PAKISTAN'S TOP ANTI-TERROR OFFICIALS BELIEVE OSAMA BIN LADEN IS HOLED UP IN AFGHANISTAN WITH LESS THAN 10 MEN AND IS NO LONGER EFFECTIVE -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY ON CBS
Top General Believes His Capture or Death is Now Meaningless
The Pakistani military officers battling al Qaeda along the border with Afghanistan who have the latest first-hand information about Osama bin Laden believe he is hiding with a small cadre in Afghanistan and is no longer an effective leader for the terrorist group. Steve Kroft's report from Pakistan will be broadcast on the 38th season premiere of 60 MINUTES Sunday, Sept. 25 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"I think now [bin Laden] is being protected or assisted by a very short number, which keeps his profile very low," the counter-terrorism head of Pakistan's Intelligence Service, ISI, tells Kroft. [He is someplace along the border, probably in Afghanistan] is what my assessment says," opines the brigadier who goes by the name "Ali" and whose true identity is known by only a few government officials.
Ali tells Kroft his forces have diminished bin Laden's power by capturing 594 al-Qaeda members and crippling the group's communications, including infiltrating their courier network. "We have been able to effectively break the communications network from top to bottom. We do not allow these people to communicate with each other," says Ali.
The information gleaned from the captives and given to coalition officials has helped to prevent planned terror attacks against financial buildings in the U.S., planes and buildings at London's Heathrow airport and has assisted in the capture of al-Qaeda operatives in Great Britain. "The mere fact that there has not been a replication of 9/11 speaks volumes of what we shared with the world," boasts Ali.
Finding bin Laden doesn't matter at this point, believes Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, in charge of Pakistan's anti-terrorism operations along the Afghanistan border. "If [bin Laden] is hiding in a hole, neither the electronic nor the human intelligence can find him," he tells Kroft. "Is it all that important to find him? If he's taken out tomorrow, his ideology is not going to come to an end. I don't think that it's important�if he is captured�.This is my personal view," says Hussain.
Kroft also spoke to the Pakistani leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "These troops are not certainly on the trail of one man and that's all they are doing," notes Musharraf. "We are fighting terrorism wherever it is. If Osama happens to be there incidentally, he will be killed or captured," he tells Kroft.