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Text: Joint Chiefs Chairman on ABC's 'This Week'

eMediaMillWorks


eMediaMillWorks
Sunday, September 30, 2001

Following is the transcript of ABC's "This Week," hosted by Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. Guests: Outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton, Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Azia, former Afghani King Mohammed Zahir Shad, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Cal., Washington Post columnist George F. Will and George Stephanopoulos.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.

DONALDSON: With Osama bin Laden still at large, his whereabouts apparently unknown, the president vows to keep up the pressure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake about it, we're in hot pursuit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: As reports emerge of U.S. activity in Afghanistan, we'll ask the leader of America's military, General Henry Shelton, has the offensive already begun?

DONALDSON: Plus, to what extent will Saudi Arabia, a key Arab ally, help in this operation? We'll speak with Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar in his first interview since September 11.

ROBERTS: And if Afghanistan's Taliban rulers fall, will the country's exiled king return to play a key role? George Stephanopoulos has the latest.

ANNOUNCER: That's This Week, featuring George Will. And joining the roundtable, ABC's Claire Shipman.

Now from Washington, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.

DONALDSON: Welcome to our program.

The man who was almost president, Al Gore, stepped back into the limelight last night at a Democratic dinner in Des Moines.

Gore had planned this coming-out appearance for weeks, intending to make a case that suggested the country needs new leadership. But that speech was scrapped in favor of a strong statement of support for President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: George W. Bush is my commander in chief. This country is more united than at any time I can remember in my whole lifetime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DONALDSON: Well, united in the hunt for the terrorists, which continues this weekend on two fronts. Our chief investigative reporter, Brian Ross, has the latest on the FBI's investigation.

Brian, what's new?

ROSS: Well, good morning, Sam.

The investigation is divided into two areas, what happened on September 11 and what might happen next. And that's getting by far the most attention.

Of greatest concern, terror strikes that may be planned or already under way, including, ABC News has been told, intelligence information that American tourists overseas, particularly in Asia, could be targeted for kidnappings or assassinations.

As to September 11, federal authorities have told ABC News they've now tracked more than $100,000 from banks in Pakistan to two banks in Florida to accounts held by suspected hijack ringleader Mohamed Atta.

As well this morning, ``Time'' magazine is reporting that some of that money came in the days just before the attack and can be traced directly to people connected to Osama bin Laden.

It's all part of what has been a successful FBI effort so far to close in on the hijackers' high command, the money men, the planners, and the mastermind, Sam.

DONALDSON: Thank you, Brian. Brian Ross.

And in Afghanistan, the hunt goes on for the man pinpointed as the terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salaam Zaif (ph), is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, ``Bin Laden is under the control of Taliban security officials at an unspecified location for his safety and security,'' the ambassador says, who goes on to claim the Taliban leadership doesn't know where that is, only the security forces do.

Well, it's against this background that some last-ditch efforts to get the Taliban to cooperate are being made. More on that from ABC's Mike Lee inside northern Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE LEE, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There is supposed to be another delegation of Islamic leaders headed for the capital to talk to the Taliban, but in recent days they've had absolutely no luck. The Taliban has refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban radio reports that over the weekend there have been huge meetings across the country in eight provinces, and, quote, ``The participants are prepared for jihad,'' holy war.

The Taliban leader, Mohamed Omar, is also quoted as saying he does not expect a U.S. strike because, he says, there is no reason for an attack. But he gave no specifics.

The trial of eight foreigners is supposed to get under way again today. They're accused of trying to convert Afghans to Christianity, among the two Americans. One of the other defendants has a sister in Australia. She has appealed to the United Nations and to the United States not to attack Afghanistan until those aid workers are free.

A Gulf Arab radio station is sticking by its report that five U.S. troops have been captured inside the country near the Iranian border. Both Washington and the Taliban deny that report.

There's no sign of any U.S. forces here on the ground, but of course if they're here, they would be out of sight, conducting intelligence operations.

