Washington: Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the world`s most wanted terrorist, is probably hiding in the remote mountainous regions of Pakistan, but no one knows where he actually is, a top US General has said.
"I think he remains an iconic figure, and I think capturing or killing Osama bin Laden is still a very, very important task for all of those who are engaged in counter terrorism around the world," General David Petraeus Commander of US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan told NBC television`s
`Meet the Press` when asked about the Osama`s whereabouts.
"I don`t think anyone knows where Osama bin Laden is. The fact that it took him four weeks to get a congratulatory message out, or a message of condolence in, say, in the course of the last year or so when we`ve seen these, indicates, literally, how far buried he is probably in the very, very most remote and mountainous regions," he said.
In the interview, that was recorded in Kabul on Friday and aired in the US on Sunday, Petraeus said that there is unlikely to be any possibility of peace talks with Mullah Omar - the Taliban leader.
"But (there is) every possibility, that there can be low and mid-level reintegration and, indeed, some fracturing of the senior leadership that could be really defined as reconciliation," he said in response to a question.
Petraeus said the US is not facing some kind of a monolithic Taliban enemy in the region, but it is a syndicate of terrorist outfits.
"What we face is not some kind of monolithic Taliban enemy. In fact, it`s more like a syndicate, is the term that we often use for the enemy that faces our troopers and our Afghan counterparts; and the Afghan civilians," he said.
"But what we face generally, of course, is, again, in the southern part of the country, this is the Taliban, the Afghan Taliban. Then, as you work your way up into the eastern part, you start to get the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban. Again, it has a symbiotic relationship with them. But it is
not subservient, one to the other," he said.
"Then you do, in fact, have some small elements of al Qaeda. You have the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan. You have some Pakistani-Taliban and other elements that come into the country.”
“Now this, of course, is the federally administered tribal area. Up here is Swat Valley. These are the areas where Pakistan has fought so hard and taken such significant casualties over the last 18 months," Petraeus said.
"But there are areas that they have not yet dealt with, and North Waziristan is certainly one of those. They have had operations in south Waziristan. And then there are some of the other agencies," he said.
"Let me point out one other point, if I could. What is interesting is that the Taliban leads from the rear, as we would say. The Taliban leads from Pakistan. And, by the way, the rank and file is just catching onto this.”
“We actually see discussions among them, chatter among them -- conversation -- wondering where their senior leaders are and wondering why Mullah Omar hasn`t set foot back in Afghanistan or even been heard from now in months and months and months," the US General said.
"But the senior leaders don`t come in and share hardship and risk with their troopers on the ground. They send messages. They do it by cell phone or what have you, and that is actually going to be a problem for them as is what we have pointed out with our Afghan partners much more in recent weeks," he said.
"And that is what the Taliban have been doing despite their supposed counter-insurgency guidance of being nice to the people, and so forth. They are much more responsible for civilian casualties. Most recently, they were distinguished by flogging and then assassinating a pregnant woman.”
“They have used children and teenagers to carry out attacks. They have dressed in burqas. Again, what they have done is really quite egregious, particularly in the context of the religion and in the context of the normal codes of conduct," Petraeus said.