U.S. officials say they do not believe reports that the ruling Taleban in Afghanistan does not know the whereabouts of suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
In interviews on Sunday, Bush administration officials rejected the notion that Osama bin Laden is missing and the Taleban do not know where he is.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it this way. "The fact is that the Taleban do know where the al-Qaeda organization is and the fact that they are saying they don't is simply not credible," he said.
A large U.S. military buildup is underway in the region as the United States prepares for military action, following the Taleban's refusal to surrender Mr. bin Laden. U.S. officials have named him the prime suspect in the recent terrorist attacks against New York and Washington. The Bush administration has vowed to bring him and his al-Qaeda organization to justice.
Mr. Rumsfeld says the U.S. goal to crush the al-Qaeda network will require more than armed forces and will include a sustained, broadly-based international military, diplomatic, and economic effort.
In a separate appearance on ABC television, Secretary of State Colin Powell also told interviewers that in its chase after Mr. bin Laden and al-Qaeda, Washington is not necessarily seeking to remove the Taleban from power.
"They are very intertwined with the Taleban leadership," he said. "We hope the Taleban leadership comes to its senses and decides it is not worth the game to keep him in their country. We'll have to see how the Taleban regime decides to deal with this issue as we continue down the road of this campaign. But right now I'm not going to say that it has become one of the objectives of the United States government to either remove or put in place a different regime."
Mr. Powell says the United States will soon be able to share evidence with its allies linking Osama bin Laden to the attacks against the World Trade Center in New York and U.S. military headquarters in Washington.
On another matter, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed Sunday that Washington is out of touch with an unpiloted reconnaissance aircraft, but was skeptical of a Taleban statement the vehicle was shot down. "The United States has lost - lost contact, I should say, with an unmanned aerial vehicle," he said. "That happens from time to time in terms of the controls. We have no reason to believe it was shot down, as the press is reporting."
Some Taleban officials said on Saturday that a U.S. spy plane was shot down a over Afghanistan's northern Samangan province.