US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today that Osama bin Laden may never be captured.
Mr Rumsfeld predicted in an interview with USA Today that the Taliban regime would be toppled, but that it would be "very difficult" to capture or kill bin Laden. "That is easier than finding a single person," he said.
"It's a big world," he said. "There are lots of countries. 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 said that in any event bin Laden's terrorist network would carry on without him. "If he were gone tomorrow, the same problem would exist," Mr Rumsfeld said.
He has said repeatedly that rooting out terrorism is a long–term project that will last for years and has compared it to the Cold War.
He told USA Today that the Taliban was proving to be a formidable foe: "These are very tough people, they've made careers out of fighting, and they're not going to roll over."
Toppling the Taliban would not necessarily mean a united Afghanistan with a stable government. He told the newspaper that a US–backed faction could control the capital, Kabul, and another, perhaps the Taliban, could control the southern city of Kandahar, he said.
The Defence Secretary said he would be "like an amateur brain surgeon" if he were to try to shape the government of a nation that has been engulfed in war for more than 20 years.
Later, at a press conference, Mr Rumsfeld sought to soften his comments, saying that he had been engaged in "semantics" with USA Today and that he expected the US would "get" bin Laden.Reuse content