Secretary of State Colin Powell
Interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show
Washington, D.C.
October 10, 2001
6:42 A.M. EDT

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, good morning to you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Matt.

QUESTION: Do you mind if I start by reading you a portion of a statement that was made by a spokesperson for Usama bin Laden's al-Qaida network? Here is what was said: "America must know that the battle will not leave its land until America leaves our land, until it stops supporting Israel, until it stops the blockade of Iraq. The American must know that the storm of airplane will not stop and there are yet thousands of young people who look forward to death, like the Americans look forward to living."

Those are chilling words. What's your response to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: Chilling words from a terrorist. The kind of words you expect to hear from an evil person who has no good intention in mind. We are in the Persian Gulf area, we are in Arab lands at the invitation of Arab nations, and our presence there is dictated by the fact that Iraq invaded one of its Arab neighbors. So we are not there as invaders, the way the Taliban has allowed al-Qaida to invade Afghanistan.

So it is a chilling challenge but, I assure you, we will meet that challenge. We will pursue this campaign until that spokesman will no longer have any reason to make such boasts.

QUESTION: As you know, those words are being broadcast to millions of Muslims around the world. They are stirring some very strong emotions in certain parts of the world. Are you concerned that those emotions will boil over and get out of control?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not concerned yet, because the overwhelming response to the campaign that we launched after the events of 11 September, the overwhelming response has been positive. All of the international organizations have come together, all nations in the world who have a concern about terrorist activity have come together and joined this campaign against terrorism.

There have been some demonstrations in various countries, Indonesia and Pakistan. But from what I can tell, those demonstrations don't represent the views of the entire population and I think, as we go forward, as we explain the purposes of our campaign, and as we point out the evil nature of these terrorist actions, I expect that we will be able to manage that.

The leaders themselves are solidly in support of the campaign that we are pursuing under President Bush's leadership.

QUESTION: Let me talk about one of those leaders. You are going to Pakistan later in the week. General Musharraf there recently demoted several key military associates. These are extremists, but they are also people who helped him gain power back in 1999 in his coup. How secure, how stable is his regime, and can he remain in power?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think President Musharraf is very secure and stable. The actions he took with respect to his generals, I will leave up to him to make explanations for that. But I think he took some very bold and courageous steps over the last month to put Pakistan firmly on the side of those nations who were against terrorism. And I congratulate and compliment him for those actions, and I am looking forward to seeing him next week.

I am also looking forward to visiting India which has -- India has also come forward in the campaign against terrorism and we appreciate the kind of support and effort that they are making as well, so I look forward to visiting two of those very, very important countries.

QUESTION: What will you see -- very important, because as I don't have to tell you, these countries have nuclear weapons. If they become destabilized, the whole region and the world should be very concerned about that. What will you say specifically to the leaders of India and Pakistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: First, I will thank them for their support of this campaign and their participation in it. Then I will hopefully have an opportunity to speak to both leaders about the continued need for restraint, for them to begin dialogue, a dialogue that really has been ongoing. And, as you noticed, the two leaders spoke to each other in the past 24 hours. And I will remind them of their responsibilities as states that do possess nuclear weapons to show the level of caution and restraint with respect to their activities befitting nations that have that kind of power available to them.

But I think both nations at this moment are obviously stable and are obviously anxious to do their part in this campaign against terrorism.

QUESTION: Let me ask you quickly about Israel. Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister, said recently he wants the United States to make sure they aren't selling out Israel in their courtship of Arab nations for this coalition. Does he have a point, Mr. Secretary? Do we now owe certain debts to Arab nations for cooperating with us?

SECRETARY POWELL: Israel is a strong friend of the United States. We will always support Israel, its security. And it is the democratic nation in that region that we absolutely treasure as a friend. So there should be no concern on the part of any Israeli citizen or leader that the United States would ever do anything to "sell them out" or to trade away their security.

QUESTION: What happens when the bombing stops in Afghanistan, Secretary Powell? There is going to be a vacuum created if the Taliban loses power. Who or what do you want to see fill that vacuum?

SECRETARY POWELL: We want to see eventually arise in Afghanistan a government that represents all the people of Afghanistan, that is prepared to take care of the needs of its people, not to repress its people. And so we are in touch with all of the different factions to start to see how such a government could arise if the Taliban were to collapse and go out of power.

QUESTION: Are you relying on the former King, the 83-year old King?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're also -- if I may finish? We are also working closely with the United Nations. The United Nations might well have to play a very, very important role in a post-Taliban world.

With respect to the King, we are in touch with the King. Our diplomats in Rome have met with him and a member my staff, a senior member of my staff, Ambassador Haas, met with him last week. So we are keeping in touch with all the parties to make sure we have them all moving in the right direction and beginning to cooperate with each other more than they have in the past.

QUESTION: The Northern Alliance or United Front, depending on the name you go by, they hate Pakistan. Pakistan hates them. Is it possible after the Taliban, we could see less stability in that region, as opposed to more?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we would see more stability, and that would be our goal as we work with Pakistan, the other nations that are neighbors to Afghanistan, to make sure that we don't leave the kind of instability that unfortunately has been left there in the past, which gave rise to the Taliban.

I think it is important for all of us to recognize that, in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, we will have important work to do, humanitarian work, economic development, helping the people of Afghanistan, and putting in place some level of stability that has so far eluded Afghanistan in recent years.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Colin Powell. Good luck with your trip, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Matt.