BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 04.11.01

==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT; BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES, OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD THE WAR REPORT RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 04.11.01 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. It's been another difficult week, no obvious progress either in the war or on the diplomatic front. I'll be talking to the man who's been appointed by President Bush as his special envoy to Afghanistan and asking him how Washington sees the future for the country. I'll also be talking to the leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith. Are the Tories TOO uncritical? We'll be reporting on the plight of the starving in Afghanistan and asking if we in this country may end up paying higher taxes because of the war. That's after the news read by Darren Jordan. NEWS HUMPHRYS: The big bombers went into Afghanistan last week ... the B52's and as we've just heard they were in action again overnight.... the biggest raids so far. It's now a month since the attacks began and in this programme we'll be looking at the diplomatic, the political and the economic effects of the war so far. But first ... the military scene. Here's Peter Snow with his analysis. PETER SNOW: And I'm joined by Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden again. Now there's still a sense this weekend, after four weeks of this war, that the allies are holding back a bit, biding their time, waiting for more intelligence information and not giving way to pressure from public opinion or from their impatient allies on the ground. But they have stepped things up in two important areas. B52 bombers have been dropping bombs in support of the Northern Alliance by making attacks on the Taliban front-lines and areas up in North and North-East of the country, not intensively enough to satisfy their allies on the ground and not yet enough to make the Taliban withdraw or desert. More detail on those raids in a moment. The other shift of emphasis is on the ground. We don't know where it happened but one American helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, apparently the weather was bad, somewhere in the middle of the country during an operation by special forces. They sent in another helicopter to rescue the crew and a strike aircraft to destroy the downed helicopter. Now the Taliban say they shot down two helicopters; the Americans deny it. But whatever the truth is, we now have clear evidence of American forces exposed to risk on the ground in Afghanistan. And we know for sure that American Special Forces are somewhere up here in the North and North-East of the country accompanying the forces of the Northern Alliance in their fight with the Taliban - and the Pentagon says it would like to increase the number of these men three or four-fold over the next few weeks. The trouble is, even with the help they're getting so far, the Northern Alliance still haven't scored any major successes. Now, we've no way of knowing, but one other operation which special forces - perhaps even that crashed helicopter - may have been involved in, is taking place somewhere here in the middle of Afghanistan in Oruzgan province. This is where another important anti-Taliban southerner, Hamid Karzai is said to be trying to organise resistance to the Taliban. The Taliban say they've already captured some of his supporters and are pursuing him hard, but Karzai's brother in Pakistan says he's heard from Karzai that he's perfectly safe. Some heartening news for the allied coalition this week has been that Turkey will be sending ninety troops, Special Forces, to aid the Northern Alliance and the Czech Republic will be sending some three hundred troops, half of them experts in chemical warfare. And the Pentagon has announced that it's going to deploy this curious unmanned aircraft, it's called the Global Hawk, over Afghanistan. It can detect very small objects and the weakest of radio signals over a very wide area. Now Air Marshal, what good can an aircraft like Global Hawk be with the winter coming on? AIR MARSHAL SIR TIM GARDEN: Well it's a very new aircraft with all the latest technology and still in the development phase. It can stay above the country for thirty-six hours at a time and as the winter comes on, the detection of infra-red contrast is so much better and what we will see is signs of where human habitation is in caves, under the snow, and things like that. SNOW: So the winter won't defeat the intelligence operation? GARDEN: No, the winter will actually make it easier in many ways, to see tracks when you do the photographs and to see where people are living. SNOW: Now in this morning's press, there's a huge amount of speculation that we could be about to see a huge invasion, or attack at least, on Mazar-e-Sharif from the north here, on perhaps the northern parts of Afghanistan, a huge allied component perhaps, but using the Northern Alliance. Do you think that's credible and possible? GARDEN: No I think what we're seeing is that Mazar-e- Sharif is the target for now, but there aren't huge allied forces there and if you remember in the Gulf War, it took about five months to assemble a large allied force and I think the time-scales are not going to be that different these days. SNOW: What about the Northern Alliance. Could they take Mazar-e-Sharif? GARDEN: