A Wider Conflict? Powell on Bin Laden, Mideast Peace-And Whether We'll Ultimately Go after Iraq
Weymouth, Lally, Newsweek
Byline: Lally Weymouth
Secretary of state Colin Powell has long been viewed as the moderate in an administration of hawks. But Powell insists that complete harmony has prevailed among the administration's decision makers, despite rumors that he has been urging caution on his colleagues in the war on terror. Seated at a conference table in the State Department, Powell spoke with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth last week. Excerpts:
WEYMOUTH: It has been reported that you were opposed to the tougher strategy in Afghanistan taken up by the administration three weeks ago.
POWELL: This is absolute nonsense. We have had an integrated, unified strategy from the beginning. It was my responsibility to help put the coalition together and deal with the diplomatic aspects of our campaign. It was [Defense] Secretary Rumsfeld's responsibility to come up with the war plan that we executed.
So why did the war strategy appear to change?
It didn't change. It never changed. It was a campaign that started out to go after air-defense systems and the military capability of the Taliban. Then it shifted to destroying the training bases of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. It then started focusing on Osama bin Laden himself, and then in a careful, well-designed manner it focused on the Taliban forces in the vicinity of Mazar-e Sharif and north of Kabul. As we got more and more American military Special Forces people into the country, which took time, they could more effectively bring in the air power to assist the Northern Alliance. You had a First World air force and a Fourth World army on the ground, and it took a while to connect the two. And people misread this as some big disagreement within the administration--that somehow we had gotten bogged down.
Will Osama bin Laden be captured?
I think so. I think he is finding it more and more difficult to avoid his fate. There is no country anxious to see him show up as a guest. More and more land is being liberated and made unavailable for him to seek shelter in. The battle in the northern part of the country was quick and decisive. The south will be a little more difficult--you won't have an army like the Northern Alliance. That may take more time, but I think the Taliban's authority has pretty much been destroyed. And now the diplomatic process is catching up with what has happened on the battlefield.
After Afghanistan, should we go on to Iraq?
We keep our eye on Iraq. We know they are trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. We will look at Iraq and every other country that harbors terrorists and see what would be appropriate measures to take. …