Magazine article Newsweek

Bin Laden: Will We Get Him in '04?

Magazine article Newsweek

Bin Laden: Will We Get Him in '04?

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Hosenball

Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders have apparently improved their odds of evading capture by flitting back and forth across borders that American military forces cannot easily cross. U.S. intelligence sources believe that since late 2001, bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, have been hiding out along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S. forces may operate openly on the Afghan side. But a conspicuous U.S. presence is not welcome in Pakistan, where Islamic extremists have political clout and have been blamed for two recent attempts to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani and U.S. officials were therefore alarmed and dismayed last week when news reports surfaced announcing a forthcoming U.S. offensive against bin Laden. First, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, declared that the United States was "sure" it would catch bin Laden in 2004. Then the Chicago Tribune published a story reporting that the Pentagon was preparing a military offensive, involving Special Forces, Army Rangers and ground troops, that "would reach inside" Pakistan to destroy Al Qaeda. The article noted that such an offensive "could be political dynamite" for Musharraf. Reaction to these revelations was precisely what U.S. counterterrorism planners dreaded most: Pakistan announced that it would not allow American military forces on its territory. Pentagon officials tried to play down the leaks, insisting the United States routinely prepares contingency plans for "a wide range of events. …

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