Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired C.I.A. officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 local and foreign militants, up from several hundred three years ago.
Publicly, senior American and Pakistani officials have said that the creation of a Qaeda haven in the tribal areas was in many ways inevitable — that the lawless badlands where ethnic Pashtun tribes have resisted government control for centuries were a natural place for a dispirited terror network to find refuge. The American and Pakistani officials also blame a disastrous cease-fire brokered between the Pakistani government and militants in 2006.
But more than four dozen interviews in Washington and Pakistan tell another story. American intelligence officials say that the Qaeda hunt in Pakistan, code-named Operation Cannonball by the C.I.A. in 2006, was often undermined by bitter disagreements within the Bush administration and within the intelligence agency, including about whether American commandos should launch ground raids inside the tribal areas.
Inside the C.I.A., the fights included clashes between the agency’s outposts in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad. There were also battles between field officers and the counterterrorism center at C.I.A. headquarters, whose preference for carrying out raids remotely, via Predator missile strikes, was derided by officers in the Islamabad station as the work of “boys with toys.”
An early arrangement that allowed American commandos to join Pakistani units on raids inside the tribal areas was halted in 2003 after protests in Pakistan. Another combat mission that came within hours of being launched in 2005 was scuttled because some C.I.A. officials in Pakistan questioned the accuracy of the intelligence, and because aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld believed that the mission force had become too large.
Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas. When American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq.
Some former officials say Mr. Bush should have done more to confront Mr. Musharraf, by aggressively demanding that he acknowledge the scale of the militant threat.
Western military officials say Mr. Musharraf was instead often distracted by his own political problems, and effectively allowed militants to regroup by brokering peace agreements with them.
There, in a nutshell, is how the Republicans have led this government in the fight against terrorism: they demonstrate that they have no idea what they're doing, and they bully everyone into believing the opposite is true. They suck at the game so they work the refs. They can't do details or substance so they dissolve into bitter infighting, ineffective taunts and indifferent policies that achieve nothing. Their track record is abysmal and a future with them running things--unthinkable.
And the American people are to believe that John "stop the bullshit" McCain is going to be a better diplomat, be more "detail oriented " and pay better attention to the problem? Focus on the needs of agencies he has long derided and devote the necessary resources to it? Will he undertake these efforts before or after the 100 year war in Iraq is up? During a 40 hour workweek or on weekends, because McCain doesn't do weekends, you know. Before or after McCain snarls at everyone when he doesn't get what he wants?
You can't make this stuff up--and it gets scarier every day.