Powell Briefing on Board Plane En Route Pakistan
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Islamabad, Pakistan) For Immediate Release October 16, 2001
Secretary of State Colin Powell Press Briefing on Board Plane En Route Pakistan
October 16, 2001
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me start by just mentioning that I was pleased to receive word during the course of the afternoon that Prime Minister Sharon in his cabinet meeting has made some decisions with respect to some pullbacks and some opening of areas and I hope this will be seen as a continuation of the process we have been trying to get started. The violence has gone down as the President noted and now the Israelis look like they are responding to that. So let's hope we have some movement here, but that's not what we are on this trip for so I will throw it open to your questions.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? I guess that Arafat is supposed to be talking to Prime Minister Blair today in London, what are your expectations from that in light of Mr. Sharon's --
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I hope that he will. I'm quite sure he will reaffirm to Prime Minister Blair that he is making every effort, that Chairman Arafat is making every effort to get the violence down. He had a test last week when he had the disturbance in Gaza and he responded to that test by controlling the violence. So I hope he will reaffirm his commitment to a cease-fire, to the Mitchell plan and do everything within his power and authority to get the violence down and keep it down to the lowest level. We would all like to see zero and I am sure Prime Minister Blair will encourage him in that regard also and give the United Kingdom's commitment once again to the Mitchell plan. I'm pleased at how coherent -- the European Union and Russia and the United Nations and the United States -- all together how consistent we have been as a team in pushing the Mitchell plan as the way forward.
QUESTION: Can we talk about this trip, first of all, what do you hope to achieve on it and/or is the trip itself the message?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think to some extent the trip is the message. I wanted to come over and meet the President and the Prime Minister in Pakistan and India respectively, listen to them and get their assessment of the situation in the region as a result of the events of 11 September. A lot of things have happened. President Musharraf has made some very bold and courageous steps to come into this coalition of nations that are determined to fight terrorism. He has been very helpful in providing us support. The Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Vajpayee, has done likewise and I'm very pleased that these two nations are aligned with us in this campaign against terrorism, aligned with the entire civilized world. This gives me a chance to listen to them, hear their assessment, hear their concerns, see how we can be helpful. I'm sure in both countries we will have the chance to talk about the future of Afghanistan. As you've been hearing and as you've been reporting, however things turn out there, we want to be in a position to help the people of Afghanistan to finally be governed by a government that represents all the people of Afghanistan and not just one party or one group. I want to hear the assessment of these two distinguished leaders and their associates, their perspective on this and any advice they have for us. There are a wide number of, a large number of bilateral issues that I will be discussing with each country and its leaders.
QUESTION: Would you say -- they're both in the coalition, they are both aligned?
SECRETARY POWELL: Both are supporting us --.
QUESTION: But they're not with each other, they are at complete odds with each other, how concerned are you that that might interfere over one major issue?
SECRETARY POWELL: The issue of Kashmir is always a contentious issue between the two nations and I'm sure I will have a chance to discuss the Kashmir issue with both of them and be able to reaffirm that we believe that dialogue on Kashmir is important. We believe in maintenance of the line of control, exercise of restraint is also very, very important, the avoidance of provocative acts, which could lead to a conflict of any kind. And I hope we will all have that as a mutual goal in our discussions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, since the events, the sanctions against both countries have been lifted --
SECRETARY POWELL: Some have.
QUESTION: Are you in any way going to discuss that, for example, what the limits might be particularly with respect to military sales to Pakistan. Is that on the plate?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure we will discuss it. Right now there are not huge proposals or programs that Pakistan has expressed an interest in. Those really aren't for action because if they had some, it wouldn't be for action right now because of other sanctions that are in place with respect to proliferation activities. So I'm more than happy to discuss anything that the President would wish to discuss, but that's not any area I think we would really have any results.
QUESTION: I guess what I'm really asking is that do you have a sense that military supply or the resumption of a military supply relationship in on their plate?
