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Interviews With Robert Maginnis and David McIntyre

Aired November 16, 2001 - 19:30   ET


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Tonight, reports that Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant is killed in an airstrike. Could bin Laden be next?


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I suspect he's still in the country. And needless to say, if -- if we knew his whereabouts we would have him.


NOVAK: As America's new war heats up, this is CROSSFIRE.

Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Today begins -- today begins a Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But the U.S. and its allies are not taking a break in the war and that's not the only bad news for the Taliban.

U.S. officials say they have credible reports that one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, Mohammed Atef, was killed in a U.S. airstrike.

There are also reports of an imminent Taliban withdrawal from its stonghold of Kandahar, but that story is played down by the Pentagon.

In fact, fighting was reported today on the outskirts of Kandahar and there is heavy fighting at the northeastern city of Konduz, with Taliban forces using 100 artillery pieces and 60 tanks.

Over all, the Pentagon says the Taliban now are restricted to only one third of Afghanistan compared to 90 percent just one week ago. So is this Afghan war nearly over? Or are there more surprises ahead?

We are asking Colonel David McIntyre, deputy director at Anser Institute for Homeland Security, and to Lieutenant Colonel Bob Maginnis, vice president of the Family Research Council. Sitting on the left tonight is President Clinton's former senior adviser Paul Begala -- Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Thank you, Mr. Novak. Bob Maginnis, you were on this very set about three weeks into the war. And you were part of a rather large corps of conservative critics of our military effort in Afghanistan. Let me remind you of what you said and then ask you if you have any second thoughts. Take a look at this.


COL. ROBERT MAGINNIS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We are not putting the right resources in there to accomplish this in a timely basis, and we are about to face a period of Ramadan and winter, and we just flat aren't ready to use the Northern Alliance and to use the limited resources we have put over there. We have to put people on the ground. We have to win this. This is not an option.


BEGALA: Tonight, Ramadan begins here in Washington. With our limited resources, only 100 to 150 American ground troops and the Northern Alliance now, Kabul has fallen. Mazar-e Sharif has fallen. Jalalabad has fallen. Mohammed Atef, as Mr. Novak told us, also known as al Khabir (ph) -- the big one -- the big guy -- is now the dead guy. Do you want to eat any of those words, colonel?

MAGINNIS: Well, obviously we've had a significant changes of events. But keep in mind, on that same program that you just showed, you know, I said General Franks has a lot of information that we are not aware of. He's doing a lot of things with the Northern Alliance.

We had people on the ground now that we look in hindsight that were doing things. And frankly we had no idea the Taliban was going to cave in many cases like they are. So, you know, hindsight is 20/20 and none of us have crystal balls. We might be here a year from tonight and you might be showing this program and you might end up eating your words, Paul.

BEGALA: A fair point. Here, let me come back to the central point you were making that night, I want to know if you still believe. Do you believe the United States needs a massive infusion of American ground troops to win this war?

MAGINNIS: Well, that...

BEGALA: I mean, a division or more.

MAGINNIS: That assumes, Paul, that, you know the whole sorting out of the Northern Alliance peacekeeping that is going to be absolutely essential, keeping the supply lines open is absolutely essential.

You know, who is going to marshal the humanitarian effort, and are we going to have a guerrilla war?

You know, those are unknowns at this time. I would surmise that, you know, bin Laden and company will try to go to Kashmir or Somalia, that there will be a lot of Taliban. How many are left? Thousands, probably, that are willing to die. They will go to the caves.

Will they be doing the mujahedeen routine that we saw during the ten years of the Soviets? Those things we don't know. And hopefully our intelligence is going to be able to tell us that as time goes along.

I'm a great fan. I think Rumsfeld is doing a wonderful job. I think General Franks is doing a great job. And -- but unfortunately, I'm not in the talk down in central command and don't know exactly what they are doing. And so at this point I think they are doing a pretty good job.

NOVAK: Colonel David McIntyre, on the question of guerrilla warfare, I would like to you look at something that was written by That's a private intelligence outfit and they -- they do a very accurate and insightful job.

And just the other day they said this. Quote, "The Taliban withdrawal was far from a rout. Whether it reflects abandonment of a strategy that could have led to their destruction in preparation for a more traditional and effective strategy for combat in Afghanistan -- guerrilla warfare." End quote. Do you agree with that analysis?

COL. DAVID MCINTYRE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, first of all, the question of a route. If you look at Afghanistan, we are only talking somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand people. And they were trying to defend an area the size of Texas.

