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Pakistan ISI officials well aware of Osama's whereabouts, CIA Officer

Web India 123 | June 3 2005

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf may not be knowing about al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's presence within Pakistan's territorial limits, but ISI officials are very well aware about his whereabouts, CIA officer Gary Schroen, who spearheaded US' search for Osama in Afghanistan, has said.

He said that Musharraf was so afraid of the internal political consequences of finding Osama that he doesn't even want to know his whereabouts.

That's because Pakistan's northern tribal areas would explode upon news of the death or capture of Bin Laden, the CIA veteran said adding "I think the philosophy of the Taliban, this fundamentalist view, is popular there. So Bin Laden, I think, strikes them as heroic. He fought a jihad against the Russians, and he's bloodied America's nose time and again."

The veteran CIA officer said that regardless of how much reward money America offers, "Bin Laden would not be captured and handed in.

He claimed that Musharraf was not allowing the US forces to seriously crackdown on the Qaeda chief, who is hiding along the international border with Afghanistan. "He's hiding in Pakistan in the northern tribal areas above Peshawar - an area that is rugged, hilly, heavily forested. The US government and the US military are not authorised by the Musharraf government to enter there unilaterally. As long as he stays in place, it is going to be almost impossible to find him," the Daily Times quoted Schroen as saying.

When Tora Bora was attacked, Bin Laden fled to Pakistan, he added.

Schroen, who has just published a book on his exploits in Afghanistan, claims to have developed two plans to capture or kill Osama (in 1998 and then a year later), but both were turned down by CIA and the White House.

According to the paper, he said: "I can only speculate, but it is based on almost 20 years of dealing with the Pakistani military and ISI officers. I think at some level, probably the colonel level, there are officers probably in ISI who know where Bin Laden is at."

He added: "A man of that caliber (Bin Laden) could not be hidden out for that many years without word getting out in the community. So, I think some people probably know within ISI and the military."

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