Elite Officer Recalls Bin Laden Hunt

Delta Force Commander Says The Best Plan To Kill The Al Qaeda Leader In 2001 Was Nixed

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Fury had two choices: advance his small team with no Afghan support, or return to camp and assault in the morning. He was under orders to make the Afghans take the lead, and intelligence said there were more than 1,000 hardened fighters protecting bin Laden.

"You write in the book 'My decision to abort that effort to kill or capture bin Laden when we might have been with 2,000 meters of him, about 2,000 yards, still bothers me. It leaves me with a feeling of somehow letting down our nation at a critical time,'" Pelley quotes.

Asked why he feels that way, Fury says, "Had we gone up that ridgeline towards that location, Osama bin Laden might have been 500 meters way. We might have run right into him. So there's always that doubt that we might have run into him. We also might got up there and found nothing. It wasn't worth the risk at that particular moment to go up there and play cowboy. It was better to be cautious, refit, go up there with the entire force the next day and play the battle out as we had planned."

In the morning, bin Laden was on the radio. The CIA, Delta, and their Afghan allies were listening.

How did the Afghans react when they heard from bin Laden on the radio?

"Osama Bin Laden is [to] many a Muslim's hero," Fury says. "These guys in my opinion were more in awe of Osama Bin Laden than they were willing to kill him. When they heard him talking on the radio they would gather around the individual that held that hand held transistor. He would hold it up in the air, almost as if he didn't want the connection to break, almost like they could see the ridge line Osama bin laden happened to be talking from, like if 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, the leader of al Qaeda and they're actually hearing his voice over the radio."

"And these were the men who were supposed to help you capture or kill him? Some allies," Pelley remarks.

"Some were better than others," Fury says.

The radio intercepts gave Delta a fix on bin Laden's location. And one of the Delta soldiers narrated his own video.

"This top hill. The very top up there. That's supposedly where Bin Laden is hiding out….We've seen movement along this saddle right here. We don't know if it's friendly or not so we haven't been able to call fire on it," the soldier said on the video.

And then something extraordinary happened: Fury's Afghan allies announced they had negotiated a cease fire with al Qaeda, something the Americans had no interest in. When Fury's team advanced anyway, his Afghan partners drew their weapons on Delta. It took 12 hours to end the bogus cease fire, precious time for al Qaeda to move.

Fury says their assumption was that bin Laden was heading for a valley at that time.

Bin Laden had changed direction, and the tone of his radio calls. "Clearly under duress. Clearly hurting. Clearly caring for his men," Fury says.