SECRETARY POWELL: I will wait and see. I don't want to pre-judge what might be on their agenda. I'm sure it will come up. There are some things we can look at, others we cannot. I'm sure it will come up also in India. We think it is useful to have military to military relations with both of these countries, giving them the opportunity to train their officers, their military leaders in our schools and for us to send some of our folks to their schools as well. There are many forms of military to military cooperation, seminars, defense groups between our side and their side, visits of our senior leaders. I will be pursuing that and I'm sure equipment may well come up during the course of the conversation.
QUESTION: How concerned are you about the level of anti-American violence in India and Pakistan right now, in particular, the viability --
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, if anything I think it's shown a great deal of viability. Not only did he make -- President Musharraf -- make a bold decision right after the 11th of September, but he has stuck to that decision and made even more courageous decisions since then. So he certainly feels that the government is secure. Even though they have the demonstrations and they get quite a bit of attention, and I regret any loss of life and I regret that there are those who do not understand the tragic nature of what happened the 11th of September and demonstrated against our response to this crime, those demonstrations seen to be fairly modest for a country the size of Pakistan. They seem to be not anything that is beyond the ability of the government to manage, control, and to let people have the opportunity to demonstrate.
QUESTION: How concerned are you about your personal security and the fact the opposition and the Taliban have called for strikes tomorrow because of your presence?
SECRETARY POWELL: I feel quite safe.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, could you talk a little bit more about the government you foresee in Afghanistan, how that will happen, how you foresee that happening, and what you foresee the role of the Unites States to be.
SECRETARY POWELL: Hard to say what will happen. I mean, there's a lot of pressure on the Taliban regime right now. They have isolated themselves. They have found that none of the nations surrounding them will be supporting that kind of regime in the future.
So they are under a lot of pressure and unless they do something to relieve that pressure, I suspect it's going to cause a change. What we are doing is staying in touch with all the various elements in Afghan society, all of the political elements, the King, the Northern Alliance and many others, staying in touch with all of them and we will also be discussing this with our friends at the United Nations. I spoke twice in the last three days with Kofi Annan about the situation.
Ambassador Richard Haass, who is the Director of Policy Planning for the State Department, will be my personal representative examining alternatives with the UN and other nations directly, bilaterally with other nations. Richard will be going up there early this week to talk to some of the UN officials. Mr. Brahimi, who is the Secretary General's personal representative in Pakistan, has been traveling and he'll be in Washington later this week. So we're going to stay in touch with all the parties. We're going to work with the UN and others to start to develop some ideas as to what we might have to do and want to do if there is a change.
Clearly, it will require the international community to get involved and clearly the United Nations, it seems to me, will be playing a leading role. No one government will be able to drive what happens in post-Taliban Afghanistan with respect to the new political regime or the new government who might come in. I think the UN will be playing a key role. We will also, in that same light -- to continue your question -- we're also talking to our friends in the European Union and bilaterally with other countries as to what kind of development programs might be required to help these people who have suffered so greatly over the last 20 to 30 years.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how much influence will Pakistan have over the future shape of Afghanistan, over the government of Afghanistan, will they have a veto over the form of government that takes place there?
SECRETARY POWELL: If we truly are interested in a post-Taliban Afghanistan that represents all of the interests of the various factions and elements of Afghan society, then I think we have to listen to them, and no one nation to have a veto over them. So its those nations who are in the neighborhood, of course, that perhaps share a more direct interest in the outcome as opposed to someone further away. But I don't think anyone would suggest any longer that they should have a veto over Afghanistan with respect to the future government.
QUESTION: Will you talk to President Musharraf about how you can get nuclear arms safer?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure that we will have a chance to talk about all the issues with respect to nuclear weapons: safety, testing, proliferation, all those issues that are well known to you.
SECRETARY POWELL: I know it has been reported in the Pakistani press and the Indian press, but I have not heard directly from the government yet. I'm sure I might well hear about it tomorrow. QUESTION: Could you re-pose the question please?
