|DIPLOMATIC REACTION: THE TALIBAN|
August 21, 1998
In a strike against the terrorist organization allegedly responsible for the embassy bombings in Africa, the U.S. launched a cruise missile attack against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. The U.N. representative from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban responds to the attack.
PHIL PONCE: Now to the Taliban organization that controls most of Afghanistan. The Taliban are awaiting United Nations diplomatic recognition. Their representative is Noorullah Zadran. Mr. Zadran, welcome.
NOORULLAH ZADRAN, Taliban Representative: Thank you, and good evening to you, sir.
PHIL PONCE: What can you tell us about the latest information you have regarding damage and casualties?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: The latest that I have-the information that I have received is approximately 27 people have been killed and 30 wounded, but the-some of the information is pretty sketchy, and we're in the process of assessment.
PHIL PONCE: And when you say the information is sketchy, why is that? Why would your government, your movement not have that information?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, I'm not sure if you are familiar with the terrain there. It's a mountainous area. It's the southern tip of Afghanistan. And it's approximately 90 miles to the south of the capital. And it's not readily accessible to transportation.
|A terrorist training camp?|
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, we just heard the president's national security adviser, Mr. Berger, say, and I quote, that the target was one of the largest terrorist training camps in the world, where literally thousands of terrorists were trained. What is your response to that?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, basically, I'm quite sure that Mr. Berger had known about the conflict that we have had with the then Soviet Union and also we still have some problem inside our country. It's not only one camp in Afghanistan-and I can assure you there are hundreds of them-and we have the right for self-defense, and we have lots of Afghan that we are training, as you know, that we have problem in our country in the North, and also some of the neighboring countries, they have been indicating quite inflammatory threat towards us, so we do have legitimate concern for our self-defense.
PHIL PONCE: So, Mr. Zadran, this specific location, though, what is it being used for in the eyes of the Taliban?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, this is what we would like to find out from those who had bombed those camps. We would like to see some hard evidence to prove it to the world and convince us that they were terrorist camps.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, what would you say to those who might ask, well, why isn't it that those of you in the country, itself, would not know what the camp was being used for?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, what we have been telling you that we have not only one camp, we have hundreds of them, and we have legitimate concern for the defense of our country, and we have a lot of Taliban have been trained. And, as you know, we do have difficulty in that country.
PHIL PONCE: So are you saying that there are many facilities like this, and that the Taliban doesn't necessarily know what's going on in all of them?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: I quite am not sure what you mean by this one. What I'm saying is something very simple; that we do need to defend our country. And to that end, we are training our people and I think that's understandable.
|Looking for Osama bin Laden|
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, do you know where Mr. bin Laden is at this time?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: No, I do not know.
PHIL PONCE: Do you have any information as to whether or not he is, in fact, alive and if he survived these attacks?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: From some of the statements that have been released, I believe he is alive and he is safe.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, what does the Taliban consider-what is your relationship? What is the Taliban's relationship with Mr. bin Laden?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, let me get something clear here. We did not invite Mr. bin Laden into our country. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan did not invite Mr. bin Laden. Mr. bin Laden has been in Afghanistan for the past 10-15 years. And at times he was considered one of the best the mujahed, and I believe some of the western countries have thought of him quite high.
PHIL PONCE: When you say mujahed, that is one of the people involved in fighting the Soviets?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Exactly. And I really do not know at what particular point-I mean, the breaking point, when did he turn--whatever definition that you're using today. So as far as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is concerned, he is the guest of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with the understanding that no act of terror would be initiated from our soil, being that political or military.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, what does your movement consider his status to be, his role? What do you think he's doing?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, as I said, he is the guest of our country, and if anyone-anyone would bring any kind of proof to us-we are ready to see that, and we would like to sit down with you and discuss it with you.
PHIL PONCE: And if the United States government were to present you with evidence, persuasive evidence, what would your reaction be?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: And that's precisely what we have been asking the United States government or anyone else, if anyone could present us with hard proof, we'll be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss the matter with you.
PHIL PONCE: Is the Taliban movement open to the possibility of international observers coming to inspect a site, to attempt to get more information?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Well, again, it depends. It really depends. First there has to be basis for that. You must present us with some facts, some evidence. And then, if they were legit, I don't see any difficulty with that.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, the Taliban is described as controlling 90 percent of Afghanistan. How secure is the knowledge that the Taliban has about the activities that take place within the area that you control?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: I think we are quite secure. We have almost 95 percent of the land in our control, and I believe the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have done a fantastic job. I think the peace and serenity prevails throughout the country, and we are finally about to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but, unfortunately, what we saw yesterday-that was a terrible shock to us-and once again, I might add that people were just about to return to the peace and serenity that we have enjoyed for the past two or three years, and thanks to-but that has been disrupted once again with this attack.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, Secretary Albright and Defense Secretary Cohen indicated that more attacks, not necessarily against Afghanistan, might be in the offing. What's your reaction to that?
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: That this is what we are trying to tell Miss Albright and Mr. Cohen, that this is not the solution. They have-and we saw the result yesterday-what had happened, Mr. Osama bin Laden is still alive and over 27 Afghans have been killed. Another 30 have been wounded, and someone is responsible for the deaths of those people.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Zadran, I thank you for joining us.
NOORULLAH ZADRAN: Thank you, sir.