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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Bill Richardson, Interview With Tom Donnelly

Aired November 13, 2001 - 19:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are making great progress in -- in our objectives, and that is to tighten the net and eventually bring al Qaeda to justice and at the same time, deal with the government that has been harboring them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Tonight, major progress in the war against terrorism as the Northern Alliance takes Kabul. What comes next? This is CROSSFIRE.

Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Kabul has fallen. Northern Alliance troops marched into Afghanistan's capitol city today, ending five years of Taliban control.

Taliban forces, meanwhile, are on the run, many fleeing south for their spiritual home of Kandahar. For anti-Taliban forces it was a stunning victory. For the U.S.-led coalition it may be something less.

In recent days, President Bush urged Northern Alliance leaders not to enter Kabul. Apparently they ignored him. News reports today describe both celebrating by Afghan civilians and a frenzy of looting and recriminations by the victorious rebel army.

Is the Northern Alliance prepared to govern what it conquers? Is Kabul at risk of anarchy? Is it time for American ground troops to enter Afghanistan?

Joining us tonight, former U.N. Ambassador and Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration, Bill Richardson, and Tom Donnelly, who is the executive director of the Project for the New American Century. Beside me -- sitting in for the book-touring Bill Press -- is Paul Begala.

We will begin CROSSFIRE in a moment. First we go to CNN's Kelly Wallace at the White House for an update on how the administration is responding to this latest news -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tucker, as you noted, President Bush basically sent a message to the Northern Alliance rebels saying, "Don't go in to the capitol city of Kabul." But today Mr. Bush focusing on the positive, saying the administration making great progress in putting pressure on the Taliban and Bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Mr. Bush also saying he has been assured by the Northern Alliance commanders that they don't intend to permanently occupy the capitol city and also that they intend to work with the United Nations in creating a power-sharing government.

But Tucker, the president also urging the rebels to exercise restraint after there have been reports that the rebels executed people as they entered the capitol city -- reports Mr. Bush said he could not confirm.

Now the administration is really kicking into very, very high gear, working very, very quickly to try and get a transitional government up and running in the capitol city to maintain law and order -- Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, HOST: Kelly, yes. It -- President Bush today hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin. And given Russia's long and bloody and unhappy history in Afghanistan, I'm curious as to President Putin's response.

WALLACE: Well, his response was quite interesting indeed, because first of all he said that the rebels really had no choice but to enter the capitol city because he said that Taliban forces were leaving. He also very, very much dismissed -- categorically dismissed -- these reports that the rebels would have executed any Taliban prisoners of war.

But then he also don't be deluded here by what is happening. He believes the Taliban forces leaving the capitol city basically taking on a strategic move to maintain their weapons and equipment and prepare for a bigger fight in the days ahead. So Mr. Putin saying the work is not over yet -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Kelly Wallace at the White House. Thanks a lot, Kelly.

Bill Richardson, thanks for joining us. It's obvious that we can't control the Northern Alliance. We asked them -- that is, the U.S.-led coalition -- asked them not to enter Kabul. They did anyway. Why shouldn't the United States at this point send its own troops in, perhaps in -- in league with other coalition members, Turkey, England and coupled with Northern Alliance drive south to Kandahar?

AMBASSADOR BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think the Bush administration playing this right, along with our military. This has been a bit success, but it's not a total victory.

We have to now take Kandahar. We have to make sure that the Taliban does not effectively form a guerrilla operation. We also to start forming a coalition government. Let the U.N. take that. Look at refugee assistance, a transitional effort that respects Pakistanis also. They're going to want the Pashtuns.

You don't want to have the Northern Alliance totally take over now. This is where it comes that we back the Pakistanis in a broad- based operation. But to move our forces in -- I think they should be there to be helpful as we move ahead and try to extract this network in -- in southern -- southern Afghanistan.

CARLSON: But you almost made the argument yourself. We can't -- we can't have Afghanistan run by the Northern Alliance. They are not representative. Pakistan, as you pointed out, would be very upset. They don't have the troops, necessarily, to go south to Kandahar. What is the problem with sending American or coalition troops south?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think the Bush administration is handling this very well right now. Let's back them up. Their strategy is get a coalition government going. Let's continue weakening the Taliban. They are not out yet. This been a big setback, but you've got the southern part of Afghanistan.

