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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon and welcome
to the War Report which is replacing On the Record today and will be at
times over the next few weeks or months ... depending on what happens in
the war against terrorism. We'll be assessing the latest events. Peter
Snow will be analysing the week's military developments and we'll be trying
to answer the most tricky question of all - where does it go from here?
In this programme I'll be talking to the leader of the House of Commons
Robin Cook and to the head of the United Nations special mission to Afghanistan
Francesc Vendrell. That's after the news read by Peter Sissons.
HUMPHRYS: A week ago today the first
air strikes were launched against Afghanistan. To what effect? Well, we
can't be sure It's difficult to make reliable assessments when you don't
have independent observers on the ground. Nor do we know what the next
steps are likely to be. There are far more questions than there are answers.
In this programme I'll be putting some of those questions to Robin Cook,
who's a member of Tony Blair's war cabinet, and to the head of the United
Nations mission to Afghanistan. But first.... an analysis of the military
developments from Peter Snow, Peter.
PETER SNOW: Well John, I've got Air Marshall
Tim Garden with me to examine the events of the past week. Well now President
Bush has expressed his satisfaction at what he called phase one of the
war, the first week of the air campaign and it's been conducted by the
forces of just two countries in the coalition - the Americans and the British
- partly using strategic aircraft travelling halfway round the world, but
mainly by strikes from this fleet of Aircraft Carriers in the Indian Ocean,
one of them British and two British missile firing, cruise missile firing
submarines down there in the Indian Ocean.
Now waiting for a possible
second phase in a great circle around Afghanistan, ground troops, like
the ones we saw a moment ago, Tony Blair visiting in Oman last week and
to mention just one other unit way up here in Uzbekistan, troops of the
American Mountain Division waiting up there.
Now the declared goal
of this so-called "coalition against terrorism" is of course to find Osama
Bin Laden and bring him to justice. But he could be anywhere in this vast
country - anywhere at all. This is a country that is seven-hundred miles
from one corner to the other. He's probably constantly on the move. An
American official admitted on Friday, it's like looking for one rabbit
in the entire state of West Virginia. And so the Allies are concentrating
on their second goal - to destroy the Taliban government that's sheltering
him. And here's how they're doing it. They're targeting airfields at Herat,
at Mazar-e-Sharif, at Kabul and Kandahar, down here. Air defence sites
and command posts, all round the air fields and also elsewhere round the
country. And they're also targeting the guerrilla camps, the training
camps, the al-Qaeda training camps where Bin Laden's men are thought to
be. It was against one of these camps that those British Cruise Missiles
were fired on day one of this air attack week.
American air attacks have
not had the intensity of the Gulf War. But on the whole, the Americans
say they've been targeting and hitting their targets successfully. They
have been also showing pictures all through this week of things like this
airfield here at Shindand where you can see the little arrows pointing,
the American arrows pointing to where they claim to have successes. There's
a crater right there in the middle of the main runway at Shindand. But
they had to admit, just last night, that they've hit civilians too. A
bomb aimed at Kabul airport hit a residential suburb of the capital itself
and in the week of course, four UN workers were killed in Kabul too. The
Taliban claim the week's toll has been three-hundred civilians, one-hundred
of them in just one village up near Kabul.
Now, Tim Garden, what do you think has been the effect of this air attack
on the Taliban so far?
TIM GARDEN: Well I think the first thing
of course we've seen is the attack on the air defences. Standard procedure
to try and get control of the air, which they've done very quickly, given
the air defences are pretty limited there. They can then freely range
over the countryside, using reconnaissance to get the targets, intelligence
to get the targets and then attack the centres of the Taliban infrastructure.
SNOW: And how much longer does
this go on before the second phase can take place?
GARDEN: Well it can go on for a
very long time. It depends how the intelligence plays out and indeed what
happens to the Taliban, whether they take to the hills at an early stage.
SNOW: Well, let's look now at the
forces on the ground. What of the battle on the ground between the Afghans
themselves. Well very broadly, the Taliban, whom we've coloured green here,
control essentially the West and the South of the country. But you can
mark off three broad areas up here around Mazar-e-Sharif, the Talibans
themselves in Mazar-e-Sharif, around the centre here, the mountains west
of Kabul, and in the north-east of the country here, where the Northern
Alliance, and we've coloured them yellow here, are on the whole, in control.
Now their main strength
is up here in the north-east, where their ethnic base is. They've been
trying for years to thrust their way the last few miles into Kabul and
they haven't succeeded yet. And the issue for the Americans and their Allies,
is to what extent they work for a Northern Alliance victory and give open
combat support to them in their campaign against the Taliban. In the last
twenty-four hours, it's true there have been some attacks by the Americans,
on combat forces of the Taliban, but the Northern Alliance claim they've
not been robust enough to help them win their war on the ground. Now Tim
Garden, do the Americans want the Northern Alliance to win, or not?
GARDEN: It's a real problem. You've
got the Northern Alliance up close to Kabul. You could provide close air
support for them, but they're not really very nice guys, and nor are they
appreciated by the Pakistanis, so allowing the Northern Alliance to throw
in and move very quickly into Kabul might mean that we have another problem
in the longer term in terms of arranging the appropriate government to
be able to continue operations in Afghanistan.
SNOW: Well now how successful do
you think so far, and what are the prospects for finding some kind of anti-Taliban
force, in the North-East they've got one, but down here in the South and
GARDEN: Well we haven't seen anything
yet in terms of a revolution down there which is really what's needed if
we're to have a mixed Afghanistan government of some sort and put together
an appropriate structure which will require the military to continue in
the longer term providing something like an Afghan force.
SNOW: Okay now, assuming that air
strikes on their own are not enough to achieve the Allied war aims, what'll
they do next?