For This Week, I'm Mike Lee in northern Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Thanks to Mike Lee.

And joining us now is General Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Your last day in that role, General Shelton.

SHELTON: My last day, Cokie, and delighted to be here with you this morning.

ROBERTS: Well, thank you so much for coming in this morning.

You've just heard Mike Lee saying that there's still reports that some U.S. forces have been captured or shot at in Afghanistan. True?

SHELTON: Well, Cokie, this is a--is going to have to be a multifaceted, multidimensional campaign, and of necessity, the operational security, the intelligence networks that we have, will be very--it'll be a very different type of operation.

And so throughout this morning, I'll have to be very generic in responding to some of these operational issues, to include that one. So we'll--we won't have any comment about the reports that are coming out of the Middle East.

ROBERTS: Well, what about in this morning's papers, the fact that 28,000 troops, two dozen warships, 300 war planes are in the area around Iraq and Afghanistan? Are we positioning ourselves, if necessary, to get in?

SHELTON: Well, I think that, you know, as you know, for 50 years, we've maintained a sizable force in the Middle East to--in support of our partners, our allies in the region, as well as to protect America's national interest.

And so commenting on what types of forces we may have deployed or when we would do it, et cetera, is something that I think only serves to aid and abet the terrorist organizations that are the target of our efforts in this war on terrorism.

ROBERTS: You were head of the Special Operations force, and we've had reports of Special Operations forces being in and maybe out of Afghanistan, doing some work there. But let me just ask you aside--since you're not going to tell us that, what the challenges are? The president has said they're going to go in and smoke Osama bin Laden out. How do they do that?

SHELTON: Well, first and foremost, I think, is, you look at a terrorist organization, it is an organization that of its very nature requires a different approach. It requires a multifaceted approach, a multidimensional approach, using all the elements of our national power, diplomatic, political, economic, as well as our military capabilities.

We have great capabilities across the whole spectrum of conflict, from--ranging from peacekeeping operations, special operations, as well as conventional operations.

This says that we'll use some parts of each one of these systems that we have, and we will take it to the enemy. We will, in fact, strive to eliminate, to defeat the terrorists that have brought about these...

ROBERTS: But there are...

SHELTON: ... very brutal attacks on our citizens.

ROBERTS: There are particular problems in Afghanistan, however. There are land mines. Apparently it's the most land-mined country on earth. We in the United States supplied them with Stinger missiles when they were fighting the Soviet Union. Are those particular problems when you try to introduce Special Forces into Afghanistan?

SHELTON: Well, first of all, there's an assumption that we're going to introduce Special Forces into Afghanistan, which I won't comment on one way or the other. But suffice it to say we understand the nature of our adversary, the terrorist organizations. We have no war with the Afghan people, and we will do everything we can within our power to make sure that we can help the Afghan people.

But we also are going to go after those that harbor, that aid, that abet, that assist or in any other way support a terrorist organization. But if you remember back to the Desert Shield-Desert Storm days, many painted the Iraqis during that period as 10 feet tall. We don't think the Taliban or those that are harboring the terrorists anywhere are 10 feet fall.

We've got over 100 nations now that are in support, an international coalition in support of going after these terrorist organizations. And so it'll be not only America, and America's political, diplomatic, economic, military power that'll be applied, but it'll be an international effort that will also bring in the great capabilities of our partners, our allies, and our friends around the world.

ROBERTS: There's a question of patience here, though, general, and let me refer you to a quotation from a former member of the National Security Council, ``The smart thing to do is wait until spring, when you'd have tons of intelligence, forces set in place and ready to go, and eight months of uninterrupted good weather to run an operation. But it's unclear whether domestic and international politics would sustain such a long wait.''

You do have to keep people behind you. How do you do that and fight the smartest war?

