Can we go into that conversation?
He was immediately willing to cooperate. I explained to him that what I was
going to be asking him, [what] we were formulating, and [that] it would, at a
minimum, cause deep introspection for Pakistan. This would not be something
that was negotiable; it was a black or white situation. The president had said,
"You're with us or against us." The president was speaking out forcefully, not
only against those who conducted operations of terror, but those who supported
terrorism or allowed terrorists to exist, and to think carefully.
He pushed back a bit, saying that he wanted to talk about the history of U.S.-
Pakistan relations. I interjected that I knew very well the history of
Pakistan, General, but we're talking about the future, and for you and for us
history starts today. That was the end of the meeting.
You leave the meeting and get down to specifics with Secretary Powell. How
did this proceed?
We sat down with Secretary Powell and Christina Rocca, who's the assistant
secretary [for South Asian affairs], and determined what sort of things would
one want from Pakistan. We hit on certain major, major items around the gambit,
from cooperation at sealing their border and stopping Al Qaeda and Taliban from
escaping the border, down through the seventh point being that, should [we] be
unsuccessful in getting the Taliban to turn over bin Laden, and should we
decide that both the Taliban and bin Laden were engaged in this, that Pakistan
would help us destroy -- and those were the words -- bin Laden.
It was not a letter. It was a seven-point "non-paper," as we say in the
The next day is another meeting, where you present the list again?
Yes. It was a very brief 15- or 20-minute meeting, where I presented him with
the list, read it to him, and told him that this was not a negotiable list; it
was all or nothing. He said that he knew how the president thought, and the
president would accept these points and was with us.
I said, "With all respect, that's not good enough. The president of Pakistan,
President Musharraf, must agree to these, and my secretary will be calling a
couple of hours." The secretary called 1:30 or so Eastern time that day, about
an hour and 15 or 20 minutes after we'd finished the meeting. President
Musharraf agreed to all the conditions, without exception. ...
On the Monday after a weekend of Camp David meetings, there's a
decision-making meeting. Talk us through the central issue of a narrow campaign
versus a broader campaign.
Well, I can only tell you through others. I was not with the president at that
meeting. Secretary Powell was. When he came back, [he] debriefed us.
It wasn't so much a debate; it was a discussion of the extensive nature of the
Al Qaeda network. From the Department of State's point of view -- way back in
April 2001, [we] made a very clear announcement to the inter-agency community
that we could not have a policy in East Asia unless we dealt firmly with Al
Qaeda, because they were so much involved all around the area.
Of course, the intelligence committees knew a great deal more than that. Al
Qaeda were involved in more than just the South Asia areas -- indeed, as we
found, globally, in 60 nations. So the decision to go after terrorists whenever
and wherever, starting with Afghanistan, was a relatively easy one to reach, as
far as Secretary Powell briefed me.
The next day you called Gen. Mahmood [who had just returned from a visit to
As I recall, I called him and welcomed him back to Islamabad. I asked him if he
had any luck with Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, in persuading Omar
that the best interests of the Taliban lay in giving up bin Laden.
Gen. Mahmood thought he had made an impression on Omar, and he said that he
had. Gen. Mahmood put it roughly in the following terms: It's the well-being of
26 million Afghan citizens against one foreign visitor, bin Laden. This is what
you're forfeiting if you don't do what the Americans want. As I recall, Gen.
Mahmood thought he'd made some headway. As it turned out, he had not.
Can you talk me through the reasons you went to Russia [on Sept.
We had already established an Afghan working group. It was in the preceding
administration. Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Trubnikov and I had already had one
meeting. We thought it necessary to immediately engage the Russians. He
accepted a visit to Moscow.
I brought the leading counterterrorist person in our intelligence committee, a
brigadier general, later a major general in the U.S. Army, who'd been an
attaché -- a fluent Russian speaker, to talk about the military aspects.
We wanted to impress upon the Russians that we were deadly serious about the
prosecution of the war against Al Qaeda. We wanted their help, and we wanted
the benefits of their experience of their activities in Afghanistan.
