24 September 2001
Transcript: Armitage Sees Long, Diverse, Anti-Terror Campaign
(Says Taliban "has chosen to share fate" of terrorists) (2160)
The Taliban leadership in Afghanistan "has chosen to share the fate of
al-Qaida," the terrorist group headed by Usama bin Laden that is
suspected of carrying out the September 11 suicide attacks on New York
and Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says.
Armitage made his comments September 21 in an interview on CNN's "Wolf
The deputy secretary reiterated the Bush administration's position
that the "war on terrorism" that the president has declared will be
coordinated with many other countries, and will involve a long,
"It will be political, it will be economic, it will have an
intelligence aspect. And most probably, it will have an aspect of
military operations," Armitage said.
He cited evidence of early cooperation from leaders in other nations.
Pakistani President Musharraf and his government "are very intent on
living up to the discussions and the agreement that we have with
them," Armitage said. And Russia's leaders are "very concerned about
... the spread of terrorism, and I think they're going to be quite
cooperative with us in trying to stop it," he added.
Following is the text of the Armitage interview, as released by the
MR. BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.
The news today is that the Taliban has rejected President Bush's
demand that Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida organization be handed
over. What's your reaction?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I don't think that's so surprising. The
Taliban is a government who starves their own people in order to
maintain control, who depends on al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden for a
certain amount of finances. They are the sea in which U.B.L. swims and
I don't find this reaction so surprising at all.
Q: Is there any expectation they might accept this demand.
A: Well, there's always a hope, but there wasn't a great expectation.
Q: So what's next now that they've rejected it?
A: Well, I think the President was very clear last night: give them up
or share their fate. And I'm afraid the Taliban has chosen to share
the fate of al-Qaida.
Q: Does that mean the United States specifically is going to go to war
against the Taliban?
A: First of all, I think that it's the United States and many other
countries that are going to have activities against the Taliban and
al-Qaida. And it won't just be military. We are beginning a long
campaign. It will be political, it will be economic, it will have an
intelligence aspect. And most probably, it will have an aspect of
Q: Is there any indication that the American public should be bracing
for that military action any time soon?
A: Well, first of all, I'm not going to speak about that publicly. I
think that's a decision that our President will make and when he does,
he will inform the American people.
Q: Is Pakistan fully on board in terms of meaning working against the
Taliban and Usama bin Laden to end this situation over there?
A: I believe if you want to listen to President Musharraf's speech the
other evening, you see that he made a decision for his country which
he felt was in the best interests of his country. And as far as I can
see, they are very intent on living up to the discussions and the
agreement that we have with them.
I think there are different voices in Pakistan. Some of them are very
less enthusiastic about the course of action that President Musharraf
has chosen. But I think the majority of his countrymen are with him.
Q: As you know, I was in Pakistan last year. And I could sense -- and
you've been there many times -- the growth of Islamic fundamentalism,
the support, the sympathy for the Taliban, if not for Usama bin Laden.
How worried should the US be that all of this support could represent
a threat to President Musharraf?
A: Well, I think that everything you say is true. But the greater
threat to President Musharraf and to Pakistan would have been to
remain on the course on which they were embarked. And I take some
issue with your characterization of this as some manifestation of
Islam. What U.B.L. and al-Qaida represents is a perversion of Islam.
It's simply a perversion of a great religion of the world for a
secular aim and a twisted secular aim at that.
Q: Why do you believe they have so much support, Usama bin Laden and
his group, among some rank and file Moslems, Arabs at large?
A: Well, I suspect that Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida depend on lack of
opportunity and lack of hope to get adherents to their cause. We stand
for just the opposite; we are a country of hope and a country of
opportunity. Hence, we are a threat to the ability of al-Qaida to
recruit and attract adherents.
Q: The President was very forceful, very clear in his speech to
Congress. He said the US is going to go after terrorists and the
states that sponsor or harbor those terrorists. Clearly, Afghanistan,
you've outlined pretty bluntly what's going to happen next. What about
the situation in Iraq?
A: Well, the President has made it very clear that if you harbor
terrorists, if you are the sea in which terrorists swim, then you will
pay a price. Which price you pay is something for the President and
indeed the international community to decide. Iraq has been involved
in terrorism in the past. I think right now, we'll concentrate on
al-Qaida first and after that then maybe we'll take a look at Iraq.
Q: I want to read to you from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal
today that said this: The terrorist threat won't vanish until Saddam
does. Indeed, if Mr. Bush decides to leave Saddam out of his war
plans, so-called moderate Arab states are likely to be even warier of
joining an anti-terror coalition because they fear the US isn't
serious about a long-term campaign. What's your reaction to that?
