Secretary of State Colin Powell
Interview with Charlie Gibson on ABC's Good Morning America
Washington, D.C.
October 10, 2001
7:04 A.M. EDT

MR. GIBSON: Mr. Secretary, I apologize, something as mundane as the phone system apparently in your building is giving us problems. Can you hear me?

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Charlie. I think the State Department phone system was working just fine. I'm not sure about yours, however. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBSON: We will check into that and find out, sir, after it's all over -- although it could very well be our phone system as well, but I heard the other in my ear. But let me turn to the situation, obviously, because it's all very serious.

Military officials say we have now exhausted targets in Afghanistan, that essentially we are ready for the next phase, the next phase being?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't know that military officials have confirmed that we have exhausted targets. I think there are still targets that are being examined for re-strike and there are additional targets that I know Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers and General Franks are looking at.

We shouldn't see this campaign just in terms of discrete phases; one ends and then something else begins. It is a continuing campaign that will really never stop in any of its phases: the financial phase, going after financial institutions that support terrorist organizations and getting hold of their money; intelligence collection; the humanitarian aspects to make sure that people are relieved from suffering; what we are doing with respect to law enforcement and other activities; and the military activities that we have seen over the last several days.

So although the military activities may shift in focus, that will be an essential part of the campaign as we move forward.

MR. GIBSON: And everyone in the Administration is very circumspect and careful to say this is all part of a very wide-ranging campaign. You mentioned all the elements of it. But as far as the military actions in Afghanistan are concerned and that particular part of it, I have been asking people -- and it's a question that keeps recurring in my mind -- how does the public judge success or failure in what's going on in Afghanistan? Is it simply that we are there to wipe out the leadership and the infrastructure of al-Qaida?

SECRETARY POWELL: What we are trying to do is make it harder for al-Qaida to operate in Afghanistan, and if we also succeed in wiping out the leadership, that would be fine as well. But as you saw from the Pentagon briefing yesterday, we have destroyed terrorist camps so that they will not be used again, cannot be used again. We have gone after Taliban airfields and other air defense systems so that we have free range over the skies of Afghanistan. And we will continue to look for terrorist facilities so that we can destroy them and make them unusable for future terrorist planning, training or actions.

MR. GIBSON: But why don't we say, Mr. Secretary, straight out we want to get bin Laden and kill him and his infrastructure, his top lieutenants as well, and get rid of the government that supports him, the Taliban?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have made clear --

MR. GIBSON: If we want to make it hard for them to operate, isn't that the right way?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think we have denied or avoided saying that what we are after is destroying the al-Qaida network. And Mr. Usama bin Laden is the head of that network, so we're after him too. But let's not deceive ourselves into thinking that if we get rid of one individual or one network, then this campaign is over. It is not.

It is a campaign that is directed against all terrorism, and that is why it has drawn such broad support from nations around the world. That is why President Bush's leadership challenge to the world that we have to see this as a long-term campaign that will go on in many dimensions for many years to come until we can all feel safe in our societies again because terrorism has been eliminated, or certainly reduced to a level where we don't have to be fearful in our daily lives.

MR. GIBSON: Mr. Secretary, let me turn to the situation in Pakistan because I know you are about to go there. President Bush and General Musharraf seem to have something of a disagreement going on at long distance, General Musharraf saying yesterday that he had promises from the Americans that the bombing campaign would be short in duration, and the President yesterday said, "I don't know who told him that."

Were there any promises made?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not aware of any promises. No, no promises were made. I am sure that President Musharraf obviously would like to see a short campaign. We all would. But it's more important that we have a campaign that does the job. I am sure that Secretary Rumsfeld and his colleagues at the Pentagon are examining every day what they need to be doing and what they should be doing as part of this military campaign. And I look forward to discussing this with President Musharraf when I am in Pakistan next week.

MR. GIBSON: But the longer this goes on, isn't the greater the chance that General Musharraf could lose control of his military forces, and indeed that his government could become precarious?

SECRETARY POWELL: If anything, President Musharraf has demonstrated in recent weeks the strong control that he does have over his military forces and over his country. He is in a firm political position. He made a courageous stance in deciding that he had to be on the side of the world that wants to rid itself of terrorism, and we compliment him for that.

And so even though he has had to deal with some unrest, that unrest is rather limited. When you look at the size of Pakistan and how much unrest could be there, it is rather limited, even though it fills the television screen from time to time.

MR. GIBSON: One other thing I wanted to ask you about, which is the letter that the US Ambassador to the United Nations delivered in recent days. He said, "We may find that our self-defense requires further action with respect to other organizations and other states." What is he saying there?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's just a statement of the obvious. It's a statement of what President Bush said from the beginning: that we will seek our terrorists wherever they are located; we will work with other nations that have terrorist problems; and if we find nations who are providing havens for terrorists or support terrorists, they will have to pay the consequences of such support.

So the letter that Ambassador Negroponte presented to the UN had that added sentence, but it should not come as a shock or surprise to anybody. It reflects positions that we have taken since the beginning of this effort on September the 12th, the day after the events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

MR. GIBSON: The Secretary General of the United Nations said he was disturbed and others were disturbed by those words, though. What would you say to him?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would say there is nothing to be disturbed about. We understand our obligations under Article 51 of the United Nations charter, and we will consult with our friends as we move forward. But as we have always said, the United States and the President of the United States has to retain the authority to do what is necessary to protect US citizens and to work with nations around the world who are threatened by terrorist organizations.

So I think there is much more attention being given to this particular sentence than really is warranted. The letter that Ambassador Negroponte presented was a routine letter required at a time like this, consistent with our Article 51 responsibilities.

MR. GIBSON: But as those words may pertain to military action, is it safe to say that the situation in Afghanistan needs to be resolved before we would move anywhere else?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President retains all of his options. And as he said, our first phase of this campaign is to direct our energies, direct the world's attention, to the al-Qaida network that exists in dozens of countries around the world and whose headquarters is located in Afghanistan. That is why the focus is on Afghanistan right now, but as we continue with the campaign we will be after this network wherever it exists.

And we are very pleased that nations around the world, nations in Europe and other parts of the world, have taken action against those elements of the al-Qaida network that exist in their countries. They realize that those network elements are a threat to their country, just as much as they were a threat to the United States.

Eighty nations lost citizens at the World Trade Center. This isn't just an assault against America. It was an assault against the world, and the world is responding.

MR. GIBSON: And, Mr. Secretary, the UN Ambassador from the United States made an unannounced visit to the Iraqi mission here in New York recently, and apparently had some rather blunt words to them not to take any precipitous action while this is going on, not to try to take advantage of the times.

How blunt was he with the Iraqis?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we thought it was useful at this time to remind Iraq of its obligations under various UN Security Council resolutions. They have taken no precipitous act in the days following September 11th, and we thought it would be useful to remind them that that's the right course of action. And they accepted Mr. Negroponte's presentation. They responded in the usual vitriolic fashion, but through all of their angry words it was clear they understood the message.

MR. GIBSON: Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us, as always. Thank you for joining us, and I am delighted that your phones and our phones apparently worked throughout the interview.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Charlie.

MR. GIBSON: All the best to you, and safe travels, Mr. Secretary. Thanks.