Well there are signs already
that preparations are under way for the involvement of ground troops like
those British ones in Oman. The Americans have got the Pakistanis to agree
that any helicopter borne assault from the task force up here into Afghanistan
could refuel at two air-bases in Pakistan on its way up into Afghanistan.
And there are already American helicopter borne troops, up here, those
mountain division troops up in Uzbekistan where you have to come down from
the north and many others of course around Afghanistan too. Already reconnaissance
aircraft, like Britain's Canberras, are over Afghanistan, looking down,
listening for tell-tale signs of Bin Laden's groups, or of Bin Laden himself.
There may well be small teams of SAS and American Special Forces scouting
around in the country already. But what would ground troops do? Well they
could make direct attacks on airfields like, for example, Mazar-e-Sharif
here, or indeed on the guerrilla, these training camps of the al-Qaeda
organisation, they might attempt to actually get hold of one airfield like
the airfield of Bagram just north of Kabul there and move on to attack
the camps from there once they've established a secure base. Or they can
go the whole way and secure all the main airfields all round Afghanistan
if they want extend their control to some or all of the main cities as
well. Now Tim Garden, what do you think the object of the exercise will
be, if and when ground troops go in?
GARDEN: Well I think they need
a foothold in the country because of the difficulties of basing and the
difficulties of the terrain, and the difficulties of the approaching winter
which is going to be a problem.
SNOW: Where would you go for a
GARDEN: Well I mean there are some
attractions to looking around down here, where the countryside is a bit
smoother and not so mountainous and you can get aid in, which is the important
bit of this, I mean we are going to have to establish a long-term plan
which allows some infrastructure to be set up for the putting out aid everywhere
and we are probably going to need something like we've got in the Balkans,
a military presence that can administer and keep the rule of law going.
SNOW: A force to go, like the forces
in the Balkans now?
SNOW: ...you see a permanent, a
permanent Allied force, as a UN force, looking after Afghanistan for some
years to come.
GARDEN: Well, if we're serious
about the humanitarian aid and rescuing the country we're going to have
to do something like that.
SNOW: You think that the likeliest
area for ground troop involvement initially anyway is in this area down
here, but presumably the weather has a lot to do with it.
GARDEN: Well I think that's a possible
area. You can do it in lots of different ways, but if you do it there,
you can secure it during the winter, and we're talking about a long-term
SNOW: ...because there are no mountains
GARDEN: ... it's slightly better...
SNOW: ...big mountains?
GARDEN: And the whole country
is pretty dreadful...
GARDEN: ...but nevertheless you
want during the winter to be able to start getting a foothold and start
feeding the people and then isolate Bin Laden in the long term.
SNOW: Well back to square one,
how on earth do you find Bin Laden? How does this get you anywhere near
finding Bin Laden?
GARDEN: It's going to take a long
time, unless you're very lucky, because we've seen that in the Balkans.
SNOW: Air Marshall, thank you very
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Peter many thanks. We've
heard a lot in the past few weeks about the enormous difficulties of controlling
Afghanistan, we heard some of it there. How invaders over the centuries
have come to grief ... How the country itself is so divided it's hard to
see any government pulling it all together and imposing even a semblance
of order. But that's precisely what George Bush and Tony Blair are committed
to doing... once they've got rid of the Taliban. Francesc Vendrell is
the head of the United Nations' Special Mission to Afghanistan and I'll
be talking to him after this report from David Grossman.
DAVID GROSSMAN: Afghanistan's history is one of
conflict and conquest. To call it prone to instability is like describing
the Atlantic Ocean as prone to damp. Afghanistan is a sea of instability
- just as its mountains were thrust up by the collision of continental
plates so its troubled past is the product of colliding empires. To build
any kind of peaceful future here a seemingly impossible task.
ROBERT TEMPLER Almost every single group
in Afghanistan has carried out very serious violations of human rights
abuses against other ethnic groups, so it's very hard to imagine an environment
in which these groups are going to come together in a trusting manner.
GROSSMAN: Since military action
started, there's been a shift in the message coming from some western
coalition leaders. Tony Blair especially is now talking far more about
rebuilding Afghanistan after the conflict, than he is delivering future
ultimatums to the Taliban. Everyone agrees that should the Taliban fall,
the next government in Kabul must enjoy broad based popular support. That's
very easy to say but with so many armed groups and ethnic factions within
Afghanistan squabbling for power and so many of the surrounding governments
looking to interfere, the prospects for success look very bleak.
PROFESSOR MARGOT LIGHT: It would be a very gloomy prognosis
to say that it's ungovernable. It's difficult however to see how you can
install a government which is a government that is representative of these
diverse groups and nationalities that can stick together and retain power
GROSSMAN: Afghanistan's position
made it vital to the interests of four powerful empires - British, Russian,
Persian and Chinese. The RAF in action over the Khyber Pass sixty-four
years ago. This rare footage of an attack on a warlord's village, part
of the battle for influence in Afghanistan that had been always smouldering
and periodically flaring up for over a century. Britain saw Afghanistan
as vital for maintaining its overland access to India. The Russians needed
safe routes across it to reach the warm water ports of the Arabian Gulf.
It was a world of secret agents, bribes and treachery with all around
the corrosive whiff of opium.
PROFESSOR HALEH AFSHAR: The difficulty is where Afghanistan
is situated politically and geographically and the needs of various neighbours
at different times to use it either to get through or in order to make
alliances or in order to actually attack other neighbours. And the difficulty
is that the Afghans are independent people who are divided by tribes, who
are divided by religion, who are divided by customs
GROSSMAN: Foreign involvement in
Afghanistan has not come without a heavy price. In 1979, the Soviets invaded
to prop up a failing communist government and ended up being bogged down
for a decade. The normally fractious Afghan tribes united against a common
PROFESSOR LIGHT: The Soviet leadership was rather
misguided and thought that if they could invade Afghanistan, remove the
leader Armin who was very unpopular, replace him with Babrack Karmal that
the peace would break out and they would be able to withdraw immediately.
