AMERICA’S national security adviser James Jones said yesterday that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden still spends some time inside Afghanistan.
Most recent US estimates have placed bin Laden inside Pakistan.
However, Jones, a retired general, said the best estimate is that bin Laden “is somewhere in North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border.”
Jones described it as “very, very rough, mountainous area. Generally ungoverned and we’re going to have to get after that to make sure that this very, very important symbol of what al-Qaida stands for is either, once again, on the run or captured or killed”.
Earlier, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the US hasn’t had any good intelligence for years on bin Laden’s whereabouts. He said he couldn’t confirm reports that bin Laden had been seen recently in Afghanistan.
“If, as we suspect, he is in North Waziristan, it is an area that the Pakistani government has not had a presence in, in quite some time,” Gates said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was important to kill or capture bin Laden and al-Qaida leaders, “but certainly you can make enormous progress absent that.”
Senator John McCain said people in the region have told him bin Laden “moves back and forth”. He said the hunt for bin Laden has prevented him from establishing bases for training and equipping terrorists, adding, “Don’t think al-Qaida could not flourish without him if we give them a safe haven”.
Part of the United States’ reason for going to war in the wake of September 11 was to kill or capture bin Laden.
The al-Qaida leader is seen as chief mastermind of the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
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