8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 3, 2004
U.S. turns focus to Afghan democracy
KABUL, Afghanistan - For a time, the U.S. 11, 2001 attacks slipped away from Afghan designed to help the Afghan government regain a Intelligence gleaned from such captives can
military in Afghanistan was talking as if it would and U.S. troops near the Tora Bora caves of grip on the countryside while squeezing better intel- help "piece together a story that leads you to
smoke Osama bin Laden out of a cave on the Afghanistan's eastern mountains as the regime ligence from ordinary Afghans in return for building more specific locations for the senior leaders,"
rocky Pakistan border within months, perhaps of his Taliban protectors wells and clinics. he said. "I honestly believe that that's the way
even ahead of President Bush's re-election. crumbled that December. Olson said running that Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri are even-
Now, American commanders say protecting French Defense Minister "W e have no specific down bin Laden and tually going to be located."
the country's fragile new democracy, reviving its Michele Alliot-Marie, who his cohorts was still the Despite the drain on resources posed by Iraq,
economy and keeping Taliban militants on the run has special forces patrolling indication that (Bin focus of U.S. intelligence the number of special forces in Afghanistan has
are the priorities, though tracking the cold trail of farther south, claimed last. . efforts here. "That's the held "steady," at an undisclosed level, Olson said.
bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders remains the month that bin Laden nar- Laden is) in the main effort, no doubt He said he was redistributing those troops
focus of intelligence efforts. rowly escaped a U.S. opera- reall about it." along the border in an effort to catch militants
Spies, informers, electronic listening devices tion as recently as mid-2003. Vana area or really The general said al- trying to slip back and forth from safe havens on
and surveillance from the air all belong to the There is no firm evidence a other a Qaida cells could still the Pakistani side.
U.S. arsenal. anyone has picked up his be in Afghanistan and To that end, cooperation with Pakistan is vital.
; American officials acknowledge that video- trail since. in the region. But have encountered for- U.S. and Afghan officials have praised Islam-
tapes featuring a sprightly looking bin Laden and Interviewed at Bagram eign fighters on several abad for its bloody operations around Wana, the
his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, have yielded no Air Base, nerve-center of the hunt goes on." recent operations. main town of the lawless Waziristan region, where
clues to their whereabouts, even though one was the 18,000-strong force he On Nov. 21, U.S.-led fierce resistance earlier this year fueled specula-
delivered to a TV channel in Islamabad. helps command, Olson said troops mounted raids tion that a high-value target was cornered.
"They're pretty sterile in terms of intelligence this week that his immedi- - Maj. Gen. Eric Olson on suspected al-Qaida If he was, he escaped. Pakistani commanders
value," Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, the operational ate goals were preventing Operational commander of compounds in Nangar- now say they don't believe any of al-Qaida's top
commander of U.S. forces here, told The Associ- insurgents from mounting U.S forces in Afghanistan har, not far from Tora brass are in the region.
ated Press. a "strategic surprise" with Bora. The U.S. mili- Maj. Gen. Niaz Khattak, comiander of
Despite initial high expectations on the other an attack on President-elect tary said "several Arab Pakistan's military operations against al-Qaida-
side of the border, Pakistan's yearlong crackdown Hamid Karzai's Dec.. 7 fighters" were among linked fighters in South Waziristan, has predicted
against foreign militants near the tribal town of inauguration and keeping them on the defensive suspects killed or detained. the fiercely autonomous area will be pacified by
Wana also has yielded no trace of bin Laden or ahead of April parliamentary elections. Another raid targeting an unidentified "al- year's end.
al-Zawahri. American commanders have slowly diluted Qaida facilitator" a week later provoked riotous He says there is no sign of bin Laden and that
"We have no specific indication that they are their focus on combat operations against Taliban protests after the suspect's wife was taken into most of the foreigners still in the region are low-
in the Wana area or really any other location" militants to take in more of the kind of nation- custody, a breach of tribal honor codes. level fighters.
in the region," Olson said. "But the hunt goes building that the Bush administration was once Olson said the chief suspect, who escaped, is Khattak said only a few foreign militants have
on." wary of. only a "medium-value target" in Nangarhar, but been captured alive. He estimated that among
American generals have had three years to Lawless provinces in the South and East are that this kind of operation was now the military's the nearly 300 militants killed in the past nine
rue how the suspected mastermind of the Sept.. now dotted with "provincial reconstruction teams" best hope in the hunt for bigger fish. months, about 100 were foreigners.