In fact ten years later they were still embroiled in the civil war in
GROSSMAN: The west sent
huge quantities of arms to the Mujahadeen forces fighting the invader.
It became Russia's Vietnam. One of Gorbachev's first acts on coming to
power in the late eighties was to begin a Soviet withdrawal.
After the Soviets
left, the forces that ejected them quickly split into factions and turned
their American donated weapons on each other. Trying to bind together
all these religious and ethnic groups promises to be about as easy as
lassooing smoke. And there are fears that the coalition of groups best
placed to overthrow the Taliban - the Northern Alliance - would in fact
be the worst at delivering the country a stable peace.
The Northern Alliance
are mainly ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks. They are Shi'ite Muslims. They're
supported by Iran and the former Soviet Central Asian Republics. The Taliban
in contrast, draw their support from the Sunni Muslims and Pashtuns of
the south, they're backed by Pakistan. Both groups though have committed
atrocities and would be unacceptable rulers of the other side.
ROBERT TEMPLER: I don't believe the Northern
Alliance has the capacity to run all of Afghanistan, it simply doesn't
have the popularity, doesn't have the support of the Passion people in
the south and east of the country.
PADDY ASHDOWN: If you simply alter the polarity
of the government in Kabul, so that instead of being Pushtoun its Tajik,
you continue the civil war. That means that the peace which we will presumably
have to administer and secure, will be far more difficult, because that
civil war will continue.
GROSSMAN: So worried are western
military planners about the Northern Alliance sweeping into Kabul that
much effort is reportedly going into making sure that British and American
air strikes against the Taliban don't actually help the other side too
much. So is there anyone who could unite this troubled country?
Nothing perhaps illustrates
the poverty of available options more than the fact that an 86 year old,
the former King Zahir Shah, may just be the country's best hope for the
PROFESSOR HALEH AFSHAR: It may well be that King Zahir
could come back because he has the authority of age and because he has
not been siding with anybody for a very very long time. And he could come
back to chair meetings to try and actually hear people. I don't think
that anybody including the King himself thinks of himself as coming back
and reinstating a kingdom, but it may very well be the case that he could
actually chair a forum and have and allow participation on an impartial
GROSSMAN: Indeed the King has already
been meeting members of the Northern Alliance, trying to pave the way for
some kind of traditional council to decide on what to do if the Taliban
go. He looks remarkably strong for his age but is he really the answer?
M. DAOUD KAWIAN: He has been more about thirty
years away from the country and the generation which now they're engaged
in war between each other they don't know him. They had, when he left Afghanistan
he was abroad, they were just born. Of course, this is..this is disadvantage
and also his age.
GROSSMAN: The Pakistan leg of Tony
Blair's air mile marathon. The Taliban draw much support from Pakistan's
population and the Pakistani president General Musharraf is decidedly nervous
about the prospect of their fall. Mr Blair though promised that Islamabad
would be involved in Afghanistan's future.
ASHDOWN: I think it was very worrying
that the Prime Minister should have said while in Islamabad, perhaps as
a price for Pakistan's support, that Pakistan could have a continuing interest
in Afghanistan. I mean that's what started this in the first place. It
was Pakistan's blundering in Afghanistan.
GROSSMAN: Even if a formula could
be found to establish a broadly supported government, there are so many
factors that could destabilise it. For a start the Afghan population is
well armed and used to war - many make their living either growing or trading
in opium and would hardly welcome a strong central administration. As the
search for Bin Laden has proved, the Afghan terrain could have been designed
with providing cover for guerrillas in mind and history sadly suggests
that any group that doesn't get what it wants, will simply take to the
hills and start another war.
ROBERT TEMPLER: There's no state in Afghanistan
I mean in the West we just don't understand how to deal with countries
that don't have a state, they don't really have a functioning government.
What we're dealing with here is a whole range of different war lords and
different fractions, it's very hard to come to grips in that sort of environment.
GROSSMAN: Even before this week's
military strikes Afghanistan was a shattered country - restoring stability
will take a huge effort from the outside world. Many, including President
Bush, think this is a job for the United Nations.
PROFESSOR AFSHAR: I think that really this is one
of the cases where the UN could be tested and could actually be invaluable
in the sense that the UN represents the world. It represents everybody,
it includes Muslims and non-Muslims, it doesn't have a notion of a divided
civilisation and therefore I think that the UN is actually the best agency
for securing a measured peace, for securing an environment in which people
feel safe to be able to express their opinion.
ASHDOWN: There is a real practical
problem about a protectorate in Afghanistan. I mean you have to have troops
to protect a protectorate. Who would put troops in to Afghanistan and
would the Afghanistanis tolerate foreign troops in their country, I very
much doubt it. So I think a protectorate may not be practically possible.
GROSS: Afghanistan's history isn't
necessarily its future - but it should serve as a warning of the problems
any post Taliban administration will have to overcome. In setting out to
defeat terrorism, Tony Blair and George Bush have clearly given themselves
an enormously difficult task. In trying to turn Afghanistan into a peaceful,
stable country it may be they'd be taking on the impossible.
HUMPHRYS: David Grossman reporting
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Francesc Vendrell, you know
Pakistan well, you know Afghanistan well, you were there just few weeks
ago. It is going to be almost impossible, isn't it, to establish the sort
of broad based democratic government that we would recognise as a sensible
FRANCESC VENDRELL: I think it's going to take time.
