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24 September 2001

Transcript: Powell Says U.S. Focusing on Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida

(Secretary appears on ABC's "This Week" September 23) (3360)
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and
Washington, President Bush has examined all the options available to
him and has decided "to go after the al-Qaida network, to go after the
head of it, Usama bin Laden, and to mobilize an international
community for that purpose," Secretary of State Colin Powell said
September 23 in a televised interview broadcast on ABC.
Bush, he said, "has been enormously successful in pulling that
coalition together and giving us a singular focus for the moment.
"He has not ruled out what we might do in later phases, and all of
that remains as options to him. But right now, we are focusing on what
he said we were focusing on," in his September 20 speech to a joint
session of Congress, Powell explained.
Usama bin Laden "has been indicted previously for terror activity
against the United States. And so this is a continuing pattern of
terrorism and we are putting all of the information that we have
together, the intelligence information, the information being
generated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. And I think
we will put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case
that there will be no doubt when that case is presented that it is
al-Qaida led by Usama bin Laden who has been responsible for this
terrible, tragic incident," Powell said.
Asked about Saudi Arabia's cooperation with the United States in the
anti-terrorist campaign, Powell said "the Saudi Government, the Saudi
leadership and their representative here in the United States has been
responsive to all the requests we have placed on them. They are a
friend in this, they have condemned this attack and they have offered
support in many ways. And we are satisfied with the level of their
support and their commitment to this campaign."
Pakistan, he said, is cooperating "in a very, very substantial way.
President Musharraf took a risk in joining this campaign and he
understood that it was an important campaign to be a part of. So we
are very pleased with the support that we are receiving from
Pakistan."
Following is the State Department transcript:
(begin transcript)
Interview on ABC's This Week
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
September 23, 2001
(begin transcript)
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, thanks for being with us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Sam.
QUESTION: Good morning. The Japanese news agency, quoting Japanese
Government sources, says the United States has warned of possible new
attacks this coming week. What can you tell us about that?
POWELL: I am not familiar with that particular report, but I think we
have to be vigilant during this time of heightened tension. And you
can be sure the United States Government is doing everything it can to
discern whether there are any threats coming our way. And this is a
time for a little bit of heightened additional security. But at the
same time, we have to start getting back to normal life in America.
QUESTION: So here in the United States, what's your message?
Heightened vigilance, but --
POWELL: Heightened vigilance. We will increase security at airports.
We will watch our borders more carefully, we will follow up on all the
leads we have been given. But at the same time, we need to get back to
work, we need to get back to ballgames, we need to show the world that
America is strong, we can come through this and we're not going to be
hiding under tables.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan
claimed to have downed an airplane of some sort. What sort?
POWELL: I would rather not talk about what might or might not have
been downed. We are going to be very careful during this period not to
blabber too much about what might or might not happen with respect to
military activities or other kinds of activities.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are also reports from that area that in
Uzbekistan, US planes have landed with US personnel.
POWELL: Can you talk about that?
POWELL: Not to my knowledge. But, of course, we do have repositioning
of forces taking place and we have been satisfied with the cooperation
that we have received from the nations that have to provide overflight
and other sorts of access requirements. And so we are moving right
along, but we are not going to go into the specific details of
individual countries.
QUESTION: Well, you say "satisfied." But there are widespread reports
also this weekend that Saudi Arabia has yet to grant permission for
the use of an important base there for the command and control and
perhaps staging for US forces.
POWELL: There was a report in the newspaper yesterday that suggested I
had placed some requirement on the Saudis that they had not responded
to. That's not correct. We have been in touch with the Saudis on a
daily basis. They have been very supportive and they have been
providing everything we have asked of them so far.
QUESTION: Well, you say "not responded to." But have they responded
fully in the way we want them to?
POWELL: They have responded to all of the requests we have asked them
to respond to, and I am sure there will be more requests coming in the
future. But I can assure you the Saudi Government, the Saudi
leadership and their representative here in the United States has been
responsive to all the requests we have placed on them. They are a
friend in this, they have condemned this attack and they have offered
support in many ways. And we are satisfied with the level of their
support and their commitment to this campaign.
QUESTION: I am sorry to prolong this, but one more question. Because
the story that I read suggested that if the Saudis did not allow us to
do all the things we wanted to do, it could delay an operation against
Usama bin Laden for months.
POWELL: I have read that story and it's not an accurate story. I did
not place that kind of a demand on the Saudi leadership because nobody
asked me to, there was no requirement to. We have personnel in Saudi
Arabia, military and civilian personnel and diplomatic personnel, who
are in close touch with the Saudi leadership. And we are working
through all the issues and all the things that our side would like to
see done. And we are working through with the Saudis on a very, very
satisfactory basis.
QUESTION: All right. Sanctions have been lifted against Pakistan and I
suppose, to be even-handed, against India that were placed on these
two nations at the time we were concerned about their nuclear
development. Is lifting the sanctions something that in the long run
may come back to haunt us?
