NORFOLK, Neb. – The U.S. military likely had a chance to kill Usama bin Laden but failed to do so because of a breakdown in communication in the chain of command, Nebraska Rep. Doug Bereuter said.
It happened in the early stages of the War on Terror when an unmanned aircraft equipped with a Hellfire missile system spotted a convoy leaving Afghanistan. U.S. military officials believe bin Laden was in that convoy, said Bereuter, vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
"Somebody didn't have the courage to say fire the missile until they checked up above in the line of command," the longtime Republican lawmaker said. "So that convoy didn't get attacked."
The congressman said the United States doesn't know where bin Laden is or even if he is alive. Bin Laden may have died from war wounds or kidney failure — an or he could be hiding in a North African or Middle Eastern country, he said.
Bereuter said the House Intelligence Committee is briefed on the war at least once a week and is in frequent contact with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He said military leaders in the White House and Pentagon see the images recorded by cameras aboard unmanned drone aircraft just 10 seconds after they are taken in Afghanistan.
As the "mopping up" stage of the war concludes, Bereuter said U.S. troops will be pulled from Afghanistan and replaced with a multinational peace-keeping force led by the British. He said American troops likely will not be a part of it.
"You will find them in other places where there are networks of Al Qaeda, and I'm not talking about Iraq," he said.
Bereuter made his comments Monday while speaking to a local service organization.