SECRETARY POWELL: The question was, the REBITA trust, r-e-b-i-t-a, which we have listed, a charitable trust set up some years ago by the Pakistani government but it does have direct links to the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, linked to Al Qaeda, not because of its other worthy charitable activities, we added it to the OFAC list, the second tranche last week.
QUESTION: Are you assuming that the Taliban will not be any party to what happens after Al Qaeda is wrapped up? Are there any conditions under which the Taliban might be part of a national coalition?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not assuming anything. We are staying in touch with all of the parties and we will see what develops. The current Taliban leadership to me seems to have destroyed its country effectively and would not have a serious claim to be part of the new government. But there are many people within the Taliban movement who will still be there. They are not all leaving the country, so I hope we will be able, the international community will be able, to put together something that will appeal to all of the Afghan people. I don't think of the Taliban party as a political entity, it doesn't seem likely to me that it would have any kind of (inaudible) in the last five years.
QUESTION: There's been a sense that the military operations have been waiting for the diplomacy of the Northern Alliance wouldn't move because the Pakistanis are upset. Is it one of your objectives on this trip to advance the ability of military operations to evolve?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think anything is hung up. I think that my colleagues at the Pentagon and General Franks and other activities and agencies have been unfolding the campaign plan in a very deliberate way. It started out with a fairly high, fairly intense bombing campaign going after their defense systems and it will change shape, as I think Mr. Rumsfeld said on many occasions, it will change shape. Sometimes you see things, sometimes you won't. So I'm not aware of anything that's hung up as a result of anything the Pakistanis have said to us. It's quite encouraging to see the change in thinking in the Pakistani government in the last several weeks with respect to the Taliban. They've come to the judgment so many of us have that the Taliban is no longer part of the future of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: The Indians are unhappy, they felt that they came in early with a blank check vis-à-vis the anti-terrorism coalition and there was hardly any acknowledgement of this in Washington.
SECRETARY POWELL: I've acknowledged it at every opportunity. I stood out in front of the State Department with my colleague Foreign Minister Jaswat Singh two weeks ago. I stood in front of the State Department and right there expressed the appreciation of the United States Government for the speed with which they came out and all of the support that they have offered. I will certainly make that point directly with the Prime Minister in two days time and try to convey in every way I can that we are deeply appreciative of the fact that the Indian government came forward quickly in an unconditional manner, I think is the word they used. We are very appreciative of that and maybe in the course of this trip we'll find specific things to talk about put more meat to that offer.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what happens if the Taliban implodes before this transitional authority or whatever you want to call it is in place?
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't answer that question directly. I don't know whether -- I can't be a fortuneteller -- I don't know what's going to happen to the Taliban. I don't know how much resilience it has. I don't know how long they're going to be there. Obviously you can't think about the transitional effort or something coming in until you're pretty clear that that which is there is going out.
QUESTION: So you're not clear about that?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have no way of knowing. I have no way of seeing the future at this point, getting ready for the future. Really what it is is contingency -- what we're doing really is contingency planning, getting ready for the possibility that sometime in the near future there could be a need to respond to the collapse of the government -- if one can call that evil regime a government.
QUESTION: But are you concerned that the military action might be outpacing the political action.
SECRETARY POWELL: That the military action might be outpacing the diplomatic action? Not at this point. As you've noticed in the last several days, we've picked up the beat with what we may have to do in a post-Taliban world and that's why I've got my staff hard at work working with other members of the Administration. We've discussed this with the President and he has given us the charge to begin consulting and to make plans.
QUESTION: Are there any elements in the Taliban who have made overtures to the United States Government to talk about the possibility of being included in a post-Taliban or the next phase including the Foreign Minister there are reports that --
SECRETARY POWELL: Not that I'm aware of. He hasn't called me. That's all that counts. I have not. I have not.
QUESTION: Why would you describe Musharraf as bold and courageous? Why would you use those words?
