Why the U.S. can’t find bin Laden

American taxpayers have forked over around half a trillion dollars to U.S. intelligence services since the 9/11 attacks, yet nearly a decade after al Qaeda assaults on New York and Washington, the American intelligence community still cannot answer the most basic of questions: Where is Osama bin Laden? Where is his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri? ...

CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

American taxpayers have forked over around half a trillion dollars to U.S. intelligence services since the 9/11 attacks, yet nearly a decade after al Qaeda assaults on New York and Washington, the American intelligence community still cannot answer the most basic of questions:

Where is Osama bin Laden? Where is his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri? And where is Taliban leader Mullah Omar?

As reported by CNN on Monday, NATO officials believe al Qaeda's leaders are hiding somewhere in northwestern Pakistan, while Mullah Omar is thought to orbit between Quetta in western Pakistan and the southern port city of Karachi. As Pakistan is roughly twice as large as California and Karachi is a city of 18 million, these are not particularly precise locations for the world's most wanted men.

American taxpayers have forked over around half a trillion dollars to U.S. intelligence services since the 9/11 attacks, yet nearly a decade after al Qaeda assaults on New York and Washington, the American intelligence community still cannot answer the most basic of questions:

Where is Osama bin Laden? Where is his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri? And where is Taliban leader Mullah Omar?

As reported by CNN on Monday, NATO officials believe al Qaeda’s leaders are hiding somewhere in northwestern Pakistan, while Mullah Omar is thought to orbit between Quetta in western Pakistan and the southern port city of Karachi. As Pakistan is roughly twice as large as California and Karachi is a city of 18 million, these are not particularly precise locations for the world’s most wanted men.

If the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies were private companies and were chronically unable to accomplish one of their key missions, their shareholders would have long ago revolted, fired their management and their stock would be trading at values near zero. Instead, the budgets for the U.S. intelligence agencies continue to spiral upward, while almost a million Americans possess top-secret clearances.

To read the rest of this article, visit CNN.com, where this was originally published.

Peter Bergen, the editor of the AfPak Channel, is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and at New York University’s Center on Law and Security, and the author of The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader. He is a national security analyst for CNN.

 

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