If they have sufficient help from the US Air Forces, yes. SNOW: Okay. Well the Americans say they are now into Phase Three of their air campaign in Afghanistan. First, they hit the Taliban's air defences, that was Phase One, the radars and so on, then they went for air-strips and command posts all over country. In Phase Three, they say that eighty per cent of their effort is directed to bombing the Taliban's front-line troops up here, where they're facing the Northern Alliance. Early in this last week, up here in Tajikistan, General Tommy Franks, who's the American Commander in the area, met the Northern Alliance's Commander, General Mohamed Fahim and he agreed to give the Northern Alliance much more overt support. Now here's a closer look at the battleground up in the north, where the Northern Alliance say they urgently need help if they're to take Mazar-e-Sharif and the capital, Kabul. Two other important towns, Kondoz and Taloqan - hold key positions on the major roads in the north of the country. And the Northern Alliance, very roughly, control the area within this dotted line, a large circle south of Mazar-e-Sharif, a bit of country up here, and the area around Taloqan and north east of Kabul, like that, we can put the Northern Alliance tanks and soldiers, we've coloured them yellow here on our map and there they are, that's their position there and they're putting particular pressure on Taloqan as well as threatening Mazar and Kabul. The Americans now have Special Forces accompanying the Northern Alliance, of course the Americans would like to increase the number of those forces, they are advising them, sending back targeting information to the American Air Force and they're dropping ammunition and other weapons supplies by parachute and helicopter to the Northern Alliance already. They say they'd like to do more on the ground, but in one place where they tried to reinforce the Northern Alliance, the Pentagon tell us they ran into ground fire that was too heavy. This last week, we've seen them send the B52s to bomb Taliban positions in three areas in particular. First, here at Dara-i-Suf, south of Mazar-e- Sharif. Now each B52 drops a devastating load of bombs the Americans call them long sticks of bombs, it's more generally described as carpet-bombing and it may have had some effect in this area here. The Northern Alliance claim that they've gained ground in the last day or two, although thought they suffered some earlier reverses, but this can't be verified independently. Now up here around Taloqan, also the B52s carpet bombing Taliban positions in the hills around the city of Taloqan, denying the Northern Alliance access to Taloqan. The airfield of Bagram also down there, just north of Kabul, there's also B52 operations there and again, it's the Americans bombing the Taliban positions around the airfield of Bagram. Bagram being on the frontline between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban protecting Kabul. But this has not resulted yet in the Northern Alliance gaining any ground here and claims that they've won hundreds of deserters from the Taliban here and elsewhere have not been verified by anybody else. So are the Americans doing enough to help the people they say they're committed to helping? Well the air effort is less intense than it was in the Gulf War ten years ago. That's partly accounted for by the fact of course that the carrier- based strike aircraft have to travel much further here than they had to in Iraq. Then there were thousands of sorties a day, now there are less than a hundred. And in the Gulf War, B52s were staging a hundred raids or more, with five-hundred, six-hundred raids a day. Now they're flying about ten raids a day. Now Air Marshal, couldn't these air operations be stepped up much more heavily. GARDEN: Well part of it is the number of targets you've got and it's very difficult from the Gulf War where you had formal armoured formations to attack. These attacks which are not carpet bombing, they are just sticks of bombs coming from B52s, really are devastating to those that are underneath. They are not as precise as precision weapons, but the psychological effect is enormous and the reports out of the Gulf War at the end of it, from Iraqi prisoners of war, show that continual bombardment by B52s, really did sap their will to fight and I think, over a period of time, the loss of sleep, the feeling of danger, really does undermine the morale, it also boosts of course the morale of the Northern Alliance. SNOW: So give us a quick idea what we could expect in the next few weeks. You don't think we'd expect a huge land invasion, but you think we can expect much more activity by the Northern Alliance? GARDEN: Yes, I mean, I think those zones that you were showing earlier can be joined up so that the north becomes an area that the Northern Alliance controls, if Bagram airfield can be secured in a way that it's not overlooked by the Taliban, that really is the north of the country ready to start building through the winter in order to look at Kabul, perhaps in the spring. SNOW: Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden, thank you very much. Back to you John. 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 right? 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 need that. 