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U.S.: Bin Laden's whereabouts remain mystery

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials still do not know where Osama bin Laden is, but capturing the al Qaeda leader isn't a prime mission of the Bush administration, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday.

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"Obviously, we want to get the al Qaeda leadership; we want to get the Taliban leadership," Gen. Richard Myers told ABC's "This Week." "Bin Laden is part of that leadership, so we'd like to get him, and we will get him. ... I wouldn't call it a prime mission though."

Myers said any speculation regarding bin Laden's whereabouts would be "somewhat foolish because we simply don't know."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered a similar assessment regarding bin Laden.

"We see so much intelligence information, and it's snippets of this and snippets of that and speculation about this and theories about that," Rumsfeld told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

"What we do know is there has not been any recent evidence that he's alive," he said. "That does not mean he's not alive. It simply means that we don't have evidence that he is or isn't. And what we'll learn over time remains to be seen."

Though he predicted bin Laden eventually will be found, Rumsfeld said U.S. military forces are trained to fight troops, not to find people.

"We're not organized to do manhunts. That's a law enforcement-type thing," he said.

These comments follow a New York Times report Sunday in which senior Bush administration officials say evidence suggests bin Laden is still alive and in a remote area on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Also, U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields" on Friday that intelligence indicates bin Laden remains alive.

"The best intelligence is that, of all the places he might be, he's most likely to still be in Afghanistan. But frankly, we do not know where he is at this time," the Florida Democrat said, adding he is confident bin Laden will be found dead or alive.

Whatever the case, Myers said closure for the September 11 attacks will require more than capturing bin Laden.

"We shouldn't think this war on terrorism is over when we get bin Laden because there's too many al Qaeda operatives in compartments that still have great capability," he added. "And while he was the leader, it won't end when we get bin Laden."

The U.S. government has offered a $25 million bounty for bin Laden, but cash may not be enough to pry him out of Pakistan, if that's where he is. Sympathies for bin Laden remain among some elements of Pakistan's government, including its military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Washington largely left it up to Pakistani forces to patrol the remote region straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan last year as the Taliban were collapsing.

CNN Correspondent Chris Burns contributed to this story.



 
 
 
 







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