Rather than offer you an outright condemnation of Bush based on a blurb from a book that has not yet been released, I would direct you to this excellent summary of the War in Afghanistan in the CS Monitor:
It was a war like no other. In an evolutionary leap powered by Information Age technology, US ground soldiers were mainly employed as observers, liaisons, and spotters for air power – not as direct combatants sent to occupy a foreign land. The success of the US was dazzling, save for the fight for Tora Bora, which may have been this unconventional war’s most crucial battle. For the US, Tora Bora wasn’t about capturing caverns or destroying fortifications – it was about taking the world’s most wanted terrorist “dead or alive.”
In retrospect, it becomes clear that the battle’s underlying story is of how scant intelligence, poorly chosen allies, and dubious military tactics fumbled a golden opportunity to capture bin Laden as well as many senior Al Qaeda commanders.
Moreover, as the US military conducts new strikes with its Afghan allies in nearby Paktia Province, sends special forces into Southeast and Central Asia – and prepares for a possible military plunge into Iraq – planners will need to learn the lessons of Tora Bora: Know which local leaders to trust. Know when to work with allied forces on the ground. And know when to go it alone. “Maybe the only lesson that is applicable is: whenever you use local forces, they have local agendas,” says one senior Western diplomat, now looking at options for invading Iraq. “You had better know what those are so that if it is not a reasonable match – at least it is not a contradiction.”
While Bush is President and ultimately responsible for the escape of Bin Laden, statements that this is “Bush’s fault” are facile, stupid, and should be ignored. I am aware that the distinction between being responsible for something and being to blame for something is as hopelessly blurred in politics as the difference between being wrong and lying about something, so I doubt there will be honest efforts in the blogosphere to really examine this issue. At any rate, I would recommend this article as a starting point for an examination of the war in Afghanistan and bin Laden’s escape.
The fascinating report concludes with this bit:
“There appears to be a real disconnect between what the US military was engaged in trying to do during the battle for Tora Bora – which was to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban – and the earlier rhetoric of President Bush, which had focused on getting bin Laden,” says Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies. “There are citizens all over the Middle East now saying that the US military couldn’t do it – couldn’t catch Osama – while ignoring the fact that the US military campaign, apart from not capturing Mr. bin Laden was, up the that point, staggeringly effective.”
Via the comments, this map of the area in question. The closer together the ‘brown lines’ (contour intervals), the steeper the incline. I can’t find the legend, so I don’t know what the intervals are, but suffice it to say that is STEEP in a lot of the region. Here is a little primer on land nav and map-reading, which was one of my absolute favorite things to do in the military.