The catch, though, is that the Saudis are reluctant to see Bin Laden tried. "The Saudis may have plenty of grounds to try him at home, but politically they can't afford to," says McGirk. "They certainly don't want him tried in the U.S., which would turn him into a martyr throughout the Muslim world and make the Saudi regime look bad." So even if the Taliban squeeze out Bin Laden, the Saudis would rather see him quietly disappear from the scene than turn up on CNN in an orange jumpsuit.
Osama Bin Laden won't be playing dominoes with the Unabomber any time soon. His hosts, the Taliban, are distinctly unimpressed by the $5 million bounty offered by the U.S., and vowed Thursday that the terrorist mastermind wouldn't be extradited. Still, money does talk in Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia's talks loudest: "The Taliban can't operate without Saudi funding, particularly now that they're planning a spring offensive against their opposition," says TIME New Delhi bureau chief Tim McGirk. "Saudi Arabia is putting immense pressure on the Taliban to expel Bin Laden, and there's a good chance of that happening."