Arms ordered off Kabul streets, UN set to vote on multinational force
Thursday December 20, 9:05 PM AFP
Afghanistan's new masters ordered unauthorised weapons off the streets and fighters back to barracks ahead of the historic inauguration this weekend of a UN-backed six-month interim government.
Diplomats at the United Nations in New York said meanwhile that the last obstacles to the creation of a multinational security force for war-ravaged Afghanistan had been removed and a resolution authorising the force would be adopted by the 15-member UN Security Council by early Friday at the latest.
Meanwhile mopping up operations continued against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, as Pakistani forces hunted Arab fighters who made it across the border and US-backed Afghan militiamen searched their abandoned cave complexes.
US warplanes flew reconnaissance missions over al-Qaeda's former stronghold in Tora Bora, eastern Afghanistan, and intelligence officials interrogated captured fighters, but there was still no news of bin Laden's whereabouts.
The ban on gun-toting civilians in Kabul was part of security measures being implemented ahead of Saturday's inauguration of the interim government led by Pashtun royalist Hamid Karzai.
"The security commission has approved an order that no armed persons can walk on the streets and that they should go back to barracks," defence ministry official Doctor Gulbuddin told AFP.
Only mujahedin fighters from the Kabul garrison, police from the interior ministry and secret police from the intelligence services would be allowed to carry weapons, he said.
Fighters toting rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers and other weaponry have flooded the streets since the Taliban regime fled the capital on the night of November 12, often threatening passers-by.
Security has become a pressing concern here and war-weary residents on Thursday cheered news of a breakthrough on the deployment of a British-led international security force.
The incoming interim government agreed to let a 3,000-strong security force into the country but only for six months, when the mandate of the interim administration expires. The British defence ministry subsequently said the number could be as high as 5,000.
Some 100 British Marines are expected here on Saturday and will be involved in ensuring security for the inauguration ceremony, which several foreign ministers are expected to attend including Abdul Sattar of Pakistan, formerly the chief supporter of the Taliban.
The Afghan cabinet which takes office Saturday will rule for six months.
A Loya Jirga -- traditional grand assembly of elders -- will then set up a transitional authority to rule the country for up to two years to be followed by elections.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, described the chains of command for the multinational force.
"The United Kingdom, as lead nation, will exercise command of the International Security Assistance Force" for the first three months of its six-month existence, Straw wrote.
On the military front, a US B-52 bomber returned Thursday to the skies over Tora Bora -- the former al-Qaeda stronghold -- but for the third day no bombs were dropped.
At least one fighter-bomber and observation planes were also seen overflying the White Mountain range on the lookout for bin Laden -- wanted for the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington which left more than 3,000 dead -- and his followers.
Most of the Saudi dissident's fighters are thought to have fled towards the Pakistan border in recent days, following two weeks of intense American air raids and ground attacks by allied local militia that died down Sunday.
Afghan commanders said late Wednesday that the bodies of "perhaps several hundred" al-Qaeda fanatics were strewn across the mountains.
"Al-Qaeda is completely finished," said Haji Zaher, a deputy to a senior military commander in the eastern region, Haji Mohammad Zaman.
Possibly as many as 2,000 al-Qaeda fighters may have fled toward Pakistan, which has deployed thousands of troops to seal the border.
Several hundred have been detained and will be screened by Pakistani authorities with US help, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington on Wednesday.
"Clearly we will be deeply involved in interrogation and intelligence-gathering because it should be a treasure trove," he said.
Pakistan added a senior Taliban official to its haul of suspects, detaining Aminullah Amin, the fundamentalist Islamic regime's former border security chief for the southern half of the frontier, as he tried to come across the Chaman border crossing, Pakistani border official Sher Mohammad said.
The United States will seek to extradite Osama bin Laden and any other senior al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan, a senior official said.
Kenton Keith, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said bin Laden, the accused organiser of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and members of his network were still on the run, but if caught the United States would press for their extradition.
"Obviously there are some people that we would very much like to have and we will be working with whichever force has them in custody to see if that can be arranged," he told reporters.