Our objective is to hurt the al Qaeda network, to find Osama Bin Laden. It's not to install the Northern Alliance. But it's seriously to go after the al Qaeda network. The Taliban is -- is moving them out, and that's what we are doing.

PAUL BEGALA, HOST: Tom Donnelly, let me ask you -- first refer to history. General Omar Bradley in the Second World War sent a message to General George S. Patton once, told him not to take the German city of Trier. He said you only have two divisions, Patton, and it's going to take three to take it. Patton cabled him back and said, "I have already taken the city. What do you want me to do? Give it back?"

Isn't President Bush now in the unfortunate position of having told an army in the field not to take the capital and then watching them walk in without firing a shot?

TOM DONNELLY, PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY: Well, that's not an unfortunate position. This is great news. Winning is always good. What we have to do now is try to get back out ahead of events so we can shape them a little bit better so the atrocities that may have happened today don't occur in the future.

BEGALA: Maybe one last backward-looking point. A whole lot of armchair analysts -- when President Clinton was leading us to victory in Kosovo -- said we can never win without ground troops.

In fact, you were at the "Weekly Standard." It was foremost among those arguing that we could never win in Kosovo without ground troops, and of course we did. Today your magazine is still arguing that we need American ground troops.

When are you going to admit that you are wrong, that American air power and these coalition partners -- in this case the Northern Alliance -- is perfectly capable of winning a war?

DONNELLY: Well, last time I checked there were thousands of American ground troops in Kosovo, so the struggle for the future of Kosovo...

BEGALA: But not to win the war. That was to secure the peace.

DONNELLY: Oh, yes, but this is clearly part of the war. To get troops in there, yeah, we were very lucky that air power and the threat of ground -- and a ground invasion -- and it wasn't until that ground invasion threat was legitimate and real that Slobodan Milosevic was willing to begin to talk turkey. And let's not be -- have any doubts about what the long-term future of Kosovo is, because clearly there are going to be troops there for a long time, as there will be in Afghanistan.

The question is how aggressively are we going to -- how soon are we going to win, under what circumstances and what's the post-combat phase going to be like?

CARLSON: Bill Richardson, in several weeks winter is going to set in, and at some point operations are going for the most part cease in Afghanistan. That is, be frozen where they are now. It strikes me it would be a disaster if operations were frozen at a point where the Taliban were still in control of Kandahar. So there is a price attached to not taking the city. Again, there's no guarantee that the Northern Alliance can do it. Why shouldn't we do it?

RICHARDSON: Well, there's also another factor, Tucker, the Pashtun, which are key players here. When they sense that momentum is shifting away from the Taliban, they are going to do something.

I think what we have to do is be very careful. One, aerial bombardments must continue. Number two, any way that we clear the way for the Northern Alliance makes sense. I do agree with you. What you don't want is a total Northern Alliance domination. What you want is a coalition government, perhaps led by that 87-year-old monarch that is a unifying factor. A two-year transitional government.

The U.N. has called for this. I think this makes sense while democracy and elections and rebuilding takes place. What we don't want, Tucker, is for the U.S. troops come in, for the U.S. to impose itself. Then we are in a morass that we don't want to do.

We are running this very effectively. I think the military running very well. Our military. the Northern Alliance is -- is probably -- I think we have make sure that they don't have human rights violations. These reports could be true.

In a war situation we have got to be absolutely careful. This is why having the United Nations with a peace envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who has a lot of experience there -- I know the guy, I have worked with him -- let them take the lead.

CARLSON: But I mean, first of all, we are already in a morass? Second, isn't this a country that redefines the terms "human rights violations?" And third, isn't it true that whatever we do, if we don't take Kandahar and if it remains in Taliban control over the winter, don't we risk losing momentum and losing support of Arab and Muslim coalition members?

RICHARDSON: Well, that might be the case but things are moving our way. Why change? That's my argument right now. I think we have be sure that Kandahar, the southern part of Afghanistan is where al Qaeda network is, where Bin Laden may be. I think we have to continue weakening the Taliban. They are starting to scatter. What we don't want them is to set up in guerrilla operations, so this is the time to take military advantage. But to have a whole onslaught of American troops -- I think the special forces are doing great. I say leave it the way it is.