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. HUMPHRYS: There's talk in the papers this morning of a big operation being planned to establish a bridgehead in Afghanistan to get aid delivered before winter really sets in. And there have been many calls for a pause in the bombing to allow the aid agencies to do their work. Ministers here and in Washington have said that won't happen. Terry Dignan looks at how much aid is getting in and how much more is needed. TERRY DIGNAN: In Afghanistan thousands are fleeing to refugee camps. Few people have suffered more than these. The Afghans have had to cope with civil war, drought and a regime shunned by the outside world. Now, as the United States bombs the Taliban, Afghans are on the move, frightened and hungry. While many in Britain argue against any let-up in the bombing, others warn there's an urgent need to re-think the strategy: GLENYS KINNOCK MEP: The humanitarian crisis is clearly very serious and I think reaching disaster proportions both inside Afghanistan and on the border areas and, of course, that is exacerbated by the prospect of the winter months and the difficulties that that would entail in terms of being able to deliver the amounts of food that would be needed. MAJOR ERIC JOYCE MP: Stopping the bombing now would enable the al-Qaeda and bin Laden to regroup and the Taliban to regroup and that would have obvious implications for the medium to long term, for the people of Afghanistan and for indeed the people of the developed nations who may be attacked by them. DIGNAN: This Birmingham-based charity is buying food for Afghanistan, thanks partly to money raised from selling donated clothes. Before September the eleventh more than five million Afghans relied on the United Nations' World Food Programme. Islamic Relief staff in Afghanistan report the numbers needing aid are growing. Many people are trying to escape the bombing even though they have little food to sustain them. SAKANDAR ALI: There's been a, a massive population movement out of the cities. There is no communication systems in Kandahar city. Again there is no electricity or running water. And generally people are fleeing. People are afraid, people have seen death. DIGNAN: Aid agencies like Islamic Relief argue that millions of Afghans face disease and starvation because supplies of food have been disrupted by the bombing campaign. Those living in remote mountainous areas are said to be most at risk - in just two weeks time the winter snows could cut them off from the outside world. All this is testing the Government's resolve over its support for the bombing campaign ALI: Potentially, most of them will not have enough, because if at the moment we are only sending in nineteen per cent of what's actually needed, even if we multiply that, it's certainly still not going to be enough. DOMINIC NUTT: The bombing and the military campaign following the September eleventh atrocity has exacerbated the situation hugely. We cannot easily get lorries into the country to deliver food. DIGNAN: The World Food Programme says Afghanistan needs fifty-two thousand metric tonnes of food aid per month - that would have meant sending in about one-thousand, seven hundred tonnes per day in October. Our Government says progress is being made towards this target. During the week to the twenty-ninth of October, the World Food Programme dispatched a daily average of one-thousand, four-hundred and thirty tonnes. But according to Christian Aid, using Food Programme figures, the average delivery for the whole of October came to just seven-hundred-and-sixty-three tonnes per day. The charity claims that so great is the accumulated shortfall that in the next fortnight before winter sets in Afghanistan will need an average daily delivery of nine-thousand, seven-hundred-and-one tonnes. As freezing conditions approach, there's little hope of reaching this figure. KINNOCK: I've looked at the figures very carefully and seen what the World Food Programme and others are saying, and it does appear to me that although we are delivering food now, it doesn't seem to me that we can anticipate meeting the kind of targets that we would need to meet to get to the people particularly in the more remote areas. DIGNAN: The United Nations' is buying more trucks to carry aid into Afghanistan. But the biggest problem is distributing food to rural areas of the country. While our Government blames the Taliban, some non-governmental organisations - NGOs - blame the bombing. The UN's World Food Programme, which is responsible for getting most of the food into Afghanistan say it's far from easy operating in a country at war. CATHERINE BERTINI: First, we don't have any communications with our staff and, and we have a difficulty in reaching the staff in order to arrange, arrange programmes for delivery inside Afghanistan. Second we have very few vehicles inside Afghanistan, and that harms the delivery also. Third, our NGO partners have the same kind of communications problems and so without some improved communication we're, we are quite limited. NUTT: Eighty- five per cent of Afghans live in rural communities, often unconnected by roads or any, any form of communication. So it's very very difficult then to drive lorries at the best of times into the mountains on very, very sketchy mountain tracks when there, when there are bombs flying around, there's land mines around, planes flying overhead. DIGNAN: Time is running out says the World Food Programme because a hundred-thousand families living in remote mountainous areas of central and northern