Saturday, October 23, 2004

Bin Laden is located, says 9/11 panelist

Pakistani allies keeping him safe

By Jim Mohr
© SAN BERNARDINO SUN

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Pentagon knows exactly where Osama bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, it just can't get to him, John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, said Thursday.

Lehman's remarks echoed those made Tuesday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said the al-Qaida leader was alive and operating in the western part of Pakistan.

Bin Laden is living in South Waziristan in the Baluchistan Mountains of the Baluchistan region, Lehman told the San Bernardino Sun after delivering a keynote speech on terrorism at Pitzer College in Claremont.

In the interview, Lehman noted, "There is an American presence in the area, but we can't just send in troops. If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now."

When pressed on why the United States couldn't send troops into the region to capture the world's No. 1 terrorist, Lehman said the Baluchistan region of the country is filled with militant fundamentalists who do not recognize the legitimacy of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a close ally of the United States.

"That is a region filled with Taliban and al-Qaida members," he said, acknowledging that Pakistan's security services also are filled with many who agree with bin Laden's beliefs and would aid him if U.S. Special Forces entered the region.

"Look," he said, "Musharraf already has had three assassination attempts on his life. He is trying to comply, but he is surrounded by people who do not agree with him. This is not like Afghanistan, where there was no compliance, and we had to go in.

"We'll get (bin Laden) eventually, just not now."

Asked how bin Laden was surviving, Lehman said he was getting money from outside countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, and high-ranking ministers inside Saudi Arabia.

"He is not a wealthy man," Lehman said. "We ran that information into the ground, and discovered he only receives about $1 million a year from his family's fortune. The rest of what he gets comes from radical sympathizers."

Department of Defense spokeswoman Capt. Ronnie Merritt confirmed the U.S. military believes bin Laden is in Pakistan. However, she would not comment on Lehman's remarks, except to say that he normally didn't speak about these issues, and she was surprised he had.

Lehman, secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, was one of the 10 members of the bipartisan commission that examined the terrorists attacks on the United States.

He also is the author of three books about military tactics.

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