SHELTON: Well, I think, first of all, that the American people fully understand right now that we are going after the terrorists, and that this will require a sustained campaign. This will not be a conventional war. It will not be a war in which you can show large formations of tanks or artillery or whatever.

In fact, a terrorist organization by its nature are individuals, small cells, organizations that are very dispersed. And in this particular case, with just the one organization, with the al Qaeda, the Osama bin Laden organization, some 50 to 60 nations that they operate in. They use fronts to support their organization.

We're going to go after them, but again, not just with military. We have law enforcement, we have intelligence, et cetera.

ROBERTS: So is it a mistake to call it a war?

SHELTON: I don't think it's a mistake to call it a war. I think, in fact, what we saw delivered on the--our American citizens, and indeed the international community, the 80 nations, was an act of war from a terrorist standpoint.

And therefore, we've got to go after those that host, house, help, assist, or whatever. And that's the world of terrorism.

ROBERTS: ``Time'' magazine has taken a poll that comes out tomorrow asking people if the U.S. military action against Afghanistan would make terrorist attacks on the United States more likely in the next 12 months. Almost two-thirds say yes.

Is that a danger, that the American public is fearful that going after these people will bring further attacks upon us?

SHELTON: I think that you always worry about organizations, or worry about a response that you may receive from anyone. But that should not stand in the way of doing what is right and what is best for American citizens for the long term. And not only American citizens, but for the international community, for the civilized world.

And as we've seen, tremendous outpouring of support from nations all over the world...

ROBERTS: Do you think it's likely...

SHELTON: ... to go after these organizations.

ROBERTS: ... to bring more terrorist attacks?

SHELTON: I believe that you always have to be concerned, and certainly we must take that into consideration, that the terrorists may try to respond. But that should not prevent us from doing what's right. And ultimately we'll be much safer for the future if we go after those who harbor and support and carry out these terrorist acts, as we've seen today.

ROBERTS: It's time for the quadrennial review of the military, and now there are new realities. There's talk that maybe there will be new military roles, for instance, a homeland defense section in the Army. Is that something that you would support?

SHELTON: Not only support, but it's something that we've been preparing for for quite some time. We went back after the September 11 attack and looked at the quadrennial defense review. And needless to say, we're--we were happy when we looked at it that we had given it the proper amount of attention.

But it didn't just start with the quadrennial defense review. In fact, two years ago we recognized the need to start protecting our nation, our citizens, against asymmetric or attacks to the homeland. We looked at Sabra (ph) warfare, and we stood up a command to deal with that. We increased our chemical and biological capabilities to deal with those types of attack, as well as an ability to respond in support of lead federal agencies of our government.

And we envisioned that becoming even stronger in the days ahead.

ROBERTS: We're about out of time here, but I want to ask you a couple of personal things. One, what is it like to make these decisions in a Pentagon where there are bodies still in the rubble a few hundred feet away?

SHELTON: Well, first of all, when you drive up to the Pentagon today, there's a reminder of the tremendous sacrifices that our men and women in uniform provide--give day in and day out, many of which in the Pentagon gave the ultimate sacrifice, as well as many of our other citizens in the World Trade Center, and as they do around the world almost on a daily basis.

But it also is a reminder of the great contributions that our armed forces make to peace and security around the world, to stability within the regions. And that increases the economic prosperity, the peace that our citizens, as well as others in the regions around the world, enjoy. And we're very proud to contribute to that.

ROBERTS: As I understand it, you were flying back when this attack happened.

SHELTON: Well, I was headed overseas that morning, and when I heard the second plane had hit the World Trade Center, it became obvious what was underway. And we started trying to turn around. It took a little while to get the clearances to turn around. But ultimately made it back in.

ROBERTS: And you saw the World Trade Center from the air?

SHELTON: I did. I flew over the World Trade Center. I saw the devastation that had been brought upon the international community in that attack, and then, of course, walked out that afternoon and looked at the Pentagon and realized that we had work to do.

And that work is in progress as we speak.

