FTN - 10/21/01 - Part 1

face the nation logo, 2009

BOB SCHIEFFER: And we begin now with the secretary of state, who joins us from Shanghai.

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for coming.

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: American ground troops went into Afghanistan yesterday. The Pentagon says it was a successful mission. But this morning, as perhaps might be expected, the Taliban says that the Americans were repelled. They say there were American casualties. And they say they're ready now to just wait it out in the caves.

Can you give us an assessment of what the United States government feels about this yesterday?

POWELL: Well, my understanding of the mission, that it was highly successful, both strikes, both missions that went in. And I'm very proud of those brave young soldiers who performed the mission.

And my understanding, from everything I've heard and seen from Pentagon briefings is that, except for a few minor injuries among the paratroopers, and the tragic helicopter accident that was not directly related to the operation, all of our troops recovered safely and the Taliban is lying.

SCHIEFFER: Can you tell me exactly what the objective was yesterday, Mr. Secretary?

POWELL: Bob, I think it's better you get the straight answer from the Pentagon.

But just so I don't duck it entirely, I think they were looking at a compound where some information might have been available. And I believe they did come back with some documents and other items that might be useful. And they were scouting another facility. But I'll stop there and let the Pentagon deal with that one.

SCHIEFFER: There are reports this morning that the president has signed an executive order that has, quote, "told the CIA to basically destroy Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda." What does that mean exactly? Some here say that means that the gloves are off.

POWELL: Well, I believe what I read in the paper this morning was that he has signed what is called a finding. And those involve very, very sensitive operations.

And I hope you'll forgive me, but I never talk about findings of that nature.

SCHIEFFER: Does intensifying this campaign, Mr. Secretary, increase the threat of terrorism in this country? Because many people are worried that perhaps it will.

POWELL: No, I think we're facing terrorism with or without this campaign, unfortunately. I think that war has been declared upon us by the Al Qaeda organization, and we have no choice but to fight that war with the kind of campaign that the president has put together. Military intelligence, financial law enforcement, securing our borders, protecting our citizens, all of these things will be necessary.

I'm sure they'll try to respond. I'm sure they'll come at us in other ways, and there may be other terrorist organizations that will come at us. So this is a time for us to be cautious, to protect ourselves, but to not b afraid, not become chickens. We know how to fight these kinds of conflicts. We've got a backbone of steel in our country.

And we'll be just fine if Americans just remember who we are and keep the spirit up and keep driving on with our lives.

SCHIEFFER: You said "other terrorist organizations." Elaborate on that, if you can.

POWELL: Well, there are other terrorist organizations. I don't want to name any particular one. But there are other terrorist organizations that don't mean us well.

And frankly, we have homegrown terrorists, as we have seen so vividly in Oklahoma City, for example.

So we have to be on guard in this new era where we have rogue groups, where we have fanatics, where we have evil people, as the president likes to say, who might come after us in these asymmetric ways where they can cause a great deal of damage, great loss of life, as we have seen, and where they are creative.

And so, we have to keep an eye on all of them. And that's why the president said that this is a campaign not just against Al Qaeda but against all terrorism throughout the world, all terrorism that could threaten us, threaten our interests or threaten our friends.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, do you see at this point any connection between these situations involving this anthrax that pops up, keeps popping up in different places?

And yesterday another smudge of it, if that's what you want to call it, showed up at the U.S. capitol. Is there a connection between that and Osama bin Laden?

POWELL: There may be, but I don't know, Bob. I think our intelligence, law enforcement agencies are hard at work trying to get to the bottom of this, the source of the anthrax, how it's being distributed, the persons responsible, and what linkages may exist with terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda.

I'm quite sure that if Al Qaeda did have access to this kind of material, and I'm sure they were also working on it, that they would use it if they could. They're coming after us. They're evil people. They believe in no faith. They have adherence to no religion. They are evil and have to be seen as criminals and murderers and terrorists.

And I am sure our agencies are working as hard as they can to find out the source of the anthrax material we have been receiving and how it's coming at us, how it's being distributed and by whom.

SCHIEFFER: The nations that are meeting there in Shanghai, the reason that you and the president went there, the nations that are meeting there put out a very strong statement denouncing terrorism. But I notice it does not endorse the U.S. military action into Afghanistan, nor does it name Osama bin Laden as the person behind all of this. Should we read some significance into that?