Britain and other coalition members have already said they would need assurances that bin Laden will not face the death penalty if extradited to the United States.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington earlier that several hundred of bin Laden's al-Qaeda fighters had been detained by Afghan militia and across the border by Pakistani forces.
"We as a coalition are interested in a certain number of Taliban leaders and obviously all al-Qaeda members," Keith said.
"There will be a process by which individuals will be examined as a matter of coalition and Pakistani government cooperation. Then what happens to them will be sorted out on a case by case basis."
However, Keith emphasised that even with the Taliban defeated and a new interim government preparing to take power on Saturday, the war against terrorism would go on.
Keith said US special forces and anti-Taliban militia were still searching the caves and tunnels in the mountains of the Tora Bora region along Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan.
"The process of looking through those caves is not finished. The process of rounding up everybody who is on the run is not finished.
"It's quite possible he's holed up in one of those caves and it's quite possible he is not able to move from one of those caves," he said of bin Laden.
But Keith conceded that the coalition "just simply doesn't know where he is".
"The hunt will go on whether it takes a day, a week, a year or however long it takes. It will continue until he is brought to justice."
Keith was unable to give an exact number of Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters caught in Afghanistan and Pakistan after fleeing the two-week aerial and ground assault by US and local forces.
He also ruled out for the time being any US offer of troop help to Pakistan to help track down al-Qaeda members who had fled across the border.
"Pakistan has already put impressive assets into that area and as we have seen they have been able to round up a good number of people who tried to cross that border
Thursday December 20, 9:22 PM
By Paul Holmes
KABUL (Reuters) - Backed by the presence of foreign troops and with promises of substantial international aid, Afghanistan embarks on Saturday on the monumental task of healing the wounds of 23 years of war.
With the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban chased from power by U.S. air strikes, a new interim administration is due to be sworn into office at a ceremony attended by foreign dignitaries at the Foreign Ministry in the capital Kabul.
Headed by Hamid Karzai, a royalist tribal chieftain from the traditionally dominant Pashtun ethnic group, it is meant to govern for six months under the terms of a U.N.-sponsored power-sharing deal hammered out in Germany this month.
In a symbol of a smooth transition, Karzai will be welcomed into office by nominal president Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose foot-dragging almost scuppered an accord at the negotiations in Bonn.
The ceremony will also include readings from the Koran, highlighting Afghanistan's deep roots in Islam, and a speech by the U.N. Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.
The Bonn deal, between the militarily dominant Northern Alliance and three exiled factions, sets out a road map for a return to stability leading to elections by mid-2004.
A vanguard of 100 to 200 British Royal Marines, the lead element of an international force agreed under the deal, is due to arrive in Kabul in time for the ceremony with an initial six-month mandate to provide a security presence.
Differences between the Northern Alliance, whose forces swept into Kabul on the heels of the Taliban retreat, and likely contributor nations have dogged negotiations over its precise role and composition.
"TROOPS MUST COME"
Karzai's 30-member administration will be dominated by the Northern Alliance, whose ethnic Tajik component will control all three power ministries -- defence, interior and foreign affairs.
The collapse of the Northern Alliance into factional fighting the last time it ruled Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 devastated Kabul.
Memories of that carnage have swelled support among ordinary Afghans for the presence of foreign troops, even though their mandate is likely to be limited to low key patrols and guarding government meetings.
"If the multinational peacekeepers don't come, there will be fighting among the factions," said Amin Khosty, doyen of the money dealers who trade the local afghani currency in a bustling bazaar in the capital.
"Just as prayers are incumbent on every Muslim, so the international force is vital for the security of Afghanistan."
The tasks facing Karzai's administration are enormous and the road ahead to elections pitted with potential traps.
"Warlordism must end and the rule of the gun must end in Afghanistan," Karzai said this week in Rome, where he travelled to pay homage to former king Zahir Shah, now 87 and in exile since 1973.
STARTING FROM ZERO
Disarming warlords and their followers and forging the basis for a multi-ethnic national army is just one of the challenges.
More than two decades of war, first against Soviet occupiers and then among themselves, have turned Afghanistan into one of the poorest places on earth.
Basic infrastructure, from electricity to running water, is virtually non-existent. Literacy rates and the provision of health services are among the worst on the planet.
