Powell: No Sign of Bin Laden

TORA BORA/BAGRAM AIRBASE, Afghanistan -- The United States said it had no idea where Osama bin Laden was Sunday as his al-Qaida fighters were routed and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to rally troops.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States had no reason to believe bin Laden, its prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, had been either killed or captured under intense U.S. bombing in the eastern mountains of Tora Bora.

"We don't know where he is," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."

A senior anti-Taliban commander said bin Laden was no longer in the Tora Bora area and the remnants of his al-Qaida forces had been all but wiped out.

"This is the last day for al-Qaida in Afghanistan," said Haji Zaman, a top military commander in the eastern Jalalabad region.

He said bin Laden had fled, but this would not prevent his mujahedin -- or holy warrior -- fighters from completing a mopping-up operation.

"Osama bin Laden is not here," he said.

Another senior commander said his men had killed 200 of bin Laden's al-Qaida fighters in Tora Bora.

"We took 25 al-Qaida prisoners and killed 200 al-Qaida fighters," Hazrat Ali said on the road back from the front line.

"Tomorrow we will show you the prisoners and their weapons. We think [the fighting] will all be soon over."

Rumsfeld was the most senior U.S. official to visit Afghanistan since the start of the war, touching down in triumph near Kabul.

He was greeted at the airport by designated Afghan Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim and sat down to talks with Hamid Karzai, who will head an interim government that takes power next week for six months.

The venue was an upstairs room in a wrecked Soviet-era aircraft hangar.

Rumsfeld told Karzai, who speaks good English, that the war was not against Afghanistan, but against terrorism.

"The United States coveted no territory. We were here for the sole purpose of expelling terrorists from the country and establishing a government that would not harbor terrorism," he said.

Karzai told Rumsfeld the Afghan people were thankful.

"We were incapacitated earlier to deal with so many things at once in the country," he said. "You came on board and provided help for us -- provided the opportunity that we wanted."

Earlier in the day, Rumsfeld visited another military base in Central Asia and told reporters that U.S. forces had in the past 24 hours seized materials and documents at a former al-Qaida guerrilla base in southern Afghanistan.

U.S. B-52 bombers sped across the skies on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, dropping huge bombs on suspected al-Qaida positions through the night and into Monday morning.

"We asked them to give themselves up, but they can't because bombs keep falling," said Haji Atiqullah, spokesman for frontline Tora Bora commander Haji Zahir.

U.S. Marines were setting up a camp at the airport near the southern city of Kandahar for up to 300 al-Qaida fighters who might surrender or be captured, an officer said Saturday.

Three U.S. Marines were wounded at the airport Sunday when one stepped on what appeared to have been a mine while clearing ordnance, an officer said.