Now, there are relatively few defensive positions. If you fall off the defensive position in the north, you have to get in your pickup truck and go a long way before you get to the next defensive position, while, by the way, the United States Air Force is shooting at you. So I'm not sure a rout is exactly the right term I would -- I would -- the way I would describe it.

NOVAK: He said -- Stratford's saying it's far from a rout.

MCINTYRE: I would say that they had a -- a retreat under pressure. In some cases, I'm sure, it broke down into a rout and in other cases they fell back to another defensive line.

Now whether it's going to become a guerrilla war sort of depends on what you see is the final -- final concept of victory. I mean, it's only a guerrilla war if there is somebody else occupying the area for them to attack.

NOVAK: Let's say that the -- they do get into a -- into a guerrilla mode. What about the United States sending in a lot more troops than the special force that we have now. There was an article by Max Boone in the "Wall Street Journal" the other day, and that's a kind of a neocomposition. "The United States for its self-respect has to send in a lot of troops to look good." What do you think of that?

MCINTYRE: There are two questions. First of all -- the first question is, send the men to do what?

NOVAK: To fight.

MCINTYRE: But to fight is not -- that don't end the war. The question is, what is -- what would be the objective of sending the troops? What do you want them to accomplish? Just to fight isn't enough of an answer.

Second question is, somebody needs to take a look at a map before we talk about committing troops. Look, to commit an American division, 10,000, 15,000 troops, you have a huge logistical tail that goes behind that.


MCINTYRE: Well, you're a -- they are a thousand miles from any seaport, and that's a thousand miles through hostile territory. You might as well give them red coats and just call an end to it.

BEGALA: Bob, I think something we can agree on is that that the American army and the United States is very, very different from the Soviet army.

And first and most importantly, morally different. We don't seek imperial conquest like the Soviets did. We don't seek treasure like the Soviets did. We seek a little blood, I have to admit, of Mr. bin Laden and the al Qaeda network.

But we are not going to be an occupying army who can become sitting ducks. Second, I don't believe the Taliban and al Qaeda will have the sanctuary, the support and the supplies that the mujahedeen had against the Soviet Union.

MAGINNIS: Well, Paul, it really matters on how we cobble together this new government. You know, the Pashtuns, of course, they're along that 1500 mile border. They're on both sides, split in 1890, and there's sympathy on that side.

Now, is Musharraf going to stay in power? He's the one that's keeping that country together. Is he in fact going to put tanks and the personnel to keep the porous borders closed? And if we put the Uzbeks, the Tajiks and the other minorities in there and exclude the Pashtuns -- who hopefully will be in this cobbled-together government, then we'll be able to keep, I think, the guerrilla operations from really festering.

However, if we fail to do some of these things then we are going to have more Arabs coming in through that border from elsewhere and we are going to have the Pashtuns riled up and that could -- can, you know, really contribute to this.

You know, I agree with what I heard a moment ago. You know, we can't garrison -- the -- the Taliban could not garrison that large country. Virtually impossible. Their infrastructure was shot. So as soon as we started to hurt them in a symmetric way, they had to pull out and they had to change their strategy.

And the strategy we face today, though, it can go either way. And it's really upon us -- the big burden here is to provide the necessary humanitarian support to create a government. We are in nation-building here. And we have no alternative, quite frankly. We have to work for the U.N. and all the allies -- the six plus two routine -- and if we don't do that. BEGALA: The six nations being those that surround Afghanistan and the other two...

MAGINNIS: That's right. Russia and the U.S.

BEGALA: The United States and Russia.

MAGINNIS: And we have -- we have a good relationship with Putin. So we have to do this right. If we fail to do it, we'll have a guerrilla war and we'll be sitting here next year at this time talking about woe is me.

NOVAK: Colonel, the -- I would like to talk to you a little bit about the allies. Our wonderful allies, the Northern Alliance, so called, and Human Rights Watch. Last month in their monthly issue before -- before the tide turned in this war said this, quote, "There have been reports of abuses in areas held temporarily by United Front" -- that's the Northern Alliance -- "factions, including summary executions, burning of houses and looting, principally targeting ethnic Pashtuns and others suspected of supporting the Taliban." End quote.

These are really a bad bunch of guys, as far as I'm -- I'm concerned. Do we say we don't really care if we have murderers and looters on the side of the United States, as long as -- and they are doing the fighting -- they are doing the fighting in the war. Does that bother you at all?

MCINTYRE: Of course. But we don't say that we don't care. On the other hand, we don't have any other choice. Look, Afghanistan really...

