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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. Progress
on the battlefield last week and, this week, emergency laws here at home
to deal with a terrorist threat. We'll be talking about both ... interviewing
the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the European Union's Foreign Affairs
Commissioner, Chris Patten. We'll also be reporting on how the Americans
view the prospect of sending large numbers of troops into battle in Afghanistan.
That's after the news read by Peter Sissons.
HUMPHRYS: For the first few weeks of
this programme it was the same old story: plenty of bombing, but no sign
of any real military success. Well, that's changed. The Taliban have been
kicked out of Mazar-e-Sharif. Does that suggest we're now well on the way
to kicking them out of power altogether? Let's get an analysis of the military
picture from Peter Snow. Peter.
PETER SNOW: And I'm joined as usual by
Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden to analyse the situation. Well now the first
of the big four Afghan cities, Mazar-e-Sharif, has fallen and the allied
coalition now has a huge opportunity. It can make this city its forward
base inside Afghanistan for political reconstruction and for humanitarian
relief. Moreover, it now has the military momentum to try and push through
into central and southern Afghanistan.
Here's a closer look at the north of Afghanistan. Only three days ago,
the Taliban appeared to be firmly placed in Mazar-e-Sharif with their tanks
around the outside facing the Northern Alliance and keeping them back.
And there were even reports of the less well armed Northern Alliance charging
on horseback against the tanks in the ring around Mazar-e-Sharif. But it
was the American B52s' carpet-bombing the Taliban positions particularly
to the south of city that finally broke the Taliban's resistance. And within
hours the Taliban were streaming out of Mazar to the east here, to the
west and way down here to the south and to central Afghanistan. And the
Northern Alliance were in, only three years after they were kicked out
last by the Taliban.
So the battle has now shifted elsewhere. The spotlight is now on the towns
of the east of Mazar, Kondoz and Taloqan where the Taliban are still in
control. Kondoz is an important crossroads town, Taloqan an important tactical
target for the Northern Alliance.
Now the front-line is
now something like this. A great swathe of territory here now around Mazar-e-Sharif,
many provinces said to be in their hands now, the Taliban way out of that
area and over here, around Taloqan anyway as of this morning, the Northern
Alliance in a position something like that with a small pocket here only
of Taliban resistance. The Taliban's strength is now pinned down in this
corner up here around Kondoz. The Northern Alliance, now to their north,
their east, their south and of course, here to the north of Kabul down
Now Taloqan, we're told
by the Associated Press has fallen according to claims by the Northern
Alliance, to the Northern Alliance, so we could actually redraw that line
there if we happen to get, got the independent verification that is correct.
B52s bombing Taliban positions up here for the last two weeks or so,
weakening the Taliban positions around Taloqan. And the Americans now using
the so-called Daisy Cutter bomb, a bomb that has lethal effect, it explodes
in the air, just above the surface and then has lethal effect on troop
concentrations below it. The Northern Alliance may be within hours now
of moving from Taloqan to Kondoz if their claims are correct and they have
captured Taloqan, and from there of course, they can then move onto the
only remaining part of north-east Afghanistan, still in Taliban hands,
and that could be where the Taliban now make their last stand in Northern
The fall of Mazar has
also encourged the Northern Alliance to advance on Kabul, from their positions
just north of the city, here. There, the Bagram airfield and here the Northern
Alliance there, and the Americans doing their best again down here to bomb
the Taliban positions around the Bagram airbase here and to the north of
Kabul. But the Americans have made it clear that any Northern Alliance
advance should stop short of taking over Kabul until there's agreement
on a new government.
Now, Air Marshal, you
rightly forecast that Mazar would be the first town to fall, which do you
think it going to be the second?
AIR MARSHAL SIR TIM GARDEN: Well I think we're already hearing
that Taloqan is likely to have fallen. It's in a very vulnerable position
there, and I think if you can (thank you), see down along here, there'll
be a join-up, which will give the whole of that. We've already had some
more reports that at the junction of the road coming down south into Bagram
and Kabul, the Northern Alliance have made some headway down there. They're
going to have to take out the higher mountains which are surrounded and
have Taliban troops, but that'll be a clearing-up operation. So the aim
of the game I think at this stage is to make sure that they've got a completely
continuous territory down to just south of Bagram airfield.
SNOW: Right, so of the bigger towns
- we assume that Taloqan may or may not have gone this morning - of the
bigger towns, Kondoz or Kabul, Kondoz likelier to go sooner? How long do
you think this pocket will last now?
GARDEN: I think it's a matter of
days. It's going to be done before the real winter is set in in the next
week or two and they can then consolidate that, they can use this whole
area for bringing in more ammunition, bringing in winter supplies and bringing
in humanitarian aid, which is important. There'll be lots more defections
as the quality of life improves in the north.
SNOW: Okay, so what next? Well
the capture of Mazar will allow the allied coalition to make the airport
there not only its forward military base, but also a centre for the distribution
of relief supplies. Now they can either be flown into the airport in Mazar,
or driven across the border from Uzbekistan. Moreover the mainly Anglo/American
coalition will soon be broadened by the promised arrival of other European
troops, two-thousand from France, many of them are already there, three
thousand, nine hundred from Germany and a thousand from Italy.
