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New Tactics in the Hunt for Bin Laden

POSTED: 02:23 PM ET, 09/10/2008 by The Editors

Seven years after the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, U.S. officials and Pakistani officials are stepping up air strikes in western Pakistan, targeting al-Qaeda leaders in hopes it will lead to Osama bin Laden, the Post's Craig Whitlock reports.

Not since late 2001 has there been a confirmed trace of bin Laden, a source of frustration to U.S., Pakistani and European leaders. Those leaders attribute that failure to several factors: an overreliance on military force and an inability to develop informants in the tribal regions of Pakistan, as well as the distraction of the Iraq war and "a pattern of underestimating the enemy," Whitlock writes.

In an on-line discussion today, Whitlock said that, while bin Laden does not control day-to-day operations for al-Qaeda, the CIA believes that he clearly remains "the boss," and signs off on major decisions.

The airstrikes by unmanned Predator spy planes, equipped with multiple cameras that transmit video, have been launched against four targets in the past month and have killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders since January.

But the airstrikes are controversial, with some officials arguing that the civilian casualties they entail make it less likely that tribes in the area will help the United States by turning in bin Laden.

The situation on the ground in western Pakistan is further complicated by conflicting loyalties within that country, Dexter Filkins reported in the New York Times. Filkins raises the question of whether the Pakistani government is able, and willing, to control the Taliban and al-Qaeda loyalists in its tribal regions.

Whitlock raises the same question. "Even some Pakistanis said the U.S. government was naive to think that (former president Pervez) Musharraf or his generals would do much to find bin Laden," he writes, pointing to long-standing ties between the al-Qaeda leader and the Pakistani spy agency.

By The Editors |  September 10, 2008; 2:23 PM ET
Previous: The Daily Read | Next: Report: U.S. Oil Program Rife with Conflicts, Favoritism, 'Promiscuity'


Please email us to report offensive comments.

This new development will surely be followed by a breaking news story.
Sounds familiar...just like Saddam Hussein.
Should happen somewhere close to the election to help out John McCain and the RNC.
The White House knew where Saddam Hussein was and waited until it was of benefit to their favorable ratings, to catch Hussein.
This will be more of the same.

Posted by: Mizzy | September 10, 2008 5:41 PM

"The airstrikes by unmanned Predator spy planes, equipped with multiple cameras that transmit video, have been launched against four targets in the past month..."
Are you sure the airstrikes were carried out by the "Predator," or were they done by the "Global Hawk," a more efficient and quiet UAV that has achieved some spectacular successes since they began to be used early this year?

Posted by: Ralph Joseph-Mirani | September 10, 2008 6:53 PM

New tactics to hunt for Osama Bin Landen?
It is probably the same wine in a different bottle. So far he has fooled 10.000 CIA agents, army special forces, informers, and has caused us to waste about 1 trillion dollars with nothing to show for. And now a new method of hunting will sniff him out? We heard that before, didn't we?

The most effective way of hiding something is a place where the searcher will never think to look for. And Osama is not stupid to stay in Pakistan tribal areas where a $25 million bounty can do him in -like it did to Saddam Hussein- or where the U.S. has left no stone unturned so far. He is probably in a cave in Australia's outback, or in a mud-hut in the Republic of Congo's lawless border areas, or another sunch unthinkable world spot. And he is surely busy working an a book or fatwa manifesto against the U.S. that will certainly become as important as the Holy Quran upon his death.

I have no doubt that Bin Laden's mission now is not the planning of attacks against the U.S., but preparing the seeds that he wants to sow in the Muslim psyche upon his death against the U.S. that will inspire the Muslim generations in eternity. No matter what we think of him, he is on his way to become a Man of Universal Destiny for the Muslims - or, in simpler terms, an
equal to Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Ghandi, and
other figures that transformed the history of mankind on their lifetime.
Nikos Retsos, retired academic

Posted by: Nikos Retsos | September 10, 2008 7:58 PM

Bin Laden will likely either retreat deeper into the NWFP, or else go running into Pakistani Kashmir, as his next hiding place. There are plenty of fundamentalist sympathizers in Kashmir, and it's a much more difficult area for US forces to bring airpower into. I foresee some deadly ambushes in the future -- by both sides.

Posted by: sanman | September 10, 2008 11:16 PM

The headline should read, "Some success against al-Qaeda despite Bush's stubborn insistence that Iraq is the center of the "War on Terror".

What an incredible display of ignorance and ineptitude by the Worst President Ever!

Posted by: thebob.bob | September 11, 2008 12:15 AM

Bush has tried everything, including all the power of the United States, he's even lowered himself to torture & Concentration camps, but he can't catch Osama Bin Landen. This guy isn't a Super Spy, he hasn't been trained by Russia, he's nothing more that a glorified Goat Herder. Poor Bush, his dream of being on Mt Rushmore have died in the ashes of Iraq & the Concentration camps at Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by: SadAmerican | September 11, 2008 12:42 AM

The attacks have been carried out by AC-130 Gunships and armed Predator UAVs. Global Hawk UAVs do not carry weapons.

Posted by: Drew | September 11, 2008 12:54 AM

It's such a sadness that there are so many civilian casualties when trying to catch this man, it's as though we're doing Bin Laden's work for him with all of this. I do hope that they manage to get him soon though :\

Posted by: Doobie | September 11, 2008 2:45 AM

The Pak-Afghan border needs to be "cleansed". Too many terrorists hide there and the Pak govt is unable to do anything about it. The US boasted that they fight a "smart war" which can take out targets from afar. But in that region you need boots on the ground. The new strategy of unilateral strikes is the right thing. That area needs to be rid off all terrorists and if that means an invasion of Pakistan, so be it.

Posted by: Pakistan is the batteground | September 13, 2008 11:21 AM

I wonder if he had sent 150,000 troops into Tora Bora instead of Iraq then he may have been able to fulfill him promise to us to capture and bring to trial Osama ?in Ladin.

After all, he is The Great Decider.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 13, 2008 1:09 PM

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