I don't think it's going to be impossible, particularly if the international
community does not lose patience with Afghanistan. If the international
community as Tony Blair has said, is willing to stay in Afghanistan for
the long haul and by staying in Afghanistan I mean worrying and caring
for Afghanistan, I think it is possible to find a solution.
HUMPHRYS: But in order to do that,
we've heard about this grand assembly, called the Loya Jirga, which would
be called given that we can restore some sort of order there. You would
have to have, as part of that Loya Jirga, as part of that grand assembly,
the Taliban wouldn't you, or the Pashtun people.
VENDRELL: Well, yes. The Pashtun
people yes - the Taliban, not necessarily. One must make sure that one
does not confuse the Taliban with the Pashtuns. In the last few months,
there have been many signals that the Pashtun tribal elders for example,
who are getting extremely anxious about the Taliban, partly because of
the increasing role of Arabs within the Taliban structure.
HUMPHRYS: Nonetheless, the Taliban
do have support, albeit limited support, we are led to believe, but they
do have some support from many of the Pashtun people?
VENDRELL: They have some support
but I think a lot of the Pashtuns would also accept alternative leaders
if they were to arise.
HUMPHRYS: George Bush and Tony
Blair want the United Nations to take responsibility, Mr Bush has used
the expression 'for nation building in Afghanistan'. Now, does that mean,
as you understand it, does that mean, a United Nations protectorate?
VENDRELL: Certainly not a protectorate.
I don't think the Afghans would accept that. I think any role that we
play in Afghanistan must have the full consent of the Afghans. It won't
be so difficult at this moment, for the past two years I've had Afghans
coming to me all the time, saying why doesn't the UN play a much bigger
role in Afghanistan, why do we have to put up with this insufferable situation.
The situation of both the Taliban and also the internal conflict.
HUMPHRYS: But you say not a protectorate?
VENDRELL: Not a protectorate, I
think you need a broad based Afghan government, temporary, prior to some
elections perhaps at the end of the road, with some kind of UN verification
of UN supervision to ensure that agreements arrived at amongst
the Afghans and agreements arrived at by the neighbouring countries are
HUMPHRYS: But while that process
was going on, the Taliban, we're assuming of course that they are defeated
and then they take to the hills, or wherever it is they are going to do,
they won't all be rounded up I dare say. While that's going on, they are
going to be making very serious trouble aren't they?
VENDRELL: Well, a lot is going
to depend on how the military campaign works in the next few weeks and
a lot is going to depend on whether Taliban forces, some Taliban forces
cross over to the opposition and whether Pashtun elders and commanders
take the lead also in a term of insurrection against the Taliban.
HUMPHRYS: But it's unrealistic
isn't it to assume that the Taliban as we now recognise them, people who
are violently opposed to what's going on, the protectors of Osama Bin Laden
presumably, it's unrealistic to assume that they will disappear from the
VENDRELL: It's going to be hard.
It's going to be hard and lengthy.
HUMPHRYS: And they are well armed,
or at least relatively well armed?
VENDRELL: They are relatively well
armed, they are not an incredibly powerful force. The danger of course
is the guerrilla, if it became a guerrilla army. I think many of the Taliban
forces would probably not wish to stay with the Taliban but you might have
a hardcore plus the foreigners who are there.
HUMPHRYS: And somebody would have
to deal with them, so who would make the peace, I was going to use the
expression, keep the peace but it might be a question of making the peace
if it is not to be the United Nations?
VENDRELL: I think the United Nations
can assist, cajole, advise the Afghans as to how to get together into some
kind of provisional government. I think this provisional government would
have to ask them, the UN, or the international community, for an international
security force, but it should be something that the Afghans should ask,
it should not be something that is imposed on them.
HUMPHRYS: Right, so in other words,
if they do not come to us, or come to the United Nations and say we need
your military help, we could not even think of sending in a force of any
VENDRELL: I think it would be very
dangerous to do that, if a force were to enter without being at the request
of some quasi legal government in Afghanistan. The Afghans must see what
the allies are trying to do now as a chance for their liberation, they
must not see this as an occupation. If it's an occupation, there is all
the dangers that previous attempts at occupying Afghanistan have dealt
HUMPHRYS: And the trouble is, when
you say the Afghans, this is not exactly an homogenous group of people
with whom one can deal.
VENDRELL: Well, when I say the
Afghans, if the former King, plus the Northern Alliance, plus Pashtun commanders,
were to come together and made a joint request, that I think would have
a great deal of support within Afghanistan.
HUMPHRYS: But even the Northern
Alliance is divided within itself isn't it?
VENDRELL: It is potentially divided,
at the moment they are of course working together...
HUMPHRYS: ..but they have a common
enemy at the moment, don't they, that's the point. Once that common enemy
is dealt with, then you may well see a very different situation there.
VENDRELL: I think we must lay down
a series of principles that should govern the contact of any Afghan groups
that wish to have some kind of legitimacy, and these principles will have
be carefully verified by the UN. Now I'm talking of principles such as
pluralism, responsibility to the Afghan people, good relations with neighbours,
perhaps acceptance of existing borders.
HUMPHRYS: But you're quite clear
that we cannot impose, militarily impose, that kind of arrangement on them?
VENDRELL: I don't think it should
be imposed at all. I think it would be the wrong approach and I don't
think this is necessarily what the United Kingdom or the US are trying
to do now.
HUMPHRYS: And the danger is clearly
that if they don't say to us - Look, come and help us - they'd take over,
whoever they may be, the sort of alliance that you have described. They
then fall out amongst themselves, as has always happened in the past, we
may be back to square one in a sense.
VENDRELL: Well, this is where I
think the Security Council ought to come in, and ensure that these agreements
do not fall apart by having a very tight international verification and
HUMPHRYS: Francesc Vendrell, thank
you very much for joining us today.
VENDRELL: Thank you.