One of the next tasks
will be to attempt to build on victory up here by laying the foundations
for a post-Taliban government in waiting, maybe even establishing its framework
here in Mazar. The trouble is, the triumphant Northern Alliance has a dismaying
record of internal disunity. To name just three leaders who've been bitterly
opposed to each other in the past within the Northern Alliance, Abul Rashid
Dostum, the main driving force in the conquest of Mazar-e-Sharif. Now he's
an Uzbek and has a fearsome reputation. Any further bloodshed his troops
cause in Mazar will make it all the more difficult to begin to build political
unity out of this military victory.
To the east, the main
focus for loyalty there is the Tajik leader, Burhannudin Rabbani. There
his troops who are poised to advance on Kabul. They'd have an even bigger
challenge in trying to control a population which is largely Pashtun from
the south. And the Northern Alliance's other big leader, is Ismail Khan,
Commander of a quite different force, over here around Herat although there's
now talk of his forces effectively joining up with Dostum's forces and
almost having a corridor here right the way across of the north part of
The trouble is that none
of these leaders represents the majority Pashtun population of southern
and western Afghanistan. And there's been very little sign of any anti-Taliban
rebellion down here. Only one tribal leader, Hamid Karzai has managed to
have been successful in infiltrating the country and surviving. Now he's
somewhere here, north of Kandahar and American helicopters have been supplying
him, and dropping food to him, according to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Karzai for his part, says that they haven't been helping him, he's got
no help from the Americans at all.
Meanwhile the man the
allies are looking for, Osama Bin Laden, somewhere in hiding down here
in the south of the country, goodness knows where exactly, says he has
access to chemical and nuclear weapons, and he and the Taliban government
are reported to be forming suicide teams who will attack with explosives
attached to their bodies. None of this can be verified independently now,
Air Marshal, do you think first of all that he has got nuclear weapons?
GARDEN: I think it most unlikely
that he has nuclear weapons. He may have some nuclear material, but he's
more likely to use that for terrorist attacks outside Afghanistan rather
than in terms of the campaign here...
SNOW: ...for last stage survival...
SNOW: ...weapon inside Afghanistan?
GARDEN: No. I mean it wouldn't
work anyway. Finding him still remains the aim of the exercise and this
will be much easier with the whole of the North under control and then
looking in the cold weather for where he is.
SNOW: Now, what do you think the
next stage of it all is going to be? We've got the winter coming up in
what, a week or two?
SNOW: Snow's coming down. Do you
think the Northern Alliance and indeed the coalition is going to get further
than the north of the country in the next couple of weeks before ...
GARDEN: ...well I think it's very
difficult to say because it may be that all the Taliban supporters will
realise they're going to lose and defect, in which case Kabul becomes empty
and the Northern Alliance can get in quite easily, but more likely they'll
stay and defend there. And what we do need to do is start getting some
sort of secure area in the south, so that both sides of the country realise
that they can get the humanitarian aid in and isolate the Taliban.
SNOW: Fighting their way into the
south before winter?
GARDEN: No, no. I mean it's.. right
down in the south it's fairly under-populated and maybe securing an area
with an airfield in order to provide a humanitarian aid base which will
allow the people to realise that it's worth their while coming and getting
support from the NGOs.
SNOW: Meanwhile, Mazar-e-Sharif,
now do you see British troops for example going in there?
GARDEN: I think we'll see European
troops going in there and British troops are already there by all reports
and we've got the Germans coming aboard and the French and I think we'll
see a great coalition of forces to provide the rule of law.
SNOW: Air Marshal, thank you very
HUMPHRYS: Thank you Peter.
JOHN HUMPHRYS: So a lot happening on the
battlefield but no one suggests this is all going to be over very soon,
there may be a long way to go yet, and that means the diplomats have a
job to do. President Bush has been in New York this weekend talking to
the United Nations, trying to build support for the War in Afghanistan.
Other world leaders are there too, our own Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,
will be making a speech to the United Nations in a few hours' time. I
spoke to him late last night and I asked him about where the war goes from
here - might Iraq be the next target? But I began with the story that
had just broken last night, the so-called State of Emergency that's going
to be introduced tomorrow. I asked Mr Straw, if it was really needed,
unless of course there is new evidence of plans to attack us here in Britain.
JACK STRAW: There's no state of emergency
being announced tomorrow, what is happening was actually announced by David
Blunkett a couple of weeks ago when he made his statement about new measures
to counter the new terrorist threat and what he announced and will go before
Parliament I think next week, is plans to derogate from the Human Rights
Act and the European Convention of Human Rights, under the convention itself,
so as to permit in very limited circumstances the detention, yes without
trial, of certain terrorist suspects who cannot be deported because of
another part of the Human Rights Act, namely Article 3 which quite properly
requires us to have full respect for human life. So there were circumstances
when I was Home Secretary, as there are now as David Blunkett is Home Secretary,
when you've got someone who needs to be deported but the country to which
they should be deported, for example Afghanistan under the control of the
Taliban, is such that if they were deported they would be killed or tortured.
But we, ourselves, have to protect our own society in respect of those
people and that's why these provisions with limited scope and very considerable
safe guards are going to be introduced.
HUMPHRYS: You say limited scope,
but it's still a potential infringement of our civil liberties isn't it?
