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Al Qaeda Grows In Pakistan

In the New Duranty, Mark Mazzetti and David Rhode detail the infighting between CIA bureaus and lack of cooperation by Pakistan that has allowed Al-Qaeda to regroup.

WASHINGTON: Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to authorize the Pentagon's Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden's terror network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was designed to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave an easier path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington's risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was "mounting frustration" in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush committed the nation to a "war on terrorism" and made the destruction of 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...