Musharraf: Bin Laden trail has gone cold
The search for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has gone cold and there is no indication of his whereabouts, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told The Washington Post in an interview published on Sunday.
"He is alive, but more than that, where he is, no, it'll be just a guess and it won't have much basis," Musharraf was quoted as saying in the interview.
Pressed about whether bin Laden's trail had gone cold, Musharraf told the Post: "Yes, if you mean we don't know, from that point of view, we don't know where he is."
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Musharraf said he remains "absolutely" committed to trying to find bin Laden, and added, "We are operating against all terrorists."
Asked whether bin Laden might not even be in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, where U.S. experts have always said they expect him to be, but instead in Iran, Musharraf said: "It would be just guessing at this point."
Musharraf met on Saturday with US President Bush, who praised his ally's efforts in the war on terrorism and the search for bin Laden, whose al Qaeda militant network carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
One of the most sensitive issues between the two countries is the unsuccessful three-year hunt along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
"The president has been a determined leader to bring to justice not only people like Osama bin Laden, but to bring to justice those who would inflict harm and pain on his own people," Bush said after their meeting in the Oval Office.
Musharraf told the Post the U.S.-led coalition did not have enough troops in Afghanistan, which had left "voids." He said the United States and its allies needed to speed the training and expansion of the new Afghan army.
He also denied reports Pakistani troops were withdrawing from the south
Waziristan border region, which is considered a possible hiding place for bin
"I think it's less safe," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said.
Asked whether he considered the invasion a mistake, the Pakistani leader said: "With hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more trouble, yes."
Musharraf was in Washington on Saturday for a brief meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush. In Washington, the leaders of Pakistan and the United States discussed the issue of terrorism, bilateral concerns, relations between India and Pakistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Although ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "was a hated man" in his own country, many Iraqis have now turned their wrath on the U.S.-led forces that remain behind to provide security for an interim government, Musharraf said.
"People at the lower level don't like the visibility of foreign troops who are in their country," he said.
Pakistan opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
However, Musharraf said he does not believe U.S. and coalition troops should pull out immediately. Only after elections are held and the situation stabilized should the United States consider a withdrawal from Iraq, he said.
"[An early withdrawal] would create more problems in the region," he said. "Now that we are there, we need to stabilize the situation."
After the interview, a Pakistani government spokesman called CNN to say that Musharraf did not intend to be categorical in his assertion that Bush had erred in invading Iraq.