Monsoor Ijaz, according to this Guardian story, claims that the US and Pakistan made a decision to not chase bin Laden too strenuously for fear that there would be an upheaval in Pakistan if he were caught. I have no idea what to make of this story (or whether Guardian reporting should be even trusted), but here it is. And this Newsweek article claims that Afghans in the province of Kunar claim that bin Laden is alive. The article makes for a good read, even though it’s mostly guesswork. On the other hand, there is some heavy fighting in Zabul province (maybe 200 miles South of Kunar), and two Americans were killed. To make everything even more comlicated, note this review of Posner’s new book, Why America Slept, in Time magazine. Posner claims (among other things) that when Abu Zubaydah was interrogated (in part because he thought he was interrogated in Saudi Arabia by Saudis, and in part because of the truth serum he was given) he spilled the beans about the Saudi-Pakistan-al Qaida triangle. Unclarity reigns. I can’t even figure out why either the pro-Saddam people or al-Qaida would bomb the mosque in Najaf (or the UN compound, for that matter). Maybe those that argue that this is a sign of desperation of the bad guys are right; surely, the death of over a hundred Shiites (and wounding about five hundred) is not good PR, as the killing of American soldiers might be, from their point of view. The Iraqis are saying that the 19 suspects arrested so far have al Qaida links. This is still being disputed. The FBI will investigate. The Shiites that are saying (see this NY Times story) that the US is to be held responsible because we didn’t provide sufficient security are the same people who asked us to stay out of the town as much as possible, and especially to stay away from the mosque. The Washington Post says that the bambing was carefully planned, and that the truck was parked there for 24 hours, and the bomb was detonated by remote. The bomb, Iraqi police claim, was the of the same materials, Soviet era munitions, that was used in the bombing of both the UN building and the Jordanian embassy. The WaPo story also claims that we have agreed to start patrolling the area around the Ali shrine, which, until now we had been asked to stay away from.
"I can’t even figure out why either the pro-Saddam people or al-Qaida would bomb the mosque in Najaf (or the UN compound, for that matter). "
I think this is exactly what Al Qaeda would do - bomb the most highly visible Shiite who has spoken for cooperation with the US authorities. It must infuriate them when religious authorities in Iraq cooperate with us. By their twisted thinking, these are the most egregious violators. They must have salivated at the opportunity to show that those who cooperate face the possibility of death, no matter who they are, no matter what their station. Looked at from this standpoint, it becomes almost predictable. As to the UN bombing, that a bit more difficult to explain, but in the worldview of Al Qaeda, they are simply one more Western organization that must be driven from the midst of a Muslim nation.