HUMPHRYS: The greatest worry about the
bombing of Afghanistan and any subsequent military action is that it is
being seen as a war, not on terrorism, but on Islam. Tony Blair has spent
many long days shuttling around the Middle East trying to persuade leaders
of Muslim countries (or at least those who'd let him in) that it's NOT
that. Robin Cook is a member of the Blair War Cabinet and I'll be talking
to him. First though, Iain Watson reports on the tensions in the Muslim
IAIN WATSON: In London, Afghan refugees
are praying for those left behind in a country under bombardment. The reverberations
of this conflict are likely to be felt far and wide. Tony Blair says the
coalition against terrorism is getting stronger, not weaker - but with
all his shuttle diplomacy across the Islamic world, this coalition seems
to need as much care and attention as an ailing infant.
Support for action in Afghanistan across the Muslim world has, so far
been passive not active. But even this acquiescence could turn to disquiet
or even opposition; if more and more Afghan people are killed or forced
into exile; and there are fears the war may be extended beyond Afghanistan
to encompass other Muslim nations.
ONUR OYMEN: The important thing is that
for all Muslim countries that this fight should not damage civilians, should
not damage societies and everybody should be careful in targeting only
ALI MUHSEN HAMID: Help the Afghani people by stopping
the war, that's the most important thing.
WATSON: This devastation, first
broadcast on an Arab TV channel, was caused by a so-called Smart bomb,
which went astray near Kabul airport over the weekend, landing on a residential
area. The Allies have stressed that they are not targeting civilians, but
too many incidents like these and America's carefully constructed coalition
could itself be an early casualty of war.
ROSEMARY HOLLIS: The coalition hanging together
depends on how the operation in Afghanistan pans out. If it drags on,
if there are many civilian casualties then the coalition will get more
SIR TERENCE CLARK: There is a certain dichotomy
between the leadership who are in touch with other world leaders who have
their representatives at the United Nations, they know the arguments, they
see the logic of what is happening, whereas at street level they see rather
the suffering, they see Muslims suffering and they identify very closely
WATSON: Muslim fundamentalists
as far away as Indonesia are meting out rough justice to an effigy of President
Bush; and Britain's involvement in the Afghan conflict hasn't gone unnoticed
either. During the first week of military action, most opposition in the
Muslim world was seen on the street, not in the corridors of power. But
now, The twenty-two nation Arab league has begun to echo the demonstrators
HAMID: A whole village was destroyed,
mosques were destroyed in many parts of Afghanistan, so people are very
worried and don't support the war.
WATSON: Do you think the bombing
HAMID: I think it should stop.
WATSON: This girl is one of more
than a million refugees crammed into forty-eight camps along Pakistan's
north west frontier; and the UN says that a million more Afghanis may yet
be displaced. The border has now been closed to all but the old and the
sick. In the frontier regions demonstrations and unrest seem likely to
grow. Experts say the military regime of General Musharraf will weather
the storm - but not without consequences.
HAZHIR TEIMOURIAN: The sight of large numbers of
refugees coming into his own country, continual demonstrations by extremists
against the West and against his own regime, will be uncomfortable. But
I think he shows every sign of confidence that the army is with him and
if necessary he will massacre tens of thousands of demonstrators to show
a lesson to the others.
ATTIYA MAHMOOD: If any crowd becomes rowdy and
tries to destroy government buildings, cars, buses, transport, infrastructure
of course the government will deal with that accordingly.
WATSON: In this phase of military
action, using Cruise Missiles, may be coming to an end. But the Chief
of Britain's Defence Staff has warned that a ground campaign certainly
won't be over by Christmas; if it lasts well into next year more pressure
will build on Muslim states.
MAHMOOD: We have seen in the recent,
in the last weeks, since the attacks, the physical attacks, that there
are pockets of people who do not agree with that course of action. so it
would be good for I guess the whole world if I may say so, for the actual
physical attacks to end as soon as possible.
WATSON: If there's to be a long
war ahead, America would like to see Turkish troops like these more actively
involved, as no mainly Muslim nation has yet committed forces. But Turkey
may opt for a background role, possibly training Northern Alliance fighters
to take on the Taliban, using techniques deployed against Kurdish insurgents.
OYMEN: Our support will not be
a theoretical support. I can assure you that we will be with our American
friends in their fight against terrorism. Turkish troops are among the
most experienced in Nato countries in combating terrorism under difficult
conditions - we are of the opinion that we can share our experience with
those in Afghanistan fighting for their freedom and liberty in case we
are requested to do so.
HOLLIS: It is difficult to see
how Turkey can fulfil the role of America's need to have a Muslim state
demonstrably within the Alliance. Yes, it is a Muslim state but is also
a firm and long time member of Nato. This brings into question whether
it will serve the needs of convincing other Muslim states who are much
more overtly determinedly Muslim in their identity that this is not a
war of the West against Islam.
WATSON: Aware of the sensitivities,
Britain sought to reassure Muslim states today that the West doesn't want
to extend the conflict.
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a decade ago united most of the Arab world against
it. But now the tables have turned. Relatively moderate Arab regimes fear
the reaction from their own more radical populace, if some in the US administration
prevail by going after Saddam.
TEIMOURIAN: If there were to be a landing
of American troops in Southern Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the
Spring, I think it's safe to say that the Arab street, so called, will
catch fire, there will be demonstrations everywhere. Maybe one or two
Arab governments might even fall.
HAMID: People will fight, will
resist and Arab countries will not stand idly by against such aggression.
All the Arabs will resist, will fight and then again we will have the same
premises, West against East, Islam against Christianity, Arabs against
and so on, that's what we want to avoid and enter into dialogue with the
WATSON: Relations with the Muslim
world are clearly strained. But if the West resists the temptation of opening
up a second front in Iraq - and becomes much more active in seeking a solution
to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - then we may yet see the dawn of a
new era of co-operation.
