A background report on the Defense Department's search for Osama bin Laden.
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With the Taliban driven from power in much of Afghanistan, U.S. forces have intensified their hunt for bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday he hopes to enlist Afghanis in that hunt. The U.S. military is dropping thousands of wanted poster leaflets like these throughout the country, but written in the Pashto and Dari languages, offering a $25 million cash reward for help in hunting bin Laden down. And an EC-130 aircraft code- named "Commando Solo" has been broadcasting radio messages offering rewards for information on bin Laden and eight other al-Qaida leaders. U.S. officials say they don't know where bin Laden is, but believe he's hiding out in areas that aren't yet under opposition control. Pentagon officials were asked today if, with all their recent bombing of caves and tunnels, they are still confident bin Laden is alive.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN STUFFLEBEEM:
Well, I'll make no judgment on what I think of… Or where I think Osama bin Laden is. It's possible that on one of these strikes, he may be killed. It is also possible that he may survive. And as the secretary has pointed out, it's possible that he might slip out. We are using every avenue of intelligence gathering, we're using every contact that we have with opposition groups and locals on the ground to help narrow the possibilities of where al-Qaida… Leadership al-Qaida may be at, and then targeting those tunnels and complexes accordingly. But to be able to — I couldn't give you any level of confidence on one way or the other.
VICTORIA CLARKE, Pentagon Spokesperson:
You either have him or you don't. One of the things we are trying to do is surface a lot of information, intelligence, the scraps and bits and pieces the secretary references all the time, trying to find him. But you either have him or you don't. And we don't right now. And in a country of that size and that uncertainty and instability, it's hard to say with certainty where he is.