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Bin Laden Said To 'Own' Taliban

A report out Thursday suggests Afghanistan's ruling Taliban are under terror suspect Osama bin Laden's control -- rather than the other way around.

According to The Washington Post, bin Laden has provided $100 million in cash and military assistance to the Taliban over the last five years.

The CIA has concluded that bin Laden "owns and operates" the Taliban. His military units also provide the Taliban with some of its most committed and effective assault forces.

The Post also says tens of millions of dollars provided to the Taliban have been directly traced to bin Laden entities through banking and other transfers.

U.S. officials say that bin Laden, 44, inherited $30 million when his father died in a plane crash in 1968. But sources tell the Post that the money he has been providing to the Taliban does not come from his personal fortune.

Rather the money he has funneled to the Taliban comes from three primary sources: legal and illegal businesses or front companies bin Laden operates directly or indirectly; tribute payments he receives from several Persian Gulf states, companies or individuals that give him money so he and his al Qaida supporters will stay out of or minimize activities in their countries; and entities that are masked as charities.

One of the main components of the U.S. war on terrorism is to dry up bin Laden's source of money and place a wedge between bin Laden and the Taliban.

Sources say the information was presented to President Bush and his security advisers.

As to where bin Laden is, the report indicates he has been traveling throughout Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban, sometimes using an ambulance as cover. He uses decoy caravans when he changes locations and often gathers women and children around him. Sources say his entourage is small – 25 people or fewer.

U.S. intelligence has few, if any, good human sources in Afghanistan. Much of the information that comes through is generally unreliable. One senior administration official said, "It's a treacherous country with treacherous people who buy and sell loyalties."

When bin Laden was in Sudan from 1991 to 1996 he provided "some direct financial support" to the government, an official said.

© MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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