Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--From 9/11 to Abbottabad
supposed black market in Soviet “nuclear suitcase bombs” exists in Hollywood, not in reality. So what was the point of the claim? It seems to have been a clumsy attempt at psychological warfare—an attempt to dissuade the Bush administration from its attacks on Afghanistan. Zawahiri, in particular, was well aware that the American national security establishment was anxious about terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Indeed,two years earlier, Zawahiri had sanctioned the establishment of al-Qaeda’s amateur and poorly funded chemical and biological weapons program precisely because the United States seemed to be so worried about those weapons.
    Around the same time that Mir was interviewing al-Qaeda’s leaders, another outsider was admitted to meet with members of al-Qaeda’s inner circle: Dr. Amer Aziz, a prominent Pakistani surgeon. Dr. Aziz, a Taliban sympathizer who had treated bin Laden in 1999 for a back injury, wassummoned to Kabul in early November 2001 to treat Mohammed Atef, a former Egyptian policeman who served as the military commander of al-Qaeda. While examining Atef, Dr. Aziz again met with bin Laden. For years there had been reports that the al-Qaeda leader suffered from kidney disease, but Dr. Aziz said those reports were false: “He was in excellent health. He was walking. He was healthy. I didn’t see any evidence of kidney disease. I didn’t see any evidence of dialysis.”
    A S THE AMERICAN BOMBING campaign intensified and U.S. Special Forcesbegan arriving in small numbers in northern Afghanistan, bin Laden had to start making serious contingency plans for the possibility that the Taliban and his al-Qaeda foot soldiers would soon be on the run. It was a kind of planning that he had neglected to do when he authorized the 9/11 attacks. In mid-October he met with Jalaluddin Haqqani, arguably the most effective military commander of the Taliban, whom bin Laden had known since the early days of thejihad against the Soviets. Together they discussed the possibility of waging a long guerrilla war against the infidel Americans, as they had with the Soviets.Haqqani was sure that the Americans were “creatures of comfort” who would be defeated in the long term. Around the same time, another warlord from the anti-Soviet war, Yunis Khalis,invited bin Laden to move into his territory surrounding Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, the region where bin Laden had long maintained his Tora Bora country retreat.
    On the same day as the Mir interview, bin Ladenattended a memorial ceremony for an Uzbek militant leader who had just been killed in a U.S. air strike. The next day, the Uzbek city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan, fell to the Northern Alliance and a small team of U.S. Special Forces. Twenty-four hours later, a bin Laden security advisor, Dr. Amin ul-Haq,met with tribal elders in the area around Jalalabad and gave them each $10,000 and a horse, in exchange for which the elders agreed to provide refuge to the members of al-Qaeda who soon would be streaming toward Jalalabad, close to the border with Pakistan.
    On November 12, Kabul also fell to the Northern Alliance forces. Just ahead of them, bin Laden and his followers hastened from Kabul down the steep, narrow, andwinding road to Jalalabad.
    A few days later, Mohammed Atef was killed in a U.S. Predator drone air strike. Atef had been not only al-Qaeda’s military commanderbut also bin Laden’schief executive officer,working around the clock to manage al-Qaeda’s personnel and operations. He had been bin Laden’s closest collaborator in al-Qaeda since the group was founded in 1988. A Saudi member of al-Qaeda recalls that Atef’s death “shocked us deeply, because this was the candidate to succeed bin Laden.”
    Fearing for their safety, bin Laden’s son-in-law Muatazmade arrangements for three of bin Laden’s wives and a number of their younger children to leave Kandahar and cross over the border into

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