But there's a much darker scenario. If resentment continues to grow in
the Middle East against British and American activities, then some experts
say that previously pro-western governments may have to reassess their
stance. And this could culminate in the nightmare of a new Cold War.
As the current Palestinian uprising, or intifida, moves into its second
year, Tony Blair announced that the Palestinian leader will visit Britain
tomorrow, and said that military action in Afghanistan has to be backed
by progress in the Middle East peace process; but some say this sympathetic
rhetoric must be matched by a commitment to real change.
CLARK: Clearly action on the Middle
East peace process is key to the long-term stability of the Middle East.
There has to be some clearly visible movement forward for example on the
question of recognised, recognition of a Palestinian state. I think that
would be a major step forward.
HAMID: If the West will address
the Palestinian issue, I mean I can say this will alleviate the resentment
in the Arab world.
WATSON: But if there's no substantial
progress in the Middle East, and no early end to the global war on terrorism,
some experts worry that Arab governments may distance themselves from the
West in an attempt to neutralise their own fundamentalists.
TEIMOURIAN: I do not believe that we are
going to convince these people that the British and Americans are really
genuine in their assertions - that it is not a war against Islam or against
the Arabs so I expect that, in fact, resentment and opposition to the West
across the Islamic world will grow over the next ten, fifteen years, even
if we didn't have this sort of spark to make it worse.
WATSON: Afghan refugees here in
London are worried about the risks faced by family and friends they've
left behind. but there's a wider fear that the action in Afghanistan may
herald a more dangerous era of distrust between East and West, which could
endure infinitely longer than the current conflict.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting
JOHN HUMPHRIES: Robin Cook, Sir Michael
Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said a few days ago, that this campaign,
the war against Afghanistan could go on through the winter and into the
next summer at the very least. It's going to be terribly difficult isn't
it if that happens, to keep the coalition together?
ROBIN COOK: First of all, let's be clear,
nobody wants the military campaign to have to go on a day longer than is
necessary. But it is important, vital, that we see this through to the
finish and that we do not finish without having brought Osama bin Laden
to justice and disrupted his terrorist network. And it is quite interesting,
actually a message we are getting from many of the countries of the region
is that, having started this, you've got to see it through. Nothing would
be worse than to stop leaving Osama bin Laden at large, leaving his network
intact, because if that were to be the case, he would strike again, make
no doubt about it, that's why we have to carry out this campaign and why
we have to conclude it successfully.
HUMPHRYS: So it cannot end until
there is, putting it very crudely, a body, Osama bin Laden either, physically
held by us, or his body? I mean that's, it got to, we've got to have one
of those two.
COOK: I am not sure I would want
to endorse the way in which you express it John, but yes, the objective
of this is to make sure that Osama bin Laden is brought to justice and
that his terrorist network is disrupted, that we can actually be safe again.
And anybody who saw that video the other day released by his organisation,
must be clear, not only that they were guilty of what happened at the Trade
Center, they make no attempt to conceal it, but that they would strike
again if they had the chance and if they are left at loose, if they are
left at large, if they are allowed to continue, they will strike again
and they will kill more people if they wish, if they can do so, that's
what they want to do.
HUMPHRYS: But the obvious problem
that arise from that is if he manages to get out of the country and go
somewhere else and hole up somewhere else and we don't know about that
and it's obviously possible, given the sort of country that Afghanistan
is, how would we know when to end the war? Do you see the problem? Of course
you see the problem, you've been talking about nothing else I dare say
for a very long time.
COOK: Nobody at the moment actually
is pretending or suggesting that he is not in Afghanistan, indeed, the
Taliban at the present time possibly revel in the fact that he is in Afghanistan
and are making it clear that they will protect him and that they are standing
shoulder-to-shoulder with him and are entirely complicit in what he does.
But of course, we've always said, right from the start, this is not just
a military campaign, this is also going to be a long campaign to make sure
that we prevent terrorists from striking again, and that means taking action
on the financial front, to freeze their funds, it means taking action in
international movements to make sure that terrorists cannot take advantage
of international ability to move around and plot their evil deeds. It means
making sure that we protect our own people and work in collaboration with
the European Union, with United Nations, to make sure that collectively
we bear down international terrorism. That's not going to stop whether
or not we actually capture Osama bin Laden.
HUMPHRYS: Indeed, but it's the
military action that's upsetting our allies and that's the problem, isn't
COOK: Well, I don't know, I would
not necessarily accept what you say about upsetting our allies. First of
all, in terms of our allies within Nato, within the European Union...
HUMPHRYS: ...well I was thinking
of the Muslim countries, about friends, perhaps I should have said...
COOK: ...yes. But in those organisations
there's a solid unanimity, and indeed, among countries that have not normally
seen eye-to-eye with us, countries like China, Russia, totally supportive.
Within the Muslim world, don't forget that only last Thursday there was
a meeting of all the Islamic States in the organisation of the Islamic
Conference, and together, at the end of that, they issued a statement in
which they described the attack on the World Trade Center as brutal, contrary
to the teachings of Islam, they recognise, and these are their words, the
necessity of bringing to justice those who carried it out, and expressed
their own willingness to contribute to that, and many of them are doing
HUMPHRYS: Yes, but what they did
not do, and that's the important bit, isn't it, they did not endorse the
bombing and the problem is, that as we see civilian casualties inevitably,
we've already seen some, we don't know how many, but the difficulty is,
the problem is that this alliance will not be able to sustain those casualties,
the Muslim world will not accept civilian casualties.
COOK: Well, first of all, in terms
of what this Organisation of Islamic Conference did say, it did say that
it recognised the necessity of action to bring them to justice and it said...
