10 July 2002
Wolfowitz Says Coalition Must Keep Pressure on al-Qaida
(Terrorists continue efforts to regroup, he says) (2230)
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that much has been
accomplished in the nine months since the war on terrorism began in
Afghanistan against al-Qaida and the Taliban militia, but now the
mission has shifted somewhat to chasing down the far-reaching
"People should understand this is an organization that has burrowed in
all over the world," Wolfowitz said in an interview on Fox Television
News July 9. "We estimate some 60 countries that have or have had
al-Qaida presence. Afghanistan is only one of them."
The United States and the global coalition cannot let up the pressure,
because we "see all kinds of signs that they continue to try to
regroup and reorganize, and we've got to keep them on the run," he
In some aspects, Wolfowitz said, this war is as big as any fought by
the United States. "And, victory is going to be measured by what
doesn't happen as opposed to what does happen," he said.
Present indications are that al-Qaida is weakened but still very much
alive, he said.
Regarding a potential military effort in Iraq, Wolfowitz said "there
are obviously a lot of serious discussions going on because the
president has said very clearly, as a country, we face a very serious
He said, though, the deadly mixture of weapons of mass destruction and
support for terrorism, coupled with a hostile attitude to the United
States, is one "we can't continue living with indefinitely."
Following is a transcript of Wolfowitz's interview:
U.S. Department of Defense
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
July 9, 2002
(Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Greta Van Susteren, Fox
VAN SUSTEREN: As President Bush tackles the CEOs terrorizing your
401(k) accounts, he's also vowing to tackle Saddam Hussein and Osama
bin Laden. Earlier, I spoke to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz and asked him about the state of al-Qaida today.
WOLFOWITZ: Today is roughly just a couple days more than nine months
since we started Operation Enduring Freedom, and we've accomplished a
lot in that period of time. But, people should understand this is an
organization that has burrowed in all over the world. We estimate some
60 countries that have or have had Al-Qaida presence. Afghanistan is
only one of them.
And I think sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that
al-Qaida is like a snake, and that if you can just find the head and
cut it off, it would be harmless. And it's absolutely the wrong
analogy. What I think is the better way to understand it: it's like an
infection that has taken over a healthy body, and you've got to fight
all of the various different sources of infection. From that point of
view, I think we've made a great deal of progress. But if we let up
the pressure, it will come back, and you see all kinds of signs that
they continue to try to regroup and reorganize, and we've got to keep
them on the run.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any clue -- the 60 countries is one indication -- any
clue the number of people who are part of al-Qaida? Can you quantify
it, or is that impossible?
WOLFOWITZ: You can come up with numbers, but in some ways they're
misleading because -- take September 11th, for example, there were
four or five people who were the key people who were the pilots and
who knew they were on a suicide mission. From what we can tell, most
of the others, the 14 or 15 kind of mules that were sent in at the
last minute, from what bin Laden said in that weird tape that he was
recorded on, he took some pleasure in the fact that they didn't even
know they were on a suicide mission. So, the number of people that are
really key to this organization is probably much smaller than the
number in the hundreds of people who have some loose affiliation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any ability to sort of quantify, I mean, how many people
are in the know, the important members of al-Qaida, the numbers of
WOLFOWITZ: Well, we do try to get our hands around what seems like the
top ones on the list, and there are, in fact, wanted posters out on
the major ones. And, from what one can tell -- I really hesitate here,
not only because they're classified, but because we're talking about
an organization about which a lot is not known. I think we're talking
about in the dozens of key people, not in the hundreds.
On the other hand, until we've nearly eliminated their ability to
organize, eliminated their sanctuaries, you have to assume that if you
get rid of some of the top people others will replace them.
VAN SUSTEREN: You said it's not a snake where you can cut off the head
and the whole thing dies. But, if bin Laden is killed and/or captured,
and Al-Zubari, his number two, is killed or captured, does that change
the dynamics of the organization so much that that puts us
significantly ahead of the game?
WOLFOWITZ: I think every time you get one of these top, any of them,
but every time you get one of these top people, I think it has a big
payoff. Abu Zubaydah, for example, who was -- it's not a hierarchical
structure, but we said he's probably the number three in the
organization, he was captured. And, by the way, he would not have been
captured except because we drove him out of Afghanistan through the
success of our military operation there, he was captured in a
neighboring country. He has now given us information that has led to
some other people, including this man, Padilla, the American citizen
who was arrested in Chicago. Every time you catch one, especially if
you can get them to reveal some information, or you can get some
information out of their computers that leads you to others -- we got
a videotape out of an al-Qaida safe house in Afghanistan. It revealed
a plot underway in Singapore. The Singaporeans picked up the whole
group, that led them to other people in the Philippines, in Malaysia
and Indonesia. It's chasing down a network, and you get one node in
the network and it leads you to other nodes.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's so enormously complicated, it's so large,
and the president has said, this is going to be a long war. We're
looking into the future, how will we know when the war is over? Is
there a way to tell?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, I think we will know, but it's not going to be
because there's a great surrender ceremony on the deck of the
Missouri. There are many things that are unusual about this war, one
of the things that's most unusual is, on the one hand, in terms of the
number of Americans killed directly, in terms of the threat to the
United States, in terms of the ongoing threat of the potential of
chemical and biological weapons, this is, in some respects, as big as
any war we've fought. And, at the same time, it's against an enemy
that hides, an enemy that is in important ways invisible.