POWELL: I wouldn't read any significance in it. When I saw press reporting earlier today that sort of pointed that out, it kind of surprised me because we didn't ask fo that. At least, you know, nobody in my delegation asked for that kind of reference in the joint statement.

We were looking for strong joint statement that came down squarely against terrorism, put APEC, the group that's here, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, put that strongly on record against terrorism and, in fact, joined the coalition in support of the United States' goal of ridding this part of the world of the Al Qaeda organization, ridding wherever--ridding every cell of the Al Qaeda organization, no matter where it is in the world, getting rid of it and going after terrorism in general.

So, I think we should applaud this very powerful statement from this very powerful organization.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, I'm sure you're aware of a report that was in The New Yorker this week written by Seymour Hersh, who says that on the first night of this military operation into Afghanistan, one of the American drone reconnaissance planes, and it was an armed plane, got Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, in its sights.

The information went back up the chain of command and the commanding general finally said that there would not be--he ordered the drone not to fire on Mullah Omar because, as we're told in this report, his judge advocate general had a problem with it. In other words, the general apparently went to his lawyer and his lawyer said, well, there may be some problems, so don't fire.

Could that possibly be true?

POWELL: I don't know. I read the story. I have no idea of whether it's true or not, and I think I'll have to refer you to the Pentagon for whatever answer they may choose to make of Mr. Hersh's story.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, we are in a situation--everybody says this is going to be a long and difficult fight. But are we in a position now where generals have to check with their lawyer before they can order people on the ground to fire on the enemy?

POWELL: Well, first of all, without saying a word about this story, let me just say that we conduct military operations in accordance with accepted rules of land warfare. And for that reason, you make sure you have lawyers around. We had them during Desert Storm.

But I have no idea, none whatsoever, as to whether that is what happened in this instance, as reported in The New Yorker, and I really do have to refer you to the Pentagon for that.

SCHIEFFER: Any final word, Mr. Secretary, this morning? Do you have a message for Osama bin Laden?

POWELL: The message I have for Osama bin Laden is that he cannot hide behind a faith in which he does not believe, because if he believed in it, he would not be doing what he does.

And that the coalition is coming after him, and we will find his money, we will find ways to get into his networks through our intelligence and law enforcement work.

And the armed forces of the United States and other armed forces that will be working with us, and arworking with us now, such as the United Kingdom, will not lose faith in their ability to bring this to a successful conclusion and to rip up the Al Qaeda network and to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much. Thank you.

POWELL: Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: And we want to go now to the Pentagon where CBS News national security correspondent David Martin is standing by.

Well, David, you just heard the secretary say that these forces that went in yesterday got some sort of document, some kinds of information. What's being done with that?

DAVID MARTIN, CBS New National security Correspondent: Well, right now those documents are being translated and analyzed in the hopes that they will offer some clue as to the whereabouts of either Osama bin Laden or his principal protector, the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

This raid, Bob, was really a raid within a raid. There was one raid in which the U.S. army rangers parachuted on to the airfield outside of Kandahar.

And there was a second raid in which a much smaller unit went after the command-and-control bunker that the Mullah Omar has used in the past. And that bunker had been deliberately left untouched by the bombing in the hopes that he would still consider that a safe place, that perhaps the U.S. didn't know about this bunker. So the hope was that he would be hiding out there.

Well, he wasn't there, so they had to content themselves with the documents. And they're analyzing those documents now.

SCHIEFFER: Should we expect more raids, David?

MARTIN: You should, but I'm not sure how soon, Bob. There's a debate going on with the Pentagon on exactly how soon the U.S. should go again. On the one hand, you have the argument that the ease with which U.S. troops operated on the ground inside Afghanistan has really stunned the Taliban. And that their ability to defend itself against these raids is only going to get worse as the bombing continues, and that therefore you should continue to strike him as often as you can and from as many different directions as you can.

On the other hand, two soldiers were injured parachuting out of the planes last night. Two more servicemen were killed when a backup helicopter crashed in Pakistan. So, these are high-risk operations. And this was a raid that essentially went according to plan.

Everytime you do these, you risk casualties. And obviously that's not something you want to undertake lightly.

