Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - Former President Bill Clinton turned down an offer from the Sudanese government to arrest and hand over Osama bin Laden because his administration did not accept that a country regarded as a sponsor of terrorism wanted to change, a leading regional analyst believes.
After the U.S. declined to take the al Qaeda terrorist leader, Sudan sent him to Afghanistan, according to Akasha Alsayeed Akasha, a Sudanese scholar based in Nairobi.
Debate on Clinton's handling of the global terror threat has been rekindled by publication of a book called "Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror," by investigative reporter Richard Miniter.
It says the Clinton administration turned down offers by Khartoum to share intelligence information on al Qaeda operatives and to arrest bin Laden himself.
The Saudi-born terrorist, whose whereabouts are unknown, has been linked to attacks against Americans starting in 1992, including the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 bombing of East African U.S. embassies, up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Commenting on the U.S. reluctance to cooperate with Sudan in the counter-terror field, Akasha told CNSNews.com that the Clinton administration had underestimated Khartoum's determination to end relations with terrorist networks around the world.
An example of its willingness to do so, he said, was seen in Sudan's decision to hand over Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the fugitive terrorist known as "Carlos the Jackal" to the French authorities in 1994.
Bin Laden had moved to Sudan after Saudi Arabia expelled him in 1991.
After Washington turned down the bin Laden offer in 1996, Sudan reportedly favored sending him to Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh refused to accept him, fearing he may overthrow the government, Akasha said.
"It is at this point that Sudan decided to send Osama to Afghanistan," Akasha said.
Akasha said the Taliban, the fundamentalist militia then ruling most of Afghanistan, had been very happy to accept bin Laden.
They needed bin Laden both for his financial resources and his "organizational" skills.
The Taliban was overthrown by U.S.-led military campaign launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Bin Laden disappeared and remains unaccounted for.
Akasha believes the shift in policy towards Sudan and Africa in general that accompanied the arrival of the Bush administration, was shaped, in part, by a U.S. realization of the grave mistake of having spurned the Sudanese offer.
While Clinton's foreign policy toward Sudan could be termed as all "stick," the Bush administration had adopted a "carrot and stick" approach, Akasha said.
"Clinton wanted to bring down the Arab regime in Sudan, but Bush is interested in a constructive engagement," Akasha said.
According to the Texas-based intelligence analysis group, Strafor, Bush's interest in Africa has been heightened by the fact that "Africa has become a significant battleground between U.S. forces and al Qaeda."
"African states, seeing this expanded U.S. interest, are eager to establish cooperation with Washington. The result is a renegotiation of Africa's geopolitical significance to the U.S. and the rest of the world," Strafor says.
(CNSNews Pacific Rim Bureau Chief Patrick Goodenough contributed to this report.)
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