POWELL: I don't think so. We have been examining the lifting of those
sanctions -- not all sanctions, just the sanctions that were put in
place against India and Pakistan as a result of their nuclear
experimentation a couple of years ago. And so, frankly, I had made the
judgment to recommend to the President some weeks ago that some of
these sanctions be lifted. Not all of them; there are other sanctions
that are still in place. And we consulted with Congress over the past
several days. Congress was fully supportive. And, in fact, there were
even some suggestions from members of Congress that we lift even more
of the sanctions that are in place. But the President made a decision
yesterday to lift those specific sanctions that were related to the
nuclear test. I don't think it will come back to haunt us.
I think we have made it clear to both of these countries that we don't
want to see a nuclear escalation any further in the region and I think
they both have been acting rather responsibly, especially in this
present instance.
QUESTION: So we are now getting total cooperation from Pakistan?
POWELL: We are getting cooperation from Pakistan in a very, very
substantial way. President Musharraf took a risk in joining this
campaign and he understood that it was an important campaign to be a
part of. So we are very pleased with the support that we are receiving
from Pakistan.
QUESTION: We don't use the word "crusade" again?
POWELL: I don't.  Campaign.
QUESTION: What is victory against Usama bin Laden?
POWELL: Victory in this campaign against terrorism, ultimately, is for
all of our societies to be safer, to feel that they don't have the
same kind of threat from terrorists as may have existed in the past.
And so we hope to bring Usama bin Laden to justice, or bring justice
to him, as the President has indicated. And not just him but his whole
network, al-Qaida, which exists not only in Afghanistan, but in
countries all around the world. And we have to pull it up, and we're
doing that. The campaign has begun. It has begun with the kind of
coalitions we have pulled together, with the United Nations, with
NATO, with the European Union, with some 40 different organizations
coming into it.
The campaign has begun because we have gone after financial
transactions. We are being more vigilant on our borders. We are doing
everything we can to find out where they are and drying up their
sources of support and their haven, so this campaign has already
begun.
QUESTION: Does it matter which? Would we prefer, in the first
instance, to attempt to bring him to justice and, if that is not
possible, then to bring justice to him? And we know what we're talking
about.
POWELL: What we want to do is to make sure that his activities are
stopped and that he is stopped.
QUESTION: One way or the other.
POWELL: One way or the other. I think the way that we had suggested to
the Taliban was that they turn him over to justice, to authorities who
could administer justice.
QUESTION: All right, let me show you something you said the other day
and just see whether you have changed your view on it, concerning
proof. You said, we are assembling the evidence that will tell us, in
a way that the world will fully confer with us -- concur with us who
is responsible for this. Are we going to present before the world
evidence of Usama bin Laden's guilt?
POWELL: Yes. And I think his guilt is going to be very obvious to the
world. I mean, he has been indicted previously for terror activity
against the United States. And so this is a continuing pattern of
terrorism and we are putting all of the information that we have
together, the intelligence information, the information being
generated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. And I think
we will put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case
that there will be no doubt when that case is presented that it is
al-Qaida led by Usama bin Laden who has been responsible for this
terrible, tragic incident.
QUESTION: So you are talking about something beyond simple assertions
by US leaders? You are talking about assertions backed up by the
evidence?
POWELL: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Are we intending to remove the Taliban leadership?
That is, physically remove them from power in Afghanistan?
POWELL: We are interested in getting the al-Qaida network, led by
Usama bin Laden. They are very intertwined with the Taliban
leadership. We hope the Taliban leadership, regime, comes to its
senses and decides that it is not worth the game to keep him in their
country and they remove him or send him out of the country where he
can be brought to justice.
With respect to the nature of the regime in Afghanistan, that is not
uppermost in our minds right now. It wasn't 15 days ago and it isn't
right now, except to the extent that the Taliban regime continues to
support Usama bin Laden.
QUESTION: Not uppermost in our minds, meaning that it's a back-burner
issue or meaning perhaps it will go away?
POWELL: We don't know yet. We will have to see how the Taliban regime
decides to deal with this issue as we continue down the road of this
campaign. But right now, I am not going to say that it has become one
of the objectives of the United States Government to either remove or
put in place a different regime. But this regime, clearly, is a regime
that has not done much for its people. It is repressing its people in
incredible ways, in unthinkable ways. But, at the same time, we have
to keep our focus on the al-Qaida network, terrorism across the board,
where it exists throughout the world, and especially the head of the
al-Qaida organization, Usama bin Laden.
QUESTION: Okay, terrorism exists throughout the world. President Bush
spoke to that, of course, in his address to the Congress and the
American people. Here are some of the words that he used: Our war on
terror will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has
been found, stopped and defeated. Mr. Secretary, the State Department
has 31 organizations as foreign terrorist organizations on its list.