STRAW: No it's not because the
European Convention on Human Rights itself represents a balance between
one civil liberty and another, including for example the right to life
enshrined in Article 1. And what we are saying is that the right to life
is above all the most fundamental of principles, you can't have terrorists
who on the one hand, for good reasons cannot be deported to their home
country because their own lives then would at risk but on the other hand
who are putting other people's lives at risk in this country and the convention
itself, drawn up in 1951 by some very hard headed jurists and statesmen
provides exactly for countries like the United Kingdom now facing the kind
of terrorist threat we do, to take this action taken within the convention
and within the Human Rights Act not outside it.
HUMPHRYS: But let's be clear why
it's happening now. Not is it because there is a new threat that you have
learned about against us?
STRAW: Well if you are asking me
is there an intelligence which I am going to disclose against in respect
of the United Kingdom now, the answer to that is I'm not going to disclose
any. And, however, has the terrorist threat heightened for the United
Kingdom for virtually every other country in the civilised world since
September 11th, the answer to that is of course yes. And you only have
to look at the interview by Osama Bin Laden this morning to show that that
is the case. Here is this man trying to go through all kinds of alleged
theological hoops to justify attacks on anybody who is not in his favour
and he declares that there's only one Islamic country, namely Afghanistan,
he also says that he has access to biological and chemical weapons which
we believe he does and also to nuclear weapons, we're far from certain
that he does there but he makes it very clear that he would wish to use
all the weapons at his disposal if he got the chance. That's the terrorist
threat, that is what we have to deal with.
HUMPHRYS: Let's talk about what's
happening, what's been happening in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance
clearly a significant victory taking Mazar-e-Sharif but the last time they
held that city they behaved absolutely appallingly with terrible brutality,
there were massacres and all the rest of it. You can't guarantee that that
isn't going to happen again this time can you?
STRAW: Well we are conscious of
what happened last time and huge effort is being undertaken, particularly
by the United States but also by the United Kingdom who are in direct touch
through Paul Burn, the Prime Minister's Special Representative, with all
the key people in the Northern Alliance to ensure that this indeed does
not happen again. The circumstances are really very different from what
happened before. This time the whole of the world is watching the Northern
Alliance, they know that, they also know that they've only achieved this
military success as a result of military assistance by the military coalition,
led by the United States in which the United Kingdom is participating and
the countries surrounding them, which have traditionally supported the
Northern Alliance, particularly Iran and Russia and some of the south central
Asian states, they are also and this wasn't the case years ago, profoundly
committed to the United Nations' agenda for Afghanistan which is there
for there to be a peaceful transition once the military action is over
to a broad based representative first of all transitional government and
then to a permanent government.
HUMPHRYS: Given the assistance
that you describe, it's not inconceivable that the Northern Alliance, will
sooner or later be able to take Kabul, they would then effectively be in
control of the country. Now we've made it perfectly clear, haven't we,
that we don't want a Northern Alliance government, we want a broad based
STRAW: Well, the Northern Alliance
is the alliance which has the military capacity on the ground to defeat
the Taliban. They need the military assistance of the international coalition
led by the United States and which the United Kingdom and others are actively
participating, but they are the people who are opposing the Taliban and
so they have to be used. But also, I have to say that their representatives,
we are in discussion with, are..they are part of the real world, they are
not total fanatics like the Taliban. They understand, it's the same point
that I would made in respect of Mazar-e-Sharif. They understand acutely
that if they want to deliver peace and security to themselves, to their
families, to their own ethnic groups, they have to participate actively
in a broad based government, that they cannot carry on with the rule which
is so dismembered, Afghanistan, which is the winner takes all. But there's
this other point, John, the only reason that the winner has been able to
take all in the past is because of the partisan support for the Taliban
or the Northern Alliance from countries in the region, from Pakistan for
the Taliban, from Iran and Russia, for the Northern Alliance. There is
now an international consensus between the countries surrounding Afghanistan
about the nature of the government in Afghanistan. That it has to be broad
based, that it has to be representative and so the circumstances are different,
and I am optimistic about the potential political future for Afghanistan
once there has been a military defeat of the Taliban.
HUMPHRYS: You talk about international
consensus but the Russians for instance don't want anything at all to do
with the Taliban, don't want any part of them in the government.
STRAW: That is not the case. Nobody
wishes to see the hardline extremists at the core of the Taliban in any
future broad-based government and it's impossible to see circumstances
in which that could happen. But when I spoke to Sergei Ivanov, who is the
Defence Minister of the Russian Federation only two weeks ago and we discussed
this and he said of course there is likely to be a place in any future
broad-based government for what he described as the rank and file members
of the Taliban. In other words the people who have had to go along with
the Taliban, they may have been conscripted into the Taliban army or even
into the administration because the only alternative was starvation or
a bullet in the back. And so we have to differentiate pretty clearly between
as I say between the extremists in the core of the Taliban on the one
hand and the Pashtun who happen to have the label of Taliban attached to
them at the moment but who would probably, given a free choice, be as pleased
to see the back of the Taliban as the rest of us.
HUMPHRYS: Ramadan is just about
upon us. Some people of course we know want a bombing pause. You've said
you had an open mind as to that. Is it more or less likely that there
will be a bombing pause now that Mazar-e-Sharif has fallen?
