Friday, 6 December 2002

With runners and whispers, al-Qa'ida outfoxes US forces

The naked hypocrisy of it all is just astounding. All people are equal, but Americans are more equal than others.

by Robert Fisk

The Americans take them shackled and hooded on to transport aircraft to Kandahar. They live in pens of eight or ten men. They are given cots with blankets but no privacy. They are forced to urinate and defecate publicly because the Americans want to watch their prisoners at all times.

But United States forces have not only failed to hunt down Osama bin Laden while they are preparing for war in Iraq: they are finding it almost impossible to crack the al-Qa'ida network because Bin Laden's men have resorted to primitive methods of communication that cut individual members of al-Qa'ida off from all information.

This extraordinary, grim scenario comes from an American intelligence officer just back from Afghanistan who agreed to talk to The Independent – and to supply his own photographs of prisoners – on condition of anonymity. His prognoses were chilling and totally at variance with the upbeat briefings of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Even in Pakistan, he says, middle-ranking Pakistani army officers are tipping off members of al-Qa'ida to avoid American-organised raids.

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