In an interview with the BBC this week, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made the somewhat startling disclosure that his forces had come close to capturing Osama bin Laden.
"There was a time when the dragnet had closed and we thought we knew roughly the area where he possibly could be," Musharraf said. But bin Laden escaped and has not been heard from since his minions slipped a video of him to the Arabic-language TV network al-Jazeera just before the U.S. elections.
Bin Laden is believed to be in Pakistan’s remote and mountainous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where he is believed to have fled after the December 2001 U.S.-led assault on his Tora Bora hideout.
We hate to see any letdown in the search for the architect of the 9/11 atrocities, but trails do grow cold, the searchers grow inattentive and seemingly more pressing priorities arise. The new operational commander of the 18,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan says his No. 1 priority is protecting the new Afghan government and assuring the safety of parliamentary elections next fall.
That’s all well and good and certainly vital, but the fact remains that bin Laden is still at large and so is his former host, deposed Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
Between May and July of last year, apparently a prime time for hunting, Pakistani troops bagged scores of al-Qaida operatives and foreign fighters, including Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, the reported mastermind of the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
May is almost here again and Pakistani commanders have staked out new areas to search. And the United States has stepped up advertising in Pakistan of its $25 million reward of bin Laden.
If at first you don’t succeed . . . one of these days the noose will close.