A: Well, I think the Wall Street Journal is dead wrong on this. I
think the moderate Arabs are intent on helping us clear up a problem
of terrorism. They realize that they will be victims in this
phenomenon if they don't help us. The problem of Iraq is a long term
one. Iraq has invaded its neighbors in the past, and I believe it's
because of US presence in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that Iraq doesn't do
it again. That's well understood by the moderate Arabs.
Q: You've seen the stories in the newspapers about a division within
the Bush Administration involving going after Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz,
the Deputy Secretary of Defense, supposedly in favor. Others,
including Secretary of State Colin Powell, much more cautious. How
serious is this so-called split?
A: My friend Paul Wolfowitz can certainly speak for himself, but I
haven't seen the split among the people who make the decisions at the
top. Secretary Powell, Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor
Rice, and indeed the President and the Vice President. They've been
very clear on our objectives. And, as far as I can see, there's
Q: Let's talk a little bit about Russia. You just have come back from
Moscow. How serious is this Russian support for what the US is trying
A: Well, the Russians issued a statement as I was leaving Moscow
saying that, as a result of our talks, they would render all possible
support. The Russians have 20 percent of their population who are
Moslem. They've got a large border with the 'Stans. They're very
concerned about the phenomenon, about the spread of terrorism, and I
think they're going to be quite cooperative with us in trying to stop
Q: For our viewers who may not know, the 'Stans are Kazakhstan and
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, all of the so-called 'Stans,
the countries of Central Asia, some of which border Afghanistan.
Are you on board with some of those countries -- for example,
Uzbekistan -- to use some facilities there as potential staging
A: Well, I'm not going to get into that. We have relationships with
all those countries. We have good relationships.
I'm not going to discuss publicly where we may or may not stage from.
Q: But are the Russians, the Russian Government in Moscow, supporting
any initiative that the United States may have in working closely with
some of those countries like Uzbekistan?
A: We have shared a lot of our plans -- not all of them -- with the
Russian Federation and they have, in return, shared some of their
plans with us. We have activities regarding the Northern Alliance,
which is fighting the Taliban. They do some things, we do some things.
And so there is a fair amount of cooperation.
Q: And you would expect it to continue, although I guess you would
acknowledge that if, in fact, the US were to launch major strikes
against Iraq, then all bets are off as far as Russian cooperation is
A: Well, I think if we were to launch major strikes against Iraq, then
holding this great coalition which the President has worked so hard to
fashion -- holding it together may be a little more difficult. I think
that we will keep our eye on Afghanistan in the first instance and
then, laterally, as the President has said, we will chase terrorists
and these terrorist cells to wherever they ultimately may be.
Q: You noticed that the President in his speech Thursday referred to
Egyptian Islamic Jihad, obviously a threat to the Egyptian Government,
the Islamic movement in Uzbekistan. And he referred, of course, to
al-Qaida in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Why didn't he mention some of
the other terrorist organizations out there that have links to Iraq
specifically, or Iran, or Syria?
A: Well, I think only for the amount of time he had, he was getting a
lot of ideas over to the American public. But there's no reticence to
the Administration to mention Hizballah and Hamas as well, and I'm
sure that's what you -- those are the organizations to which you were
Q: That means those organizations are currently supported -- if not
sponsored -- and certainly harbored by governments like Syria and
certainly Iran. Does that mean that Syria and Iran potentially are
targets of this new US war against terrorism?
A: Well, Mr. Blitzer, in the first instance, it means they're going to
have to make a decision. Are they going to support terrorism or not?
And then we'll see where we take it from there.
Q: A blunt warning. Let me ask you about your own personal background.
You served four tours in Vietnam. A lot of people are looking at the
terrain in Afghanistan and they are wondering this: Is the United
States about to get sucked into another Vietnam-like quagmire?
A: I think the United States has made it quite clear and will continue
to make it clear that we have no desire to stay in an occupied
Afghanistan. This is not our wish. We are going to go do what we need
to do and then leave.
So I think we have learned a lot from history. I think we're wiser. We
at least know the questions to ask before embarking on military
activity. So I think we're not going to get dragged down into a
Q: I'm sure you've seen some of the videotape that some of the Usama
bin Laden al-Qaida organization has released, in part some of it taken
-- videotape of individuals preparing for action against the United
States, against the West. How serious of a military threat is this
A: I think that's something that you ought to refer to the Pentagon
for an answer. I think that they have certain capabilities. On the low
end, they can be dedicated fighters. We have great capabilities. And
if it comes to military action, then we'll acquit ourselves quite
well; I don't think there's any doubt of it.
Q: Is the -- should the American public be prepared for the long haul
in this new war?
A: The President has made it very clear, this is going to be a long
campaign. And terrorism has a great reach, it has many tentacles, and
the President is intent on slicing off these tentacles wherever they
Q: I want to thank you very much. Richard Armitage, the Deputy
Secretary of State, for joining us.
A: Thank you, Mr. Blitzer.
Q: Thank you.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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