Ready for the punchline? It’s because it involved too many troops.

The officials acknowledge that they are not certain that Mr. Zawahri attended the 2005 meeting in North Waziristan, a mountainous province just miles from the Afghan border. But they said that the United States had communications intercepts that tipped them off to the meeting, and that intelligence officials had unusually high confidence that Mr. Zawahri was there…

Pentagon officials familiar with covert operations said that planners had to consider the political and human risks of launching a military campaign in a sovereign country, even in an area like Pakistan’s tribal lands where the government has only tenuous control…

Officials said that one reason Mr. Rumsfeld called off the 2005 operation was the number of troops involved in the mission had grown to several hundred, including Army Rangers, members of the Navy Seals and C.I.A. operatives, and he determined that the United States could no longer carry out the mission without General Musharraf’s permission. It is unlikely that the Pakistani president would have approved an operation of that size, officials said…

These political considerations have created resentment among some members of the military’s Special Operations forces.

“The Special Operations guys are tearing their hair out at the highest levels,” said a former Bush administration official with close ties to those troops. While they have not received good intelligence on the whereabouts of top Qaeda members recently, he said, they say they believe they have sometimes had useful information on lower-level figures.

“There is a degree of frustration that is off the charts, because they are looking at targets on a daily basis and can’t move against them,” he said.

The other punchline, I guess, is that if Bush had followed his own pro-democracy rhetoric and pushed Musharraf hard years ago to hold elections, we might have gotten a leader in Pakistan willing to move against these turds. As it is, we’ve got a five-day standoff at the mosque and an unmitigated disaster in the tribal areas.

Here’s some flashback video for you from last September. The Times can’t determine if Bush knew of Rumsfeld’s decision or not. Exit question: Why didn’t they just call in an airstrike on Zawahiri instead?

Update: Another peace dividend from Uncle Pervez:

An investigation published Friday by The News, a national daily, found that 88 seminaries belonging to various sects were giving religious education to more than 16,000 students in the capital. Moreover the number of students here attending religious schools belonging to the Deobandi sect, an anti-Western, pro-jihadi fundamentalist school of thought that inspired the Taliban, among other movements, has doubled in the last year alone…

“The reason for this big surge in the number of students is still not known to the government,” it said.