STRAW: It's probably less likely
because of the military momentum and the need to ensure that this military
success is followed up elsewhere and frankly it's in the interests of every
single peaceful person in Afghanistan who wants a better future to see
this military action not paused but brought to a satisfactory conclusion
and for all of us, as we all, who are concerned about the humanitarian
situation, the humanitarian solution for people particularly in the north
where it's been most acute, is not to have a bombing pause because that
would have allowed the Taliban to continue their hold for example on Mazar-e-Sharif,
but to liberate Mazar-e-Sharif as now looks as though it's happening, and
then to get convoys, train of trucks down from Uzbekistan into that area
so it's actually in everybody's interest to ensure that the military campaign
HUMPHRYS: And yet President Musharraf
of Pakistan for one, says to continue with bombing throughout this period
would have definite negative effects on the Islamic world.
STRAW: Well, I think it would and
it wouldn't is the answer. What President Musharraf has also said is that
he wants to see as quick an end to the military action as possible but
he knows that military action, as someone who is a General himself has
to have a satisfactory or should have a satisfactory military conclusion
before it can be ended. I mean we've been through all this John, you know
the fact that there is as I'm told no writ in the Koran which suggests
that military action can't be taken during Ramadan and of course it's notorious
that the Taliban themselves always continued military action during that
HUMPHRYS: It's clearly a great
relief to many people that Mazar-e-Sharif has fallen, but let's remember
what the point of this war is and that is to get Bin Laden and his organisation.
That is the point of it - we haven't done it yet, and that is the point
STRAW: Well, the point of the war
was set out for example by me in the objectives which I put before the
House of Common, set out in many statements by the Prime Minister and over
here in the United States by President Bush and Secretary Colin Powell.
It has never been the case that the only target of the war was Osama Bin
Laden. It was in addition to that to break up the al-Qaeda terrorist network
and to prevent those sheltering such terrorist organisations, in this case
the Taliban, from operating, and the reason that the focus has moved from
Osama Bin Laden through al-Qaeda into the Taliban is because as President
Bush and our Prime Minister has said, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have now
become indistinguishable. The key is to break up the terrorists' capacity
which exits in Afghanistan. Yes, obviously we would wish to see Osama Bin
Laden brought to account, it remains to be seen how quickly that would
happen. My guess is however, that in the end he will be handed over or
HUMPHRYS: But of course you have
no idea when?
TRAW: Well, I can't speculate and
that's the nature of military action John. I'm not a clairvoyant.
HUMPHRYS: There's a great deal
of talk still in Washington, some say increasing talk, about widening the
war perhaps, the next target might be Iraq. Now you have said that that
must not happen unless there is clear evidence of Iraq's complicity in
terrorism. There is evidence, some say of precisely that, the Czechs themselves
have talked about confirming a meeting as having taken place between one
of the hijackers and Iraqi intelligence, so there does seem to be some
STRAW: Well, what I've said and
this has been reflected in statements by our Prime Minister and Secretary
Colin Powell in the United States is that the only military action on the
agenda at the moment is that in Afghanistan. That so far as any other
country is concerned including Iraq you only take military action where
there is the clearest possible evidence arguing for it, and military action
is the only possible option available to achieving a necessary end. We're
not in that circumstance at the moment. However what I have been doing
earlier today is continuing negotiations with the Russians about a successor
resolution to the existing less than satisfactory resolutions in respect
of sanctions against Iraq and what we are seeking to do is to ensure there's
a more focussed regime which focuses on weapons of mass destruction and
material for that and for conventional weapons for use in Iraq whilst making
it simpler and easier to get humanitarian exports and things which have
entirely a benign purpose through to Iraq.
HUMPHRYS: President Bush has said
in the United Nations which is where you are at the moment of course, that
any regime that sponsors terrorism is going to have to pay the price -
the price for that sponsorship. Now, you talk about sanctions, that isn't
going to bring Saddam Hussein down, that isn't paying the price is it?
STRAW: Well, John, I didn't read
that into this, but none of us like the Saddam Hussein regime and it's
been deeply corrosive over the whole of the region. What we want to see
is action taken to ensure that the Saddam Hussein regime more effectively
or at all meets its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions,
but what President Bush is right to say, and it goes back to the issues
we were discussing right at the head of this programme that we have to
take action against those countries which are harbouring terrorists because
unless we do the civilised world is threatened. That's a point which I
shall be making tomorrow, Sunday, in my speech to the General Assembly
saying that the United Nations was founded fifty-five years ago in the
words of the Charter to ensure that the scourge of war does not engulf
successive generations. To that we have to add a second limb to ensure
that the scourge of terrorism does not engulf future generations, given
the obvious and present danger from terrorism and future danger that is
HUMPHRYS: And to remove or to mitigate
that future danger, we've got, clearly, we've got to sort out the problems
that exist in this world today, and one of those is Palestine and Israel.
Now we seem to be much more concerned with getting a resolution of that
problem than for instance do the Americans. President Bush seems much
less concerned than we do. He won't even meet Mr Arafat. So that seems
to be sending the wrong signal and people are concerned about that.
STRAW: Well sorry with great respect
I don't accept for a moment that there is no sign that President Bush does
not agree that the Middle East should be sorted out. He does agree, I know
for certain that he agrees and so does Secretary Colin Powell agree profoundly
about the dangers from the current Israel Palestinian conflict and the
importance of sorting it out.
