anybody in this country is a difficult and dangerous task, especially when the numbers of troops who could potentially be there to bolsters safety are fighting in Iraq.
It is also important for people to realize that aircraft flying over this high elevation country are all challenged. When an airplane or helicopter is sitting on the deck at an altitude of 7,000 feet or more, the demands go way up.
I went on one mission with soldiers who said it was ridiculous that we weren't flown to our destinations in helicopters, instead driving hundreds of miles in aged vehicles through what they call "Indian Country" due to the potential of enemy contact.
Winning the war in Afghanistan is an important thing to do if it is possible. Most Afghans want nothing but peace. The people there have suffered immeasurably over the last 28 years, surviving if they did, the Soviet invasion of 1979-1989, and the infighting between tribal factions that happened in the immediate post-Soviet era. Then there are the jihadists who use religion as a tool to divide and the oppression of women that is a paramount issue.
It always comes back to a collision of values between the religious leaders and human rights. We must increase aid for Afghanistan; more clothing, jackets, shoes, and any and every kind of medicine.
Hospitals in Afghanistan need equipment that we cast off as scrap in America. Wood is a big commodity in this country, as all the trees of Kabul are long since gone. Fresh water is also hard to come by.
Americans have rebuilt bridges, schools, they have constructed fountains and they have provided countless thousands of pounds of food and aid, but trust me when I tell you that it is not enough.
Below are a number of videos that I posted from Afghanistan between November 2006 and January 2007. I hope they add more perspective and dimension to what I write here today, with my feet safely planted on Oregon ground.
Driving in Afghanistan- The Most Dangerous Job of All (VIDEO)
Add to My Profile | More Videos This is called "In Country" by Tim King:
This is raw footage from a patrol "outside the wire" in Kabul, Afghanistan - watch for possible bad language
Americans restore Independence Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
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