I will leave you to talk to Mr. Trubnikov to get his view of it. But our view
is that these talks were very successful, because we were both transparent with
our Russian friends on this issue. We were very determined. I received a call
later that afternoon after our talks from Minister Trubnikov, who told me that
he briefed President Putin on the matter, and that we would be fine on this. He
led me to believe that we would have good cooperation. ...
In that meeting, were there any concerns expressed by the Russians about a
possibly permanent U.S. military presence in Central Asia?
Not so much at that time, because I don't think any of us realized how
intrusive we would be in Central Asia. ...
We had information from our own embassies in each of the Central Asia states,
that at roughly the same time that I was in Moscow trying to enlist the
cooperation of the Russian Federation that Mr. [Vladimir] Rushailo [the chief
of Russia's security council] was driving through Central Asia, cautioning the
Central Asian states against cooperation with the United States. Of course
subsequently, a few days later, President Putin put the discussion to rest when
he more or less said that he was with the Americans on this issue. ...
In a subsequent meeting with Minister Trubnikov, we were very transparent about
our needs in Central Asia. I'll let the Russians speak about whether they
believed us or not. But I think they realized that we're going to be around in
the neighborhood for a long time, and that's our intention. But we don't intend
to establish permanent military bases. ...
[Can you tell us about] a deputies' meeting where you talked about the need
to engage with a post-conflict scenario?
We were still not quite at the stage where we understood whether we'd be
dealing with a Taliban-led Afghanistan or a Taliban-less Afghanistan. It was
looking more and more as each day went on that the Taliban would not be
throwing out Al Qaeda, and hence evading prosecution.
You'll have to remember that there were several American and foreign hostages
in effect in Kabul, and that complicated our planning. But within two and a
half weeks, three weeks into the deputies' meetings, it became very clear that
we were talking about a Taliban-less Afghanistan. That was understood and
accepted. The majority of the people in the meeting realized that the
Department of State would have to take the lead in coming up with a formulation
on how to approach the future of Afghanistan, because the Department of Defense
was so heavily involved in the military activities.
The Pakistanis were keen to break relations with the Taliban?
One of the requirements that we had put before the Pakistanis was, should it
become necessary, we would expect them to break relations with the Taliban. As
time went on, they were more and more anxious to do so. We wanted them to
maintain a hold and a contact with the Taliban -- if only a tenuous one --
because we needed to have every avenue open to resolve the fate of the
hostages, whether we did it unilaterally, by military action or the Taliban
decided to give them up. We needed a communication, a voice.
When the Pakistanis made it clear that they wanted to break relations, that it
would help their international reputation, I made it clear to them that we
would hope that they would keep the relationship, and that we'd make it up to
them internationally. That is, we'd make it very clear in the international
arena that they were doing this at our request in order to accomplish a
humanitarian gesture. They acceded to our wish.
Just after the strikes had begun, there was news on Oct. 8 that Gen. Mahmood
has retired. What was the response in the State Department?
He was quite congenial when we met with him. He was, however, very tied to an
old regime, with in fact ten years' worth of identification with the Taliban,
with the southern Pashtuns in Afghanistan. So his departure seemed to us a
further signal that their General Musharraf was trying to make it clear, in
word and deed, that the last 10 years of Pakistan policy regarding Afghanistan
had been somewhat of a waste, and he was going in a new direction.
Well, there were no tears. This was business. It was like the first meeting
with Mahmood -- wasn't personal; it was business.
In the early weeks of the war, it's not clear whether the concentration of
the military campaign will be on the north or the south. Can you remember
discussing the dubious history of the Northern Alliance, in terms of
This was a constant refrain. We had actually realized that we were going to be
working in the north first, so that was not a question. It wasn't a question of
working in the north or the south first. We needed to work in the north. We
were familiar with the Northern Alliance. The Russian Federation had contacts
with the Northern Alliance. And others also, by the way, had contacts with the
Northern Alliance. So we needed to use troops where they existed, and troops
who were used to being in combat. So the combination of our CIA and Special
Forces units joined them, and we moved on.