I just make this point
about this now celebrated issue of a meeting between the President of the
United States and President Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. Because
of the position which the President of the United States holds, any meeting
between him and any other leader, but in this case particularly leader
of the Palestinian Authority, is going to take on far greater importance
and symbolism than a meeting between President Arafat and any other leader
of....in the western world, including our own Prime Minister, because the
expectations will be extremely high and therefore I'm sure that what President
Bush is thinking about is well, not just do I see President Arafat, but
what is going to be the outcome and the consequences of my doing so, because
one thing is for certain that to hold such a meeting without there being
a clear understanding of the likely outcome will actually not be to advance
the peace process but to set it back. But it's worth remembering that when
we talk about the Tenet and Mitchell plans, both of those are plans sponsored
by the United States and also, and developed by United States officials,
George Mitchell and Tenet the Head of the CIA, so it's not true at all
that the United States is disinterested in the Middle East. What we're
all searching for, what the Prime Minister is searching for is a means
by which this extremely difficult conflict which has cost, since the Intifada
started last September, so many hundreds of lives on both sides, is frightening
civilians and others in Israel and disabling them from going about their
lives, is causing the circumstances of the Palestinians in the occupied
territories to get worse and worse. That this conflict can be put into
a process where we get peace and not warfare from it.
HUMPHRYS: But surely you would
like to see President Bush putting more pressure on Israel to implement
United Nations Resolutions?
STRAW: What we want to see is a
willingness by both sides in the conflict, on the Palestinian side and
on the Israeli side, to start down the road that was set by the Tenet plan
and then get into the Mitchell plan and then towards the objectives which
were actually set out very crisply and accurately today by President Bush
of a situation of circumstances where the state of Israel is allowed to
celebrate its existence by the people of Israel and permitted to do so,
positively, not negatively, by the Arab States surrounding this, them,
and at the same time, there is a viable Palestinian state. Now the words
have advanced in recent months I'm pleased to say, and everybody is now
fully acknowledging the overwhelming case for there to be a Palestinian
state. What hasn't advanced sufficiently, is progress, and it has to be
progress on both sides towards that end, but I know, and this has often
been the subject of discussion with our Prime Minister and the President,
that the United States is devoting a huge amount of effort to working out
how to get the parties back together again, but it's because of the tensions
and the suspicions, which have grown over the last year, particularly since
the Intifada began, that, and for example assassinations of people like
Minister Zeevi which set back the process just at the moment when there
had been ten days quiet between the seventh of October and the seventeenth
of October, that I know that, that it is acutely difficult and I think
that, I say President Bush has to think about those difficulties before
he sets up such a high profile meeting as has been proposed between himself
and President Arafat of the Palestinian Authority.
HUMPHRYS: Foreign Secretary, many
STRAW: Thank you very much.
HUMPHRYS: I was talking to Mr Straw,
as I say late last night.
The people of the United States
are overwhelmingly in support of the actions ordered by President Bush.
Given what happened on September 11th it would be remarkable if it were
otherwise. But it's one thing to order an attack from the air. It's another
thing to send a massive force of troops into a foreign country, many of
whom may never return. America's memory of Vietnam is still vivid. So how
much support is there for what may be the next stage in the war - an invasion
on the ground? Iain Watson has been in the United States trying to find
IAIN WATSON: The mood at the Pentagon is
tense; there are signs that the tide may be turning in America's favour,
with setbacks for the Taliban, but military planners now have to work on
the next phase of the war to avenge September the 11th. So far, the American
people back the military action, but the politicians will have seen evidence
that a significant minority are worried about sending more ground troops
to Afghanistan and even former pillars of the US military elite are warning
that a US victory isn't pre-ordained.
ADMIRAL STANSFIELD TURNER: It's going to a dirty kind of war. We
lost one in Vietnam under different climactic circumstances, but very similar
SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK: We know it's going to be long, we
know it's going to be difficult, we know that the possibilities of casualties
are high, but we have to win. We cannot lose in this campaign.
WATSON: F16 fighter planes patrol
the skies over Washington. And it's largely from the air that the US campaign
in Afghanistan has been fought too. With a low number of casualties, political
sniping had been kept to a minimum but now influential congressmen, themselves
potential terrorists targets, want an escalation in military activity.
REPRESENTATIVE JOE KNOLLENBERG: I think we have to accept the fact that
this will go beyond where we are today and will necessitate not just US
ground troops but also ground troops from the various coalition members
and it will continue for some time; if anyone were looking for a short
war, it's not gonna come.
WATSON: So more ground troops if
KNOLLENBERG: If necessary? you bet!
WATSON: But for some Americans,
the call for more ground troops evokes memories of an apocalyptic era in
US history and a former head of the CIA warns the military enthusiasts
not to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam
TURNER: There's a similarity in
that we have people fighting for their homeland who are very dedicated
to doing that; the Afghans have done it with you; the Afghans have done
it with the Russians; and they will certainly do it with us and there's
a danger even these disparate groups inside Afghanistan may coalesce if
they think they are being invaded by the Americans
SENATOR JOE BROWNBACK: We're going to go ahead and see
this through, it may well take a great deal of escalation, in that sense
of the parallel to Vietnam of an escalation, but the objective here is
very clear and the objective in Vietnam I think got very muddled.
