Office of the Spokesman

Interview of

Deputy Secretary of State Richard

On The Capital Sunday Show
With Derek Mcginty And Kathleen Matthews

Washington, D.C.
October 12, 2001
12:30 PM EDT

QUESTION: Welcome, Mr. Secretary, on this Capital Sunday. Thanks for joining us.


QUESTION: Earlier this week at his news conference, President Bush said the goal of this anti-terrorist campaign is to eliminate the al-Qaida network. Is it not also to eliminate the Taliban government in Afghanistan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, President Bush gave the Taliban government one last chance during his press conference to give up Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network. If they don't do it, then they will also face elimination.

QUESTION: Well, now, Secretary Armitage, isn't it true, however, that the Taliban government has basically been funded by Usama bin Laden for the last several years, $100 million worth, according to some news reports. Aren't they too closely linked together now to give one a get-out-of-jail-free card for turning over the other?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Mr. McGinty, it appears that that is the case, that the Taliban has certainly been the sea in which the shark of al-Qaida has been swimming, and the money that Usama bin Laden delivers to the Taliban government has certainly bought a great deal of affection from the Taliban. But this is a treacherous bunch. They live in a very difficult land, where loyalties are bought and sold and, if I were Usama bin Laden, I wouldn't be sleeping too well at night.

QUESTION: You're part of the Bush war cabinet at this point, Mr. Secretary. How are you -- what is your feeling so far of the air campaign and the progress that the United States and its allies have made thus far?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think the coalition is holding very well under the leadership of President Bush, we've had almost a week of bombings and air attacks. We now roam freely over the Afghan skies. There will be other activities, some not so visible to the naked eye. And we're pretty pleased.

QUESTION: Now, when you speak of other activities, Mr. Secretary, there are a lot of people now, and some inside your government, according to news reports, that would like to see Syria and possibly Iraq included on the list of countries that might be the targets of some other US action. That is a divisive thing that a lot of people in the coalition would not go for; isn't that true? How will you handle that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Mr. McGinty, I've been amused over the last three weeks to see people writing this story, when in fact the President made the decision that in this phase, we are concentrating on al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan. So I think that decision has been made, and that's where our focus is.
If after solving this problem and resolving this problem, the coalition felt it was necessary to go after terrorist groups in other countries, this would be a matter for the coalition to discuss among themselves.

QUESTION: But can you separate it that way? I mean, it seems -- and according to what we're reading -- again, it was just in the papers -- that there are cells all over the world, that you can't separate it into Afghanistan's problem and then here's Syria and here's Iraq; it's all one big thing, isn't it?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think it's one big thing in some ways, and not in another. There are shadowy networks, I grant you. But right now we're concentrating on al-Qaida, and we know where al-Qaida is in the main, though there are cells, as you suggest, internationally. It's not as if we're not having some success internationally; many of these cells have been disrupted, and it's been a matter of a press notice. We have had several hundred people taken off the streets, at least for questioning in the United States.
So there's a lot of international disruption already taking place.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Secretary Powell has actually said that in many ways having this new common enemy has strengthened many of the United States' familiar alliances. And, in fact, has given us opportunities with new alliances with countries like Russia, who had been enemies in the past. But are you concerned about the lack of really vocal support from a lot of the Arab nations since this air campaign started over Afghanistan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, Ms. Matthews, the Arabs aren't a monolith. President Mubarak was quite vocal in his support. We have had the support which really matters the most in the Arab nations; that is over-flight rights and permission to use their bases. Some of them feel they have a delicate situation in the streets. They want to make sure it's clearly understood that this is a war against terrorists and murderers, and not against Islam.
So I'm not concerned about the lack of more vocal leadership from some of the leaders -- more vocal statements from some of the leaders.

