US Dismisses Taliban Assurances on bin Laden

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

( - The United States dismissed on Wednesday assurances from the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan that Saudi-born Islamist Osama bin Laden, wanted for bombing US embassies last year, plans no attacks on Americans.

"These statements that continue to come out of the Taliban are laughable on their face. The Taliban is willing to say anything that sounds positive or reassuring,'' State Department spokesman James Foley said in his daily briefing to reporters.

"They are unwilling to do anything which actually gets to the heart of the matter, which is that this man .... is enjoying their hospitality, enjoying their protection, is living in territory that they control,'' he added.

Bin Laden has stayed in Afghanistan despite repeated US requests that the Taliban extradite him for trial in connection with bombs at the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

The United States says it has credible evidence that his group may be planning more attacks on Americans over the next two weeks -- during Christmas or New Year festivities.

The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan told a news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday that the Taliban gave the United States the assurances in a letter sent on Monday.

The letter was in response to a US warning last week that Washington will hold the Taliban responsible for any attack on Americans by followers of bin Laden, he added.

Foley said the United States had learned not to take seriously Taliban statements on bin Laden, whom the United States has now linked to a group arrested in Jordan this month on suspicion of planning attacks on Americans.He quoted the Taliban as saying that bin Laden no longer has a telephone or fax machine and then ridiculed this claim.

"We have reliable information that bin Laden is in frequent contact with terrorists ... in various parts of the world, and the group indeed uses modern communications,'' he said.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on the Taliban last month, including a ban on flights and a freeze of the movement's assets, in an attempt to persuade the movement to hand bin Laden over.

Asked if the United States would hold the Taliban responsible for the plans of the people arrested in Jordan, Foley said: "I'm not going to give the Taliban a pass here.''

"The Taliban are at risk on an ongoing basis simply because this terrorist, with his global network, is enjoying their protection, and, therefore, things can go wrong from their perspective at any time,'' he added.

The United States fired cruise missiles at what it said were bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998, shortly after the embassy bombings.