WATSON: Even on a pleasant, peaceful
autumn day in Washington, Vietnam casts a long shadow. This memorial reminds
Americans of the chilling cost of fighting in foreign lands. Fifty-eight
thousand people commemorated here, lost their lives. Military experts
say that ground troops in Afghanistan wouldn't be on the same scale, perhaps
as few as five thousand, certainly no more than forty-five thousand. But
perhaps symbolism matters more than statistics.
Ever since Vietnam there's
been a psychological resistance to committing large numbers of troops to
fight in far off lands of which the American public know little. But September
11th saw a direct attack on United States itself; and the headlines from
US opinion polls suggest that the American public are willing to contemplate
losses to win the war against terrorism. But on closer examination, if
there's to be a protracted conflict in Afghanistan, then support could
UNNAMED WOMAN: I know people are really concerned
and I certainly am because I have a twenty-four year old son and you know
if the draft came back or anything I'd hate to see him go off to war even
though I know we have to defend our country.
UNNAMED MAN: The only thing I'm worried
about is long term, that the American people won't stand strong.
UNNAMED WOMAN: We didn't ask for this, it was forced
on us and we have to do what we have to do, and yes, I think the American
public is going to stand firm.
WATSON: The most recent in-depth
opinion poll on American attitudes to the war was published by the Gallup
organisation just a few days ago. The headlines proclaim that eighty-six
per cent of the American people support the military action in Afghanistan,
a figure largely unchanged since September 11th, but when the public were
asked whether they supported large numbers of ground troop going into Afghanistan
that figure falls to sixty-six per cent. And there have been similar findings
in other polls.
FRANK NEWPORT Generally speaking the fewer
Americans that are involved to achieve objectives the better. Special forces
are highly trained people, small numbers that sounds more appealing than
massive numbers of ground troops that are involved. I saw one question
recently large numbers of ground troops with many casualties and deaths.
I mean when you say that it sounds ominous and you certainly have a per
cent of Americans who pull back from support.
WATSON: Americans have never been
bashful about displaying the stars and stripes; but since September 11th
patriotic fervour has apparently blossomed. But specific polling on casualties
suggest that a significant minority of people are more concerned about
the potential loss of further American lives than some politicians may
wish to believe. In the Gallup poll, forty-one per cent or four out of
every ten Americans said the war should stop if casualties were too high.
Asked to define what is too high twenty-four per cent of this group said
a hundred deaths would be too high, while a further twenty-seven per cent
said a thousand deaths would be too many for them.
BROWNBACK: The absolute worst thing that
can happen to the American people and to the civilised world is for us
to quit and go home and not see this through. That's the worst scenario
because then you've emboldened terrorists everywhere around the world that
now the United States, the civilised world, can be cowed by some casualties,
by threats, by terroristic threats.
NEWPORT: What would actually happen
if there are a thousand casualties I think is hard to project, because
it really depends on how those casualties came about and if it looked like
that in the course of sustaining those deaths, the US was really achieving
objectives, if those deaths were sustained and there was no progress I
think Americans will react in other ways. So I think we have to really
wait and see how the public's going to react. My overall take on the data
is that there's strong support but not a blank cheque
WATSON: The last of the autumn
leaves are about to fall in Arlington, Virginia. Here at the national cemetery,
two-hundred-thousand Americans who had distinguished military careers are
laid to rest. Even before the Afghan campaign, there were plans to accommodate
sixteen-thousand more. Current polls suggest a majority of Americans would
be willing to see further sacrifices to achieve the objectives of the war
on terrorism, but about a third doubt these will ever be realised.
The latest Gallup poll reveals that thirty-one per cent, almost one in
three Americans, are either not too confident or not at all confident that
Bin Laden will be captured or killed; while thirty-six per cent were not
confident the US will destroy all terrorist operations in Afghanistan.
UNNAMED WOMAN: I have a big concern about sending
ground troops in, I guess any of us old enough to remember Vietnam feel
like they don't want to see that kind of history repeat itself; it looks
like an awfully difficult place to send ground troops in and be successful,
so I guess I have some real big concerns that way.
UNNAMED MAN: A sense of direction; a sense
of mission; and we want the information to let us know we have are achieving
that mission; if they do that then I feel that the casualties will be justified
- it is war, and that's what happens.
WATSON: Two months to the day since
the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and the American
public are getting anxious for success. Bin Laden hasn't been found and
the al-Qaeda terrorist network hasn't been eliminated. The question facing
military planners and their political masters at the Pentagon is whether
more ground troops in Afghanistan could bring the war there to a swifter
conclusion; but some experts say their indecisiveness in this issue isn't
based on worries about public opinion; instead, it exposes serious strategic
errors in the conduct of the campaign.
Larry Korb is a director
of an influential think- tank, but was previously Ronald Reagan's Assistant
Defence Secretary, so he's not a natural critic of republican administrations.
Nonetheless, he thinks this one has got it wrong.
LARRY KORB: There's no doubt about the
fact that they started the military action before they had their political
strategy worked out; they were not clear whether in fact they wanted the
Taliban just to give up Bin Laden, whether they wanted to destroy the
Taliban government and then what would come after, who would be in the
government, what of the various ethnic groups would be represented?
WATSON: These US troops are working
alongside the Northern Alliance. So far, American involvement, apart from
air support, has been limited to small numbers of special forces. By taking
the town of Mazar-e-Sharif, the Northern Alliance has eased some of the
political pressure to deploy more US troops; but simultaneously, they've
made it militarily possible by providing a gateway inside Afghanistan.
