KABUL, Afghanistan – With the Taliban on the run and a U.S.-led coalition determined to hunt him down, Usama bin Laden is running out of places to hide.
Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network have few friends among ordinary Afghans, which means he will have to take to the hills and seek refuge with longtime comrades to elude capture.
At least one bin Laden ally, Mullah Yunus Khalis, appears to have taken control of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, where bin Laden is believed to have several camps hidden in the mountains.
Until the Taliban fled Kabul on Tuesday, bin Laden was believed to have been hiding in the mountains that surround the capital. If true, he probably would have abandoned those camps and joined the Taliban on their march out of the area.
But where could he go?
U.S. special forces tracking bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar are questioning Taliban defectors and prisoners, dangling millions in reward money and hoping for a communications slip-up as they monitor phone and radio transmissions.
Both men are probably still in the region, but they aren't believed to be together, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
Since the U.S. air campaign began Oct. 7, American jets have pummeled suspected bin Laden camps and hideouts, but the extent of damage and casualties remains unclear.
Even though the Jalalabad area is no longer under Taliban control, bin Laden could still have access to camps and caves in Nangarhar province.
Khalis, a former guerrilla leader who received considerable U.S. support during the Afghan war against Soviet invaders, is anti-Western, deeply conservative and a friend to Arab militants.
Residents who live near Khalis in Farmada, about 10 miles outside Jalalabad, said more than 1,000 Arab warriors were camped at his farm earlier this year.
Most are believed to have relocated to other camps in Nangarhar province, such as Darunta and Tora Bora. Bin Laden could be hiding in caves deep inside the mountains there.
Most of the known Al Qaeda camps are believed to be in six Afghan provinces: Kunar, Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces in the east, and Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south.
Witnesses said the Taliban retreated south and east of Kabul, accompanied by Arab, Pakistani, Uzbek and Chechen warriors.
Many Afghans have expressed anger over the presence of bin Laden and his followers in their country.
An Arab aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of bin Laden's fighters relocated their families to villages outside of Kabul following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States that killed 4,500 people.
But the families lived in makeshift shelters that could be quickly dismantled and relocated if villagers spurned them, he said.
In its campaign to root out the Al Qaeda network, the United States has relied heavily on Pakistan for information about bin Laden's camps. During the war against Soviet invaders, the Americans themselves helped finance construction of some of them, including two large camps near Khost in Paktia province.
In northeastern Kunar province, bin Laden's camps are a three-day walk deep into the mountains, according to a former Taliban security officer who had been there. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he described an elaborate communications system and nearly impenetrable location.
He said bin Laden paid Taliban officials who accompanied him to meetings $2,000 each to ensure their loyalty.
The official described seeing fighters from several countries, including non-Muslims he thought were from North Korea. He said one of these militants had been training bin Laden's followers to use different chemical, presumably as weapons.
In Logar province, Western intelligence sources said 400 housing units had been completed for Al Qaeda operatives just two weeks before the attacks on the United States.
In southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces there are believed to be several al-Qaida hide-outs, including a Soviet-era hide-out in remote Kharqrez district, pounded repeatedly by U.S. jets.