Afghanistan could be cut off when the snows come. The aid agencies say these highland regions need to stockpile thousands of sacks of food to see people through the winter. ALI: It must be utmost priority for us to ensure enough food stocks are sent in to take people through the winter months, because a lot of these areas will be cut off during the winter as a result of snow. NUTT: And from that moment on you can guess that there will be many villages where there's hunger. There will be starvation, there will be death and we might be looking at ghost villages come the spring. DIGNAN: The United States was much criticised for dropping food from aircraft. Yet the World Food Programme is now considering air drops. It's just about the most expensive way of providing aid - and there's no guarantee it will reach those who most need it. BERTINI: If I give you a bag of food I know it's getting to you but if I drop it from an airplane I, I do not know who is going to pick it up but I have to target the drops so that I'm reaching the areas where I know the people are most at risk. So it is not the first choice or even the third choice option. It's really the option when if nothing else works. DIGNAN: At Islamic Relief more piles of donated clothing are being sorted to raise money for Afghanistan. Some of these aid agencies are also pushing the demand for a let-up in the military campaign. Islamic Relief - and other charities active in Afghanistan like Oxfam and Christian Aid - want a pause in the bombing so that more food can be delivered. They believe public opinion is moving in their favour. Indeed, even amongst those in the Labour Party who support the war aims there are fears the bombing campaign is impeding the aid effort. KERRY POLLARD MP: I believe the bombing has to stop because we're coming up to Ramadan, we're coming up to the winter, there is not enough food in Afghanistan already and if the passes close down because of the winter, then no food can get in and people will starve. KINNOCK: If we don't provide some kind of period of safety then we won't get food to people and you will see, many people starving and, and facing enormous need in terrible circumstances in isolation and without any help from anyone. DIGNAN: But military experts believe the Taliban's fighting capability may have been badly hurt by the bombing campaign. So a pause might be to their advantage. AIR VICE-MARSHAL TONY MASON: A bombing pause would give the Taliban the opportunity to repair defences, to move reinforcements around, to re-supply, to repair air defences, perhaps to reconnect commander control communications, and it would also of course give the individuals or units of the Bin Laden organisation an opportunity to move around too, totally freely. Perhaps to escape, to go into different parts, to lose themselves in different parts of the country. DIGNAN: On Friday protestors gathered at the Department for International Development to plead with the Government to urge the United States to bring food, not bombs, to Afghanistan. The minister in charge here, Clare Short, says a pause in the bombing would be a grave error. Even though the UN now believes that the bombing is an impediment to supplying food, Clare Short insists the air campaign must continue. Indeed, she and others in the Labour Party argue that what the aid agencies, the NGOs, fail to recognise, is that defeating the Taliban is essential if the Afghan people are to have any hope for the future. JOYCE: The issue is whether or not the humanitarian aid in the medium to long-term would be aided and assisted by a cease to the bombing campaign. I don't believe it would be and I think the position of the, some of the NGOs is very short-sighted and may reflect their own interest rather than the humanitarian interest of the people of Afghanistan. DIGNAN: The World Food Programme has just announced another rise in the amount of aid delivered to Afghanistan. And despite the fears of charities in this country it remains doggedly optimistic. But another problem is looming - a lack of cash. BERTINI: The current situation is that the World Food Programme is about sixty per cent resourced for the food for the next six months and it is critical that we receive additional assistance so that we can move, not only move food into the region but purchase food in the region so that we can get it there even more quickly. DIGNAN: With millions of Afghans needing food, a human catastrophe is in the making. Our Government believes it's in the long-term interests of Afghanistan's people to continue the bombing to defeat the Taliban. But ministers know that the coalition may be blamed if the threat of starvation becomes a reality. HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan on what may be a terrible winter ahead for the people of Afghanistan. JOHN HUMPHRYS: After the winter ... after the war... what then? Who's going to run that benighted country? It's an enormous problem and it's not one that can be put on the back burner until the war is over. How do you fight a war without being clear on what should replace the government that you're trying to destroy? Richard Haass is the special envoy appointed by President Bush to find an answer to that question. The official position is that the United States doesn't care what sort of government ends up running the country - just so long as it does not harbour terrorists. When I spoke to Mr Haass from our