WASHINGTON — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that it remains the goal of U.S. troops to capture Osama bin Laden alive and "bring him to justice."
The comment by Gen. Stanley McChrystal to reporters was in contrast to remarks made a day earlier by Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder told Congress that the chances of capturing bin Laden alive were "infinitesimal" because he would probably be killed by U.S. forces or by one of his own fighters.
Bin Laden's whereabouts have longed vexed U.S. officials. But his elusive status has recently taken on new meaning as President Barack Obama pushes to try suspected terrorists in civilian courts instead of more secretive military tribunals.
Congressional Republicans are pushing back by saying that bin Laden and others like him shouldn't be given the same rights as U.S. citizens.
Holder said in House testimony that terrorists wouldn't be given any more rights than serial killers like Charles Manson. He also dismissed the example of bin Laden being given access to U.S. courts as a red herring in the debate.
"Let's deal with reality," Holder said. "The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden. He will never appear in an American courtroom."
When McChrystal was asked whether the U.S. had given up on capturing bin Laden alive, he said, "Wow, no."
If bin Laden enters Afghanistan, "we would certainly go after trying to capture him alive and bring him to justice," McChrystal told Pentagon reporters from Kabul.
"I think that is something that is understood by everyone," he said.