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Bin Laden 'No Longer Top Target'

"He is not necessarily the major player," said Major-General John Cooper, deputy commander of the American-led coalition forces. "He will be caught one day but his whereabouts today won't have a huge effect."

President George W Bush was so eager to capture the Al-Qaeda leader before next month's election that the strength of the US forces in Afghanistan was almost doubled to 19,000 men.

However, deteriorating security in Iraq has forced the Pentagon to move Taskforce 121, the commando team behind the capture of Saddam, away from Afghanistan. It has returned to Iraq to search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist believed to be responsible for the murder of Kenneth Bigley.
The Sunday Times - World

October 10, 2004

Bin Laden 'no longer top target'
Christina Lamb

Coalition commanders in Afghanistan have begun playing down the importance of Osama Bin Laden - in sharp contrast to the statements made earlier this year that he would be caught by the end of 2004.

"From the Afghan point of view we don't want to focus too much on Bin Laden," said Major-General John Cooper, deputy commander of the American-led coalition forces.

"He is not necessarily the major player. He will be caught one day but his whereabouts today won't have a huge effect."

Cooper, the most senior British officer in Afghanistan, admitted that after three years of searching the hills and valleys of Afghanistan, the coalition forces had no idea where their other main target, the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, is hiding. "We don't even know which country he's in," he said.

Cooper refused to reveal whether the coalition had any idea where Bin Laden was. "Saddam (Hussein) was caught as a result of circumstances and good intelligence and I'm sure one day the same will happen with Bin Laden," he said.

The attempt to shift attention away from Bin Laden may be a reflection of frustration at being unable to find him.

President George W Bush was so eager to capture the Al-Qaeda leader before next month's election that the strength of the US forces in Afghanistan was almost doubled to 19,000 men.

However, deteriorating security in Iraq has forced the Pentagon to move Taskforce 121, the commando team behind the capture of Saddam, away from Afghanistan. It has returned to Iraq to search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist believed to be responsible for the murder of Kenneth Bigley.

Psychological operations teams in Afghanistan have stopped distributing wanted posters for Omar and Bin Laden and have concentrated instead on encouraging people to register and vote in this weekend's presidential election.

There had been a determined effort to engage the Taliban in an attempt to try to divert them from disrupting the election, Cooper said. Although more than 950 people have died in political violence this year, he believes that the Taliban's strength has been overestimated. He said their failure to stop the elections was partly due to improved co-operation from Pakistan.

"President Pervez Musharraf had been the target of several assassination attempts - and that tends to focus the mind," he said.

"The efforts of the Pakistan government and security forces over the past few months have been remarkably good. There is now a high degree of co-operation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and us."

Britain is planning to send as many as 5,000 men to Afghanistan by 2006. The opening of a Burger King restaurant at Kandahar airbase last week led to suggestions that the Americans were planning to stay for a long time, but Cooper refused to give a timescale.

"The situation in Afghanistan is all about the Afghans taking control of their own government and their own destiny," he said.

"We're helping them to build their own national army, their own police, border police and customs, which will take several years. Most Afghan people welcome the coalition, but their tolerance of outsiders isn't endless and there will come a time when they will say 'Thank you very much, now go'."

Cooper denied that Washington had been slow to realise the importance of rebuilding the country after the Taliban were ousted. "It's easy to criticise, but two years ago Afghanistan had no electric light and roads hadn't been built," he said.

"It's not perfect and there is a long and difficult route ahead, dealing with inner frictions such as warlords and the opium trade. But it's on the way to being a success story and the elections are a significant part of that."

homepage: homepage: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1302365,00.html
address: address: The Sunday Times

Hehehe... 12.Oct.2004 03:57

Tony Blair's dog

""He is not necessarily the major player," said Major-General John Cooper, deputy commander of the American-led coalition forces. "He will be caught one day but his whereabouts today won't have a huge effect.""

No, he was just the reason why the Bush administration started
to murder Afghans and Iraqies and also started their War on Freedom.

No big deal...right.

flip flop 12.Oct.2004 07:05

the birkenstock guy

flip flop.

Priorities, priorities 12.Oct.2004 08:01

Me

QUOTE:
"Cooper denied that Washington had been slow to realise the importance of rebuilding the country after the Taliban were ousted. "It's easy to criticise, but two years ago Afghanistan had no electric light and roads hadn't been built," he said."

And hey, we've got those oil and gas pipelines to build. Which is more important?

Which is more important? 12.Oct.2004 23:35

Dorothy

The opium trade.