US intelligence learns through communications intercepts about a meeting of al-Qaeda leaders in North Waziristan, in the remote border regions of Pakistan near Afghanistan.
Intelligence officials have an unusually high confidence that al-Qaeda's second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri is attending the meeting. Members of a Navy Seals unit have already boarded cargo planes with parachute gear in Afghanistan, ready to be dropped, when the mission is canceled. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld cancels it over fears of US casualties and worries that it could hurt relations with Pakistan. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed about the mission. The military originally planned for a small Navy Seals unit to carry out a quick capture operation, but as the plans moved up the chain of command, more and more soldiers were added until, as one senior intelligence official involved says for effect, "The whole thing turned into the invasion of Pakistan." The mission grew to involve several hundred people. Rumsfeld decided he couldn't carry out such a mission without Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's permission and he assumed Musharraf would say no. The New York Times will later report that "some top intelligence officials and members of the military's secret Special Operations units" are frustrated at the decision to cancel the operation, saying the US "missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of al-Qaeda." It is not clear why the US does not hit the meeting with a missile fired from a Predator drone instead, as they will do to kill an al-Qaeda leader inside Pakistan a couple of months later .
by Paul from on July 18, 2007, 2:30am