But even some supporters of more ground troops say the US administration
must do the political groundwork first.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: If you do not have the people
with you, sending lots of ground troops into a city and even smashing it
flat, not only doesn't bring you victory, the real casualties and costs
begin after you have won - because that kind of victory isn't simply pyrrhic;
it tends to be a military mire.
WATSON: Bi-partisan support for
the war against terrorism remains strong here in Washington - publicly
at least. But behind the scenes there is a growing sense of unease. To
say anything openly is politically risky and could even be deemed unpatriotic.
But as one senator told me 'publicly, we support the President - privately,
I'm worried we will make the same mistakes as the former Soviet Union in
Afghanistan.' So there are some concerns here that America could be facing
a war without end.
This memorial commemorates a world war two battle against the Japanese,
which was won at a high cost in human lives. With some success now in Afghanistan,
politicians here in Washington aren't proclaiming any doubts they may have
about the conduct of the current conflict; but former high ranking military
officials are expressing fears about a lack of an exit strategy.
TURNER: One concern one has to
have in these situations is that once you start a military machine rolling,
it's apt to keep rolling, that is, they will say one more new type of bombing,
one more new type of commando raid, will do the job, and each time you
get one step further down the track.
KORB: This is not something that
you want to spend years doing - I mean the Soviets were there for ten years
and they had some successes early on, but after a while it began catching
up with them, because what will happen is that the Taliban, if you are
able to drive them out of Kandahar and Kabul, will go to the mountains
for a while, so if you come in with a government that doesn't have support
of all of the factions, they will come out again.
WATSON: Polls show the Americans
are ready for the long haul in the war on terrorism, but they are less
keen on a protracted conflict in Afghanistan itself. In a Gallup poll published
at the start of this month, of those Americans supporting ground troops,
forty per cent said they'd back their deployment for an indefinite period,
but almost as many, thirty-seven per cent, supported only the limited deployment
of troops for a few days or a few weeks. No previous US president has enjoyed
such sustained popularity as George W Bush; but a decision on whether,
or for how long, to send in more ground troops may determine how history
KORB: If it doesn't look like there's
much progress, I think there's going to be a reaction against the Bush
administration politically, and in the elections we have in the Fall of
two-thousand-and-two I think you could see some real losses at the polls
for the republican party.
NEWPORT: Anything can happen, anything
can change, and if at some point Americans begin to believe that not so
much maybe that we're, the US is not reaching its objectives but that the
leadership is beginning to be weak, I think the ratings would come back
CORDESMAN: These polls, when you particularly
you get these extraordinarily high peaks, they are necessarily volatile.
No-one should take them seriously and no one should try to sustain them;
if you did, you would basically be trying to fight a war to influence public
opinion at such distorted levels that you virtually could not fight.
WATSON: A short distance from Washington,
at Arlington cemetery, this solemn ceremony in honour of America's war
dead is performed. President Bush knows that the majority of the people
in the United States will accept further casualties in Afghanistan, so
long as they see progress in the war against terrorism. But with some unease
already present amongst a significant minority of Americans, fear of growing
discontent may lead to politicians to constrain the military's room for
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair said right at
the beginning that Britain would be standing shoulder to shoulder with
the United States. And so we have. But what about our European allies?
There's a feeling in many Continental countries that they've been sidelined
and that the European Union has been allowed almost no say in what goes
on. Many of its members thought it would be different. After all, don't
we have a common Foreign and Security policy? Well the European Union's
Foreign Affairs Commissioner is Chris Patten. He's also in New York for
that United Nations meeting and I suggested to him there that the EU has
been shown to be pretty irrelevant.
CHRIS PATTEN: No, I don't believe that's
true, but I also think that it's, it's crazy to start talking about institutional
battles between the European Union and member states when what ordinary
people want, is to see us acting effectively, both to protect their security
at home and to make the world a safer place, and I think we've got the
balance about right.
The European Union does some things supra- nationally, but it also ensures
that member states make their contribution where they've got particular
strengths, as Britain has, as France has, as others have, sometimes supra-nationally,
sometimes you're behaving as a nation state and I think that that means
that sometimes we're doing it as Europe and sometimes we're doing it as
HUMPHRYS: But if a Common,
Foreign and Security policy means anything, wouldn't you, as the European
Union's External Affairs Commissioner have a much bigger role in co-ordinating
the EU's response?
PATTEN: I don't think that's
true, and you're actually using the wrong word I think. We do have a common
foreign policy. What we don't have, and I don't think we'll have as long
as I'm alive or you are, is a single foreign policy. We have found ways
in which we can work together more effectively so I think we've been much
more coherent, much more co-ordinated this time than we were with the Gulf
crisis ten years ago. I think we've managed to do things much better in
the Balkans than we did in the mid-nineties. But while we're doing some
things better in common, there are at the same time fifteen member states,
fifteen foreign ministers, fifteen foreign ministries, each with their
own preoccupations and each with their own particular strengths and what
we have to do, is to play both sides of the street, both to do things,
together where we can make the aggregate of Europe's member states work
more effectively and to do things, and to do things singly.
HUMPHRYS: So in this particular case it's
doing things singly as opposed to working together more effectively?