VAN SUSTEREN: But if you --
WOLFOWITZ: And victory is going to be measured by what doesn't happen
as opposed to what does happen. When Americans can go to malls and
shopping centers and not have to worry about being hit by terrorists,
and we don't think that on any moment there might be a suicidal
airplane attack, then we'll know that we've dealt with it. I think
there will be lots of indications that this network is gone, but the
indications are that it's weakened, but it's still very much there.
VAN SUSTEREN: Stand by, sir, we're going to take a short break.
VAN SUSTEREN: We'll be right back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back. I want to focus on Iraq. Is there a plan?
I know that I've heard that there is a concept for the United States
to go into Iraq. Do we take it one step further and call it a plan?
WOLFOWITZ: We get into semantics here. There are obviously a lot of
serious discussions going on because the president has said very
clearly, as a country, we face a very serious problem. In certain
ways, September 11th is a wake-up call. We've had problems. They've
been out there. Terrorism has been an evil aspect of international
relations for a long time. But September 11th reminded us just how
dangerous terrorism is in this new era when terrorists have access to
weapons of mass destruction, and there could be much worse things than
-- as bad as it was -- than airplanes loaded with 300,000 pounds of
What the president talked about in the State of the Union message was
countries, and Iraq is one of them, that have weapons of mass
destruction, that is chemical, biological, and possibly nuclear
weapons, that are working on getting more of those weapons, that have,
as a matter of national policy been supporting terrorists, and are
hostile to the United States. That's a deadly mixture that we can't
continue living with indefinitely.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does he have a delivery system to get those deadly
weapons here to the United States?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, one delivery system are terrorists, and we learned
that on September 11th. You don't have to have a long-range missile
necessarily to deliver a deadly weapon, especially if it's powdered
anthrax, for example. That doesn't need a long-range missile.
VAN SUSTEREN: What would it take to go into Iraq? Do we need support
of the Kurds?
WOLFOWITZ: You know, what the president has done is lay out a plan.
And he's got a lot of smart people working and figuring out what kind
of solution there would be. But I think one thing that's very
important in understanding this whole problem, and in a sense you
could say there's a certain generalization here, every regime that I
know of that supports terrorism as a matter of national policy also
terrorizes their own people. That was true of the Taliban, and that's
why when we succeeded in removing the Taliban in Afghanistan, we
received such a welcome from the Afghan people. I think it's nothing
compared to what the Iraqi people will say and do when they're rid of
Saddam Hussein. That includes the Kurds, but it's much more than just
the Kurds. The Shi'a in the south, who are the majority, roughly 60
percent of the population, have been brutally repressed by Saddam's
regime for decades now. But even the Sunni Arabs who are sort of the
core of the regime are, for the most part, terrified, repressed
people. And I believe when there's a new regime in Iraq, and hopefully
one that really speaks to the democratic possibilities of what is one
of the most talented populations in the Arab world, you're going to
see a great, huge national sigh of relief.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, you hear or read so much that the United
States in order to be successful against Iraq must have support, must
have support of European nations as well as Arab countries. Do we
really need that, or could we do it alone?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, the more support you have, the better it is. There's
no question about it. But, one of the things that gives the United
States a great ability to protect our own interests and help other
people is there is an awful lot we can do without other people helping
us. And what you find, I think, frequently, is, if you go to people
and say, we desperately have to have your help, they may decide they
don't want to give it to you. If you go to people and say, we have to
take certain actions that are in our national interest, and we would
appreciate having you with us, but we're going to go anyway, you find
a lot more people coming along.
I was with Secretary Cheney, it's 11 years ago now this coming August,
when he went to Saudi Arabia right after Iraq invaded Kuwait. And he
didn't go there simply asking for their help. He went there saying,
here is what the United States is planning to do, and of course we'd
like you with us. I think we got a positive reaction because we went
there in a leadership role, not in a pleading role.
VAN SUSTEREN: You've had a long career in public service. You
mentioned your service with now Vice President Cheney. You talk about
your job, when you got your job, I mean, I assume you didn't realize
what you were signing up for in terms of September 11th. What's the
most gratifying part about it?
WOLFOWITZ: The sense that if you do your job right, you can help
protect this country, and help make the world a better place.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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