ROBERTS: General, at midnight tonight you hand over command to General Richard Myers (ph). I've noticed that retired General Downing is going to join Tom Ridge on the Homeland Security, retired General Zuni (ph) is going to the State Department as an adviser. Will you stay on in some advisory role?

SHELTON: Well, my role in the future will remain--is to be determined. However, I feel very good about turning over the job tonight at midnight to a great warrior, a leader, Dick Myers, a guy with great vision who, I am confident, will lead our armed forces to victory in this latest challenge that America faces, and I certainly feel good about the leadership that he brings to the position.

ROBERTS: Thank you very much. Thanks so much for joining us this morning, General Shelton.

SHELTON: Thank you, Cokie. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Still ahead, how Afghanistan's exiled king is handling the current crisis, and the round table.

But first, when we come back, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. tells Sam Donaldson how his country is helping the fight on terrorism.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALDSON: Joining us now is His Royal Highness Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador.

PRINCE BANDAR: Good morning, Sam.

DONALDSON: Always good to see you.

PRINCE BANDAR: Thank you.

DONALDSON: In 1991, Saudi Arabia and the United States were as one in the effort to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Would you say in this new war of terrorism, the two countries are as one, or are there some differences?

PRINCE BANDAR: I can absolutely with great confidence tell you that Saudi Arabia and the United States are as one in the fight against these ugly, evil acts of terrorism, and that this is not just the United States' responsibility, this is a worldwide phenomenon. And with the American--our American friends stood with us in 1990-91, and we are standing firm with them today in this fight.

DONALDSON: Well, as you know, in recent days, between Washington and Riyadh, there's been a discussion over the use of the Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh, very important command and control center and air base. Let me show you what your defense minister is quoted as saying this weekend about that. ``We do not accept the presence in our country of a single soldier at war with Muslims or Arabs.'' How should we interpret that?

PRINCE BANDAR: The truth of the matter is that our discussion with our American friends is steady and it is in total agreement between us and them. And this quote you just read to me, I have not read it yet, so I don't know exactly where does that--is it out of context or what.

But we have not been asked for using of the bases in Saudi Arabia, and therefore this is hypothetical for me to answer it one way or another.

DONALDSON: Let me just try to parse that a little bit, Mr. Ambassador.

PRINCE BANDAR: OK.

DONALDSON: Are you saying you've not been asked for the bases to be used for an offensive military operation, that is, planes flying off, or are you saying that even for use as a command and control center, you've not been asked?

PRINCE BANDAR: No, I'm just saying that the United States government is in the process of putting all its plans together. And whatever we've been asked so far, we were cooperating with it. As General Shelton said, this is an unconventional attack, and it requires unconventional response. And the response is not necessarily all military. In fact, the military segment of it is much smaller than, let's say, in Desert Shield-Desert Storm.

There is economical, there is political, and there is intelligence. And in my judgment, the president of the United States have achieved in less than two weeks what took us in '90, 1990, during Desert Shield-Desert Storm, about three months to get a coalition of 33 countries. Less than two weeks, the president of the United States of America, through a diplomatic offensive, lined up 100 countries with you.

Now, this is--this war is not for the fainthearted. This is a long war. This is going to be--require patience and steadiness.

DONALDSON: But I'm trying to find out how many soldiers will enlist to do what.

One more question on the air base. Are you saying that--you have said to Washington unofficially, Please don't ask us, because we might have to turn you down, and therefore Washington wouldn't ask, when in fact, Washington would like to have that air base?

PRINCE BANDAR: No, it doesn't work that way. Allies and--when they are fighting an enemy, they just look at the threat and look what's the best way to handle it and agree on it. And I'm...

DONALDSON: Well, if Washington says, This is the best way, sir, to use your air base...

PRINCE BANDAR: But Washington has not said that, Sam.

DONALDSON: ... what would be the response?

