Thursday, November 01, 2007

Letting bin Laden back in the game

Here's an interesting piece by Peter Bergen, who was following terrorism and Osama bin Laden before 9/11. He contends that as of 2002, al-Qaida was in serious disarray. A letter from a cadre addressed to Khalid Sheik Muhammad (KSM of waterboarding fame), complained that "Today we are experiencing one setback after another and have gone from misfortune to disaster," noting the crumbling of groups in Europe, East Asia, Europe, Yemen, the Horn of Afrrica and elsewhere. Yet in just five years "Al Qaeda has not only survived but also managed to rebuild at an astonishing clip."

Why? Because "At nearly every turn, he [President Bush] has made the wrong strategic choices in battling Al Qaeda." We let them get away at Tora Bora, in part because resources were already being shifted to Iraq. The U.S. then fumbled the job of rebuilding Afghanistan, again mainly because of being distracted by Iraq. Then removing Saddam from Iraq created an opportunity to build terrorist cells there and get active jihadists "blooded" while exacerbating sectarian differences. The U.S. joined Musharraf in Pakistan at the hip, gave him $10 billion, and hectored him enough to make him even more unpopular but not enough to keep al-Qaida and the Taliban from regrouping. We still have no intelligence capacity at the medium to upper levels of al-Qaida, and Abu Ghraib and other evidences of abusive attitudes helped al-Qaida recruit more members.

In short, at this point bin Laden is beating Dubya. And probably doing it from some cave.

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