studio in Washington I asked him if that means they'd be happy to give the Taliban, as it were, a second chance. RICHARD HAASS: Well the President has laid out several times a set of demands to the Taliban and includes handing over, not simply Mr Bin Laden, but all those who have been directly connected with the events of September 11th and other terrorism. They have got to close down the terrorist training camps and essentially they've got to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a country that harbours, or in any way aids or abets terrorism. Those offers have been on the table and, as you and everyone else watching this knows, that opportunity has never been taken up by the Taliban leadership. HUMPHRYS: And if it's not taken up and the war continues and the Taliban are driven out of power, can you see any way in which they would return to the new government of Afghanistan? HAASS: I don't see any role for the most senior Taliban people. I think they are illegitimate or discredited but I would not rule out the possibility that rank and file Afghans, particularly people of the Pashtun descendent, that these people who have associated themselves with the Taliban leadership, I would not rule out that they might have a potential place in the future of Afghanistan. But, I think this question of who has a political future and who doesn't is really something for the Afghans themselves to sort out. HUMPHRYS: But you couldn't rule out the Taliban since they represent the largest ethnic grouping in the country? HAASS: Well, I would quarrel with the word that they represent anybody. There has been no legitimacy in their take over of power, there has never been an election or anything approximating it. All I am saying is that I do not see a role for the top level but I would not preclude the possibility that if you want to call it, the rank and file, that there is a place for them in the future of Afghanistan, if the future government of Afghanistan so decides. HUMPHRYS: What about the Northern Alliance. I think it's fair to say many of us are confused about your attitude towards the Northern Alliance. Would we expect to see them forming a large part of the new government? HAASS: I think it's fair to say that the Northern Alliance need to be a part of a future government of Afghanistan but that they cannot be the future government of Afghanistan. Clearly, there has got to be a broad-based representative government, and that means that you have got to have a government that represents Pashtuns, which roughly are forty per cent or so of the country, you have got to have people who represent the entire geographical breadth of Afghanistan. So, yes, there has got to be an important place for the United Front or the Northern Alliance but that can't be the totality of it. HUMPHRYS: It's presumably, in your power, in the power of the United States forces, to enable the Northern Alliance to seize power, more or less as we speak, or at least some time in the near future. It seems clear that you are not doing that? HAASS: It's our policy to help bring about a broad-based government. Politically we've been working with people around the former King, the so-called Rome Group. We have been working with the Northern Alliance. We have been trying to reach out to Pashtuns throughout the country and I think what we can do, is essentially encourage them to come together, that is exactly what our policy is. We are also working very closely with the neighbours of Afghanistan, with countries such as Pakistan. We have had very interesting talks with Iran, we have had talks with Uzbekistan and others, again with the Russians. Again talking about how countries that neighbour on Afghanistan or have influence on Afghanistan, how they can play a role in helping to forge some sort of an alternative political entity to the current regime. Obviously, though our military actions will have a role and my own prediction is, my own sense is, that as there is continued military progress, that will more than anything set the stage for tremendous political progress as well. HUMPHRYS: But if you had the ability, at some stage in the near future to launch an attack or enable the Northern Alliance to launch an attack that would enable them then to take power, you wouldn't do that would you? HAASS: The United States is trying to get rid of the Taliban leadership. We are trying to root out the al-Qaeda terrorist network. We obviously want to see a change politically in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is the heart or the core, right now, of the opposition that is armed. Obviously, there is a possibility that they will take over various population and urban centres in Afghanistan. That is something that, ultimately, we would welcome. It is important, though, that if and when it is done and I really do think it is a question of WHEN this happens, that when they take over major population centres, that they do so in the name of some larger political entity that essentially gives way. So, it's not simply a narrow Northern Alliance or United Front victory but it's really a victory for an alternative political future for Afghanistan and that is something we very much want to see. HUMPHRYS: The problem with establishing the sort of larger political entity that you talk about is that all of Afghanistan's neighbours, each of them wants something different? HAASS: I think that's perhaps somewhat more true of the