Are We Any Closer to Catching Osama bin Laden?

Osama bin Laden and his operation are still very much a threat to the United States, but the effort to capture or kill him no longer has the priority it once did. The fact is, the United States knows less about his whereabouts today than it did four years ago.

Officials say bin Laden has been able to establish a well-supplied safe haven somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan.

Bin Laden, now 48, has not been seen on a video in 11 months -- since last October, when a tape was released just before the U.S. presidential election. His absence has led to reports, all unconfirmed or discounted, of his injury or death.

"Whether he is alive or dead almost doesn't matter because he has become a symbolic figure, rather than an operational figure," said ABC News consultant and former White House counterterror chief Richard Clarke.

Hundreds have died in al Qaeda attacks around the world since Sept. 11, 2001.

"His movement has transformed successfully from one organization into about 14 organizations that spread out across the world," Clarke said. "Efforts by the Pakistani Army to go after bin Laden, the so-called spring and summer offensives, have again and again ended in failure."

And Pakistani President Musharraf recently told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden that he hopes bin Laden is not caught in Pakistan, given the terror leader's popularity there.

"We hope he is found in Afghanistan by the Americans," said Musharraf.

In bin Laden's absence, his No. 2 man, Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, seems to have taken over.

"He came across as the leader," said Fawaz Gerges, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College. "In fact, the way he was dressed, his gestures, his postures, his speech tells me that he really he is the face of al Qaeda."

Whoever is in charge, and wherever they are, U.S. officials, present and former, say bin Laden's organization remains undeterred and eager to strike again.

"I think al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations take a very long view, not a four-year view but a 40-year view, a 100-year view," Clarke said.

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