Women, the mainstays of the education and health systems among other areas until the Taliban's extremist prohibition of female activity, need to be reintegrated into Afghan life and the economy.
Above all, there is a political process to manage, with the power-sharing deal providing for a Loya Jirga, or traditional grand assembly, to be inaugurated by Zahir Shah, within six months of the interim government taking office.
Its task will be to appoint a transitional authority more representative of the patchwork of ethnic and tribal groups to take Afghanistan through to democratic elections.
Already, grumblings from the ethnic Uzbek and Shi'ite Muslim Hazara factions of the Northern Alliance over the carve-up of posts in the interim government have pointed to potential difficulties ahead.
The international community, mindful that a decade of neglect helped turn Afghanistan into a crucible of regional instability and a springboard for Islamic militant Osama bin Laden's anti-Western jihad (holy war), has pledged not to abandon the country again.
But the promise of assistance for a reconstruction drive that could cost up to $20 billion has been coupled with a caution that a slide back to war and self-interest over national interests will mean the suspension of aid.
"We can only work if we have...a partner," U.S. special envoy James Dobbins said in Kabul this week.
"On December 22, such a partner will exist. As long as it continues to have the support of the Afghan people it will receive very substantial international assistance."
A murder mystery in 'Kandahar'
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Iranian film "Kandahar," a critically hailed examination of oppression in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, boasts more than a few surprises for Americans only recently familiar with the place as a harbor for terrorists. Top Stories
The biggest surprise, however, is this:
A mysterious American Muslim with a starring role is a dead ringer for a former Howard University student who fled to Iran 21 years ago after fatally shooting a leading Iranian dissident in Bethesda.
The film's credits identify amateur actor Hassan Tantai as the man playing an American-born physician who helps the lead female character on a mission of mercy hindered by the Taliban.
But evidence contained in Mr. Tantai's own extensive interview with an Iranian film critic, as well as his physical appearance and the sound of his English-speaking voice in the movie, suggests striking similarities to confessed killer Daoud Salahuddin.
Salahuddin, born in North Carolina as David Theodore Belfield, is a fugitive wanted by the FBI and Montgomery County police for the doorstep murder July 22, 1980, of former Iranian diplomat Ali Akbar Tabatabai.
The slain diplomat's twin brother, M.R. Tabatabai, last week told The Washington Times he had "no doubt" that Mr. Tantai and Southern Baptist-turned-Islamic terrorist Salahuddin were one and the same.
"This is the same man," said Mr. Tabatabai, 71, president of the Iran Freedom Foundation. "The fact that this guy, who is an assassin, a terrorist and a fugitive, has 'come back' to his native land as a movie star and is being glamorized is most unsettling."
In one scene in the semi-documentary film, the character takes off a fake beard that he says is designed to mollify the Taliban, and his resemblance to Salahuddin becomes even more pronounced.
The character also draws a handgun from a holster under his robes.
"What are you doing here?" he is asked.
"That's a long story," he replies.
"Kandahar," which has drawn big crowds for a foreign "art house" film, opened in New York on Friday to rave reviews. President Bush requested a screening of the movie, which was scheduled to open in cities across the United States in coming weeks. No venue or exact date for showing in Washington has been announced.
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who wrote and directed "Kandahar," said he met the man who called himself Hassan Tantai working as a doctor a year ago, after he began filming scenes in a village on the Iran-Afghanistan border.
Mr. Makhmalbaf recognized that "this guy obviously had a past," but "felt that delving into his past would serve no purpose for the film," said Robin Lim, president of New York-based Avatar Films, distributor of "Kandahar."
Ali Akbar Tabatabai, former counselor at the Iranian Embassy in Washington, was an unrelenting critic of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution in Iran.
Salahuddin, in interviews with American journalists, had admitted to shooting Mr. Tabatabai three times with a pistol hidden in a package after ringing the doorbell posing as a mailman.
Mr. Makhmalbaf, Mr. Lim and others connected with "Kandahar" told The Times they did not know whether Hassan Tantai and Daoud Salahuddin were the same man.
The resemblance is striking, they say. But the filmmakers say they can't go to their actor and ask, because they don't know where he is. They assume, however, that he is still somewhere in Iran. Mr. Lim said there were no plans to use Mr. Tantai to promote "Kandahar" in the United States.