past than the present. Right now, as we speak here today, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Mr Brahimi, has been travelling around the region. I, myself, from here in Washington have been having lots of contacts with representatives of various governments. We have had other American diplomats and indeed, diplomats of Britain and other countries going around the world. All I can say is that, so far, we have encountered, as have others, a growing awareness that people have to perhaps move beyond their own narrow national agendas and begin to work together. Everybody understands that the sort of Afghanistan we've seen for the last five or six years is in the interests of no one. It's not in the interests of the Afghan people. It's not in the interests of any of the neighbours. It's generating millions of refugees which are an economic and a political strain. It has become a base for terrorism which again helps no one. So, my own sense of it is that, even though historically there has been an awful lot of competition or divergence between and among the neighbours of Afghanistan, that we are beginning to see something of a realisation, potentially even a coming together, where they will put aside some of their own particular preferences in order to work what everyone agrees is necessary which is a stable Afghanistan that doesn't promote terrorism, doesn't export drugs and doesn't export people by the millions. So I think it's quite possible that there may be a greater potential or even a greater reality of co operation today than has heretofore been the case. HUMPHRYS: But you're a seasoned diplomat, you know that when push comes to shove, national interest always prevails? HAASS: National interest is obviously powerful and I am a realist. I am not going to deny that and I am not going to essentially say the lion is going to lay down with the lamb. But I do think that the countries around Afghanistan realise today that their national interest cannot be realised if they pursue it a hundred per cent. Sometimes as a government you have to compromise your preferences in order to get something that is largely in your interest. And what I am trying to suggest here is I think there is some understanding on the part of Afghanistan's neighbours as well as other countries that have a stake there that if they pursue their own goals a hundred per cent and they try to put into place a people they are entirely comfortable with, that those choices will be unacceptable to others and we will never see anything like the stability we all want to see. So, I'm not saying it is going to be easy. I'm not saying it is automatic or inevitable. We have got a lot of experience in Afghanistan and that ought to teach us all to be somewhat modest but I do think there has been some change here, in the attitudes of the neighbouring countries and, perhaps, even in the Afghans themselves. People, for example, in the Northern Alliance don't want to have a repeat of the sort of behaviour that we saw in the early 1990s that effectively paved the way for the Taliban. So, I'd would like to think that, yes while people still have their own narrow or national interest, there also is some understanding that they've got to put those, to some extent aside if they are going to get an outcome that is by and large in their interest. HUMPHRYS: So the United States is prepared to say to Russia that wants one outcome, to Pakistan that wants another, hands off? HAASS: I wouldn't put it that way. What I'd say is the United States is going to continue to consult with all these countries from Iran to Pakistan to Russia to India to the other immediate neighbours of Afghanistan and we are also going to continue to work with the United Nations and others. What we are going to basically do is argue that if what we want, and I think we all do, if what we want is a stable Afghanistan that essentially protects the bottom line interests of all of us, there has to be some compromise and there has to be some co-operation. So, we are not saying "hands off". We are not saying do not protect your bottom line or basic national interest. What we are saying approach this reasonably, approach this realistically and if everyone tries to realise his maximum interest, we are going to have a situation that's going to fail. And all I'm trying to suggest is that, based on our consultations thus far with all of these countries, so far at least, we discern a greater understanding that there is going to have to be greater flexibility and compromise this time around if we are to avoid some of the mistakes of the past. HUMPHRYS: None of these things that we're talking about is going to happen unless the United States is prepared to launch a very serious ground invasion. The impression here, seems to be at the moment that there isn't the appetite for that? HAASS: I'm not comfortable getting into the details of military operations or what particular approach we are going to take. I'd simply remind people that the President has said the United States will be there as long as it takes and do whatever it takes to get the outcome we want. This is not one of those situations where we have a lot of potential to compromise - to the contrary - we have seen the price that Americans and, indeed the entire world has paid, because of Osama Bin Laden, because of al-Qaeda, because of the Taliban regime's support for this terrorist network. So, without getting