Tora Bora

Tora Bora (Pashto: توره بوړه‎, English: Black Cave), known locally as Spīn Ghar (Pashto: سپین غر‎, English: White Mountain), is a cave complex situated in the White Mountains (Safed Koh) (Safed Koh is the Dari form for Spin Ghar) of eastern Afghanistan, in the Pachir Wa Agam District of Nangarhar province, approximately 50 km (31 mi) west of the Khyber Pass and 10 km (6.2 mi) north of the border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. Tora Bora was known to be an important area for the Taliban and insurgency against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Tora Bora and the surrounding White Mountain range had natural caverns formed by streams eating into the limestone.

During the US invasion of Afghanistan it was one of the strongholds of the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies. As the suspected hide-out of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, it was the location of the December 2001 Battle of Tora Bora.

Tora Bora was variously described by the western media to be an 'impregnable cave fortress' housing 2000 men complete with a hospital, a hydroelectric power plant, offices, a hotel, arms and ammunition stores, roads large enough to drive a tank into, and elaborate tunnel and ventilation systems. Both the British and American press published elaborate plans of the base which was readily accepted by the public. When presented with such plans in an NBC interview, the United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield said "This is serious business, there's not one of those, there are many of those".

When Tora Bora was eventually captured by the U.S. and Afghan troops, no traces of the supposed 'fortress' were found despite painstaking searches in the surrounding areas. Tora Bora turned out to be a system of small natural caves housing at most, 200 fighters. While arms and ammunition stores were found, there were no traces of the advanced facilities claimed to exist.

In an interview published by the Public Broadcasting Service, a Staff Sergeant from the U.S. Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 572 described the caves as thus:

Again, with the caves, they weren't these crazy mazes or labyrinths of caves that they described. Most of them were natural caves. Some were supported with some pieces of wood maybe about the size of a 10-foot by 24-foot room, at the largest. They weren't real big. I know they made a spectacle out of that, and how are we going to be able to get into them? We worried about that too, because we see all these reports. Then it turns out, when you actually go up there, there's really just small bunkers, and a lot of different ammo storage is up there. – Jeff, Staff Sgt. ODA 572

It was also reported that in 2007, U.S. intelligence suspected that Osama bin Laden planned to meet with top Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders at Tora Bora prior to the launch of a possible attack in Europe or even the United States. Despite a commando operation that killed dozens of militants, bin Laden was not found.

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