PRINCE BANDAR: That's my point. My point is, people are trying to find an argument, and we don't have an argument. Everybody is busy between the two countries to go after the bad guys. We should not change the atmosphere that we are arguing between us. We are trying to unite to fight an ugly and dangerous enemy.

DONALDSON: OK. Until recently, you were a great supporter, or Saudi Arabia was, of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But now you've broken relations with the Taliban.

PRINCE BANDAR: Correct.

DONALDSON: Question, President Bush says the Taliban must suffer the same fate as Osama bin Laden if it is, in fact, harboring him, and all the evidence suggests it is, would you agree to an attack on the Taliban?

PRINCE BANDAR: Of course, our position, the fact that we broke diplomatic relationship with them, is the best answer to your question. Anyone who harbors...

DONALDSON: Is the answer yes?

PRINCE BANDAR: Anyone who harbors terrorism or terrorists and does not cooperate with the international community should have to pay a price. And remember, again, within two weeks, the United States of America, the president's foreign policy and Secretary Powell activities, they have achieved two resolutions already from the United Nations, from the Security Council, unanimous.

And I think--I don't know why you don't want to take a yes for an answer.

DONALDSON: I will, I will.

PRINCE BANDAR: You are winning this war, Sam. So why are we arguing about the what-ifs instead of going after...

DONALDSON: Mr. Ambassador...

PRINCE BANDAR: ... the bad guys? That's where we want to go.

DONALDSON: I would never argue with you, sir. But I'm--I take it, then, that the answer to the question of when--if the United States moves to remove the Taliban as the ruling power in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia would say, Yes, that's fine.

PRINCE BANDAR: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. The point I'm trying to tell you is, we are united, we are going after the same enemy, which is the terrorists and whoever harbor them or support them. And why do you want me to make a position now when the United States of America itself has not reached that point yet?

DONALDSON: Well, sir, the...

PRINCE BANDAR: This is a conventional--unconventional enemy.

DONALDSON: President Bush...

PRINCE BANDAR: And dangerous.

DONALDSON: President Bush, of course, has said that terrorists, wherever they are found that have a global reach, are going to be pinpointed. Many Americans and American officials, as you know, say that's Saddam Hussein. They want to strike Iraq, they want to strike Hamas, they want to strike Hezbollah. Would you think that going after those people who have been labeled as terrorists are a correct position, and would you support that?

PRINCE BANDAR: The discussion that we have been having with our friends in the United States and in the international community was to go first after the perpetrators of the attack on the United States of America. And then look at the lay of the land, see how effective our diplomatic initiatives are, our economic initiatives are, and make a decision.

This is--what I'm trying to say is, in Desert Storm we knew what we wanted to do. There was an occupation, a country was occupied, there was an aggressive army. We wanted to take them out.

Right now, you're listening to some, for example, condemnation to this from countries like Iran, like Syria, like Libya. You are getting allies from all kind of--from all around the world against this threat. You are succeeding. We are succeeding. And the world is rallying around America. Let's keep it that way. Let's fight the enemy until we get to the end.

DONALDSON: Mr. Ambassador, there's some evidence that perhaps 12 of the people who committed suicide, the terrorists on these planes, were either Saudi nationals or had ties with Saudi Arabia. There's some evidence that money had flown--flowed through organizations within your country.

Is your government working to stop that money and to root out any potential terrorists who participated in this attack?

PRINCE BANDAR: Absolutely. We have no reservations on that.

But here is the interesting thing. We don't have anything to work with as to an individual or an organization that Saudi Arabia is connected with it. And there are maybe a facade, maybe there are fronts for these kind of things.

But you know something? Most of the money that goes out, recycle (ph), in these areas, through charities and so on, comes through the United States of America. We can trace it all the way to Europe. When it comes here, your laws do not allow anybody to investigate.

So it--all of us have to join this fight.

DONALDSON: But you know that the president has now frozen assets in this country and has said that any foreign bank or financial institution that harbors terrorist money will have their assets frozen in this country.

