The concerns over Al Qaeda fighters escaping into Pakistan are growing daily. Rumsfeld, speaking in Brussels, issued a warning to Afghan opposition leaders who might have negotiated deals that allowed Al Qaeda members to go free.
"To the extent that we find that people who aspire to high office or high position in Afghanistan have been involved in preventing us from getting our hands on people who are responsible for what's going on in Afghanistan, they will find the United States not terribly friendly to their aspirations," he said.
Still, escape carries its risks. By one estimate, about 500 Al Qaeda troops fled Tora Bora toward Pakistan through mountain passes. The remnants of Bin Laden's army, traveling with little food, water and ammunition, may find the snow and biting-cold mountain nights as fearful an enemy as U.S. warplanes.
But the greatest concern remained Bin Laden. U.S. intelligence officials say they cannot confirm persistent reports that he has escaped to Pakistan, and they say he might yet turn up among the many Al Qaeda fighters whose bodies are being found in the bombed-out caves.
"We remain conflicted," a U.S. intelligence official said.
Speaking with reporters at the White House after a ceremony marking Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Bush said Pakistan is helping the United States in the search for Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.
"We get all kinds of reports that he's in a cave, that he's not in a cave, that he's escaped or that he hasn't escaped. There's all kinds of speculation. But when the dust clears, we'll find out where he is and he'll be brought to justice," the president said.
In London, Blair told the House of Commons that peacekeeping troops could come from Canada, Australia, Argentina, Jordan and New Zealand, among other countries.
"The actual time limit is not specifically decided yet, although at the moment people are talking in terms of several months," Blair said. "So that would mean the British force is not there on a long-term basis. It is to get the security force going."
A spokesman for the prime minister called the deployment "a starter pack" for a peacekeeping force likely to remain in Afghanistan for the predicted two-year "transition to democracy." "The idea is that this will gradually evolve into an Afghan force with a rolling force of peacekeepers with various countries contributing along the way," he said.
Blair said the United States had agreed to provide "full logistical support" and air cover for the peacekeepers.
Opposition Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith warned that British peacekeepers could become a target for Taliban fighters still on the loose. Blair responded that the international community cannot turn its back on Afghanistan as it has in the past.
"If the international community walks away from Afghanistan now, it will make exactly the same mistake that was made 10 or 12 years ago when it left Afghanistan to become what it became--a failed state."
Richter reported from Washington and Daniszewski from Kandahar. Times staff writers Marjorie Miller in London, John Hendren in Brussels, James Gerstenzang in Washington and David Lamb in Tora Bora contributed to this report.