SCHIEFFER: David, let me also ask you about this report in The New Yorker that the commanding general ordered them not to fire on Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, on the advice of his military lawyer. You've done some reporting on this, I know, and you say there may be some very good reasons he didn't order him fired upon.

MARTIN: Well, this is a very interesting story, Bob. The CIA has been operaing drones over Afghanistan for quite some time, well before September 11. And on one occasion, one of those drones actually saw Osama bin Laden. They have Osama bin Laden somewhere out at the CIA on videotape as taken from this reconnaissance drone. But when that picture was taken, there was no weapon in position to fire at Osama bin Laden.

And as a result of that, the Pentagon accelerated what has until now has only been a test program. They put a missile on that reconnaissance drone. So the next time the reconnaissance drone saw Osama bin Laden, it could shoot.

Well, on the first night of the war, the reconnaissance drone saw not Osama bin Laden but Mullah Omar, and was prepared to fire. And then, the issue was, well, do you fire?

Well, the problem was that Omar had been spotted either in a mosque or very close to a mosque, in a building next to a mosque, and so there was almost the certainty that the mosque would be damaged if a shot was taken at this person who was believed to be Mullah Omar.

And it was not a lawyer that, I'm told, who made this judgment. It was the commander of this operation, a four-star army general named Tommy Franks, who did not want to risk damaging a mosque with all the fallout that would have in the Muslim world for the sake of a shot at a person they thought but were not absolutely certain was Mohammed Omar.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you very much, David.

We're going to be back and talk about this some more with a member of the Northern Alliance in just a minute.


SCHIEFFER: And with us now, Haron Amin, the Washington representative for the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance; from Wilmington, Delaware, Mark Bowden, something of an expert on special operations. He's the author of that book, "Blackhawk Down," which is an account of the unfortunate U.S. special operations missions in Somalia.

Also with us Gloria Borger, of course.

Mr. Amin, I want to explain first exactly who you are. And that is you were a part of the government that was in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over. You also were part of the Afghan force that fought for two years against the Russians, so you know something about all of this that's going on.

HARON AMIN, Northern Alliance Representative: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: Earlier the United States has suggested that when the Taliban goes, and it now seems to be the clear U.S. objective to take down the Taliban government, that there may have to be a place in the next government for what have been described as Taliban moderates. Do you think that would work?

AMIN: Well, we certainly think that inclusion of the Taliban moderates would be sort of like inclusion of moderate Nazis in the post-Hitler regime after World War II, so we clearly, the Afghan nation has an objection to that. And certainly we've never heard of moderate Nazis in the past, and so moderate Taliban don't exist. They're ntrinsically a very, very fanatical group. We've seen exactly what they've done in the country.

And in terms of the whole vocabulary that originated called moderate Taliban, it's something that originated in Pakistan and something that even American statesmen even, later on, began using.

And I would presume that relying solely on the Pakistani vocabulary would somehow exacerbate the geo-political implication of all of this, meaning specifically that other countries would want to get involved and they would want to say how about our interests. I mean, there has to be emphasis on the legitimate interests of all of the neighboring states of Afghanistan, in Afghanistan, also, you know, the Afghan legitimate interests in other countries.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this. Can the Taliban be taken down? Because this morning, after this raid yesterday, Taliban leaders, perhaps understandably, are saying, we repelled this attack. There were 25 American casualties. Now, Secretary of State Powell says that's just a lie. How difficult will it be?

AMIN: Well, you have to remember one thing about the Taliban. Their intransigency is something that has really, you know, astonished the entire world. But what's important is that it has to be done in a specific way. Targeting the Taliban with our forces on the ground should be the primary objective.

Right now, for example, one thing that has happened is that you have two major sanctuaries for the Al Qaeda people as well as many militants from around various countries including Pakistan who have sought refuge in two places, the mosques--but the mosques don't have much room--but the front lines.

There has been some sort of guarantee made to these guys from the connections that they have through the Pakistani military installations, that--the intelligence community, saying, you know, this is the best place you can take refuge.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: So are you saying bomb the mosques?

AMIN: I'm not saying bomb the mosques. I'm saying, start with the front lines.

