WASHINGTON — U.S. forces searching for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden along the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan will soon implement high-tech surveillance tactics in the region, enabling them to monitor the area 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It’s believed that the constant surveillance of the border region and the “squeeze play” by U.S. and Pakistani forces surrounding the mountainous frontier will present the best chance ever to net the world’s most-wanted terrorist, who has eluded capture since U.S. troops launched a search for him in late 2001.
Top administration officials believe bin Laden may begin to feel the heat from the troops now hunting him and might start to move.
“We are putting the pieces in place to throw the net over him,” one official told CNN.
Among the devices that will be in place within days are U-2 spy planes flying at 70,000 feet, taking pictures, using radar and intercepting communications.
Unmanned Predator drones, flying closer at 25,000 feet, are equipped with cameras that can spot vehicles and people and special radar that can operate through clouds. Some of the Predators may also carry Hellfire missiles.
Ground sensors may also be placed along mountain passes to listen for vehicles.
Data from the planes and sensors will be sent via satellite to analysts for quick action. The U.S. military has bought up satellite transmission capacity in the region, to ensure it can respond quickly.
But none of the measures are being acknowledged officially.
“Of course you’ve heard and seen in the press that Osama bin Laden is surrounded, we have him cornered and we know where he is, etc., etc. And of course, we don’t know that,” said Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, in an interview with PBS’ Jim Lehrer.
Abizaid added that there are no U.S. troops on Pakistani soil, and said U.S. efforts with the Pakistanis are focused on cooperation and coordination.
When asked if he thought bin Laden would be captured this year, the general said he had no way of knowing.
But, he said, “I think that we will make it very painful for al Qaeda between now and the end of the year.”