QUESTION: Speaking of that delicate balance in the street, certainly Pakistan is facing a very delicate balance there, having gone out on a limb for the United States. Tell us what you think the situation is there in Pakistan right now.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, Ms. Matthews, Pakistan went out on a limb for Pakistan -- and laterally, the United States and the coalition. They were headed in a very wrong direction. I think President Musharraf has tried to and is trying to turn around the direction in which Pakistan was spiraling.
I think right now most of us -- although I grant you there are demonstrations and some violence in Pakistan -- have been relieved that the violence and demonstrations have been at a very manageable level, and that President Musharraf feels quite confident that he's in control.

QUESTION: Well, speaking of alliances, Mr. Secretary, one alliance that might be a little troubling to President Musharraf and Pakistan is the ongoing alliance with the Northern Alliance with Afghanistan. That is a group that the Pakistanis don't like. How are you able to walk that sort of fine line by supporting the Northern Alliance, which Pakistan does not like, and keeping Pakistan on board as well?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think we made it very clear that our stated policy and indeed our true policy on Afghanistan is, what we want is an Afghanistan which is represented by a broad-based government which represents all Afghans. And that, I think, takes care of the concern of the Pakistanis, who do not want to see a totally Uzbek or Tajik-dominated government.

QUESTION: But the Northern Alliance, according to what we, again, are getting in news reports, has been part of -- part of the groups you've been talking to, and are counting, in fact, on the United States to help them make a move toward Kabul at some point. Again, how are you going to walk that fine line?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, Mr. Rumsfeld made clear in his press conference earlier in the week that we talked to a lot of anti-Taliban groups. I think the way we walk the line is make sure that we and the Pakistanis and the international coalition are very transparent in our hopes and aspirations for the future government and stability in Afghanistan. And if we are transparent, we will eventually help the Afghanis and Afghanistan find their way clear to a representative government, not one dominated totally by one group or tribe or another.

QUESTION: And when you talk about representative government, we have to bring up that awful term, "nation building," and we are going to do that when we come back in our continuing conversation with the Deputy Secretary of State.
Stay with us on Capital Sunday.

(Commercial break.)

QUESTION: Welcome back. Secretary Armitage, one of the lessons of the Gulf War and possibly even the Soviet battle in Afghanistan is that winning the ground war is not enough. You have to put something in place, or it could implode all over again. Is there the same zeal to put some sort of government in place in Afghanistan as there is now to persecute the war?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think the President, two weeks ago, in a Saturday Radio Address, talked about reconstruction in Afghanistan. And for the past three weeks, we've made it very clear that we're going to continue our efforts to feed, clothe and house, if necessary, refugees from Afghanistan and neighboring countries, and IDPs, or internally displaced persons.
I think that we already have a leg up on that situation. We don't want another descent into anarchy, which gives rise to these Arab foreigners who are dominating the life in Afghanistan right now.

QUESTION: Another part of this, Secretary, I think, is getting at the root as to what these terrorists say is their motivation for this action, and what enables them to get continuing support for their cause in this terrorism. And repeatedly the United States has said that our very strong historic relationship with Israel is a totally separate issue from this act of terrorism that our country suffered.
And yet we see a Saudi prince try to give some money in New York City to Rudi Giuliani, and as an aside, he says you've got to take a look as a country at your foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel. We also heard bin Laden on videotape last week talking about the ongoing Palestinian question.
Are these in fact separate issues, or are they very intermingled? And do we have to deal with that relationship with Israel as part of the ongoing effort to try to continue to root out this terrorism?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, let me parse this, if I may. First of all, Israel does not have a better friend than the United States, and probably won't. We'll be there for Israel.
Second, I grant you that most of the Arab states have some very strong feelings about the need to resolve the questions between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And Secretary Powell, President Bush have worked on this rigorously for the first nine months of the Administration.
But you mentioned Usama bin Laden and his well publicized videotape the other day. This was one of the first times that Usama bin Laden has ever expressed any desire to be involved in the Palestinian question. He just threw that in as something to try to garner support where it does not now exist for him. It was a very --

QUESTION: But obviously it's something he believes can help motivate continued support for his cause.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think he just looks for things that can confuse his own present situation and allows him to buy a little more time for his life. As I say, it was a very cynical attempt to involve himself in something which is very complex, very intricate and is not going to be resolved through actions of murder and violence.