You've got long front lines that stretch from northern Afghanistan all the way north of Kabul around central parts of Afghanistan, you know, around Bamiyan, and north as well as the west.

SCHIEFFER: But let me just tell you something. Wire reports are just coming in now saying this morning that U.S. forces are bombing about a mile behind the front lines. I take it you think that's good news.

AMIN: Well, it's good news, but more needs to happen. The C-130s have specific operations. And basically you've got to target them. And then we'll do the rest of the job; the United Front is going to do the job.

BORGER: Mr. Bowden, there are reports today that the Taliban strategy is just to hide, to wait. Do you think that the special ops forces right now, as you saw them deployed yesterday, can flush out the Taliban wherever they decide to hid and wait?

MARK BOWDEN, Special Operations Expert: I think it'll take time. But, you know, I for one, I was moved by those images of American soldiers parachuting into Afghanistan. These are young men who are over there risking their lives, fighting a battle on behalf of all of us. And these are very professional soldiers. I think, as long as we don't lose our will to support them, they will, in time, track these people down.

BORGER: Well, you think casualties, other casualties than the ones incurred yesterday are inevitable?

BOWDEN: I think it's true in any military operation. In fact, if you look at what happened in Mogadishu, which is commonly referred to as a debacle or a disaster, it certainly wasn't that in military terms. They set out to capture these two guys in Somalia. They found them, they captured them. They got into an unfortunate gunfight during which roughly 50 Somalis were killed for every American soldier who was killed.

And it's really only in this country in this time that we would view a military mismatch like that as a debacle or a disaster.

SCHIEFFER: But it does underline, does it not, just how difficult this sort of warfare is, because literally you have to go into caves to find these people?

BOWDEN: It's true. And I think we honor these soldiers by recognizing how difficult their job is and the heroism that they show in being willing to risk their lives and go into these situations in order to do what needs to be done.

BORGER: Mr. Bowden, let me ask about you the psychological component here of special ops forces continuing to go in and to go in and to go in. What kind of effect does that have on the Taliban, keeping them on the run like that?

BOWDEN: Well, I would have to think it would have a demoralizing effect. You know, they're lying in wait, trying to ambush soldiers in the way they did in a war they fought with the Soviet Union. And, instead, they're faced with a very light footprint, basically, a military force that can strike anywhere at almost any time, prefers to work at night, owns the skies, and moves so fast that it's really difficult to ambush them or even to respond quickly enough to put up a fight.

BORGER: Mr. Amin, if you had a wish list of things you could get from the United States government right now, what would be on the top of that?

AMIN: Well, military support for one; secondly, coordination on the ground; and thirdly for the United States not to listen to the Pakistanis, in terms of military advice. And I'll tell you exactly why.

We are on the ground right now. And if the appropriate front lines are going to be targeted, we can expand, with the expansion of our territories, throughout most of Afghanistan, particularly the northern parts.

What's going to happen is, you've got a smaller area for the Taliban. Otherwise, the Pakistanis are capitalizing on one thing, and tha is that as long as they have casualties on the ground, America might seem to turn away from the whole operation, and Pakistan is going to come back and then have--re-bring the Taliban in a different format.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we have to stop there. Thank you so much.

Back in just a second.


SCHIEFFER: Last week, Al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern cable network, sent CNN an invitation to submit questions to Osama bin Laden. And they said if they'd submit the questions, that they would get answers for CNN.

Well, this sort of thing is always a tough call for reporters. Should you risk being used? Should you give someone like Osama bin Laden a platform for his propaganda on the chance that you might be able to gather valuable information?

In this case, I think CNN did the right thing. "Sure," they said, "we'll send you some questions, and if the answers have any news value, we'll pass them on to our viewers."

That is the right thing because the best defense against murderers, despots and crooks is to draw them out of the shadows and into the sun. The best way to destroy their arguments is to make sure everyone knows exactly what their arguments are.

And I don't think we have to worry very much about giving Osama bin Laden television exposure and that that's going to convert very many Americans to his cause. We've already seen his work. He can talk around the clock but he'll never convince any of us that murdering 6,000 innocent people is justified.

To the contrary, anytime I hear or see him it just reminds me of how proud he was of what was done at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and it just reinforces my conviction that we must track him down and bring him to justice. I hope we hear a lot from him in the days to come.


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