of State Colin Powell
Interview with Tony Snow on Fox News Sunday
October 21, 2001
MR. SNOW: Now joining us from Shanghai, China, Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Secretary Powell, the President has been meeting with Asian leaders this week,
especially talking with China about possible cooperation in Operation Enduring
Freedom. Can China help us with intelligence?
SECRETARY POWELL: We hope so, and we had good conversations with the Chinese
leadership. And the President, in his first meeting with the president of China,
I think hit it off very well. A good relation was formed.
And I think that in the weeks and months ahead we can look at intelligence cooperation,
financial activities -- all sorts of things. The Chinese were supportive, and
we are very pleased with their support, as well as the joint statement that
was provided by the APEC leaders coming down strongly on the side of the coalition
MR. SNOW: You mentioned financial activities. Do we suspect that al-Qaida has
been doing some banking operations through China?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have any knowledge of that, but I am sure that our
intelligence agencies, if they do have information of that kind, will make it
available to the Chinese. And the level of cooperation that I have seen from
them so far in my conversations with Foreign Minister Teng and in the President's
conversations with President Jiang Zemin, I think they would be responsive.
MR. SNOW: There is some ongoing debate here in the States, you are well aware
of, that some people think that we are spending more time maintaining a coalition
than running a war. Can we work with the coalition? Is the coalition ready now
to say to the United States, "Okay, go ahead, do what you need to do to
bring down the Taliban," if that's what it requires?
SECRETARY POWELL: Nothing in the coalition, no aspect of the coalition, keeps
the American President from doing what he feels he has to do to go after al-Qaida
and to deal with the Taliban. But his efforts are so magnified by the presence
of a coalition. This is a coalition that came together to go after this common
enemy, terrorism. And the suggestion that somehow the coalition keeps us from
doing what we want to do is just absolutely wrong.
Quite the contrary. Without this coalition, we wouldn't be able to do what we
are doing. We wouldn't be getting the support from the Central Asian nations.
We wouldn't be getting the support from the United Nations, the United Kingdom.
Everybody has come together for this common goal. And so "coalition,"
in this sense, is a good word, and to suggest that somehow it is in competition
with what the President wants to do is simply a misreading of reality.
MR. SNOW: We want the Northern Alliance to be part of a coalition government
within Afghanistan; we do not want them to be the dominant partner, correct?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that's a fair statement. They are a minority group,
and I think if we want a stable Afghanistan, all parts of Afghan society and
the Afghan political spectrum have to be represented, and the Northern Alliance
would have to be represented. It would be an important part of that new government.
But at about 15 percent of the population, I don't even think they think that
they are in a position at this time to be the dominant figure. They would certainly
be an important part of the post-Taliban government.
MR. SNOW: The Pashtun are the largest ethnic group in the country. Also, they
have close ties with Pakistan. Can Pakistan help us persuade the Pashtun to
play a more active role in trying to form a post-Taliban coalition?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think they can, and I think the Pakistanis are being helpful
now. I had good conversations with President Musharraf, and he understands now
that the Taliban -- its days are numbered, and we have to start looking toward
the future. And we talked about that. And as you know, Ambassador Richard Haass
on my staff is now working with the United Nations and other nations who have
an interest in this to see what kind of an arrangement can and should be worked
out to deal with the post-Taliban era.
MR. SNOW: There are reports that the United Nations may request a cessation
of bombing right now because it is hampering humanitarian efforts within Afghanistan.
If the United Nations were to make that request, what would the American reply
SECRETARY POWELL: I am not aware of any such request, and we have been conducting
our military campaign in a way that it would not interfere with humanitarian
efforts. We are constantly reviewing this. And as you know, our airplanes are
providing humanitarian air drops and we are working hard to get truck convoys
in because that's how you get the heavy tonnages in. And we are trying to do
it and, at the same time, conduct a military operation.
So we do not have such a request. The reports are mixed as to how much food
is getting in, and when I get back to Washington this is one of the first things
I'll be looking at. Because this war is not against the Afghan people. We have
to prepare them for the winter that is just a few weeks away, and we will be
making every effort to do that.
MR. SNOW: As winter approaches, is it important for us to achieve such strategic
goals as taking Kabul, or even Kandahar, before the onset of winter?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it would be in our interest and the interest of the
coalition to see this matter resolved before winter strikes and it makes our
operations that much more difficult. The actual seizure of land and which cities
might be the right ones to cause that to come about, I'm not sure. But certainly
the Northern Alliance is on the march in the north toward Mazer-e-Sharif, and
I think they are gathering their strength to at least invest Kabul or start
moving on Kabul more aggressively.
MR. SNOW: There has been talk also of ceasing operations or slowing them down
during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan. Good idea, bad idea?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have to be respectful of that very, very significant
religious period, but, at the same time, we also have to make sure we pursue
our campaign. So I will yield to my Pentagon colleagues as to what might be
required if we are still in this kind of a military campaign mode when Ramadan
approaches in the middle of November.
MR. SNOW: You are a military man. It sounds to me like what you are saying,
even though you are now Secretary of State, from a military point of view, you
can't really cease hostilities at that point.
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it depends. It depends on what more has to be
done, what the military operation looks like at that point. So I don't want
to speculate on what we might be ready to do at the middle of November. And
it's best that I remember that I am Secretary of State and no longer wearing
the uniform, and not speculate on what my military colleagues are thinking or
what Don Rumsfeld is thinking over in the Pentagon.
MR. SNOW: Senator John McCain is saying he is a little unhappy right now with
the roles of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He says they are playing both ends of it.
On the one hand, they permit mullahs and Islamic Muslim speakers to issue anti-American
diatribes weekly; on the other hand, they say from time to time, "No, no,
no, we're really with you."
Is it important for the United States to say to both of those nations, especially
on the propaganda front -- that is, the kinds of discourse they're permitting
-- to say, "You need to be with us"?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they are with us. I mean, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia
have responded to every request we have made of them. Saudi Arabia was especially
helpful just a few days ago when they held the Organization of the Islamic Conference,
and 56 Islamic nations came to the support of the coalition by condemning terrorism.
And Saudi Arabia played an important role in achieving that outcome. So they
are being responsive.
At the same time, they do have public opinions. They have people within those
two countries who are not happy with what we are doing. And I think it's a little
odd for us to say to them, "You have to muzzle dissent, you have to muzzle
those who are speaking out against us." I think if we want them to be the
kind of nations and lands that we preach about, we have to expect that if there
is another point of view within that country that differs from the official
point of view of the government, you have to give it the opportunity to be expressed.
MR. SNOW: Secretary Powell, the President met with his Russian counterpart today.
Is American policy on the ABM Treaty unchanged, which is to say that we are
prepared within the next six months to begin testing technologies that may,
in fact, require us to abrogate the Treaty?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that is yet American policy, Tony. What the
President has said all along, and what he said again to President Putin this
evening, was that the ABM Treaty is a relic of the past; we need to move beyond
I was pleased that President Putin responded that we are in a new era, and there
are some new ideas on the table, there are some new parameters we should be
looking at. And Foreign Minister Ivanov and I, and Donald Rumsfeld and his counterpart,
Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, will be working hard in the weeks ahead approaching
Crawford when President Putin visits with President Bush again, and beyond Crawford
to see how we can move forward.
President Bush has made it clear, however, that in due course, if we aren't
able to get an agreement that will allow us to move forward in a new framework,
he is prepared to unilaterally withdraw from the Treaty because he is determined
to move forward with missile defenses. And he has said that to President Putin
from the first day they met.
MR. SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us.