Shifts from bin Laden hunt: "In 2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures. The CIA, meanwhile, was stretched badly in its capacity to collect, translate and analyze information coming from Afghanistan. When the White House raised a new priority, it took specialists away from the Afghanistan effort to ensure Iraq was covered. ..
Bob Andrews, former head of a Pentagon office that oversaw special operations, says that removing Saddam Hussein was a good idea but "a distraction." The war in Iraq, Andrews notes, entailed the largest deployment of special operations forces — about 10,000 —since the Vietnam War. That's about 25% of all U.S. commandos. It also siphoned spy aircraft and light infantry soldiers. Iraq proved such a drain, one former Pentagon official notes, that there were no AWACS radar jets to track drug-trafficking aircraft in South America. Saddam was not an immediate threat. "This has been a real diversion from the longer struggle against jihadists," especially in the intelligence field, he says."
Further confirmation of the 5th Special Forces role: "Abu Ghraib is a town in Baghdad's sprawling suburbs, just north of the international airport. .. US Special Forces worked secretly with Iraqi townspeople on the outskirts of Baghdad for months before the war with Iraq got under way. Soldiers from the U-S Fifth Special Forces Group worked for over eight months with the people of Abu Gharib. It is unclear whether Special Forces remained in Abu Gharib throughout the months leading to the start of the war. However, Pentagon officials have in the past indicated some Special Forces units moved in and out of Iraq before the war, without maintaining a permanent presence. " 8:47:37 AM