Two years after Osama bin Laden was named the chief suspect in the September
11 attacks in New York and Washington, the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan
are still hunting the Saudi-born terror mastermind. The search is concentrated
along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the neighbors are feeling
of Osama bin Laden's message
Is he alive or dead? A recently released videotape of Osama bin Laden and
his top aide, Ayman al-Zawahiri, suggests the target of the world's most extensive
manhunt - with a $25 million bounty on his head - is still alive.
Some 60,000 Pakistani troops and thousands of U.S. troops are hunting the
leader of al-Qaida, an Islamic militant organization. Many officials suspect
he is hiding in the rugged mountains and tribal regions along the porous border
between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but no one is sure.
Lieutenant General Ali Mohammad Aurakzai, the commander of Pakistani troops
hunting al-Qaida fugitives in the North-West Frontier Province, says there
is no evidence suggesting Osama bin Laden is hiding in a specific place, but
he says Pakistan and the U.S.-led coalition on the Afghan side are combing
"Definitely we are looking for him [bin Laden] in the entire tribal areas
[along the Afghan border]. We don't have any definite information as to where
he lives if at all he is in Pakistan. But the possibility cannot be ruled out," he
Osama bin Laden allied his al-Qaida group with the Taleban, a fundamentalist
Islamic movement that took control of Afghanistan in 1996. Al-Qaida members
are thought to have hijacked four U.S. airliners on September 11, 2001, crashing
two of them into New York's World Trade Center, and one into the Pentagon building
near Washington. The fourth crashed into a farm field.
In response to the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, the United States
demanded that the Taleban government hand over Osama bin Laden. When it refused,
a U.S.-led coalition invaded and ousted the Taleban, and began its hunt for al-Qaida's
After two years, not even the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Richard Myers is certain where Osama bin Laden might be.
"Nobody knows for sure that Osama bin Laden is alive," said General Myers. "I
don't think anybody knows for sure where he is. A lot of people think that
most probably it's in the more difficult terrain between Afghanistan and Pakistan
where there are people that might be willing to support him. That's a likely
location I think but I don't know anybody knows that for sure."
At a news conference in the United States with President Bush in June, Pakistani
President Pervez Musharraf said his nation was doing all it can to root out al-Qaida
and its supporters.
"This is the first time that the Pakistan Army and our civil armed forces
have entered this region [along the Afghan border]," said Pervez Musharraf. "Now
if any al-Qaida operative is hiding in this region, we are after them and there
is no doubt in my mind that the military will be able to locate any al-Qaida
members hiding in this area."
Speaking at the same news conference, President Bush acknowledged Pakistan's
crucial role in capturing suspected terrorists.
"Since the September 11 attacks, Pakistan has apprehended more than 500 al-Qaida
and Taleban terrorists, thanks to the effective border security measures and
law enforcement cooperation throughout the country," he said.
Three of the most important arrests in the U.S.-led war on terrorism have been
made in Pakistan. They include al-Qaida's chief of operations, Palestinian Abu
Zubaydah, and the terror network's military and planning chief, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
But the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, remains at large. And the
effort to find him and his supporters is creating friction between Pakistan
Many Afghan officials blame Pakistan - once a Taleban ally - for the current
resurgence of the Taleban. They say Islamabad is not doing enough to stop Taleban
fighters from using Pakistan as a base for attacks in Afghanistan.
The commander of the Pakistani border forces, Lieutenant General Aurakzai,
rejects these allegations. He says his country has made great strides in blocking
movement of fugitive fighters across the Afghan border.
"We do not claim to have sealed the borders entirely because it's a very
long border, it's a porous border," he said. "So there is a possibility of
some people cross[ing] or re-crossing. I do not deny that. But to say that
they [the Taleban] are using our soil and we close our eyes to any such crossing,
I think that is wrong."
U.S. and Afghan officials have called on Pakistan to use a heavier hand in
its tribal regions, where the government has historically exercised no control.
It is only since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that Pakistan has entered