into the particular operational choices, I would simply say that we are prepared to do what is necessary and to see it through so we bring about the sort of outcome that we require there. HUMPHRYS: Richard Haass, many thanks. HAASS: Thank you. JOHN HUMPHRYS: I was talking to Mr. Haass a little earlier. Last week the American economy was hit by some of the worst economic news for over a decade - huge job losses, the slowing down of economic growth and consumer confidence. Britain hasn't been so badly affected but more evidence is expected this week showing economic slowdown here too. Today the CBI will unveil details of a survey of British business at the start of its annual conference. Paul Wilenius reports on the growing concerns for the British economy. PAUL WILENIUS: Britain's resilient shoppers are fighting on a new type of front line. And up to now they've been winning. By hunting down pre-Christmas bargains, they've been helping the economy. But the noise of battles in a distant lands is starting to echo through the nation's High Streets and Malls. And the fear is, it might keep the consumers away. This month in his pre-Budget Report Gordon Brown will give his first detailed assessment of the impact of September the eleventh, on the British economy, and also his public spending and tax plans. But the signs aren't good, as there is growing evidence that the shock-waves from the terrorist attacks is beginning to be felt in the UK. The steep downturn in the American economy and in Europe, looks certain to affect Britain, already anxious about the impact of the war. Although the US economy was slowing before the attacks, now consumer spending is dropping fast, manufacturing is falling sharply, and almost half-a-million Americans lost their jobs in October. DIGBY JONES: If you are in manufacturing exporting, if you are looking across the Atlantic to your market, then it is very difficult indeed, in fact a lot of business is saying they have a big problem there. And then in specific sectors, such as airlines, such as in aeronautical sector, they are having very, very specific problems indeed. Now all of that's coming through in our survey which is that it is very, very difficult, but it is not across the piste completely disastrous everywhere. WILENIUS: Britain's economy has already taken a heavy knock, according to a CBI industry survey which will be released later today. The British Airways gleaming flagship, Concorde, will return to service this week. But the future of British businesses like manufacturing is less certain. Even the normally resilient service sector including advertising, PR, tourism, and banking is suffering. And house prices are slipping. DOUGLAS McWILLIAMS: In the UK the initial effects were relatively little, we had strong retail data for September and it's only now that we're starting to see confidence declining and we're starting to see some evidence that businesses are stopping spending, but up until now the net impact on the UK, okay the situation wasn't all that great, but the net impact on the UK has been fairly minor. I think in the next six to nine months' we're going to see it intensify. WILENIUS: The airlines hit hardest by September the eleventh, are those which rely heavily on business customers, like British Airways. But the cut-price operators are still finding lots of passengers looking for cheap flights and have so far suffered less. Many companies dependent on consumer confidence, are still holding their own. Sales have held up and for some profits are healthy. But there are growing fears there could be difficult times ahead. JONES: God bless 'em, the consumers of Britain are still out there, in a way saving the economy right now, and, and that is one of the most important factors as we move into the Christmas season. I think this is probably the most important Christmas in that respect for many, many years. McWILLIAMS: Consumer confidence has been very buoyant but it started to fray a bit at the edges, the latest data shows it's starting to drop now and it's likely to drop further. WILENIUS: What does this all mean for the Treasury's public finance plans? Even before the war on terrorism, there were fears that if public spending kept on increasing at the same rate beyond the year two-thousand-and-three, then Gordon Brown might have to put up taxes anyway. But now with growing demands for more money for defence and home security, this will put him under even greater pressure. ANDREW DILNOT: If we were to move in the future away from a world where defence spending was falling as a share of national income, to a world where it wasn't only stable, but rising, then that would be a new call on resources that otherwise might have gone to health, education, transport, and I think that makes what was already a very difficult set of choices for the government, beyond two-thousand-and-three, potentially more difficult still. WILENIUS: The heightened security around airports like Heathrow has added to the mounting cost of protecting Britain's citizens from terrorists. But the extra bill for immigration, the security services, and emergency planning, on top of the cost of fighting the war, is growing fast. So are the demands for more cash from the Treasury. BRUCE GEORGE MP: Either money will have to be transferred from existing budgets or an addition, some additional monies will have to be found because the first obligation of any government is to