Obama, last night:
Obama: Katie, it’s a terrific question and we have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn’t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.
So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan in the northwest provinces there.
By the best estimates and consensus of counterterrorism Osama escaped U.S. bombing attacks on Tora Bora and slipped into Pakistan in December 2001. The invasion of Iraq occurred in March 2003. OBL was over the border in tougher territory to pursue long before anybody was “diverted.”
UPDATE: I thought I had made this point before; turns out I had:
Somehow the U.S. took its collective “eyes off the ball” to prevent an event that occurred in December 2001 by sending troops to another country starting in March 2002 for an invasion that began in 2003.
It’s not as if the geopolitical challenges of sending U.S. troops into Pakistan suddenly appeared in March 2003. Once Osama crossed the border, the potential cost of pursuing him —i.e., a civil war in a country with nuclear weapons — became higher and the consequences became riskier.