Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States will find al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden even though he has eluded capture so far.
Mr. Rumsfeld says bin Laden may be dead or he may have escaped from Afghanistan. But the U.S. defense secretary tells reporters at the Pentagon it doesn't matter because he will be found one day. Mr. Rumsfeld said, "He is important. We're after him. We intend to find him. I believe we will."
And if bin Laden surfaces somewhere, thumbing his nose at, or mocking, the United States, Mr. Rumsfeld promises action. "We will go see about that thumb," he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Rumsfeld says the anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan is far from over. He says there are still pockets of al-Qaida resistance and U.S. and Afghan forces are still searching through caves suspected of being terrorist hideouts.
The defense secretary acknowledges some al-Qaida have escaped into neighboring Pakistan.
But he says Pakistani authorities are doing a good job in rounding up terrorist suspects. "They have captured a very large number - hundreds of people who were fleeing over the border and we have people who are communicating with them and doing everything humanly possible to avoid having the people we're pressing in Afghanistan from moving into neighboring countries where they could cause damage and terrorists acts there. Our goal is to stop them, not to simply move the problem from one nation to another."
Mr. Rumsfeld describes the prisoners held by Pakistan as a potential "treasure trove" of information about terrorist networks. He says U.S. officials will be involved in interrogating the detainees.
The U.S. defense secretary spoke shortly after returning to Washington from Brussels where he attended a NATO ministerial meeting.