BEGALA: Tom Donnelly, today you posted a piece on the "Weekly Standard's" web site in which you argue very vociferously the other way. You called for a massive infusion of United States ground troops.

Let me put the question that Bill Richardson raised. It's going great right now. Why take a strategy that's working and chuck it? Look, the first rule of military history is exploit an advantage. When you have got the guy on the run, that's the time to put the screws on as fast and as hard as you can.

DONNELLY: We are paying the price for not having planned for success up until now, so our options are more limited about what we can do. There's a limited amount of force that we can get there in the time available. Again, things are moving faster than our precise...

BEGALA: Look, thing are going so well with an Afghan ground troops taking Afghanistan back, that we should insert American ground troops which is precisely what Bin Laden wants. Osama Bin Laden want to tell the world a lie that this is a Western crusade against Islam. And nothing could be further from the truth.

DONNELLY: Look...

BEGALA: And the facts on the ground are that the Afghans are celebrating their liberation, in part, I think, because they are being liberated by Afghans and not by Americans.

DONNELLY: Well, I think that reads the situation exactly backward. They are happy to be free of the Taliban. There wouldn't be any liberation if it weren't for the American involvement in the war. This was a war that was begun in response to an attack on America and it's up to us to secure the victory and shape the peace that follows.

We've got to hurry up if we want to get there and Kandahar is clearly the key place to go. We need to be there, to be the first guys in, to put an American face on this victory and to make sure that the allies that we have -- the allies of convenience that we have -- don't begin to destroy the victory and put an ugly face on it.

CARLSON: Bill Richardson, you mentioned A: that we are in a morass and B: the fear voiced by many that the Taliban have taken to the hills and are about to wage guerrilla war against us.

That -- that suggests the Soviet model, which people always talk about. Ten years there, lost 14,000 troops, got nowhere, had to leave finally. But isn't it true that when the Soviets were there, they were essentially fighting everyone? I mean, the United States, China, Pakistan Iran, were all away on the side of the mujahideen.

Now you have the Taliban, who ran away in the middle of the night out of Kabul yesterday, and supported them. They have no allies. Wouldn't it be that much easier to beat them?

RICHARDSON: They are still not totally out. They have forces in Kandahar. They are still a large number. They are on the ropes. And I agree with Tom. I think you take military advantage.

What you don't want, Tucker, is to put a military face on a Kandahar takeover, because then we the United States are going to be viewed symbolically as having taken this action. Our Muslim coalition might dissipate, might weaken.

Look, it makes sense now to declare victory -- it's moving in that direction -- but at the same time start looking at a coalition, start looking at the Pakistanis, the Indians, the Russians, Iran, Turkey -- you mentioned Turkey.

Be the guarantors of perhaps a multinational peacekeeping force that for two years keeps the peace until this country has elections and a transition to democracy. One mistake that I think we made after the Russians were expelled was that we left Afghanistan alone. We -- not just the United States, the international community. And what happened was anarchy. We don't want that to happen.

BEGALA: Tom, what's wrong with that? An international peacekeeping force as we have in Kosovo, where it's the European theater and it's mostly European troops.

DONNELLY: I don't...

BEGALA: In East Timor or Asian nation or Asian peacekeepers, why not a Turkish-led -- and Turkey's a NATO ally of ours and a Muslim nation -- and they are willing to go in and help keep the peace there. Isn't that a whole lot better than, again, feeding Bin Laden's false argument that this is some kind of a crusade?

DONNELLY: Look, I think it would be great to have a significant Turkish presence in whatever peacekeeping force follows. I would be really wary of having a Russian element as we did in the Balkans. I think that would be the thing that would be most likely to spark local antipathy to any peacekeeping.

BEGALA: But Muslims would be all right, right? Like in the Balkans...

DONNELLY: Right, but the key is the American presence. As in the Balkans, the only credible, trustworthy actor in the Balkans is the United States. The British, the Germans, the French, every other contingent in the United States is a surrogate American, because everybody in the region knows that the American government is committed to making sure that comes out right. It's exactly the kind of commitment we need to make here. As -- it would be great have as money folks along with us as possible, with perhaps the exception of the Russians and perhaps some others -- but again, American leadership is going to be the key to the post-combat phase in Afghanistan.

