updated 12/18/2003 8:22:23 AM ET 2003-12-18T13:22:23

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Osama bin Laden is probably alive and will be caught "with absolute certainty" one day, during a visit Thursday to meet American troops in Afghanistan.

Gen. Richard Myers, on a one-day morale-boosting tour along with comedian Robin Williams and other entertainers, said the al-Qaida mastermind was likely hiding in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"It's very difficult to find individuals. What will happen is, with absolute certainty, if bin Laden is still alive, and I think most suspect he is, than he will be captured some day, just like we captured Saddam Hussein," Myers said at Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan.

He said bin Laden was likely hiding in the rugged mountain between Pakistan and Afghanistan "Where he has some support, where he can buy support, and probably in very difficult terrain."

Myers said Afghanistan has made great progress in the two years since U.S. bombing ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001, noting the historic constitutional council underway in the capital, Kabul, and the inauguration on Tuesday of the Kabul-Kandahar highway, rebuilt largely with U.S. funds.

"We have basically a pretty stable country," Myers said, though he added. "It doesn't mean tomorrow we won't have a car bomb attack, but the security situation has dramatically improved."

Myers said there was no longer a large-scale Taliban resistance, and that the group had broken up into groups of "ones and twos."

Rise in Taliban attacks
Attacks by Taliban insurgents have been on the rise in recent months. At least 11 aid workers have been killed since March, and the rebels have also started kidnapping foreigners in an apparent bid to negotiate the release of jailed comrades.

The U.S. military on Dec. 2 began a large scale sweep, dubbed Operation Avalanche, targeting the south and east of the country, where Taliban activity has been highest. The operation, which involves 2,000 troops and has been billed as the largest since the war ended, was designed in part to put the Taliban on the defensive ahead of the constitutional council, or loya jirga.

The U.S. military had said they expected the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies to target the gathering. Three rockets slammed into Kabul early Tuesday, but none landed near the Kabul university grounds where the event began Sunday.

Myers said the lack of Taliban violence against the loya jirga was "no fluke."

Myers, fresh off a visit to Iraq, was flying later Thursday to a U.S. base in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

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