When informed by The Times of Mr. Tabatabai's accusations, Mr. Lim said he was "quite alarmed." But, he said, the accusations would not interfere with plans to promote "Kandahar" for wider release.
"Kandahar" tells the story of a young woman named Nafas, an Afghan-born journalist living in Canada, who journeys back to her birthplace. Her mission is to try to save her sister, who has become depressed by Taliban oppression and threatens suicide.
Along the way, Nafas, played by Afghan-born Canadian journalist Nelofer Pazira, is helped by Mr. Tantai's character, Tabib Sahib. The Sahib character provides medical services to Afghans and says he has journeyed to Iran and Afghanistan in search of God.
If they are two different men, the similarities between the actor Tantai and the fugitive terrorist Salahuddin go well beyond physical appearance. Both are 51-year-old black Americans who have converted to Islam. Both men have pale complexions, wear glasses and have no distinctive physical features.
Salahuddin confessed his responsibility for the Tabatabai assassination in an interview in Istanbul that aired on the ABC News program "20/20" on Jan. 19, 1996. He said he assumed the killing was ordered by "the Revolutionary Council in Iran." Asked whether he regretted his crime, he said no.
Mr. Tantai, like Salahuddin, had said he had a militant background, left the United States, entered Iran in 1980, and fought alongside the Islamic mujahideen in their struggle to drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan.
Salahuddin, born in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and raised a Southern Baptist on Long Island, converted to Islam after enrolling at Howard University in the District in 1969 and was a leader of a well-publicized takeover of the Statue of Liberty.
In an interview with Iranian film critic Jahanbakhsh Nouraei in May for Film International Quarterly, Hassan Tantai gave his age as 50 years and six months. Police records show Salahuddin was born on Nov. 10, 1950, meaning he would have been 50 years and six months old in May.
In his interview, the Iranian critic calls Mr. Tantai's performance "brilliant" and notes the actor has used other names, but does not give or elicit any examples.
"Who are you?" the interviewer asks.
"I am still trying to figure that out," the actor replies.
"It means exactly that," he adds when asked whether his different names mean he has "discontent with a former identity."
He also talks about working as a newspaper reporter in Tehran and going to Afghanistan "for 18 months" to join the armed resistance to the Soviet invasion. "When I got back to Iran, I did write about the situation," he says.
Asked how he got the part in "Kandahar," he replies: "The director got wind of a black American living in Tehran who had been in Afghanistan. He was putting together a project that focused on that country and he wrote in the part."
A report posted yesterday on Time magazine's Web site, www.time.com, noted the actor's resemblance to the fugitive Salahuddin.
The article also said he was the same person as Hassan Abdul Rahman, an American-born former editor at the state-sponsored Iran Daily who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. An Iranian journalist in Tehran said Mr. Rahman would not confirm or deny he was the man who killed Ali Akbar Tabatabai, according to the report.
Mr. Tabatabai said he first learned of the familiar-looking and -sounding actor in "Kandahar" in a phone call last week from an Iranian in Los Angeles.
"We haven't seen the film and we haven't heard about this," Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said yesterday, "but there is no statute of limitations for murder in the state of Maryland."
A Montgomery County police spokeswoman said investigators consider the case open and would be interested in any information Mr. Tabatabai has. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment yesterday and Tuesday.
Mohammad Hossein Nosrat, press secretary at the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, said Tuesday night that he had not heard that Salahuddin may be a movie star.
"I'm familiar with the Tabatabai case, and Mr. Salahuddin's interviews," Mr. Nostay told The Times. "I was not aware of him acting in a film, if it is the same person. I do not remember any comments by any official, or in the Iranian press, about any similarity."
The 85-minute semi-documentary won the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and also played at the prestigious Toronto and Salonika film festivals.
The film was enjoying a level of box-office success that could not have been expected when shooting began a year ago, before most Americans ever heard of terror kingpin Osama bin Laden or the Taliban, Mr. Lim said.
Phil Hall, a publicist for Avatar Films, said Miss Pazira told him Mr. Tantai lived in a neighboring village and showed up on the location shooting. The man was unknown to the film company until that time, she told the publicist.