SECRETARY POWELL: Here's a President who saw this tragedy unfold and has shown tolerance for the Taliban and who we called -- first we got in touch with the intelligence director the day after September 11. On the 13th, I called President Musharraf and I had a good conversation with him. I had talked to him a couple of times before so we weren't strangers. I said you need to understand, Mr. President, and I'm saying this to you in all friendship, that we had a catastrophe here and we are going to respond to this catastrophe and we need to know whether you're going to be on our side of it or not.
And it took him 24 hours to ponder that question, to consult with his leaders and to make his own decision, a sovereign country making their own decision -- not taking instructions from anybody. And he did that. He came back to us and said we will work with you. We gave him some things we'd like to see them do and he agreed to all those things and considering where he lives, his neighborhood, what his government had been doing in the recent past, I thought it was a bold and courageous decision. He did it knowing there would be demonstrations. He did it knowing there would be opposition. And I can think of no other way to characterize that kind of political decision other than bold and it was courageous in light of the circumstances.
QUESTION: Were you saying earlier that the US is going to resume military to military exchanges?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, what I said is I am willing to discuss whatever they want to put on the agenda. If they want to talk about mil-to-mil, we'll talk about it. It started out as a question of arms sales, that's still prohibited by sanctions. It doesn't mean we can't talk about other kinds of --
QUESTION: Is that something we're open to resuming? Military to military exchanges?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have always been a supporter of military to military exchanges, staff exchanges, commander exchanges. One of the finest programs we've ever had in the foreign policy field is the IMET program (International Military Education and Training) where we bring foreign students to our institutions. I still remember fondly my days 34 years ago at the Command and General Staff College and there were I think close to 100 foreign students in my class. About six of them became Chiefs of Mission, Chiefs of Defense. I knew this major, who was a major when I was a major. We essentially grew up together. That kind of exposure early in their careers serves long-term American interests. The year or two spent in the United States looking at our society, understanding the nature of a military democratic society, I think this is a sound investment in the future and we shouldn't let ups and downs in the relationships, in the relations that come along from time to time destroy this long-term investment.
QUESTION: Is that something that requires congressional....
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me check. I think we are going to do something.
QUESTION: You know about this story that we had a chance to get Omar on the first night? By Sy Hirsch in the New Yorker.
SECRETARY POWELL: Who said that? Sy Hirsch? No comment.
QUESTION: Thinking that Saddam was going to fall any day, and in the end he didn't, are you ever concerned that the Taliban can hold on indefinitely as well?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, that's a concern. We started going after the Al Qaeda and I just can't see that far. Even though it's been talked about for years and years, we were never going to Baghdad. There was no plan to go to Baghdad.
QUESTION: Yeah but the implicit goal was to bring it down.
SECRETARY POWELL: We hoped he would fall.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the same thing with the Taliban. You don't have a mandate. You say you're not going.
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't see into the future unless I'm the one doing the future. In Iraq, I knew what I was doing -- kicking the army out of Kuwait. But we never, notwithstanding all the speculation, the stories of the last ten years, nobody every said to invade Baghdad.
QUESTION: Do you ever feel spooky about the similarities?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I think they are quite different. I haven't spent a lot of time comparing the similarities.
QUESTION: No lessons from Iraq in dealing with this situation?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure you can always come up with lessons. I just haven't done it yet. Iraq is Iraq -- a wasted society ten years. They're sad. They're contained. They're still fiddling with weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Is Iraq next?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, we're going from here to -- (laughter). The President decided this a month ago and we've been following the President's guidance ever since.
QUESTION: What did he decide?
SECRETARY POWELL: His decision was that in this campaign, we are focusing in the first instance on Al Qaeda as it exists throughout the world, especially its headquarters in Afghanistan headed by Osama bin Laden, but also (inaudible) the same time that it is terrorism around the world that we are after. That's why we put the RIRA on the list of terrorist organizations, the FARC, the ELN, JPN most recently. And he has said that those who haven will pay the consequences of being havens.
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