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U.S. intelligence had argued - incorrectly, in retrospect - that Syria could not develop nuclear weapons because its military lacked the scientific capabilities and resources to fund the program, said Mr. Bolton, now with the American Enterprise Institute.

“The intelligence that did exist - which I thought warranted close observation of Syria, at a minimum - the [intelligence community] discounted as inconsistent with its fixed opinions,” he wrote. “In short, theirs was not an intelligence conclusion, but a policy view presented under the guise of intelligence. How wrong they were.”

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano rejected Mr. Bolton's claim that the Syrian nuclear program was an intelligence failure. “The discovery and identification of the reactor was, as others have noted, a true intelligence success,” he said. “With patience and rigor, information from multiple sources was tested and pieced together, forming a convincing picture. The Intelligence Community went where the information led, just as the mission requires.”

Taliban weakness

A senior U.S. military officer based in Afghanistan tells Inside the Ring that press reports from Afghanistan in recent weeks exaggerated the strength of the Taliban militia and its control of Afghan territory.

According to the official, the Taliban claim to control some rural areas, but the official said the areas are not important, “and we are killing them there.”

Most of the major population centers are controlled by Afghan security forces.

“The press and media are greatly overstating the Taliban threat and claiming things are in dire circumstances,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was speaking without authorization. “While they can engage in terrorism and cause mayhem, they do not control much territory. They do have some influence.

“The Taliban strategy of using [improvised explosive devices] is targeting American public will and opinion, not the soldiers; it is not affecting progress on the ground. What is affecting progress on the ground is money and the coalition resourcing and problem solving needed to advance this country - their basic necessities of power, water and roads.”

Afghan security forces responded very well to recent Taliban attacks on the capital of Kabul, acting rapidly and controlling the situation within hours, killing the attackers and pre-empting others. “This was an important missed story in the media,” the official said.

Taliban Commander Mohammed Daud Amin recently bragged in an interview with CNN that his Islamist militia forces are poised to attack at the gates of Kabul.

“The reality is the 10th Mountain Division is at the gates of Kabul, and if the Taliban wants a fight, all they have to do is stand up and ask for it,” the military officer said. “But they won't because they are cowards, children and women abusers who use indoctrinated, weak-minded people to conduct suicide attacks while shooting and murdering innocent civilians working at office desks. This is not the warriors of old. These are criminals. They lie about their achievements. These bums aren't warriors. They hide behind wired IEDs and scurry away like rats.”

Petraeus says 'No'

With Republicans starving for leadership, calls for Gen. David H. Petraeus to run for office are going unanswered by the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and the architect of the successful counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq.

Asked by Fox News' Bret Baier if he had any interest in running for political office, Gen. Petraeus not only responded with a no but went on to paraphrase the song by country music diva Lorrie Morgan, “What about no don't you understand?”