Where's Osama bin Laden?
HELMAND, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Eight years after September 11, the "war on terror" has gone the way of the dodo. And President Obama talks instead about a war against al Qaeda and its allies.
What, then, of al Qaeda's enigmatic leader, Osama bin Laden, who has vanished like a wisp of smoke? And does he even matter now?
The U.S. government hadn't had a solid lead on al Qaeda's leader since the battle of Tora Bora in winter 2001. Although there are informed hypotheses that today he is in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province on the Afghan border, perhaps in one of the more northerly areas such as Bajaur, these are essentially guesses, not "actionable" intelligence.
A longtime American counterterrorism analyst explained to me, "There is very limited collection on him personally."
That's intelligence community shorthand for the fact that the usual avenues of "collection" on a target such as bin Laden are yielding little or no information about him. Those avenues typically include signal intercepts of phone calls and e-mails, as well as human intelligence from spies.
Given the hundreds of billions of dollars that the "war on terror" has consumed, the failure to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader is one of its signal failures.
Does it even matter whether bin Laden is found?