British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that Osama bin Laden will be killed, while US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says that he may never be caught.
Rumsfeld says it would be ?very difficult? to capture or kill him, but he believes that Afghanistan?s Taliban government will be toppled. He says, ?I think there will be a post-Taliban Afghanistan.?
Rumsfeld says of Bin Laden, ?He?s got a lot of money, he’s got a lot of people who support him and I just don?t know whether we?ll be successful. Clearly, it would be highly desirable to find him.? But he says Bin Laden?s terrorist network will carry on without him. ?If he were gone tomorrow, the same problem would exist.?
U.S. commanders have admitted that Afghanistan?s Taliban rulers are proving to be ?tough? opponents, and reporters on the front lines say Taliban morale remains high after repeated U.S. bombing. Northern Alliance walkie-talkies picked up a Taliban soldier singing a song mocking the forces ranged against him even as the U.S. bombs rained down, one correspondent reported.
?I?m a bit surprised at how doggedly they?re hanging on to power,” says Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem. ?They have proven to be tough warriors.?
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In contrast to Rumsfield?s remarks, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair says he expects Osama Bin Laden to be killed, rather than captured, during military action in Afghanistan. He says, ?He is well-protected and well armed. And I have always thought it unlikely that he will be turning up in court one day. But we will wait and see.?
He made it clear that he is not endorsing assassination of Bin Laden. But he left little doubt that Bin Laden?s death during a bombing raid or assault by ground troops was the most realistic outcome of the war. It is understood that U.S. and British forces on the ground in Afghanistan have been told not to risk their lives trying to capture him.
Blair has appointed a personal envoy to Afghanistan to build links with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, in preparation for a post-war government. Paul Bergne, 64, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is already in the country.
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Landmine Action have made a pleas against using cluster bombs in Afghanistan. Cluster bombs contain up to 200 three-pound ?bomblets? which are designed to throw out shrapnel and ignite the surrounding area.
Memorial fund director Andrew Purkis and Landmine Action director Richard Lloyd say the weapons often remain unexploded on the ground, creating a long-term threat to civilians. They also say there is evidence from Kosovo and Iraq that ?significant numbers? of cluster bombs miss their target.
The United Nations says unexploded bombs from a US raid that are believed to be cluster bombs have trapped villagers in the western village of Shaker Kala, leaving them afraid to venture from their homes. The directors say that, if left on the ground, these devices ?will increase the number of casualties caused by the severe landmine problem in Afghanistan for years to come, and will deny people facing starvation the use of their land.?
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