As U.S. forces bombed caves where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding, President Bush told ABCNEWS the United States was "tightening the noose" on the suspected terrorist mastermind.
Bush, in his first television interview since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on America, told Barbara Walters that U.S. forces may strike other countries in the war against terrorism. The exclusive interview airs tonight on 20/20.
"We're making progress. We're making it harder for him to find sanctuary. We are closing down caves, we are getting more and more of the territories under control of our friends and allies, and therefore, we have a better chance of spotting him in person," Bush said in the ABCNEWS interview.
"We're tightening the noose on Osama bin Laden," he said. Asked if he would prefer to see bin Laden brought in "dead or alive" — a term Bush himself phrased after Sept. 11 — the president said he did not care.
Meanwhile, in Germany, rival factions signed a deal creating an interim cabinet to govern Afghanistan.
Heading for the Caves
On the ground in Afghanistan, U.S. military and opposition troops are preparing to attack a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. A senior Northern Alliance commander told ABCNEWS he was preparing about 1,500 of his troops, along with U.S. special forces on the ground, to attack the Tora Bora cave complex near the eastern city of Jalalabad.
According to Arab television network Al-Jazeera, U.S. air strikes on the caves and tunnels have killed the wife and four children of bin Laden's top lieutenant, Egyptian exile Ayman al-Zawahiri.
A U.S. official said that report appears credible. However, al-Zawahiri himself is believed to have escaped injury.
Although the Pentagon has no confirmation of bin Laden's whereabouts, the Tora Bora complex is a key focus in U.S. attempts to capture the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks and other leaders of his al Qaeda network.
In addition, a CIA-back opposition group from Jalalabad is said to be taking 1,000 fighters into the Tora Bora mountains to hunt for bin Laden. Some CIA personnel may accompany the group.
"We have rewards out," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "We've been actively encouraging individuals as well as collections of individuals and units of people to do exactly that in various places."
Next Stop Iraq?
Bush, who said he hopes the legacy of his administration will be a "lasting peace," said U.S. forces may be called on to fight elsewhere. Asked if he meant Iraq, Bush deflected the question by saying the work in Afghanistan was not complete.
Recently, Bush warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to allow the resumption of weapons inspections in his country or risk military action. Iraqi officials said they would not comply.
"This is not a good man and he signed an agreement, or agreed to allow inspectors in his country to show the world that he is not going to develop weapons that could be used against them. And I strongly urge him to allow inspectors back in," Bush said.
Fight for Kandahar
U.S. warplanes have also been conducting heavy airstrikes around Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual capital, and there were reports of heavy fighting between Afghan opposition troops and Taliban forces near the Kandahar airport east of the city.
Speaking to ABCNEWS by satellite telephone, Hamid Karzai — a tribal chief and anti-Taliban fighter who will run the country's interim government — said his forces were closing in on the city.