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General vows bin Laden's capture

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- The top US general said yesterday that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden definitely would be captured one day, just like Saddam Hussein.

General Richard B. Myers, on a one-day visit to US troops in Afghanistan accompanied by comedian Robin Williams and other US entertainers, said bin Laden was probably alive and hiding in the rugged tribal lands of the Pakistani-Afghan border.

"It's very difficult to find individuals," Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the US headquarters in Afghanistan at Bagram, north of Kabul.

"But what will happen is, with absolute certainty, if bin Laden is still alive, and I think most suspect he is, that he will be captured some day, just like we captured Saddam Hussein," Myers said. "Some day he will be brought to justice, just like Saddam."

Myers said common wisdom placed bin Laden somewhere in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, "where he has some support, where he can buy support, and probably very difficult terrain."

Myers earlier visited Iraq, where Hussein was caught last Saturday, eight months after a US-led invasion ended his rule.

In Afghanistan, Myers said he was pleased that a national assembly meeting, or loya jirga, to approve a new constitution was being held without incident, despite threats to disrupt it by guerrillas of the ousted Taliban government.

"We have basically a pretty stable country, and the incidents we have are actually isolated terrorist incidents," he said. "That doesn't mean tomorrow that we aren't going to have a car bomb attack, I am not saying that, but the security situation has dramatically improved."

Myers said NATO's plans to expand its peacekeeping into the provinces were still under discussion, but he did not anticipate any large increase in US troops as part of that.

"I think we would leave that to other NATO countries," he said.

With NATO members reluctant to commit more troops, the exact scope of the expansion in Afghanistan remains unclear, despite pleas by the United Nations and aid agencies struggling to maintain programs in areas troubled by insurgents.

Lieutenant General David Barno, commander of the 12,000-strong US-led force hunting Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their allies, admitted the southeast of the country bordering Pakistan where militants are most active was still "a concern." But he said the guerrillas could no longer operate in large groups after heavy defeats earlier in the year.

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