BEGALA: All right. Tom, Bill, we are going to take a quick break. When we come back, I'm going to ask these guys about the price of another potential victory. What do we do if we capture Osama Bin Laden? When CROSSFIRE continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, NORTHERN ALLIANCE FOREIGN MINISTER: The job of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, which is terrorism -- is of course led by Osama Bin Laden and his associates will be much easier from now on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm Paul Begala sitting in for Bill Press. With a speed that stunned observers, the Afghan capitol of Kabul has fallen to troops of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. But if war is hell, then victory or even partial victory is at least heck.

The capture of Kabul has opened up a new debate about the use of American ground troops, a post-Taliban government, and even the dreaded nation building. Our guests: Tom Donnelly, the deputy executive director of the Project for a New American Century and Bill Richardson, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Tucker.

CARLSON: Bill Richardson, we are awfully sensitive here in the United States, I noticed, to the feelings of Pakistan. And apart from the obvious logistical reasons that it's a nice place for staging, I guess, or could be -- it's not clear why.

Pakistan, of course, created the Taliban. Huge parts of the -- of the ISI, the Security -- the internal security service and the military are still sympathetic to the Taliban. Why do we care so much what Pakistan thinks?

RICHARDSON: Number one, they backed us when President Musharraf was at great risk. Number two, the fact that they have provided intelligence, they have been key in weakening the Taliban, which is our objective: to find al Qaeda, to find Bin Laden, to get the Taliban out.

This is something that Pakistan has demonstrated really taking our side at a time when in the past relations were not good. They detonated a nuclear weapon. We were trying to balance our relationship with India and Pakistan. They are a key country.

Now, that doesn't mean that we let them get the Pashtun -- their allies -- run Afghanistan. This is why a coalition is needed. This is why we have to bring in other actors like Turkey. This is why we have to keep the Muslim world, the Saudi Arabians, as part of our coalition.

CARLSON: I -- I mean, I don't think anyone would disagree that it's important to have -- or helpful, or could be helpful -- to have Pakistan as part of a coalition. On the other hand, it does seem that we dance to their music a lot of the time. And one wonders why.

For instance, when the Northern Alliance troops came into Kabul today, they discovered that a lot of the people defending the city were Pakistanis. Now, some of them had been there a while. Pakistanis have always been fighting in Afghanistan for a long time.

But a lot of them -- maybe tens of thousands of Pakistanis -- came from Pakistan since the bombing campaign began and they weren't stopped by the Pakistani government. This is very odd behavior for an ally, don't you think?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, there is a lot of internal dissension that Musharraf has to contain. This was not popular move in Pakistan, backing the United States. And he has got a lot of elements that are sympathetic to the Taliban. We have got to respect the fact that it's in our interests that Musharraf stay in office.

It's in our interest that Pakistan play a constructive role. We have to respect their view that they have a lot of problems with the Northern Alliance. That doesn't mean that we bring the Pakistani side in, the Pashtuns.

I think that the Northern Alliance is major player here. They provided the military forces. They are going to be a major part of a new government, but it has to be a coalition government.

But it is key, Tucker, to keep Pakistan strong in that area in a post-government situation. And we have got to show our thanks too Musharraf. He backed us.

BEGALA: Tom Donnelly, let me ask you another question about Osama Bin Laden. If we capture him, we have president who committed us to "we want him dead or alive." A bit of Texas bravado that I actually didn't agree with. I don't want him alive.

If we get him alive, my own view is we should perform a quick sex change and make him live as a woman under the Taliban. It seems a fitting punishment. But honestly there is a possibility that we capture this punk alive. What do we do?

DONNELLY: Yeah, that is a nightmare. I think the president wants him more dead than alive. And really, the nightmare scenario is we capture him, we try to have some semi-judicial proceeding, which then become a circus.

We know what terrorists do when terrorists go on trial. There'll be kidnappings and a variety of other tricks that they will pull to make our lives miserable. So the good outcome is that -- the dead outcome. And it would be nice also if it were an American soldier -- and particularly a female American member of the military -- who did the dirty deed.

BEGALA: Well, one of reasons it's so dicey is also he's a master of propaganda. So we don't want to give him a forum to spew his -- his views to the entire world.

