HUMPHRYS: Thanks Peter.
Iain Duncan Smith caught
it in the neck this week from the government because of what he said about
the war. Mr Duncan-Smith, the Leader of the Opposition was called "a completely
stupid choice as Party leader" not that he had been critical of the action
that's been taken. What he said was that the government had failed to
get its message across very well. But that was enough to trigger the
attack. In every other respect, Mr Duncan-Smith could hardly have been
more supportive. TOO supportive, well there are rumblings in his party
that he aligned himself so closely with Tony Blair right from the beginning
that the only role he can play now is a more or less silently supportive
one. Mr Duncan-Smith is on the line.
Good afternoon Mr Duncan-Smith.
IAIN DUNCAN-SMITH: Good afternoon John.
HUMPHRYS: Is there a danger do you think
that your policy is counter-productive - that's to say nobody takes any
notice of you when you support the government and when you offer mild criticism
they drop on you like a ton of bricks?
DUNCAN-SMITH: No, I think that our attitude
here as the opposition is an important and valuable one. Our role is to
make sure that we support the government as long as we believe that they're
right and carrying out the right action.. I believe they are and I believe
the Prime Minister has been, in supporting the Americans and making sure
that we do everything to bring al-Qaeda, Bin Laden and others to justice.
And I also recognise that there is a need to deal with Taliban, because
it's Taliban who are shielding al- Qaeda and the third and most important
factor which is the delivery of humanitarian aid into Afghanistan, I also
recognise that you can't really deliver that in the quantity you require
until you've dealt with Taliban. So the government is right. As regards
to whether or not I should back them, well, I think it's right not to play
silly political games. We have a very, very important crisis on our hands
and I don't think the British people would forgive us quite rightly if
we sought to make short-term political capital out of something which is
a much longer term problem. I will of course make observations that I
think are relevant privately and if necessary publicly, but I don't think
that I will heed those who say I should take short-term attacks on the
government. I don't intend to do that.
HUMPHRYS: So, you're saying that
at the moment as far as you're concerned, even though many people are saying
they need to push harder, you're saying that everything they're doing is
DUNCAN-SMITH: No. I said that their purpose
and their principles and objectives are correct. As I observed in the
week, my observation was simply that the government needed to do more on
the home front to make sure that the British people understood that the
war aims, particularly the aim of dealing with Taliban is critical to actually
bringing bin Laden and al Qaeda to justice, and that there is a logical
military process to that which I support. That was simply what I was saying
at the time, but what I do say to those who get frustrated, we have plenty
of other issues on which quite rightly to deal with the government and
we are, issues from the Health Service and public services generally -
their problem over Railtrack and various other crises they've got themselves
into, and difficulties with the economy. We'll attack and be a normal
opposition on all of those, but what we will do on this particular crisis
and the objectives over Afghanistan is to be as supportive as we possibly
can to make sure that the British people get a loyal opposition when they
HUMPHRYS: So you're not even prepared
to say that you think that maybe they should push a little harder, and
I mention that because we've heard a number of people as I'm saying, including
Henry Kissinger who has been in London this week, saying it would be wrong
to believe there is an unlimited period of time, so clearly he feels that
there's rather more urgency about this than the United States and we seem
to be displaying. Do you share any sense of unease about that?
DUNCAN-SMITH: No, I don't. I mean I listened
to - I read rather Henry Kissinger's speech and I talked to him afterwards,
and I'm in agreement that the Allies must make as best progress as they
can as quickly as they can because there are limits to how they can conduct
themselves through the winter. I accept all of that. I don't believe
however for one moment is that the military chiefs or the politicians on
either side of the Atlantic in government are actually dragging their feet
for any particular purpose. The truth is what we have to do, and I think
we're seeing it now with the B-52's, is a gradual tightening of the noose
around Taliban and of course bin Laden, and that takes time. The pressure
of those bombing raids will grow and eventually that, plus ground troops,
will put the final pressure on I believe to break the Taliban, and I pointed
out during the week that attacking Kosovo was much the same process. It's
only when the enemy recognise that ground troops are about to be deployed
or are being deployed that they finally begin to suffer the breakdown that
is essentially there as a result of the bombing - they can't communicate,
they can't reinforce, their equipment that they're hiding has to come into
the open, and that means it's open to air attack, and that can be taken
out. Those sort of things happen once ground troops are on the ground
and of course I urge the governments obviously to get on with that as quickly
as possible, but clearly I don't believe that anyone is dragging their
feet for the sake of it.
HUMPHRYS: Well, exactly. You say
you urge them to get on with that as quickly as possible. You may have
heard on of your own MPs, Nicholas Soames this morning saying that they
really must press on with this now, because if something isn't done before
the winter and the Taliban are able to survive more or less, I say more
or less - we don't know precisely how damaged they've been - but more or
less undamaged throughout the winter period, then that's going to give
them a) a colossal propaganda advantage and b) an opportunity to regroup
and all the other things that go with that.
DUNCAN-SMITH: Yes, but I do think that
everybody should recognise this is a potentially long process. We are
dealing with a country a long, long way away from either Britain or America,
and therefore building up the right number of ground troops in the area
to mount that assault is going to take time. I think Sir Timothy made
the point quite graphically that even doing that in the Gulf, the Gulf
War was difficult enough and took time, and I think therefore you have
to understand that this is going to take time. But, and I do genuinely
believe this, that the purpose and resolve of the governments concerned
is very, very clear, and I want to make absolutely certain that obviously
the British people understand that the objective is to get rid of Taliban,
because Taliban will stop us getting to al-Qaeda and bin-Laden. That means
ultimately the deployment of ground troops and whatever that takes, so
we need to be certain that that is going to happen
HUMPHRYS: But when we talk about
the Gulf War, as you say Tim Garden talked about that himself. What we
saw there was a build up, a massive build up of ground troops over quite
a long period of time and then when the time was right, they went in. Obviously
a very different position in Afghanistan. But we are not seeing a build
up of ground troops as we speak and it would, if we were going to do that,
take very long time indeed and we'd have to have the support of neighbouring
countries that we don't have. So, where is this invasion going to come
from, have you given that a lot of thought?
