U.S. and Pakistani Generals Downplay OBL's Significance

On the same day a top Taliban commander appeared on Al Jazeera claiming Osama bin Laden is alive and well and planning operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, two top generals from the United States and Pakistan downplayed his significance, saying it is more important to destroy the al Qaeda network than to go after bin Laden.

"It's more important to take down the network of al Qaeda," said Maj. Gen. Michael Diamond, "than it is going after any one single man."

Pakistani Brig. Gen. Ahsan Mehmood echoed that thought.

"Getting Osama bin Laden is one thing," said Gen. Mehmood. "It is more important to take out that network, to fight that network."

Despite recent testimony by Mike McConnell, the director of National Intelligence, that senior al Qaeda leadership is regrouping and trying to establish terror training camps in Pakistan, both generals denied any knowledge of the existence of training camps there.

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"We're not seeing any evidence to that," said Gen. Diamond.

In response to critics that question Pakistan's will in standing up to militants on its own soil, Gen. Mehmood said Pakistan is a fully committed partner in the War on Terror.

"Pakistan today stands committed and has committed more forces, more troops, sacrificed more than the collective coalition sacrifices in Afghanistan," said Gen. Mehmood. "All this does not merit any doubt on commitment."

Mehmood also denied reports that Taliban leaders were operating from the city of Quetta.

"The Taliban is a problem of Afghanistan. Taliban leaders are operating from Afghanistan; some of their sympathizers are in Pakistan," said Gen. Mehmood.

Both generals said they were not aware of any intelligence to support the Taliban's claim that bin Laden is overseeing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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