Mr. Makhmalbaf, whose English is limited, answered questions about Mr. Tantai through Hamid Dabaschi, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University. Mr. Dabaschi relayed the information to Mr. Lim.
In the film, Mr. Tantai's character says he escaped from the United States and was not trained as a physician. In real life, Mr. Lim recalled, Mr. Tantai was handing out pills, food and vitamins to the poor in and around Naitak, and the director decided to add him to the script.
Even if investigators can prove Hassan Tantai is Daoud Salahuddin, there is little they could do. The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, so Salahuddin is not subject to extradition.
• Betsy Pisik and Matthew Cella contributed to this report
By MICHAEL R. GORDON with ERIC SCHMITT
ORA BORA, Afghanistan, Dec. 19 — Frustrated by the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan has proposed that United States marines or Army troops be deployed to comb the wild terrain of Tora Bora to try to determine the fate of Al Qaeda leaders, American officials said today.
The proposal, presented to the Pentagon by Gen. Tommy R. Franks, head of the United States Central Command, stems from the recognition that the Afghan allies may not have the ability or the will to establish control over Tora Bora, an untamed and dangerous region that borders Pakistan.
A United States defense official in Washington declined to say how many marines or other American ground forces would be involved, but another person familiar with the discussions said it could involve "several hundred" troops. One of their tasks could be to dig their way into blown-up caves in search of clues about Mr. bin Laden.
American military officials said that the Pentagon was still assessing the risks, but that a final decision might come in several days, and the first troops could arrive soon after.
Dispatching significant numbers of Marine and Army forces would considerably aid the effort to search the ridges and valleys of Tora Bora. But it would also expand the risk to Americans from sniper attacks, land mines and booby traps.
It could also entail political complications. In northern Afghanistan, Northern Alliance forces have bragged about the support they have received form the Americans as a badge of respect. But in this conservative Pashtun region of Afghanistan, senior commanders routinely refuse to acknowledge help they receive from American Special Forces. Suspicion of Americans runs so strong that some American reporters try to hide their nationalities.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking in Washington, made no reference to General Franks's confidential proposal today. But he indicated that he had received assurances from Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader who will formally take charge of the provisional government on Saturday, that the American military could continue to operate in Afghanistan until the last "pockets of resistance" had been eliminated.
"Our goal is to stop them," Mr. Rumsfeld said of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, "not simply move the problem into other countries."
The military campaign has toppled the Taliban and destroyed Al Qaeda's network of terrorist training camps. But it has not provided the closure that many Americans are yearning for: the capture or death of Mr. bin Laden, the man the Bush administration and the vast majority of Americans blame for Sept. 11.
American military officials have said that communication intercepts indicated that Mr. bin Laden had probably been personally directing the defense of Tora Bora. Al Qaeda prisoners here have also told their Afghan captors that Mr. bin Laden was seen in the area late last week.
But American intelligence information about the location of Mr. bin Laden recently came to an abrupt and mysterious end, officials said. That has led intelligence experts to infer that he was killed in an air strike or fled to Pakistan. It has also added to the pressure to send American troops to sort out the situation.
"We have nothing new on him," a senior military official said. "There are no new signs of his activity. There are two main theories now. Some think he was blown to kingdom come and is buried in one of the caves or tunnels we took out. Others say it is more likely that he escaped. We are trying to gain clarity in a situation that has no clarity."
Certainly, the Afghan fighters who currently patrol the area may not resolve the mystery. Until now the task of searching the mountains and ravines here has been entrusted to fighters from the Eastern Shura, a regional government that is the source of three different and sometimes antagonistic forces.
About 50 United States Special Operations troops have been working with anti-Taliban forces or operating independently in the Tora Bora area to cut off Al Qaeda fighters trying to flee to Pakistan. Some British commandos are also deployed.
But on Sunday some Afghan commanders signaled that they considered the war to be largely over now that Tora Bora is back in their hands and that the search for Mr. bin Laden was a secondary mission.
