Listening to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it would be easy to conclude U.S. officials are not trying to hunt down Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terror attacks in the United States. Mr. Rumsfeld told VOA that American operations in Afghanistan are not focused on the al-Qaida leader. "I don't know how I could say it any clearer, that our task is not him. It is the network that he is a part of and all of the people in it and stopping them from killing people. That is what we're trying to do. And I do not get up in the morning and worry about any one individual," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Despite this, a senior Pentagon official involved in the Afghan operation told reporters there are numerous intelligence reports about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem who is on the Joint Staff and regularly briefs news reporters about U.S. military activities said, "I've seen many reports over the last numbers of days, I haven't counted it, of where people attribute (where) Osama bin Laden either was or may have been..."
Admiral Stufflebeem went on to disclose most of the reports have placed the al-Qaida leader in either the Kabul or Kandahar areas. He declined to elaborate.
But other U.S. defense officials now admit American and other intelligence agencies are actively trying to locate Osama bin Laden. These officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say they are collecting a steady flow of tips as to the terrorist suspect's location.
But they say the information gathered so far has been either outdated, false, or cases of misidentification. And they concede that there have been no near-misses to date in the effort to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.