From a recent Washington Post article on this matter:
Officials with the CIA and the U.S. military said they began shifting resources out of Afghanistan in early 2002 and still haven't recovered from that mistake.A disaster. The diversion away from Afghanistan to Iraq allowed Osama and al Qaeda to not only live to see another day, but to regroup and greatly restrengthen via recruiting. All at a cost of thousands of dead U.S. soldiers and a war tab that will amount to over $2 trillion.
"Iraq was a fundamental wrong turn. That was the most strategically negative action that was taken," said John O. Brennan, a former deputy executive director of the CIA and a former chief of the National Counterterrorism Center. "The collective effort in the government required to go after an individual like bin Laden -- the Iraq campaign consumed that."
The Bush administration tried to reinvigorate the flagging hunt for bin Laden early last year by redeploying Predator drones, intelligence officers and Special Forces units to Pakistan and Afghanistan. But by then, U.S. counterterrorism officials said, the war in Iraq had already given bin Laden and his core command precious time to regroup and solidify their new base of operations in northwestern Pakistan.
More recently, the search has been hobbled by a tattered relationship between the United States and Pakistan. CIA and U.S. military officials said cooperation is so bad that they now withhold intelligence about the suspected whereabouts of al-Qaeda commanders out of fear that the Pakistanis might tip them off. Leaders in Pakistan respond that they are committed to fighting al-Qaeda. But they also persistently deny that bin Laden is in their country.
Remember this when you read about taxpayers lending AIG $85 billion to survive or the many billions involved with the nationalization of Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac. Add the $2+ trillion cost of the war to these many billions that have been put to use to stem the financial crisis and there will likely be hundreds of billions more needed in the next several months. And don't forget the free-wheeling spending that occurred under a GOP-controlled Congress, ballooning the deficit. Yes, add it all up, and then try to recall the days of the Clinton surplus -- quite a distant memory, yes?