And that's why I think your idea of massive American ground troops going in there is such a mistake. There's a lot of talk and this hackneyed phrase about the Arab street.

But I think we can agree that the prize here is not Afghanistan, the parking lot we are bombing. It is instead Saudi Arabia, which is clearly what Osama Bin Laden wants to overthrow. He's -- he concerns the Saudi government much more than he should concern even Americans. Or perhaps even Pakistan, which you and Bill Richardson were talking about. We have got to worry about Arab public opinion as we wage this war, don't we?

DONNELLY: Well, I would -- I would definitely agree with you that the -- that the war is larger than Afghanistan per se. I would think we would have to worry more about Iraq than we do Saudi Arabia, for example, but that might be a topic for another day.

As to Bin Laden's propaganda machine, even more than his videotapes and his Western media appearances or his -- his, you know, version of CROSSFIRE on Al Jazeera or whatever he has got going, there are things like the religious schools in madrasas that need to be taken down and eliminated. That's where the real source of anti- Western, anti-American hatred comes from.

And that's one of the prizes to be won by moving in on the ground in Afghanistan and beginning to not reconstruct but to construct a country and a civil society there.

CARLSON: Amen. OK. Bill Richardson, there was a flurry of concern in news stories a couple of days ago when it became apparent that Osama Bin Laden may have chemical or biological weapons and may be intent on using them on the United States.

What strikes me far more threatening, we know Saddam Hussein does chemical and biological weapons and we know he wants to use them on the United States. Why are we allowing this? Why don't we remove Saddam Hussein? We know that that's there.

RICHARDSON: Because we have tried before and it hasn't worked. The next step should be Saddam Hussein. But let's not get greedy. Let's deal with Afghanistan. Let's eliminate Bin Laden and his network, the al Qaeda network.

Then, I think, Iraq is the next target. But let's not combine them. Again, the Arab street, the Muslim world. We have a coalition now, not just of Muslim states but within the security council: Russia, China, France, Great Britain.

If we move on Iraq -- I will tell you, I sat in that Security Council. China would leave us. Russia would probably leave us. France would probably leave us. So let's just keep this coalition. Let's eye on the target, move ahead later at an appropriate time.

BEGALA: If the price of going after Saddam Hussein is a revolution in Saudi Arabia, is it worth doing it?

RICHARDSON: Well, it depends on what the revolution in Saudi Arabia is.

BEGALA: A radical fundamentalist, Islamic, neo-Bathist, neo- Taliban revolution. No, that's not what we want.

DONNELLY: Look, what we saw on the television today was Muslims celebrating their liberation. A liberation made in large part possible by American use of force. Why don't we think that the people of Iraq would be celebrating as they were in 1991 in the north and the south? Those people do not wish to live under Saddam Hussein, and I'll bet you the majority of cities in central Iraq don't wish to live under a repressive dictatorship like that.

Look, one final point: what the ambassador said is let's not get ahead of ourselves. The problem is, we haven't been catching up to events. We need to plan for success, create the conditions for success, and exploit them before things run out of control.

CARLSON: Tom Donnelly, Bill Richardson, thank you both very much. We appreciate you coming on CROSSFIRE. It's been a historic day in the world. Kabul falls. Paul Begala and I will be back in just a moment to talk about it in our closing comments. See you then.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: All right, Paul. The headline of tonight's show was Bill Richardson saying we need to address Iraq, we need to go to Baghdad, we need to remove Saddam Hussein. Bill Richardson, pretty moderate guy, Democrat. If he believes that, even you will come around to that point of view after a while.

BEGALA: He also said we ought not get out ahead of ourselves. And I was struck with Tom Donnelly saying now that we have a strategy that works, American air power, Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, we should abandon the strategy just as it's working...

CARLSON: But look at...

BEGALA: ...flood the country with American troops so that they can be sitting ducks the way the Soviets were.

CARLSON: Look. Right. Nobody believes that Kandahar will fall the same way Kabul did. And yet...

BEGALA: Nobody thought Kabul would fall this time yesterday.

CARLSON: Yet everybody knows that it's vital that Kandahar be wrested from the Taliban. It will require American troops to do that. And I hope they get there soon and that we go to cover it. BEGALA: Kandahar will fall, you watch. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.

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