PRINCE BANDAR: And I think needed...

DONALDSON: Does that bother you?

PRINCE BANDAR: No, I think that is an excellent idea, and we support it. Plus, the United Nations Security Council yesterday issued an international edict that makes this obligatory to all countries in the world. Next week we're having some senior officials from our finance ministry to come and discuss with their counterpart how to cooperate on this area. We don't have a problem.

DONALDSON: We're out of time, almost. But you met Osama bin Laden once, didn't you? Because the bin Laden family is a family that in Saudi Arabia is very substantial. They have a construction company. Tell us about this man. y

PRINCE BANDAR: Well, when I met him, it was early--in the mid-'80s, I guess. And his--actually, this is irony, he came to thank me for getting the United States of America to help our Muhajedin (ph) brothers in Afghanistan.

DONALDSON: Against the Soviets.

PRINCE BANDAR: Against the Soviets.

I was not impressed by him at that time. And I think he freaked out. I think he is a loose cannon now, and I think he does not represent Islam or what Islam teaches. So he's a pariah now, and anyone who supports him is a pariah.

But for long times, Sam, we've been asking our friends to look out for some of those people with such ideas. And they are in Europe, they are in Europe and some of them are in America. And we were told those are dissidents. Of course they're dissidents.

But the American people must understand, those are not asking for Jeffersonian democracy in Saudi Arabia. Those people want to send us back a 1,000 years. And we won't let them.

Any anger on your Arab or Muslim friends and particularly in Saudi Arabia is an anger that was satisfied. Don't aid and abet those SOBs, let's stick together and fight them because we are on the right track.

DONALDSON: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. I think it's fair to point out that you have cut off the citizenship of this man, Osama bin Laden, in Saudi Arabia.

PRINCE BANDAR: Absolutely.

DONALDSON: He's no longer a citizen.

PRINCE BANDAR: And his family has disowned him.

DONALDSON: Thanks very much...

PRINCE BANDAR: Thank you, Sam.

DONALDSON: ... Prince Bandar for being with us today. Come back, won't you?

PRINCE BANDAR: I will.

DONALDSON: All right.

Still ahead, the George Will commentary. But first, when we come back, Afghanistan's exiled royal family on a nation in chaos and it's future relationship with the United States, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, as both of our guests have said this morning, this war on terrorism will be fought on many fronts. And one of them is the question of what happens to the government of Afghanistan. George Stephanopoulos has travelled to Rome to bring us the latest on that.

George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Cokie.

I am here at a small villa in suburban Rome that is the home of King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the 87-year-old exiled king of Afghanistan. The king hasn't held power since 1973, but today he said he's prepared to return to Afghanistan to help create a broad-based coalition government that would have free and democratic elections eventually.

Now, for that to happen, of course, the Taliban must go. So today the king also told a visiting congressional delegation that he would support U.S. military action to help remove the Taliban. And perhaps more important, he met with and is preparing to join forces with the military commanders of the Northern Alliance. That's the rebel groups that have been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for the last seven years from their bases in northern Afghanistan.

The king has never met with all of the commanders before. And earlier today I asked him what he hoped to gain with this conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING MOHAMMED (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): To get a sense (ph) of the disunity this has caused a lot of problems in Afghanistan. And we must unite and cooperate with each other towards--to take our country forward. We have many problems ahead of us still, economic problems, problems of unity. I'm hoping that we will unite together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Joining us now is Prince Mustafa Zahir Shah, the king's grandson and spokesman. Thank you very much for joining us.

