U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
Deputy Secretary of State Richard
By Jon Snow of ITN Channel Four News
October 18, 2001
12:00 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Richard Armitage, we are five weeks in from the awful events that sparked the war against terrorism. Congress forced into recess, people talking about bioterrorism. Are we winning?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think we're winning. We have created, along with our coalition partners, a lot of chaos on the ground, in which we get information, information which will eventually lead us to al-Qaida and to Usama bin Laden. I think we have succeeded in disrupting the Taliban leadership to quite a good extent. We have put together a mighty coalition. We have got the support of Pakistan and the Gulf Arabs. And so, yes, I would say we're winning.
QUESTION: You are confident you will actually get bin Laden?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Yes, we are.
QUESTION: And the Taliban will go?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, the Taliban leadership certainly will have to go.
QUESTION: What about the humanitarian issues, which are very prevalent at the moment, the concern that (a) some of their resources are being hit; (b) there is a call for pause in the bombing?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think it certainly doesn't call for a pause in the bombing. The humanitarian conditions were brought about by natural causes -- drought -- and by mismanagement of the Taliban. And that definitely preceded the bombing.
I would argue that to the extent we create the conditions that lead to a more stable Afghanistan, we will be more rapidly able to alleviate the suffering of five to seven million people in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Colin Powell talked at one stage quite recently about elements of the Taliban conceivably being in a post-Taliban administration once all this is over. Is that still a possibility?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think what we have said publicly is we want an eventual government of Afghanistan which represents all Afghanis. The Taliban certainly doesn't represent all Afghanis. I don't know how you determine in a country like Afghanistan, after you've eliminated the leadership, who actually was Taliban, who was impressed into service, and things of that nature. I think that's what the Secretary was referring to.
QUESTION: But the Taliban is still, it seems, holding together. We don't yet have any serious high-level defections. We thought the foreign minister was on the go, but he wasn't.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, you've certainly had defections of fighters, and it depends on how you define "high-level." I haven't seen the top four or five defect, but certainly we've seen fighters and commanders going over to the Northern Alliance side, some others who have decided to put down their weapons, particularly in some of the border areas close to Pakistan.
So it gets back to your first question, are we winning, and it looks to me like we are.
QUESTION: When your job is specifically to try to pull together the post-Taliban position and what is actually going to go on afterwards, together with Kofi Annan and the United Nations, but Mr. Brahimi, the representative to the United Nations, says there is no best option. But everything you look at has got problems.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think that's sort of the history of Afghanistan. And though it's our job in the Department of State to help in a post-Taliban, post-al-Qaida Afghanistan, I think the main efforts will be in the United Nations. I'll be meeting with Mr. Brahimi tomorrow, and we'll be discussing the huge nature of this endeavor and what we might all usefully contribute to the effort.
QUESTION: Are you worried that in propaganda terms, it could be seen that the terrorists are still winning to some extent? They are disrupting life, they have suspended Congress for the first time since 1968, they have caused tremendous devastation in New York.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It looks to me like they're not winning. You asked if I was worried. No, I'm not worried. This is a long campaign. Our President and Mr. Blair both have spoken very accurately and I think very eloquently on this issue. This is going to be a long -- and it will be sometimes a dirty -- campaign, and we've just got to steel ourselves to it.
QUESTION: Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush yesterday both referred, it seemed, to being right on the threshold of the next phase, whatever it is. One presumes ground forces.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: One ought to be careful in what one presumes. No government official, I think, in England or here would ever say what the next phase is going to be. But we have said publicly, there will be many phases to this effort, and indeed there are many aspects to this effort, whether it's financial, political and military.
QUESTION: But is the first phase effectively completed, and is it completed successfully?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think we have completed thus far what we had wanted to complete; that is, our aircraft and coalition aircraft have free range over Afghanistan without fear of anti-aircraft missiles or fire. We are able to effect close air-to-ground support, if that's our desire. And we have created the chaos that I mentioned before. So I think that far we have been successful.
I'm not going to characterize it as a phase -- phase one, phase two or phrase three, sir.
QUESTION: And finally, I mean, what about the position here in Washington, the fact that people are worried about their own premises being attacked by anthrax spores. Do you believe it is bioterrorism? Do you believe it is linked with bin Laden?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it's certainly bioterrorism. Whether it's linked to bin Laden or not, I think all of us are unsure. We, even in this Department today, had a town meeting to explain to the 8,000 or so souls who work here what anthrax is, whether they should be worried in a large degree or not. And I think they're getting about their business in a grand fashion.
One House of the Congress is out, as you correctly point out, the House of Representatives. The Senate is open for business today. We're not going to let these characters, whoever they may be, scare us away from doing the nation's business.
QUESTION: Richard Armitage, thank you very much indeed for talking with us.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Thank you, Mr. Snow.