But there was a fear, because of recent history when the Northern Alliance
swept through Kabul, that they may repeat history and engage in activities that
would not be helpful. We were quite worried about this; so was the
As it turned out, for a number of reasons, one, I think the rapidity with which
military success came, and second, because of a real awareness that to repeat
history would be folly, the Northern Alliance behaved themselves quite well
when they got to Kabul. ...
There's a Special Forces raid on a Taliban stronghold near Kandahar. Six
days later Abdul Haq, [a Pashtun leader from the south of Afghanistan] was
killed. Were those two events instrumental in even more of a focus on union
with the Northern Alliance?
The assassination or the murder of Abdul Haq was unfortunate, but it didn't
move things. We were not cooperating in a major way with him. He advertised to
everyone in the northwest frontier province that he was heading back across the
border. There was no operational security, and sorry as I am for his death, in
a very real way, there was no operation security surrounding his activities. I
think it unfortunately brought about his demise.
The raid on Kandahar was an attempt to have a rather spectacular success. It
was fine, it was well done and well carried out, but unfortunately we didn't
catch the people we wanted. But I think it showed that we could act where we
wanted, when we wanted, with impunity.
But we were already engaged in moving forward with the Northern Alliance. Once
our Special Forces soldiers were able to marry up with our CIA operatives in
the field, then it was a foregone conclusion that the combination would be able
to bring precise fire on enemy positions and allow the Northern Alliance to
move steadily forward. ...
Things really started to accelerate around Nov. 9, when Mazar-e-Sharif was
abandoned by the Taliban. Talk me through that 24-hour period when Mazar
There was a feeling that Mazar may be a good testing ground of ... a sense of
how much the Taliban were going to fight us, and Al Qaeda. What we saw were
both, well, two things: the Taliban wasn't fighting very well, and Al Qaeda
would fight. But Mazar fell rapidly, and we realized that from Mazar on down to
Kabul as you know is pretty much a steady, almost a plain, flat plain, and one
can rush down with impunity.
So we saw that things had shifted rather dramatically, both in terms of morale
for the enemy, and in terms of strategic position for the Northern Alliance,
[who] had a clear shot to Kabul without having suffered any grievous losses on
the way. ...
I think it's quite clear to most now that, through diplomatic contacts, through
our intelligence contacts and through our military contacts, we used every
avenue to make it clear to the leaders of the Northern Alliance that a repeat
of history would not be in their best interest. And for whatever reason, they
certainly listened. ...
Is there a sense after the fall of Kandahar and the agreement in Bonn [to
form an interim government for Afghanistan] that if this wasn't the beginning
of the end, it was the end of the beginning?
I can remember any number of deputies' discussions and discussions with my
colleagues off-line and with Secretary Powell and the president, where we made
clear that there's a history in Afghanistan. For instance, the British were
very successful when they first went, if for the first year, and the Soviet
Union was actually quite successful in their first year of the invasion.
We had been stunningly successful, the coalition. But we must not take our eye
off the ball, and had to realize that we were into this for two, three, four --
[an] extended period of time if we were going to be successful. The other two
[countries] had failed because they had only concentrated on the military
aspects, not on the economic and social and humanitarian.
We had tried to simultaneously have a military operation and a humanitarian
operation. We added a political and an economic component as we got out of
Bonn, and that was complimented of course by the January conference in Tokyo
for reconstruction of Afghanistan -- both for the practical reason of getting
cash to try to resolve the problems of Afghanistan, and as a way to signal to
the international community [that we] wouldn't cut and run, having accomplished
a short-term objective in Afghanistan of getting Al Qaeda and Taliban out. ...
home + on the ground + assessing the campaign + with us or against us? + fighting on two fronts: a chronology
epilogue + discussion + interviews + links & readings + introduction + video + reporter's notebook
FRONTLINE + wgbh + pbsi
photo © reuters newmedia inc/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2013 WGBH educational foundation