NOVAK: We don't have any other choice?

MCINTYRE: I don't see much of one. Afghanistan really was a country. 20 years ago I had an Afghan officer that I sponsored in my home. He was part of -- he was a military officer. He was part of the educated elite.

We had a strategic elite in that country. There were universities. There were doctors. Today there are horsemen with rifles. And there aren't a lot of good guys that we are going to find to be on our side.

So the question is -- the question that the president really put was, who sponsored the terrorists? Now, the fact is, whether we like them or not, whether they're good or not, whether we can work with them in the long run or not -- which remains open -- the fact is, the Taliban sponsored the terrorists that struck us. The Northern Alliance did not.

Now, if you ask me the question do I like these guys. No, I don't want to have them home for supper. If you're going to ask me, who would I rather have assaulting the Taliban today? The Northern Alliance or the 82nd Airborne Division. I would rather have the Northern Alliance. (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: OK. Go ahead.

MAGINNIS: I tend to agree from this vantage point. But I'm shocked by the pictures in "The New York Times" of the murders. I'm shocked by the fact they have their own Benedict Arnold throughout history.

You know, but you are right. You have got a thug here and a thug there. You don't like this thug so you use your own thug to go after him. And that's the situation we have ourselves. It is a liability. We are going to have to finesse this. If we do it right we're going to stop this mess and we'll go to, you know, step two. But if we don't...

BEGALA: But one of those sets of thugs crashed our airplanes into our buildings and the Northern Alliance did not. And I don't have a problem choosing up against bad guys against worse guys. Do you?

MAGINNIS: No. I -- I tend to agree with you, Paul. We have to, you know, side with someone. I would rather, quite frankly, then U.S. Army blood over there. You know, if the Northern Alliance want to fight, let them fight. However, we've got...

BEGALA: Hold on. They're telling me that we have to go on a break right now. And when we come back, though, we are going to talk about a remarkable story from CNN: secret documents from al Qaeda that CNN uncovered.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I am Paul Begala.

The Taliban is in tatters. Northern Alliance troops supported by American air power and special forces now control the vast majority of Afghanistan. It has been an amazing week in the war on terrorism.

But many questions still remain. Is the Taliban retreat a collapse or a strategic regrouping for a new guerrilla war? Is Osama bin Laden still in Afghanistan? Will the Northern Alliance share power with the Pashtuns who make up the plurality of that country?

To give us their insights on these issues and more, our guests are: retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Bob Maginnis and retired Colonel David McIntyre, also of the United States Army. Lieutenant Novak, of the United States Army.

NOVAK: It's lieutenant retired. I would like to ask you, colonel, about a statement that the Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader, made to the BBC.

He said, quote, "The current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause: that is the destruction of America. The plan is going ahead, and God willing it is being implemented. But it's a huge task, beyond the will and comprehension of human beings. If God's help is with us, this will happen within a short period of time. Keep in mind this prediction." End quote.

Now, is this a lot of bravado by somebody who is back on his heels or should we be worried when he says this?

MCINTYRE: You bet we ought to be worried, and for a number of reasons -- and not just his.

First of all, we should be worried because we need to understand all along what bin Laden's concept was. His concept was not to hit us and hurt us with explosions. It was to split the Western world and the Muslim world and put us at -- at war with the billion and a half people. That was his idea. And so certainly we should be worried about any further attempts that might try to do that.

Secondly, we should be worried because the network is not dead. There are people in place. There are sleepers. I am confident.

But thirdly -- and perhaps more importantly -- we should be worried because a new day has dawned: when because you can move money globally, because you can move information globally, now people can build weapons with small groups, criminal families, that used to take a nation-state to build that kind of weapon.

So this is not something that is going away. If bin Laden ends up in a sack on the front store of his -- of the embassy in Islamabad tomorrow morning, the problem is not over. We are going to deal with this for a long time.

NOVAK: What do you think about this operation that we -- that we were just talking about in the introduction?

MCINTYRE: Are you talking about the operation where -- where they found the -- the material, the large bomb...

NOVAK: Yes. The material, yes. And is that something we should really be worried about, or is that just bravado?

MCINTYRE: Well, I don't think it's bravado. Remember what it was that bin Laden set out to do.

He ran a university, a terror university. And in the same way we send people to universities for political science and economics and agriculture, he had people that could come and study bomb making or flying airplanes or anything else that he wanted to do. And then he sort of turned them loose and sets them out.

It's a really very clever -- horrific, but clever -- strategy. I'm not sure he even controlled all of these people. He just wound them up, pointed them toward us and let them go.