HUMPHRYS: ....they were carefully
COOK: ...well indeed. But it said
it after three or four days of bombing, I mean they knew what they were
talking about. Secondly, in terms of the casualties, we do not believe
that what Taliban is claiming is right, and of course, one might well say
well they would make these claims wouldn't they?
HUMPHRYS: ...and we would deny
them, wouldn't we?
COOK: We don't have, we don't,
nobody has independent corroboration of these claims. What we have...
HUMPHRYS: ...some have been admitted,
by the United States, some civilian casualties have been admitted.
COOK: ...we can guarantee that
we'll take every possible step to minimise civilian risk and to minimise
the possibility of civilians being hurt in the process of this campaign,
but I can't give you a guarantee that in a military campaign, nobody would
be hurt, I mean that would be unrealistic, and it's not the nature of any
military campaign that's ever been waged. But if Taliban wants to stop
the civilian casualties, it can do so tomorrow. All it has to do is hand
over Osama bin Laden and dismantle his terrorist network.
HUMPHRYS: But it knows doesn't
it, that if it doesn't do that, and the bombing continues, and more civilians
are killed, and they will welcome us in to see dead civilians of course,
and that's in their interest, it will have a serious effect on our Muslim
COOK: Well we will continue to
do all we can to make sure there are no civilian casualties...
HUMPHRYS: ...as you say, we can't.
COOK: We can't make an absolute
guarantee, we'll do all we can to make sure it's minimised, and it has
been a targeted specific military campaign. We're a week into it now, and
I don't say that the evidence of popular unrest across the Muslim countries
HUMPHRYS: ...a man was killed this
morning in Pakistan...
COOK: ...there have been demonstrations.
Demonstrations happen in many countries, they are not necessarily a guide
to the state of overall public opinion. There was demonstration in Trafalgar
Square yesterday, but we know five to one of the British public back what
the government's are doing. It shouldn't be seen as a proxy for public
opinion, and do remember that many of those demonstrations you are seeing
are organised by extremist groups who themselves are not representative
of the broad mass of public opinion of those countries.
HUMPHRYS: Another reason for Islamic
concern, obviously Muslim countries concern, is that we had not closed
off the option of attacking other countries if that deemed to be necessary,
Iraq in particular. That's running a considerable risk isn't it, if we
hold that option open, and I presume that option is still held open?
COOK: Well, the Prime Minister,
the Foreign Secretary, many of us have said repeatedly, and Colin Powell
for the United States, has said that there is no evidence of complicity
in the attack of the Trade Center on anybody other than Osama bin Laden
and his accomplices within Taliban. That's why the military campaign is
aimed at Taliban and Osama bin Laden and nobody else.
HUMPHRYS: Why don't we therefore
say we will not categorically be attacking anybody else in connection with
COOK: I think Tony Blair and others
have come pretty close to saying precisely those terms John ...
HUMPHRYS: ...close, but they've
left the option open, that's my point.
COOK: If evidence were to rise
of somebody else being involved in it, then plainly we'd share that evidence
with the world, and help, and let the world come to its conclusion, but
we have no such evidence, we have no such plans.
HUMPHRYS: Well should we perhaps
rephrase or use slightly different language, should we perhaps say, there
is absolutely no intention of attacking any other country, unless clear
evidence emerges etcetera, etcetera, which is a slightly different way
of putting it.
COOK: I would happily endorse that
statement John, and we have no such evidence, and we are not, and I don't
want people out there to interpret such a statement saying ah yes, we are
secretly plotting to attack anybody else, we are not. And I would say myself
at the present time, I think it would be quite wrong for us to open another
front. We have a military campaign which is against those we know were
behind the bombing of the Trade Center. We will have a longer term campaign
which will stretch over years to make sure that through action on the financial
front, action on movements, action on security, we break up terrorism,
wherever it is planned, wherever it is plotted. But the military campaign
is a military campaign against Osama bin Laden.
HUMPHRYS: The problem is isn't
it that even if that evidence did emerge and we were forced to consider
attacking...we felt forced to consider attacking another country, we would
then open a serious can of worms. You'll know Mr Hamid, the Arab League
Ambassador, he said, let me just quote what he said "Arab countries won't
stand idly by against such aggression, we will fight and resist and then
we will have West against East, Islam against Christianity", that's the
danger isn't it.
COOK: Yes, but you are taking me
well down a purely hypothetical road, as I've said. Let me say it again,
this is a military campaign against Osama Bin Laden and nobody else except
those who've helped.
HUMPHRYS: As far as, as you say,
the vast majority of people this is...certainly in this part of the world
this is what we have done so far, it is a reasonable action. But these
Arab governments are already coming under considerable pressure aren't
they from people on their own streets, who don't sort of enter into the
normal democratic process in perhaps in quite the same way that we might
in this country. They are coming under pressure, they are going to worry
aren't they, that the longer these governments, these Arab governments
are going to worry that the longer this campaign goes on, the more insecure
their position is and there is the possibility that one or two governments
might even fall. That has to be a concern long-term doesn't it?
COOK: Well, we don't want this
campaign to go on any longer than is necessary and we want to obviously,
achieve our objective as quickly as we can, but at the present time none
of these governments are disputing what we're doing and indeed there are
forty nations around the world who are assisting one way or the other,
allowing for instance air transit, allowing landing rights, providing intelligence.
There is quite a lot
of active support from these governments and nobody among them is actively
condemning us at the present time. On the question of street demonstrations
- I think actually what is interesting, what is perhaps the most significant
feature of the last week is how little all those demonstrations have been
and how comparatively small they have actually been. Indonesia for instance,
has seen demonstrations of less than a thousand and that is a country where
you have seen quarter of a million of people in the streets in the past.
There is not at present that evidence of a mass uprising in the streets
that you are suggesting.
