Terrorism: December 15, 2003


The capture of Saddam Hussein will, among other things, result in calls for "more resources sent to find Osama bin Laden." What is forgotten here is that two different sets of people and assets are involved in searching for Osama and Saddam. While the 1200 man 5th Special Forces Group covers both Afghanistan and the Middle East, only 200 of them were required for the defeat of the Taliban. Apparently, the U.S. has a pretty good idea where Osama is, but that getting bin Laden consists largely of making deals with lots of Pushtun and Baluchi tribal chiefs, not to mention various Pakistani army and ISI (Pakistani military intelligence) people. This is more a CIA job, and the CIA has also hired several hundred former SOCOM people (retired, or guys who got out to avoid divorce) and formed their own commando crew. But a lot of the CIA work is being done by a handful of old Afghan hands (many who worked the area in the 1980s) who speak the local languages and still have useful contacts there. It's one of those jobs where you can't get it done faster by throwing more people at it. Moreover, Osama is already neutralized (isolated), so there's no rush to get him. Eventually, someone up in the hills will decide to collect the reward. The CIA has successfully used this approach before, but it takes a while to bribe the right people in the Pakistani hills. Charging in their now will just antagonize a lot of people who believe in blood feuds and multigenerational grudges. Thus when the right combination of timely and reliable information is obtained, the raid will be made, and bin Laden will be dead or in custody. 

More urgent attention must be paid to bin Laden followers outside Afghanistan and Pakistan who are actively planning operations. This also involves different groups of CIA and military people, not to mention FBI, local police and intelligence organizations. But as was seen with the capture of Saddam, pursue the guilty party long enough and you will get him. But there no single group of commandos or CIA agents specializing in finding well protected people who dont want to be found. 


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