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Monday, December 7, 2009

Where is Osama bin Laden?

After President Obama's recent speech announcing the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, there has been a jump in speculation as to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Is Osama bin Laden dead or alive? Where is he? Will America ever catch him?

Osama bin Laden Dead or Alive?

Many believe that Osama bin Laden died as early as December of 2001 during the heavy aerial bombardment of Tora Bora by U.S. and allied forces, but according to other accounts- including those of detainees captured in the area- Osama bin Laden escaped unharmed.

There is also speculation that Osama bin Laden died of kidney failure, including the following statement in 2006 by Michael Ledeen of the National Review: "And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

Osama bin Laden Sightings

But years later, there is still reason to believe that Osama bin Laden might still be alive. In late 2008, CIA director Michael Hayden said "the Saudi militant was probably hiding in the tribal area of north-west Pakistan."

Though a very recent Huffington Post article (Dec 5, 2009) reports that according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "the United States has not had good intelligence on the whereabouts of the terrorist Osama bin Laden in years." Gates also said that recent reports of bin Laden sightings in Afghanistan are unconfirmed.

This side of 9-11 it would seem that the United States' intelligence and defense agencies are still not all on the same page, because the Associated Press reported a day later that National security adviser James Jones says that "al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden still spends some time inside Afghanistan."

The article also noted that: "Most recent U.S. estimates have placed bin Laden inside Pakistan. But Jones, a retired general, said the best estimate is that bin Laden 'is somewhere in North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border.'"

The BBC reported last week that "A Taliban detainee in Pakistan claims to have information about Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts in January or February of this year... He claims that in January or February he met a trusted contact who had seen Bin Laden about 15 to 20 days earlier in Afghanistan."

Osama bin Laden's Health

The "Beeb" article also reported that: "The detainee claims that Bin Laden is well, though there has been speculation for years that he was in poor health. 'What my associate told me was that he is fresh, and doing well,' he said. He also claims the al-Qaeda leader is still active, training instructors who in turn train others."