This New York Times article’s description of the Bush administration’s confused attempts to deal with the Al Qaeda threat emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas is yet more evidence against conservatives’ claims that they can more effectively manage anti-terrorism:
After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.[…]
The White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.[…]
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.
The Center for America Progress’s Brian Katulis wrote last week that “Pakistan is most likely to create the biggest headache for the next U.S. president.”
[Pakistan] is the country that U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly cited as the most important haven and training ground for global terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. It is also the place that is the best guess among intelligence agencies for where top Al Qaeda leaders like Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri currently reside. Military and intelligence officials have warned that the next terrorist attack will most likely come from Pakistan.
In order to invade and occupy country where Al Qaeda wasn’t, President Bush diverted resources away from where Al Qaeda was, allowing Al Qaeda to regroup and reorganize and continue to plot against America. Many of the most prominent people responsible for this brilliant plan are now advising John McCain.
John McCain has said that on “the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day,” such as the war on terror, he is “totally in agreement and support of President Bush.”
McCain was one of the earliest and most vocal advocates for the Iraq invasion, which he continues to defend as “necessary and just,” regardless of the fact that the premises upon which the war was sold turned out to be false, regardless of the fact that his own predictions about the war have been completely discredited, and regardless of the fact that this war has done nothing to make America safer.
The Times article quotes Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation: “The United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001.” The article also notes the belief of leading terrorism experts “that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.” Despite all this, John McCain continues to believe that diverting resources from Afghanistan in order to fight a war in Iraq constitutes effective counter-terrorism strategy.