Idea Of The Day

Where Is Osama Bin Laden?

It’s widely suspected that Osama Bin Laden and men he trained are responsible for the attacks on the United States; it’s assumed he is in hiding somewhere remote. As John Burns of the New York Times writes: “The United States has been gathering its forces for a possible military thrust into Afghanistan, where Mr. bin Laden is known to have set up terrorist training camps and multiple hideouts in the country’s remote deserts and mountains. Washington had asked Pakistan for permission to use its air space and intelligence about Mr. bin Laden to aid in any attack.” But what we know about Bin Laden suggests he is cunning, ingenious, and adept at escaping pursuers. He uses the Internet and a satellite telephone, and some of followers are familiar with software encryption. What likelihood is there that he is hiding in the place that everyone assumes—in a cave? And where will he go now that the Taliban has asked him to leave?

Tom Carew, who is a former member of the Special Armed Services (the SAS) and who operated in Afghanistan with the Pathan warriors against the Soviet army in the 1980s, suggests that Bin Laden is hiding in a densely populated area close to the border of Pakistan.

It is, in my opinion, extremely unlikely that Bin Laden is hiding in the mountains. He must have a base from where he can communicate. He can’t communicate from inside the Hindu Kush. He is more likely to be on the north-west frontier of Pakistan, a heavily populated area that the west will be loath to attack. … Most of the Afghan military leaders I encountered operated from the comfort of Peshawar in Pakistan. They didn’t take part in any fighting, because they wanted to be around when the fighting was over.

Former Reuters reporter Aiden Hartley believes Bin Laden may have reached Yemen or even Somalia, the country described by Sir Richard Burton as the “the land of give me something” and a place that generated many unhappy American memories in 1993. How, then, do you amass an army against someone who has proved to be as elusive as he is dangerous?