Michael Tomasky takes a look: Michael Tomasky, "Day 1,461 And Counting", The American Prospect Online, Sep 8, 2005.
In truth, the anniversary [of the 9/11 attacks] should be the occasion for a thoroughgoing discussion of how America has combated terrorism in the last four years. And on that front, even the disaster Bush has created in Iraq takes a back seat to one overwhelming fact: By the time night falls on September 11, Osama bin Laden will have been at large for 1,461 days.
America vanquished world fascism in less time: We obtained Germany’s surrender in 1,243 days, Japan’s in 1,365. Even the third Punic War, in which Carthage was burned to the ground and emptied of citizens who were taken en masse into Roman slavery, lasted around 1,100 days (and troops needed a little longer to get into position back in 149 B.C.).
And, of course, we know why that battle [the Battle of Toro Boro from which Bin Laden escaped] was left to locals -- and why, relatedly, we never had more than about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan in 2001. (How’s Afghanistan going today? We now have 18,000 troops there, and 2005 has been the deadliest year for U.S. forces since the ﬁghting began.)
The Bush administration had already decided, at the very least, to ﬁnd an excuse to invade Iraq. ...
Whatever the apologists say, the truth is simple: The administration held back troops from Afghanistan so that it could send 150,000 to Iraq. That, and nothing else, is the reason bin Laden is still at large.
I'm not so sure that I would agree with the last statement. Given the astonishing incompetence that we just saw with the loss of New Orleans, I doubt whether this crew could have pulled it off, even without the Iraq War and with concentrating more heavily on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.