Monday, December 13, 2004

Hunting Bin Laden 

Why haven't we gotten Bin Laden yet? Because our "friends" Pakistan. Interesting piece in the NY Times on how the hunt is going, hardly any surprises.
Hunting for Osama bin Laden, the C.I.A. established a series of small, covert bases in the rugged mountain frontier of northwest Pakistan in late 2003. Mr. bin Laden, the terrorist leader, was being sheltered there by local tribesmen and foreign militants, the agency had concluded, and controlled a group of handpicked operatives dedicated to attacking the United States.

But since the bases opened, the C.I.A. officers stationed there have been strictly supervised by Pakistani officials, who have limited their ability to operate and have escorted them wherever they travel in the Pakistani border region. As a result, it has been virtually impossible for the Americans to gather intelligence effectively, say several officials familiar with the operation who would only speak anonymously.

More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and New York transformed Osama bin Laden into the most wanted man in the world, the search for him remains stalled, frustrated by the remote topography of his likely Pakistani sanctuary, stymied by a Qaeda network that remains well financed and disciplined, sidetracked by the distractions of the Iraq war, and, perhaps most significantly, limited by deep suspicion of the United States among Pakistanis.

Prodded by the United States, Pakistan began an offensive along its northwest border this spring to flush out forces of Al Qaeda that had escaped from Afghanistan and to help find Mr. bin Laden. But after suffering heavy casualties and causing civilian deaths that stirred opposition, the Pakistani Army declared victory two weeks ago and announced that Mr. Bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Many American intelligence officials are confident that he is, however - and that he is as dangerous as ever.


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