« Putting The Cart Before The Horse | Main | Walter Reed Story Already Told Two Years Ago »

Guess Who's Back

The New York Times has a feature about Bush's failed Waronterra:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

American analysts said recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al Qaeda. They receive guidance from their commanders and Mr. Zawahri, the analysts said. Mr. bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.

Officials said the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. But groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps, the officials said, and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature.

. . .Since 2001, members of various militant groups in Pakistan have increased their cooperation with one another in the tribal areas, according to American analysts.

The analysts said that North Waziristan became a hub of militant activity last year, after President Musharraf negotiated a treaty with tribal leaders in the area. He pledged to pull troops back to barracks in the area in exchange for tribal leaders’ ending support for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but officials in Washington and Islamabad conceded that the agreement had been a failure.

During a news conference days before last November’s elections, President Bush said of the campaign against Al Qaeda: “Absolutely, we’re winning. Al Qaeda is on the run.?

But in a speech several days ago, Mr. Bush painted a more sober picture of Al Qaeda’s current strength, especially inside Pakistan.

“Taliban and Al Qaeda figures do hide in remote regions of Pakistan,? Mr. Bush said. “This is wild country; this is wilder than the Wild West. And these folks hide and recruit and launch attacks.?

Officials said that both American and foreign intelligence services had collected evidence leading them to conclude that at least one of the camps in Pakistan might be training operatives capable of striking Western targets. A particular concern is that the camps are frequented by British citizens of Pakistani descent who travel to Pakistan on British passports.

In a speech in November, the director general of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, said that terrorist plots in Britain “often have links back to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.? She said that “through those links, Al Qaeda gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale.?

If only we took this operation as seriously as Bosnia. . .