QUESTION: Well, speaking of intricate problems, the Bush Administration in essence had come into office suggesting that they would not get as deeply involved in this question as had been the Clinton Administration, which his efforts had failed. Has this whole situation changed that? Does the Administration have to get more involved now because of your overall effort to hold this Arab coalition together?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: The Administration has taken the point of view that the US can't want peace and a solution to the problem more than the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have made it clear to both sides that we were going to stay and continue in touch. We're trying to set the framework from which they can move forward and resolve their issues. The framework is now in place, the Mitchell Report. Secretary Powell talks to both Palestinians and Israelis almost on a daily basis.
So we're involved, but we're not going to invest the entire prestige and time of the whole US Government to seek a solution when the time is not quite right.

QUESTION: Another diplomatic issue that has been separate from all of this until now has been our relationship with Russia. And you've been very involved in meeting with the Russian President Putin, and assessing their involvement in this new coalition that we're building. What are the implications of now having this common enemy for our ongoing relationship with Russia, and for issues such as our missile defense system, which had been a point of dispute between those two countries?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think Russians have suffered from acts of terrorism. And they have great experience and an unfortunate experience in Afghanistan. We have suffered horribly from an act of terrorism. We are having an experience in Afghanistan. It is a common base on which to move forward. And I think it sets the tone, if we're successful in our cooperation to broaden and deepen our relationship in other areas, everything from economics to social and political.
The question of missile defense is one that we've had high on our agenda. It remains there. We think we're making some progress with the Russian Federation. We look forward to talking about this in Shanghai, when the President has a bilateral meeting with President Putin, and laterally when President Putin comes here as President Bush's guest, both in Washington and later in Crawford, Texas.

QUESTION: Does this force us to back away from some of our disagreements with Russia, such as the issues in Chechnya, because we have to focus on this current enemy and problem?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I think, on the contrary, it allows us to speak very freely and frankly with one another, and it's allowed us, I think, to get past a lot of diplomatic niceties because of the severity of the present problem. I think that's the kind of thing that really engenders confidence, and hopefully down the way more trust.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to talk about the propaganda war for just a minute or two. Earlier last week, Al Jazeera TV broadcast the tape of Usama bin Laden and his deputy, and then the Administration basically asked the networks, and reached an agreement with the networks not to broadcast this unvarnished tape because of fear that maybe he was sending some code to terrorists.
I'm curious as to whether or not you were also concerned about losing the propaganda war, that people would get this idea in their heads about what was going on, and that you didn't have a real answer to it, or the ability to answer it.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think I have a slightly different view. You mentioned Al Jazeera. It's of note, Mr. McGinty, that they ran the entire Pentagon United in Memory Ceremony the other day, including the President's speech, Secretary Rumsfeld's entire speech, et cetera. So I think in that regard we're getting balanced coverage.
We have increased our efforts to make sure that recognized and esteemed leaders in the Islamic community have spoken out and are heard speaking out clearly in their desire to get at the root of terrorism, and pointing out that terrorism is not Islamic. I'll let others judge whether we're being successful or not. We're being unrelenting in our efforts.

QUESTION: The network has also broadcast a lot of videotapes from bin Laden and some of his deputies, and there's been a lot of discussion in this country about whether those videotapes should be broadcast without first screening them. Have you been able to look at any of those videotapes and find what you suspect may be hidden messages that would warrant all of this scrutiny and editing that we're going through in this country at this point?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I'll leave that to the intelligence community. I don't think they want a State Department official poring over this text. I've come to the wrong conclusion.
But there was enough information to make some believe that there were messages, and perhaps coded messages, and hence the warning.

QUESTION: Okay, our discussion with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage continues after this. Stay tuned.

(Commercial break.)