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Thank you for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We saw the king say--that you've been in these meetings with him today--he talked that he wanted unity. In these meetings with the Northern Alliance, have they yet come to a formal agreement to join forces?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Well, surely (ph) they might be coming to a formal agreement to join forces. His majesty has appealed for the unity of the Afghan nation. I think we are at the critical juncture in the history of our country. And his majesty would like to, as a symbolic figure, as a father figure, unite all the various different groups of Afghanistan to take Afghanistan out of this calamity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The members of Congress who met with the king today also said that the king was asking for help, for help from the United States. What specifically does the king need from the United States, from President Bush?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Ostensibly, the scope of the help was humanitarian, because, as you know, in the last three years there's been a consecutive drought in the country. He's worried about the oncoming winter and the fate of the people there. So the first help that he would need probably would be humanitarian to alleviate a disaster coming this winter.

And then, of course, the other help would be American political support for the (inaudible) process, for this conference, for it to be a successful story. The United States, being a world leader, has power in the world that's needed to back this program, as well as the international community, in realizing peace, security and stability in Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, our sources in the meeting also said though that the Northern Alliance would like at least some limited military support.

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Well, they'll probably need some form of logistical support, because we want to emphasis this that this must be an inter-Afghan (ph) thing. We believe that the Afghan's can do the job but along they probably would need some of the tools to do the job to combat terrorism.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So that means weapons, materiel.

PRINCE MUSTAFA: It means materiel, yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, in the past the United States has been reluctant to support the king's process because of the concerns of Pakistan. They're against a monarchy. They've been opposed to the Northern Alliance. What kind of reassurance can the king offer to Pakistan?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Well, I can assure you right now, and we can give the assurances to Pakistan, that, first of all, when the former king goes back he will not be going back as the king of Afghanistan. His role will be defined by the people of Afghanistan in a very democratic manner.

Secondly to Pakistan, we want to say to Pakistan that Pakistan is our neighbor. Pakistan looked after 2.5 million refugees. We have no problems with the people of Pakistan.

But Pakistan must realize that the Afghan people must be empowered to chose their own destiny, they're own way of life according to their own free will. And they can cooperate, and we can assure Pakistan that Afghanistan will be friendly to all its neighbors.

And we have cultural ties, we have border ties, not just with Pakistan, with Iran with all the Northern neighbors of Afghanistan. Whatever comes out of this would honor all its agreements and will be friendly to all the nations of the world including our neighbors.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the king prepared to make a formal declaration that the Afghan people should rise up and remove the Taliban from power?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Well, I think the king has made his position clear and he will be having a very important statement to be made in the next 48 hours.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The next 48 hours.

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you give us any preview?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: I cannot, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you know some of the king's critics have said that he can't be an effective leader because he's been out of the country for so long, 27 years. He's not fluent in Poshtu, he's simply out of touch. What's your response to that criticism?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: My response is very simple. Yes, he's been out of the country for 27 years. And, no, he has not been out of touch, he has been in fact in touch with his people for the last 27 years. For the last 11 years, I'm a witness, phone calls, satellite calls to Afghanistan from Afghanistan. He talks to various personalities.

For instance, to give you an example, he was talking to General Masood who was assassinated three weeks later but by a group of terrorists there. And that's of course linked we believe to the calamity that took place in New York.

Now, it's not the king that's pushing himself. It's the people calling him. Yes, he is 87 years old, but he's got the charisma, he's got the trust of the Afghan people.

He's certainly got the approval and support of the Afghan people behind him. The latest polls that were conducted back two months ago, they conducted a poll of 4,900 people across 27 provinces, and they put his popularity well over 75 percent in rural areas and at 95 percent in the city of Kabul.

Then Mr. Vandrill (ph), the United Nations Secretary General's special representative for Afghanistan, indicated a month ago that the king's popularity was at 87. When he came to Rome, he had put up that to 89. So I don't think the king had all this popularity during his 40-year reign in Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, one final question. Is the king prepared to make a direct plea to President Bush for United States support?

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Well, his majesty's already sent a letter to President Bush. President Bush had sent one of his senior envoys here to Rome to meet with the king and thank for the letter. And I think they'll be another communication with the president of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Prince Mustafa, thank you very much.

PRINCE MUSTAFA: Thank you very much.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company