Intelligence reports on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden are drying up, the Pentagon said Monday, as Afghan militia fighters went cave to cave in search of the terrorist leader and what remains of his largely defeated Al Qaeda fighters in Tora Bora.

Though the lack of current evidence placing Bin Laden in the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan doesn't necessarily mean he has escaped, a top U.S. military official said, Bin Laden's whereabouts are "anybody's guess."

Bombing in the region abated to enable anti-Taliban forces, backed by U.S. troops, to search the cave networks and chase fleeing Al Qaeda fighters. Pockets of resistance remained, and Pentagon officials warned that that will continue.

Meanwhile, hopes were rising that another missing target of U.S. and anti-Taliban forces might have been located near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Pushtun forces reportedly are preparing to attack a mountain redoubt where former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is believed to be hiding.

After saying for days that it had no idea where Omar might have gone after the Taliban lost its grip on Kandahar on Dec. 7, the new government there said Monday that it believes that he has taken refuge about 100 miles to the northwest, with 400 to 500 supporters.

Haji Gulalai, the intelligence chief appointed by Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Shirzai, told reporters that Shirzai intends to send his forces to find Omar and his followers, but he gave no specifics.

"We confirm this news," Gulalai said. "This is based on information we are getting from our spy network."

Gulalai said Omar is believed to be in Baghran, in the extreme north of Helmand province, home to a number of caves in which the former Taliban leader might hide.

Helmand is a desolate and sparsely populated province just west of Kandahar. Many Taliban sympathizers are thought to remain there, despite the collapse of the movement throughout the country in the last month.

As resistance to the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan faded, Britain said Monday that peacekeeping troops could be in the country by this weekend. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain will contribute as many as 1,500 troops to the multinational force, which he expects to be on the ground for "several months" under British leadership.

At the Pentagon, Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem described a slow and methodical search of cave and tunnel complexes in eastern Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda fighters may still be hiding after a two-week siege. Though hundreds reportedly have been killed and some have fled, others might remain, possibly including Bin Laden, he told reporters at a briefing.

At the same time, Stufflebeem said, Afghan and U.S. troops were tracking Al Qaeda forces who are trying to escape south to Pakistan, a difficult and painstaking process he compared to "searching for fleas on a dog."

Stufflebeem, a senior operations officer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that after believing that they were close to grabbing Bin Laden, U.S. military leaders are now unsure where he is.

Though "a few days ago, we believed he was in that area" based on reports from prisoners and intercepts of radio transmissions, Stufflebeem said, his location now is "anybody's guess" because information is harder to come by.

"The sense we have is that there's been less chatter in the last few days. And that would make sense, because there have been fewer fighters in those caves," he said.

Tora Bora Remains 'Our Top Priority'

Despite the tapering off of U.S. airstrikes, he said, the Tora Bora area remains "our top priority."

Afghan opposition forces have captured increasing numbers of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, he said, but he added that so far only five have been turned over to U.S. forces. Those prisoners, who include American John Walker Lindh, have been sent to the amphibious assault ship Peleliu in the Arabian Sea, either for health reasons, for better security or to make it easier to interrogate them.

Stufflebeem said he could not identify the other four men, although he said they are non-Afghans. A Marine spokesman in southern Afghanistan said one is an Australian captured while fighting on the Taliban side.