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage joins us on this Capital Sunday. And Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us about the specific and credible threats against the United States at this point? The FBI has put us on high alert, and what can Americans do to respond to that, besides be fearful?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think Americans can be alert. I think they ought to take a great deal of comfort that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are so alert and so scrupulous in trying to get to the bottom of each and every threat. I'm not inclined to talk about specifics. There have been threats here and abroad to US and allied interests, and I'm happy to report that the intelligence agencies are working 24/7 to get to the bottom of it.

QUESTION: But you had indications over the summer that things were possibly brewing, that there were, though our intelligence community, things that we had to be alert for. Were any of those indications as to what we actually saw ultimately on September 11th in retrospect?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, our Director of Central Intelligence had been very energized over the summer, saying that he felt very uncomfortable, that there was a cacophony of threats, very unspecific. And that he was quite worried about it, and he had voiced the worries. But in no way did we have, as far as I understand, an understanding of exactly what the terrorists had in mind.

QUESTION: Is that what you have now, though, a cacophony? Would you describe it as being similar?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I would just describe it as being credible threats. I don't want to characterize it beyond that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to go back to the long-term issues here. The President has said over and over again that this is a fight that could on for years. Do you think it's going to be possible to hold your coalition together for years and years as this thing goes on?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think it will be up to US leadership to hold it together, first of all, and second, I think any coalition can be held together if we can show success, and if we can show to the peoples of our various nations that this is a worthy endeavor. Thus far, I haven't seen any weakening of the coalition. I expect it to stay together for a considerable period of time.

QUESTION: At the same time, efforts to mend the fences between the various factions in Afghanistan have bogged down, and I wonder why?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Perhaps you ought to be a little more specific.

QUESTION: Well, in other words, you have these factions over there. You have not been able to mold a coalition together that you can put out front and say this is who will take over if we get the Taliban out. According to news reports, those negotiations have stalled, and I just wonder, what are the issues keeping the sides apart?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I can assure you, first of all, that it's not the United States who's going to put together a government for Afghanistan. It will have to be its citizens, the people of Afghanistan, who do that. We can set the conditions, we can try to provide sufficient stability and perhaps enough food, et cetera, to bring this about. But we can't make the future government by ourselves. We're not going to try. We're just going to try to set the conditions.
There are tribal differences, there are ethnic differences that have to be resolved. And I think every element of Afghanistan's society is going to have to be represented in some way in order to have the broad-based government that most of the coalition feels is necessary.

QUESTION: And if you can't get that, can you actually keep the country from falling apart and descending into anarchy again?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we're certainly going to try, along with our international partners, to lead it away from anarchy. When Afghanistan has worked best historically, it has been a very loose federation with very much decentralization and very much a local autonomy. And that is a recipe that should be able to be made.

QUESTION: Right next to Afghanistan, of course we have Pakistan and India. How tenuous is that relationship right now, since not only the terrorist threats on our country, but the terrorist threats in the act of terrorism in Kashmir, which has been this ongoing disputed territory? How critical would you see their relationship at this point, and what kind of role can the US play in cooling that down?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Ms. Matthews, about 12 years ago, then-Director of Central Intelligence Bill Webster gave one of his final addresses to Congress, in which he stated that the most dangerous and explosive place in the world was Kashmir. I think that's still the case today.
Secretary Powell this afternoon is on his way to Pakistan and Delhi, and very high on his agenda is to try to work with both sides to lower the temperature somewhat and bring down the tension that you so correctly described.

QUESTION: India sees that act of terrorism in Srinigar, the capital there, as being the act of these Islamic fundamentalists from Pakistan, trained in Pakistan. Is that almost a spillover of what has been happening with the Taliban in Afghanistan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that some of the terrorists who were active in Kashmir might actually have come from the camps in Afghanistan. At least, it appears to some extent that's the case. I believe the Indians certainly believe that to be the case.
We have recently, on Friday, announced that one of the terrorist groups of particular concern to India has been put under the prescription of our Executive Order, I think much to the satisfaction of the Indian Government.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, we have a million more questions for you, but we don't have a million more minutes of time. Thank you so much for joining us on this Capital Sunday. Capital Signatures is next. Stay with us.



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