PATTEN: No, it's not! I'm certainly
not saying we can't act effectively. I'm saying we are working more effectively,
but that foreign and security policy goes right to the heart of what it
means to be a nation state. The European Commission has nothing to do
with armies. What we are doing I think, is where, Europe should do things
better together - in the trade, the development assistance, the political
co-operation field - we're acting, so for example, we're providing in Europe,
the most humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. We're providing about
three-hundred million of which a-hundred million comes from the European
Commission. We've just been in Pakistan, negotiating better access for
Pakistan textiles to European markets, talking about a-hundred million
assistance package for Pakistan, signing a trade and co-operation agreement
with them. We're in Iran, I was there recently talking to them about,
signing a, or negotiating a contractual agreement with them. We're providing
more assistance than anybody to the Palestinian territories so that there
is a viable negotiating partner for Israel in Palestine. Those are the
sort of things we're doing, making a practical difference, working together
successfully while at the same time President Chirac, Mr Blair and others,
work as, as Europeans, but as also heads of government or heads of state
in their countries.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah but there are
plenty of small countries that are not happy, I mean what about that dinner
at Number Ten that Mr Blair called last week and the idea was that the
French and the Germans would go and then the Italians and the Spanish sort
of invited themselves and the Belgians said, well, we must be here as well,
because we're holding the Presidency of the European Union. An awful lot
of people across the European Union were very cross about it all.
PATTEN: Well, it was clearly
a very successful dinner party. Every, a lot of people wanted to go, but
I don't think honestly that it makes very much sense to have an argument
about, who Mr Blair invited to dinner. What matters is that Europe, large,
middle-sized and small member states should be acting effectively together
to freeze the assets of terrorist organisations, to deal with money laundering,
to deal with airline security, to work together internationally, as I was
describing a moment or two ago, together to make more of a difference.
I don't think many people would have very much sympathy for us, if we
were now to get into an argument about who did what on what pillar, which
particular legal provision of which particular treaty, we were, we were
working by, whether or not these things were done by the spirit of Jean
Monet, or by the spirit of Charles de Gaulle! I think we just have to
make a difference and I think everybody recognises that today, nation states
can't do everything themselves. They do need to do some things more effectively
together, but that doesn't mean that the nation state is obliterated.
It isn't, and it never will be.
HUMPHRYS: But I mean that's the
whole point, isn't it? Do things more effectively together. You can't do
that unless you really do have a common foreign and security policy.
PATTEN: I think the European
Union is playing a larger role than it did, not because it's vainglorious,
but because we are aware of the gap between our economic and our political
clout in the world and we do think it helps when we're able to exercise
our political weight more sensibly and more influentially. We're the largest
provider of development assistance in the world by a street. We're the
most important, with the United States, we're the most important trading
block so, what we're doing in Doha, in the WTO talks, is absolutely decisive.
We do think that as the most effective example of a multilateral institution,
we have a particularly important contribution to make, as the present debate
about the fight against terrorism moves into, onto other agendas. Agendas,
for example, touching on the dark side of globalisation, about the relationship
between poverty and environmental degradation and violence. Those are
all the areas where I think Europe will be able to do more, does do more,
as we are in Marrakech at the moment, in the negotiations on the Kyoto
HUMPHRYS: But there is a strong
feeling in many European countries that you should develop your common
foreign and security policy by giving more power to the institutions for
example, by introducing majority voting on foreign and security policy
at the next inter-governmental conference in two-thousand-and-four. There
is a strong feeling that ought to happen.
PATTEN: They wanted to go
further, where it's sensible to make it go further. I think there's much
less dogmatism or ideological fervour in the debate about how we could
work together than there is, if I may so, in your questions! I think we
have actually got our act together far better, over the last year and as
I said earlier, just compare where we are now in the Balkans with where
we were five years ago, just compare where we were on the Middle East five
years ago and where we are now, just compare, for example, how Europe was
all over the place in the early stages of the Gulf War campaign, at the
beginning of the nineties, so this is better, it's more coherent, but it's
not a single state. It's fifteen member states working more effectively
HUMPHRYS: So you think the policy
as it is is working fine and there's no need to make it any stronger?
PATTEN: I think that the common
foreign and security policy is getting stronger and will get stronger still,
but what I do not believe in, and what will not happen, we will not have
a single foreign and security policy, at least, not while I've, well not
while I'm alive, I don't think.
HUMPHRYS: But there just to go
back to the overall attitude to what is happening. The way in which Britain
and the United States obviously seem to be dominating this whole thing.
We heard the Belgian Foreign Minister saying just the other day, and I'll
quote him, he said "Blair's statements have left a bitter taste in the
mouth" and he accused Mr. Blair of over-reacting, so many of the EU's member
states are not happy.
PATTEN: I don't believe that's
true. Mr Blair has, I think shown commendable initiative, in helping to
mobilise the international campaign against terrorism, and I think other
European leaders have been almost equally active - President Chirac, Chancellor
Schr�der and so on. Each member state can contribute, differently to what
is a coherent strategy being pursued by them all, but I don't think it
makes very much sense just because one European leader or another is on
the phone more frequently to President Bush, to get jealous about it.
HUMPHRYS: Chris Patten, many thanks.
PATTEN: Thanks very much indeed.
HUMPHRYS: And that's it for this
week. Next week we shall be back in our old guise as On The Record. Don't
forget about our Website, until next Sunday, good afternoon.