The US does not know where al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is hiding and has not had any good intelligence on his where-abouts in years, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday.
Speaking in an interview to be aired on Sunday on ABC, Gates also said he could not confirm reports this week that a detainee might have seen bin Laden in Afghanistan earlier this year.
“We don’t know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we’d go and get him,” Gates said in excerpts released by ABC.
Asked when was the last time the US had any good intelligence on his whereabouts, Gates said, “I think it’s been years.”
The British Broadcasting Corp reported earlier this week that a detainee in Pakistan claimed to have information that bin Laden was in Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan in January or February.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report late last month that blamed the lack of concerted efforts by former President George W. Bush’s administration and US military commanders for allowing bin Laden to escape from the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan in late 2001.
The US would not pursue Taliban leaders in Pakistan and that it was up to Islamabad to address the threat posed by militants on its territory, Gates said on Sunday.
“Pakistan is a sovereign government. We are in a partnership with them. I think at this point it’s up to the Pakistani military to deal with this problem," Gates said.
He added that the US had confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was secure despite the threat posed by Islamist insurgents.