'Black Hawk Down' Anniversary: Al Qaeda's Hidden Hand

Federal terrorism prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald obtained a sealed indictment in 1998 against bin Laden which stated that, "members of al Qaeda participated with Somali tribesmen in an attack on United States military personnel serving in Somalia."

"We can't be certain that he killed those 18 Rangers in the battle of Mogadishu on October 3rd and 4th," Fitzgerald later testified at a 9/11 Commission hearing, "but he celebrated it afterwards, and he sent trainers down there, and he sent weapons down there."

Kerrey, a Navy SEAL recipient of the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, recalled visiting the wounded from Mogadishu at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in late 1993, never imagining the fight that the incident foreshadowed.

Not only did the U.S. not know about al Qaeda until years afterward, but policymakers have -- even since 9/11 -- often "underestimated" the terror network's resiliency up until the present with its possible role in Nairobi, Kenya's deadly Westgate mall attack by Somali al-Shabaab gunmen last week, Kerrey said.

Bin Laden also said in his 1996 speech that the U.S. pulled out of Beirut, Lebanon, 30 years ago after the U.S. Marine compound there was bombed, and Shabaab and al Qaeda may be banking on Kenyan public opinion to similarly turn on the current Somalia intervention, said another former Special Operations commander.

"When we were in Iraq, there were times when the insurgency repeatedly was trying to achieve the 'Beirut effect' -- those were their words -- to kill enough Americans in multiple attacks to make us pull out," retired Army Lt. Col. James Gavrilis, who led Special Mission Unit operations, told ABC News. "It's not fabricated, it's a real pattern."

READ MORE: Black Hawk Down, An American War Story (Philadelphia Inquirer)

ABC News' Lee Ferran contributed to this report.

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