DUNCAN-SMITH: Well I have, but John I have
to tell you as somebody who has served myself, I would be very reluctant
to let the press know exactly what scale of build up is going on because
that will send signals to Taliban that may turn out in the end to be disruptive.
There may well and I believe probably, some fairly substantial build up
going on in the countries surrounding Afghanistan and my concern therefore
is that we shouldn't immediately assume that that is not taking place.
I believe that there are sufficient forces being built up and I think
already the governments, particularly President Bush has made it absolutely
clear that they are committed where necessary to the deployment of ground
troops. So we may see some early smaller deployments but I believe that
ultimately, if necessary, there will be very sufficient ground troop deployments.
HUMPHRYS: But we would know, wouldn't
we, if there were this great build up going on. They'd have to come from
somewhere, they'd be seen leaving their bases, we'd know because we have
correspondents all over the place. We'd know whether they were in neighbouring
countries, which is the only place they could be, as an effective invasion
force. We'd know if all that was going on, wouldn't we?
DUNCAN-SMITH: Well may be, I'm not sure
that that is the case. I mean I don't think the media should always assume
that that know everything.
HUMPHRYS: I grant you that.
DUNCAN-SMITH: The reality is that there
are good reasons why it would suit the allies purpose to keep some of these
deployments fairly quiet, so that if and when any assault takes place,
the element of surprise, which is absolutely critical. Those who've studied
warfare know that surprise is hugely important, that element is maintained
and therefore Taliban are left guessing as to when, where or exactly what
time or what scale will the deployment of ground troops will be. So the
reality is that I think the allies would want to keep that fairly quiet.
HUMPHRYS: And you're quite clear
in your own mind that that is what is needed. Some sort of - you're not
going to say where, you're not going to say when, you don't know obviously,
none of us knows, but that some sort of serious ground invasion is going
to be needed at some stage?
DUNCAN-SMITH: I hope that it wouldn't be
needed but we need to prepare for that eventuality and if necessary to
deploy ground troops. The reality is that the present bombing of the Taliban
by the way is not carpet bombing, it's quite specific bombing of their
front line, carpet bombing is just taking out a large area and flattening
it. That will have a dramatic effect I believe on their soldiers, as Sir
Timothy said, day after day, if you are being bombed by that weight of
bombs, then your morale does tend to suffer, particularly if you are not
in very well prepared positions. So that will have an effect and at the
right moment and this is critical, you don't deploy ground troops until
it's clear that the morale of the enemy is lowered, that their ability
to respond is lowered, their communications are broken and they can't reinforce.
That sort of effect is when you deploy ground troops because they have
the most effect for the minimum number of casualties and I am very much
in favour of keeping that point clear. It is important that if we deploy
them and when we deploy them, that they have maximum effect and I believe
that is very much the plan at the moment.
HUMPHRYS: Just have a quick word
about the diplomacy here. It does seem to be going a bit pear shaped doesn't
it. I mean we saw Tony Blair going to the Middle East, standing alongside
a known supporter of terrorism being made to look a bit silly and having
to listen to the sort of things he didn't want to hear. Was that damaging
in your view?
DUNCAN-SMITH: Well I don't suppose the
Prime Minister would have liked the headlines very much when he came back
and clearly it was, as always, these things often are a gamble that we
could have gained more than we'd have lost in the sense that it might have
brought Syria closer to the sense that they now have to end their involvement
with these extremist terrorist groups and that there may have been some
way of bringing them in. Clearly that hasn't necessarily worked, but I
think nonetheless we need not to lose sight of one important point, that
building of the coalition is about support for the effort in Afghanistan
and that therefore the mission dictates the coalition, not the other way
round. And I think as long as that remains clear then all of these meetings
should be set in context, which is if they succeed, then that's excellent,
if they don't, they don't however damage our military mission. That is
absolutely vital to get rid of Taliban, to bring al-Qaeda to justice and
ultimately to get the right amount of humanitarian aid into Afghanistan.
That mission, or those aims dictate the coalition, not the other way round.
HUMPHRYS: Your Foreign Secretary..former
Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said...our former Foreign Secretary Malcolm
Rifkind said it had been very unwise, do you not share that or are you
being very cautious and very support again here?
DUNCAN-SMITH: Well I don't want to get
involved in you know hindsight here, I think that whilst of course, you
know we would have wanted there to have been a successful visit, if a visit
took place and that clearly that wasn't necessarily successful, it doesn't
mean to say that fundamentally it was wrong to try and bring Syria in.
The reality is that it was always going to be difficult, Syria is far too
heavily involved with some of these extremist terrorist groups and so we
recognise that. But the important thing is as I said earlier on not to
lose sight of what this is all about, which is essentially bringing al-Qaeda
and Bin Laden to justice and to do that, we need to deal with them in Afghanistan
and deal with Taliban. That's the mission and that mission dictates the
coalition and whatever else takes place, is peripheral to that.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Duncan-Smith, thanks
very much indeed.