Petraeus: Bin Laden Hunt Remains Priority

Wednesday, 09 Mar 2011 08:00 AM

By Hiram Reisner

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The commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, says he will soon provide President Barack Obama with options for the planned drawback of forces from the country, scheduled to begin in the summer. In the first part of an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier from Afghanistan, which aired Tuesday, Petraeus also said the hunt for Osama bin Laden remains a priority, and is part of the reason the war is worth waging.

petraeus, bin, laden, search“My every intention is to provide the president options to do what his policy states we will do,” Petraeus said. “I will provide options for the initiation, of what he has termed the responsible drawdown of the surge forces, at a pace based on conditions on the ground. And I'll also provide a recommendation as well with one of those options.

“We’ve got a bit more time. And this is a very dynamic and ever-changing environment,” he said. “But it would be irresponsible if we weren't already working on that, needless to say.”

Baier asked why the average American should believe the war in Afghanistan was worth the approximate cost of $100 billion a year.

“Well, that’s an understandable question – especially obviously given the fiscal challenges our country faces. Then I think you then have to go back to 9/11. You have to go back to why we are here in the first place,” Petraeus said. “And our core objective in Afghanistan, needless to say, is to ensure that the country does not become a sanctuary once again for al-Qaida, the way it was prior to 9/11.”

Baier asked about the hunt for bin Laden.

“It is absolutely a priority. But there's been no hard intelligence,” Petraeus replied. “You know, people occasionally ask: ‘Where is Osama bin Laden?’ And I think for all we know he could be in Las Vegas next to Elvis, given the precision of what we have.

“There’s certainly strong suspicions where he is. There’s clear knowledge about where some of his immediate, immediate subordinates are in the rugged tribal areas,” he said. “And as you well know, his number three has been killed in the past in those areas. Many others of the top 20 have been killed in recent years as well.”

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