- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today said he doubted that al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was now capable of supervising the global operations of the militant organization.

“I have trouble believing that he is able to operate sufficiently to be in a position of major command over a worldwide al Qaeda operation but I could be wrong. We just don’t know,” Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters aboard his plane en route to Pakistan.

“I suspect that in any event if he is alive and functioning, that he is probably spending a major fraction of his time in trying to avoid being caught,” he said. “I think it is interesting that we have not heard from him for a year, close to a year. I don’t know what it means.”

Pakistan has been a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism and during his visit, Mr. Rumsfeld was to tour areas of the country that were hit by the Oct. 8 earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people here.

The United States has been a major contributor to the relief effort, and Mr. Rumsfeld stressed Washington’s cooperation with Muslim nations that don’t back terror.

“I think it is important that the world recognizes the relationships the United States has had in the past with moderate Muslim states and what we do,” he said.

Bin Laden’s whereabouts are unknown but speculation has focused on the mountainous terrain along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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