defend itself. And although there are many other enormous demands on an inadequate budget to provide safety and security is in my view the highest demand on on spending. JOHN McFALL MP: I've no doubt that there will be upward pressure on public spending both in the defence field and in the Home Office field in the defence for the support of the forces in this terrorism which as Geoff Hoon, the Prime Minister and others have said, could go on for a very long time. WILENIUS: For airlines like governments, tight control of business and finances is vital. Voters have been promised big increases in spending on health and education. But with new bills coming in for defence, foot and mouth, security and Railtrack, Gordon Brown has less money than he hoped for. Yet continuing with these large public spending rises, even after two-thousand-and-three, is important for many in his party. FRANK DOBSON MP: It will certainly be necessary to continue to spend an increasing amount on health and on education if we're producing from the medical schools far more doctors than we've produced in the past and that will be the case by then, then their, their wages will have to be paid. So there will have to be increases in spending. McFALL: I think it's sacrosanct that we maintain the commitments that we've given to spend on public services so I don't think there is any resigning from that. Whether the Chancellor can do that over the economic cycle from the resources he has at the moment, or whether he has to think on tax increases is another matter. That won't face us until two-thousand-and-three but I am very firm on the belief that we have to maintain our level of spending. DILNOT: I think by the end of this three-year period, the government will have just about got to the level where borrowing is as high as they can tolerate. So if they want to see spending on health, on education, on transport and maybe now even defence, rising as a share of national income, then they're going to have to look to tax increases. WILENIUS: To win over the support of voters like these at this Shopping Centre in Essex, Gordon Brown made a firm promise not to put up the basic income tax rate. Although his room for manouevre on stealth and business taxes is limited, he hasn't ruled out dropping new changes to National Insurance, tax allowances or even other less visible taxes, on an unsuspecting public or business. McWILLIAMS: He's going to have to raise taxes and it seems to me that the way the numbers are going there's going to be a lot of pressure for him to raise taxes, maybe even before two-thousand-and-three but certainly definitely after two-thousand-and-three. JONES: It is important of course that if he comes back for taxes he doesn't come to business for them, because in the last four years he's taken twenty-two-billion pounds more out of business than in the four previous years. And business needs all the help it can get right now and to come back for more taxes just would not be in any way helpful to enhancing both productivity and the efficiency of business. WILENIUS: For any government, there's never a good time to put up taxes. But in the midst of war, it could be easier to persuade the British public to swallow this bitter pill. DILNOT: We do tend to see tax increases during time of conflict, and there's I think little doubt that when there is some kind of conflict going on, the community as a whole tends to feel happier about paying more. So it's possible that we might see this as an opportunity to raise some tax that might come in useful in the future. McFALL: Well a number of seasoned commentators have indicated that any government that finds itself in the middle of a war, doesn't usually have a big hurdle to overcome to emphasise to the electorate that this has to be paid for, so I suppose there is a case at the moment for saying that we can come out with such a statement. WILENIUS: This week Concorde, much loved by top bosses, will finally take to the skies again. But the fear is with business facing a downturn, now could be the worst time to take money out of the economy by putting up taxes. And business leaders are already calling on the Bank of England to put more money in, to give the economy a boost. JONES: It is important everything is done to keep that consumer spending, and in that respect we are calling on the monetary policy committee at the Bank of England to cut by a half a percent the interest rate next Thursday and it is important that they recognise the seriousness of the situation, that across every sector, across those exporting, across those who are supplying within the economy in Britain, into those who are supplying the high street, it is important that we keep the wind in the sails of the economy now - not looking at it in a couple of months time and thinking I wish we had. WILENIUS: On Wednesday Tony Blair will fly on a special mission to Washington on Concorde to consult with President George Bush, on his difficult trip last week to the Middle East, and the war. Both men will also consider the worsening economic news starting to sweep across the West. Everyone will be waiting to see if that meeting can do anything to lift anxious spirits back home. HUMPHRYS: Paul Wilenius reporting there. And that's it for this week, until the same time next week. Don't forget about our web-site, on the On The Record site. Good afternoon. 22 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.