Bin Laden search frustrates officials

July 15, 2007 - 0:0

Senior U.S. intelligence officials yesterday defended unsuccessful efforts to capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who they say has eluded a global manhunt for years by hiding in tribal areas of Pakistan under the protection of local leaders.

"We share your frustration," Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence, told Congress. "Being No. 3 in al Qaeda is a bad job. We regularly get to the No. 3 person." But capturing or killing bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has been difficult because their security practices are "very good" and they are hiding in an area "that is more hostile to us than it is to al Qaeda," Fingar told the House Armed Services Committee. During yesterday's hearing on global security threats, three U.S. intelligence analysts told the committee that al Qaeda terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons remain the most serious menaces to American security. Fingar said U.S. intelligence is becoming worried about al Qaeda finding "safe haven" in Europe because it increases the danger of terrorists getting into the United States. On Iraq, Fingar stood by the conclusions of a January U.S. intelligence assessment that said an 18-month withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country "almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance of the Iraqi government and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation." Fingar said al Qaeda leaders know that turning on cell phones, even in mountain redoubts of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, has led to the death or capture of other terrorists. He noted that the appeal of al Qaeda's Islamist extremist ideology is strong and has protected bin Laden and al-Zawahri from U.S. offers of reward money or other incentives aimed at locating the men. (Source: Washington Times