Nearly seven years after 9/11, America has not only failed to capture Osama bin Laden; it has also allowed al-Qaeda to rebuild itself in lawless northwest Pakistan, near the Afghan border. The New York Times conducted more than four dozen interviews to discover how rivalries among American agencies, trouble with Pervez Musharraf, and the distraction of Iraq allowed al-Qaeda to foil Operation Cannonball, a highly classified CIA initiative.
American intelligence was watching as bedraggled militants fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan in 2002. But Pakistan refused to allow commandos into the tribal areas, and furious debates in Washington, especially within the CIA, crippled the American response. Now al-Qaeda has constructed new camps for up to 2,000 militants, and the nation, says one analyst, "faces a threat from al-Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001." (Read more al-Qaeda stories.)