At times, some of the Afghan groups also seem more preoccupied with internal feuds than with tracking down the arch-enemy of the United States. On Tuesday, fighters for Cmdr. Hajji Zahir rushed from their command post deep in the Tora Bora mountains after being alerted that men from Cmdr. Muhammad Zaman's faction was trying to make their way home from a patrol by crossing through Commander Zahir's turf. The tension was high and at times it seemed that a firefight between factions might erupt.
The task of tracking down Mr. bin Laden is also inherently difficult.
If the terrorist leader is entombed in a cave, combat engineers may be needed to dig out the body. General Franks said in a television interview on Sunday that the United States might not be able to find some Al Qaeda leaders without excavating the bombed-out caves.
"Well, it'll be a question mark until we decide whether we want to go in and dig these bunkers and caves out," he said. "And in some cases, we may well do that."
A senior defense official said in Washington said that deploying American troops would also send a message that the United States is continuing the hunt for Mr. bin Laden.
"There are a whole lot of caves up there," the official said, referring to Tora Bora, "and we're looking at what resources you might need to get the job done. The X-factor in all of this is to continue to make clear with the anti-Taliban forces that we're just as committed as ever to following through with our objectives."
Under the proposal by General Franks, marines could be drawn from their bases near Kandahar, in the southeast, and soldiers could be summoned from the Army's 10th Mountain Division, which is deployed in Uzbekistan and at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul. Other soldiers might be drawn from the Army's 101st Airborne Division, which is guarding bases the United States is using in Pakistan.
There are about 2,000 marines in Afghanistan, operating largely from the Kandahar International Airport, 12 miles south of the city. Until recently, they had set up roadblocks on the outskirts of Kandahar in an effort to block Taliban forces from trying to escape.
A Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,200 is to arrive in the North Arabian Sea in the coming weeks, to join the two units already there or ashore in Afghanistan.
"We will use what we need, but there's no anticipation of a major infusion," said a defense official.
During the war, General Franks has suggested that he would dispatch troops to hot spots around the country if they were needed in the hunt for the leaders and fighters of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Senior military officials may also bolster the marines in Kandahar to begin attacking pockets of resistance in the south, and perhaps broaden the hunt for Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader.
After punishing air attacks and assaults by Afghan fighters, hundreds of Al Qaeda members have sought to flee to Pakistan.
Today, captured fighters in Pakistan grabbed weapons from their guards and tried to escape, leaving at least 13 people dead, Pakistani government spokesmen said. Seven prisoners and six guards were said to have died in the revolt and Pakistani troops were pursuing as many as 40 other prisoners who had fled into the surrounding countryside during the mayhem.
The rebelling prisoners were among about 100 fighters captured early today and late Tuesday as they fled, government officials said.
The fighters, mostly non-Afghans, were being transported by bus and truck from a makeshift detention center near Parachinar, in western Pakistan, to a prison in Kohat, the government said. A prisoner seized a guard's weapon and other prisoners joined an attempt to take over one of the buses.
"In the ensuing melee, the bus carrying 48 Al Qaeda men careened off the winding road near Arawali village in Kurram Agency and fell 20 feet down," the Pakistan government said.
The government said the fighters exchanged gunfire with the security forces and escaped into the surrounding hills and forests. Army helicopters and Special Forces troops were brought in for the pursuit and most prisoners were recaptured within hours, officials said.
Today, Secretary Rumsfeld said Pakistani forces along the mountainous border had captured hundreds of non-Afghan Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters fleeing Afghanistan in the past few days.
So far, few if any of those prisoners have been handed over to American forces. But American officials will soon join in interrogating them, Mr. Rumsfeld said today.
Some critics say Pakistan has done a poor job of sealing the border.
Mr. Rumsfeld tried to counter that impression today. He said seven battalions of Pakistani soldiers — several thousand troops in all — have been patrolling the border region, with assistance from American reconnaissance aircraft and drones, trying to cut off escape routes.
Mr. Rumsfeld also sought to dispel a report that a German official had said the United States would focus its antiterror campaign on Somalia next, calling the report "nonsense."
And he sought to put the best face on the frustrating and so far fruitless search for Mr. bin Laden: "He's either dug in some tunnel, or he's alive. And if he's alive, he's either in Afghanistan or he isn't. And it does not matter; we'll find him one day."
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