New questions have been raised about the fate and whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, after his face appeared on Qatar television yesterday. Al Jazeera station ran a preview of yet another videotape of bin Laden, which will run in its entirety, more than 30 minutes, today. Dressed in green military fatigues, a pale and gaunt bin Laden said he was speaking “three months after the blessed attack against the international infidels and its leaders, the United States, and two months after the beginning of the vicious aggression against Islam.” Several people, including Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, have speculated he may have been killed in the U.S. bombing of the caves. Others believe he may have slipped away, possibly crossing the border into Pakistan. The U.S. War Department said it was not immediately sure what to make of the videotape showing bin Laden alive possibly as recently as two weeks ago. As for the former Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, Afghanistan’s new interim president, Hamid Karzai, says he believes he’s still in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan interim President Hamid Karzai has declared his support for U.S.-led coalition troops to continue to hunt for al-Qaeda leaders and bring them to trial. Karzai’s government, which met for the second time yesterday, is pushing to put a multinational army in place as soon as possible. Afghanistan currently has no official army. Afghan officials insist it’s unlikely that the Afghan government would lose tolerance for the continuing U.S. military presence, which includes B-52 bombers and other warplanes in the skies and U.S. marines and special forces on the ground. But Afghan officials shed little light over continuing questions of U.S. warplanes’ destruction of a convoy of cars last week in the eastern province of Paktia. U.S. military officials say those killed were al-Qaeda members, but there are persistent reports from local people that the dead were tribal leaders on their way to the new government’s inaugural ceremony. This would have followed a week before, when the new leader, Karzai, was named. Just before that naming, in Bonn, Germany, his headquarters was also bombed by U.S. forces.
The new government has promised to wipe out drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium poppies. In their last year in power, Taliban authorities choked off most poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. But the U.S. is concerned that Afghan farmers, whose other crops have been decimated by years of drought, have already sown large amounts of poppy seeds for harvesting next spring.
As soldiers mass along the border with Pakistan, India has dismissed the steps Pakistan has taken to clamp down on two radical Islamic groups that India blames for an attack on its Parliament earlier this month. Indian officials have accused Pakistan of giving financial and logistical support to the groups, both based in Pakistan. The U.S. has added the two groups to the State Department’s list of terrorists, prompting Pakistani authorities to freeze the group’s assets and arrest one of their founders.
But war fever keeps rising in India. For the first time in its 54 years as an independent nation, the Army has canceled the Army Day parades that were to be held in cities across India on January 15. An Army spokesperson said thousands of troops who would have marched with tanks and artillery guns in a showy display of military might will instead be deployed along India’s more than 2,000-mile-long border with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State General Colin Powell has telephoned leaders in India and Pakistan twice each day — today. In recent weeks, he has been urging them to calm the tensions that have continued to mount since the attack on India’s Parliament.
According to remarks made by NATO’s secretary general this week, NATO might support military action against Iraq if convincing evidence is found linking Saddam Hussein’s regime to terrorism. Buoyed by the military success in Afghanistan, a growing chorus of Americans is now advocating Saddam Hussein be the next target, whether or not he had a hand in September 11. Most argue that something like the Afghanistan model of training and equipping the Iraqi resistance, while using American airpower and special forces to support that resistance, could get the job done. But others have said repeatedly that action against Iraq could be dangerous, if only because it may break up the so-called international coalition against terrorism forged after the September 11 attacks, not to mention the increased number of casualties that would occur.
The chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague has said she is convinced there is now enough evidence for the former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to be convicted of genocide. In a rare interview with the BBC, the chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said, “I’m convinced I can prove the guilt of Milosevic.” She renewed her call for Milosevic to face trial on charges of war crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia at the same time, an idea recently rejected by tribunal judges.