WASHINGTON – A senior White House aide said Sunday Al Qaeda's (search) leaders have much less freedom to operate, but it does little good to speculate about whether the United States and its allies are closing in on Usama bin Laden (search).
"I am going to believe that we're closer to him on that day that I get the phone call that we've gotten him," said Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser.
"I think that it's a mistake to try and figure out how close we are or not, but it is true that their world is getting smaller," she told a cable news show.
A top American commander in Afghanistan (search) said Saturday that the trail has gone cold in the hunt for the suspected Sept. 11 mastermind. Maj. Gen. Eric Olson also said bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri (search), are still behind strikes like the recent suicide car bombing of a U.S. security company in the Afghan capital.
On CBS' "Face the Nation," Rice called bin Laden "a shadowy figure who hides in caves. But he's not directing things out of Afghanistan with major training camps and allies in places like Pakistan and free rein to work along the Afghan-Pakistani border. His world is much, much smaller."
Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the administration's approach against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, saying the United States did not get sidetracked by the war in Iraq.
"We didn't take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan," Powell told "Fox News Sunday."
"Yes, Usama bin Laden is still out there and he's being chased. He's being pursued. We've got the Pakistanis playing a much more aggressive role in their frontier areas to go after Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants," Powell said. "We didn't take our eye off the ball. But Iraq was a danger the president felt strongly we had to deal with, and we dealt with that, too."