How many of these have global reach?
POWELL: Quite a few of them. And quite a few of them will go after our
interests in the regions that they are located in and right here at
home. And so we have to treat all of them as potentially having the
capacity to affect us in a global way. Or to affect our friends and
interests in other parts of the world.
For example, we have designated three groups in Colombia alone as
being terrorist organizations, and we are working with the Colombian
Government to protect their democracy against the threat provided or
presented by these terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: Do any of the organizations with whom Yasser Arafat is
connected have global reach?
POWELL: I would say that there are organizations in the Middle East,
some have a link to Mr. Arafat, some do not. But there are
organizations in the Middle East that do have some global reach.
QUESTION: Then could he potentially be a target?
POWELL: At the moment, he is not a target. At the moment, we are
working hard to see if we can get Mr. Arafat and Mr. Peres to have a
meeting in the very near future -- Mr. Peres, the Foreign Minister of
Israel -- so that we can get started on the Mitchell Peace Plan.
QUESTION: As you know, the meeting scheduled for today has been called
off by Israel because of two mortar barrages. Fortunately, no one was
hit, but Prime Minister Sharon said, we're not going to do it until at
least 48 hours pass with no attacks. Is that reasonable?
POWELL: I spoke with Mr. Sharon this morning and he reaffirmed to me
that he is committed to the process, he is committed to having a
meeting. He is committed to finding a way to move forward into the
Mitchell Peace Plan. But he also made it absolutely clear that he
needs more quiet, a lower level of violence before he is able to allow
Mr. Peres to have that meeting.
But I still have hopes that the meeting will take place in the near
future. And I am encouraging both sides, encouraging Mr. Arafat -- who
I spoke to yesterday -- to do everything in their power to get the
violence down.
QUESTION: Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defense Secretary, and Jesse
Helms, the influential Republican on Capitol Hill in foreign affairs
both agree, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, should be struck. Do you agree?
POWELL: The President has examined all the options available to him
and he has decided to focus on the campaign, which he described to the
American people on Thursday evening, which is to go after the al-Qaida
network, to go after the head of it, Usama bin Laden, and to mobilize
an international community for that purpose. And I think he has been
enormously successful in pulling that coalition together and giving us
a singular focus for the moment.
He has not ruled out what we might do in later phases, and all of that
remains as options to him. But right now, we are focusing on what he
said we were focusing on Thursday night.
QUESTION: Is this global campaign something called Operation Noble
Eagle?
POWELL: The name -- I don't know that name. Lots of names come along.
QUESTION: The newspapers used it. Well, if Iraq is not to be hit now
and you're holding out the possibility that down the road it might,
the President also used the phrase -- I think you've used the phrase
-- that continue to support terrorism. So that's an out for countries
as well as organizations, isn't it?
POWELL: It's not intended as an out. It's intended as a signal that
the whole world has now unified against terrorism in all of its many,
many forms. And for those nations who thought that there was some
political benefit from supporting terrorist organizations, the message
that the President gave them the other evening is, if you continue to
do that, in light of what happened on the 11th of September, in light
of the fact that the whole world is coming together now, you have to
be prepared to suffer some consequences. They could be economic
consequences, they could be other kinds of consequences.
But it's time to stand up and be counted. If you want to be part of a
civilized world that is moving forward, these are not the sort of
activities you should be participating in, supporting or the kinds of
organizations you should be providing a haven to.
QUESTION: You're a general. But you don't sound very warlike compared
to other voices in this town and some within the administration.
POWELL: The only voice that I try to compare myself to and to be
consistent with is the President of the United States. All of his
Cabinet level security advisors are in agreement with the policy
direction he has given us, with the instructions he has given us and
the decisions he has made. Mr. Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, myself, Dr.
Rice, the Secretary of the Treasury, the FBI, the Attorney General,
all working together understand the instructions the President has
given us.
QUESTION: We're just about out of time. But you remember the
guns-versus-butter argument in the Vietnam War. Can we, in fact,
sustain a national effort with the American people sustaining this
effort in the war against terrorism over a protracted time and still
get back to routine, almost normal, as the President said the other
night?
POWELL: I think we can. I think we are a strong people. I think we are
a people that know we have to get on with life and not walk around in
a state of fear. I think we can have confidence in our security
officials, police officials, our intelligence organizations which do a
good job. They can't -- they can't find everything that's about to
happen or is going to happen. But our intelligence organizations, the
CIA and others, do a very good job.
And we just have to get moving forward, we have to get our economy up
again, we have to start doing those things which make life normal in
America. Let's remember what we're made of. We're made of strong
stuff. We have a backbone of steel. We can get through this and we
will get through this and we will get through it in the kind of
patriotic, proud way that you have seen demonstrated over the last
week-and-a-half.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, thanks very much. Come again, won't you?
POWELL: Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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