Monday, September 26, 2005

Osama bin Has-Been?

That was supposed to be the thesis of last night's 60 Minutes report on the search for the Al Qaida leader. According to Pakistani political, intelligence and military leaders (who spoke with correspondent Steve Kroft), bin Laden is now hiding with a handful of close aides and security personnel, somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They also claim that the Al Qaida leader is finding it almost impossible to communicate with outside cells and operatives. Orders and communiques are transmitted almost exclusive by runner, and it can take months to disseminate a single message.

Watching the report and reading the broadcast transcript, I didn't see anything in the way of new information about bin Laden's whereabouts, or his status within Al Qaida. Indeed, the 60 Minutes segment only confirmed what intelligence agencies have been saying for some time; with Al Qaida's leadership under continuous attack, the terrorist organization is now operating in a decentralized mode, with cell leaders assuming greater autonomy in planning and conducting attacks.

There were other elements missing from Kroft's report as well. While giving credit to the Pakistanis for keeping pressure on Al Qaida elements within their borders, there was little mention of U.S. efforts on the Afghanistan side. One reason for Pakistan's success on the ground has been the elimination of the Al Qaida operational base in Afghanistan, which has forced bin Laden to flee across the border. And quite predictably, there was no mention of the successful strategy that has placed bin Laden in this predicament. Remember the War on Terror, as outlined and executed by George W. Bush? The problems bin Laden is experiencing now are a direct product of that strategy, but you won't hear anything about that from CBS News.

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