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US says wants more pressure on Afghan insurgents
15. July 2005, 15:55

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan all need to put more coordinated pressure on insurgents along the rugged Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might be hiding, a senior Bush administration official said on Thursday.

"I don't think we know for sure where Osama bin Laden was," said the official, who briefed a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity. "If we did, he wouldn't be there for long."

The remote and mountainous region is popular with insurgents because it is easy to cross from neighboring Pakistan and provides excellent cover.

"In terms of that border area, obviously the Afghans need to do more, we need to do more and the Pakistanis need to do more and we need to do it in a coordinated way," the official said.

"The Pakistanis need to put pressure on their side of the border at the same time we and the Afghans are putting pressure on the Afghan side of the border and hopefully you catch some bad guys in the middle."

For almost four years, Washington has been on the hunt for bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A month later, the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban who had supported bin Laden and given him safe haven.

The official said it was important to help the Afghans stay on track for parliamentary elections in September. U.S. and Afghan officials welcomed last year's presidential election in Afghanistan as a sign that the Taliban and remnants of al Qaeda were finished, but violence has flared anew in recent months.

"Our belief is that the Taliban and the al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan were very demoralized after the first election," the official said.

The increase in fighting has raised concern that the Afghan war might be widening. U.S. and Afghan officials have cautioned that the situation could get worse before the elections with foreign militants entering the country to try to disrupt the polls.

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