Finding Osama bin Laden would not mean the end of al Qaeda, but it would be a key step to eventually defeating al Qaeda, the commander in charge of Afghanistan told Congress on Tuesday.
“I believe he is an iconic figure at this point, whose survival emboldens al Qaeda as a franchising organization across the world," Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It would not defeat al Qaeda to have him captured or killed, but I don't think that we can finally defeat al Qaeda until he's captured or killed."
The trail of the al Qaeda mastermind behind the September 11 attacks has grown cold. The Secretary of Defense told NBC News he has not seen any credible intelligence about bin Laden since he took over at the helm of the Pentagon almost three years ago.
Bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist, is believed to be hiding in the mountains on the Pakistan side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. McChrystal said that bin Laden is not a major occupation for the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"I am responsible as commander of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] for inside Afghanistan. Were Osama bin Laden to come in there, of course, that would become a huge priority for all of our forces," McChrystal said. But he said if bin Laden is not in Afghanistan, it "is outside of my mandate right now."