BEGALA: And in fact, Bob Maginnis, Christiane Amanpour of CNN has produced a startling report. She went into al Qaeda safe house in Kabul and found documents from al Qaeda with titles like "the biggest bombs." "How to make a nuclear bomb." "Atomic terror." She found plans to blow up airplanes, trains, ships. She found plans for using mustard gas and anthrax in ventilation systems.

She found chemical stores for sodium nitrates, and now we have just learned from the report that al Qaeda also -- and the Taliban -- were putting military targets right next to their own mosques, which is why -- I mean, we did have a malfunctioning bomb in that report we just got from the Pentagon, but the reason it malfunctioned and hit a mosque is because they have put their military targets right next to even their religious targets. These are the people we are dealing with.

MAGINNIS: Well, certainly the PR war is going to be tough, and -- and we have to be careful in this country, because this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

But Paul, as you indicate, you know, the weapons of mass destruction issue, the bio stuff, the nuclear stuff, we know that they have been tracking this for years. In fact, we believe that perhaps he has come across some material, could perhaps make a dirty bomb. Don't know that.

But it's clear, it only took 19 people to bring this country to a virtual standstill. And there are a lot more than 19 left in Afghanistan. And there are probably thousands across this world that already have the plans in their back pocket. Probably have the means to do what they are going to do.

And that's why we have to be incredibly aggressive. And if we fail to be aggressive in law enforcement and even what we are doing in Afghanistan, it's going to revisit us and it's going to revisit us sooner than we want.

BEGALA: Reports I have seen is that al Qaeda -- unlike the Shining Path Maoist guerrilla in Peru, which was really built around one man, Guzman -- when they killed him and took him out, it collapsed -- al Qaeda is structured in a very decentralized way so that for example today we learned, that -- we reported this before -- Mohammed Atef is dead. He's playing checkers in hell with Hitler now. But that's not going to stop the rest of those terrorists from trying to do what they want to do.

MAGINNIS: You're right. You know, the other deputy is probably much worse than Osama bin Laden. The cells are independent all over the world. At least 60 countries, the president tells us.

And, you know, the means of doing dastardly things, whether it's a dirty bomb or whether it's anthrax whether it's ricin or some other chemical that they are going to use whatever they have at their means to do their bidding.

And I believe we ought to take what Omar said with more than a grain of salt. He's serious and they are willing to give their lives up. And we have to be willing just as well to do the same.

NOVAK: Colonel, do you think we know exactly what we are doing here? Are we fighting a -- the United States, that is -- are we fighting a war to conquer the -- the one faction in Afghanistan when the other Afghanistan faction is not all that clean, or are we just trying to protect the United States from a -- from a terrorist attack? Isn't there a difference there?

MCINTYRE: There is a difference. To answer your first question, no one every surely know what they are doing in a war. Whatever plan you make, it comes unraveled with the first contact with the enemy. The important -- the important fact is that you be able to adjust your strategy and change, which we have done over the last three days -- three weeks to great success.

NOVAK: We're almost out of time. But I want to ask you a question. Wouldn't we be better off if we had journalists there telling us what is really happening instead of flying (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

MCINTYRE: I think that the -- I think the journalists are absolutely critical to the American military strategy as long as they are asking good questions and not just hostile questions.

NOVAK: Well, we just -- we don't have any journalists there, so we just don't know. Thank you very much, Colonel and Colonel, thank you. And what was your rank, by the way?

BEGALA: Not even Boy Scout, Bob.

NOVAK: Boy Scout. We'll be back with some comments after these messages.


NOVAK: Paul, I really -- I really wonder if we have the right allies there in this Northern Alliance. Now they -- they sound like they are really kind of dressed-up people, but they are really a very scruffy bunch. They deal in drugs. They are very chaotic.

Aren't you a little bit worried about -- I know that the enemy of my enemy is my friend but...

BEGALA: Yeah. But there are no Little Sisters of Mercy there to be our allies. And they may be rough guys, they may be bad guys, but we are fighting someone who is a whole lot worse. And they are doing -- they are doing the hard work for us while we do the bombing. And I say God bless them. Thank the Northern Alliance.

NOVAK: Well, maybe, you know, for our own -- we ought to do a little more of the hard work. Do you think that might not be a bad idea? Or the United States just afraid to take any casualties now?

BEGALA: I think that's exactly what bin Laden wants. From the left, sitting next to the winner of Fourth Estate Award, I'm Paul Begala. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.




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