HUMPHRYS: Well no, but perhaps
more worrying is the sort of....you say we've had support from a lot of
countries, though not explicit support for the bombing itself. But we see
countries like Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia in particular, I mention that
because clearly, it's a vital strategic importance to us, to the whole
world for that matter, wouldn't even...wasn't even prepared to have Tony
Blair go there and talk to them. That's a bit worrying isn't it?
COOK: No and let's get this straight...
HUMPHRYS: ...and sending a signal.
COOK: Let's get this clear John,
we do talk to Saudi Arabia, Tony Blair talked to Saudi Arabia...
HUMPHRYS: But not in this high
profile way that Mr Blair has been going around talking to people with
COOK: But he had two days, he got
round a remarkable number of countries in those two days. There is a limit
to how far you can go and the reality is at that neither side was it possible
to find a convenient basis to visit. But he will go again and Saudi Arabia
has made it plain they want Tony Blair.
HUMPHRYS: So they are happy to
see him in the role that he has been playing as a sort of - he's been described
as an Ambassador for Washington, whether we like that or not. That's the....
COOK: He's the Prime Minister of
HUMPHRYS: And also a very close,
obviously the closest possible ally to Washington. You know, do you, that
Saudi Arabia will accept a visit from Tony Blair and are prepared to talk
COOK: Yes. Saudi Arabia has said
it would welcome a visit from Tony Blair and indeed he does regularly speak
by phone to the leaders of Saudi Arabia. Do remember that the government
of Saudi Arabia did break off its ties with the Taliban. It was one of
only three governments that ever had recognised the Taliban government
and has ended that and it did condemn the attack on the Trade Center in
very strong terms.
HUMPHRYS: Do you accept that this
whole mess is not going to be sorted out unless and until we sort out the
'Palestine problem' as it is described by those who are concerned about
it. You made a speech yourself, it turned out to be quite precedent back
in 1998 at a Labour Party Conference I was reading it this morning and
you talked then about finding a solution to this clash of civilisations
as you put it and a lot of people are talking about a clash of civilisations
now. How important is it that we find that solution, we put pressure
on the Israelis to find a solution to the Palestinian problem - not eventually,
at some point in the future but in order to sort this mess out.
COOK: Just to be clear John, I
think I rejected the idea there was...
HUMPHRYS: ...indeed but you raised
the issue that's the point.
COOK: Yes, indeed but what I pressed
for is that we must have vigorous dialogue between the west and the Islamic
world and recognise the enormous common cultural area that we have between
us and we have very strong roots together in history. Now, in the case
of the Middle East, it is very important that we do resolve the tension
and the conflict within the Middle East, very important for the sake of
the peoples most intimately involved, important that we do find a permanent
settlement that brings justice to the Palestinians because...
HUMPHRYS: Which would have to be
a Palestinian state wouldn't it, a Palestinian state.
COOK: Indeed and we have recognised
in the European Union for a very long time, that a Palestinian state is
one of the logical outcomes of the peace process and I think everybody
now accepts that it is a certain element of a satisfactory solution.
HUMPHRYS: Be quite clear - as part
of the overall solution to this problem.
COOK: The Oslo peace process is
based on the principle of land for peace. We've got to get back to that
principle and make sure that the land that is provided is..does provide
for a viable Palestinian state, because only a permanent settlement that
does provide justice to the people..to the Palestinian people is going
to provide the guarantee of security which the Israeli people also need.
HUMPHRYS: And as far as Afghanistan
is concerned, you will have heard Mr Francesc Vendrell talking about it
earlier, the United Nations special representative, how are we going to
establish this sort of broad based democratic administration that is needed,
unless we put a powerful force there to make it happen. As he said, the
idea of a United Nations protectorate simply isn't on, we cannot impose
a force upon the country unless we are invited in.
COOK: No, I think Mr Vendrell
made a lot of very sensible observations and spoke with the authority of
experience and I would agree with him, a UN protectorate is an option but
it has to be an option...
HUMPHRYS: He disagrees with that...
COOK: No, I don't think he disagreed
with the way I'm saying it...it has to be an option but only with active
support of elements of the Afghan people. It is not something that..no
solution can be imposed from outside. Now, John, we are not contemplating
a mass invasion or an occupation of Afghanistan, that is not on the game
plan, that is not going to happen.
HUMPHRYS: That is ruled out, an
invasion of Afghanistan is ruled out.
COOK: Anybody who has been looking
at the preparations and the troops in the area can see there is not going
to be armed columns advancing into Afghanistan, if there is any option
within the country it will be targeted,
it will be specific, it will be temporary. There is not going to be that
plan for a military occupation of Afghanistan. We do want to help the
Afghan people come to achieve a future with a government that is broadly
representative of the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan and with a
government that also accepts these international obligations not to allow
Afghanistan to be used as a base for terrorism or the production of drugs.
HUMPHRYS: The trouble is when Tony
Blair says, as he did to the Afghan people, we make this commitment, we
will not walk away, that is absolutely solid and an open ended commitment
COOK: It is a strong commitment
and is a commitment to help the Afghan people re-build their own country,
not just on the humanitarian front of which we are doing an immense amount
now and putting is as much effort as we are on the military front, but
also on the reconstruction and redevelopment of their country. Now we
are willing to help that, we are willing collectively in the west and the
Arab nations to put a lot of funds into that and I think that will give
us a leverage with the Afghan people who will not want to put that at risk
and who will want to work with those who want to help them.
HUMPHRYS: Robin Cook, many thanks.
COOK: Thank you.
HUMPHRYS: And that's if for this
week. We'll be back at our usual time next week 12.00 o'clock midday.
If you are on the Internet you can find this programme on the On The Record
Website. Until next week, good afternoon.