Transcript: Steve Coll on Ghost Wars | Jun 11, 2005

Steve Coll stands on a wooden podium in a conference room, next to a projecting screen.
He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short straight blond hair. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit, white shirt, and striped black tie.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Steve Coll. Author, 'Ghost wars.' 2004 Lionel Gelber Prize Lecture. Munk Centre for International Studies. August 29, 2003."

Steve says AS A JOURNALIST
I REMAIN YOU KNOW VERY MUCH
INTERESTED IN CHARACTER AND
INCIDENT, AND SO I'D LIKE TO
START WITH A LITTLE BIT OF THE
HISTORY THAT I WORKED ON FOR SO
LONG, AND TAKE YOU BACK TO
FEBRUARY OF 1999.
IF YOU CAN CAST YOUR MIND BACK
TO THAT TIME AND PLACE IN YOUR
OWN EXPERIENCE...
AND IN THE WORLD'S AFFAIRS.
AND IN THAT WINTER OF FEBRUARY,
OSAMA BIN LADEN WENT FALCON HUNTING.
HE WAS SPENDING A LOT OF TIME
AROUND KANDAHAR, ANCIENT CITY
OF PASHTUN KINGS IN SOUTHERN
AFGHANISTAN.
HE WAS MOVING AROUND QUITE A
LOT BECAUSE HE BELIEVED WITH
REASON THAT THE AMERICANS WERE
LOOKING FOR HIM.
BUT A, A GROUP CAME FROM THE
PERSIAN GULF TO HUNT FOR BUSKER
BY FALCONRY, A TRADITION THAT
OSAMA HAD GROWN UP WITH IN
JEDDAH IN THE HIJAS.
AND SO OFF THEY WENT IN A GROUP
TRACKING INTO THE SOUTHERN
DESERTS AND WHAT HE APPARENTLY
DIDN'T KNOW AS HE TRAVELLED OUT
WAS THAT HE WAS BEING FOLLOWED
BY A GROUP OF AFGHANS WHO WERE
THEN ON THE PAYROLL OF THE
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY.
A GROUP OF FAMILY, BASED
MILITIA FIGHTERS WHO HAD
COLLABORATED WITH THE CIA,
DURING THE ANTI-SOVIET WAR IN
AFGHANISTAN IN THE 1980S.
WHO HAD COME BACK ON THE
AGENCY'S PAYROLL IN THE LATE
1990S FOR THE PURPOSE OF
TRACKING BIN LADEN.
LOCATING HIM RELIABLY ENOUGH SO
THAT PRESIDENT CLINTON COULD
DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT HE WANTED
TO EITHER LOB CRUISE MISSILES
INTO THAT PLACE OR AUTHORIZE
SOME OTHER KIND OF OPERATION.
SO THESE AGENTS FOLLOWED THE
HUNTING PARTY OUT INTO THE
DESERT AND THEY TAKE UP A
POSITION ON A RIDGE LOOKING
DOWN ON A SERIES OF TENTS.
AND THEY'VE GOT SPY GEAR, GPS
EQUIPMENT AND SECURE
COMMUNICATIONS AND THEY CONNECT
TO THE NEAREST STATION WHICH
HAPPENED TO BE IN THE EMBASSY
IN ISLAMABAD AND THEY EXPLAIN
WHAT THEY'RE SEEING.
AGENCY PUTS SATELLITE PICTURES
UP, TAKES PHOTOGRAPHS AND
CONFIRMS THAT THEY'RE SEEING
WHAT THEY CLAIM TO BE SEEING,
WHICH IS AN ELABORATELY,
PROVISIONED, CAMP.
SERIES OF TENTS.
NEXT TO THE TENTS A C130.
C130 IS APPARENTLY UNLOADED.
GENERATORS, THE GENERATORS ARE
POWERING REFRIGERATORS AND
OTHER EQUIPMENT IN THE TENTS.
AND ACCORDING TO THESE AFGHANS
ANYWAY, OSAMA IS OFF IN A CAMP
SITTING STILL FOR A FEW DAYS AS
THEY GO OUT IN THE MORNING TO
HUNT FOR BUSKER.
SO THESE IMAGES AND THESE
REPORTS WERE BACK TO LANGLEY,
ACROSS FROM LANGLEY TO THE
WHITE HOUSE AND PRESIDENT
CLINTON CONVENES WHAT HE CALLED
HIS SMALL GROUP OF HIS CLOSEST
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISORS,
THEN SECRETARY OF STATE,
MADELINE ALBRIGHT.
HIS NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
IN THE SECOND TERM, SANDY
BERGER.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, WILLIAM
COHEN, GEORGE TENET AND THEY
BEGIN A DISCUSSION ABOUT WHAT
TO DO.
SO, IMMEDIATELY LAYERS OF
COMPLEXITY ARE INTRODUCED INTO
THIS DISCUSSION.
THE FIRST COMES FROM THE
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL
INTELLIGENCE GEORGE TENET, WHO
SAYS TO THE PRESIDENT IN
EFFECT, I ONLY HAVE ONE SOURCE.
THIS INFORMATION IS SINGLE-
THREADED.
THESE AGENTS UP ON THE RIDGE,
THEY'RE 120 percent SURE THAT BIN
LADEN IS THERE.
BUT I DON'T HAVE A SECOND
INDEPENDENT SOURCE CONFIRMING
HIS PRESENCE.
SO THE FIRST PART OF THE
DISCUSSION IS ARE YOU PREPARED
TO LOB CRUISE MISSILES INTO AN
ENCAMPMENT OF THIS CHARACTER ON
THE BASIS OF A SINGLE SOURCE?
YOU'LL REMEMBER THE PREVIOUS
SUMMER IN AUGUST OF 1998, BIN
LADEN HAD ANNOUNCED HIS VIOLENT
INTENTIONS AGAINST AMERICAN
TARGETS BY ATTACKING TWO U.S.
EMBASSIES IN AFRICA AND IN THE
AFTERMATH OF THAT ATTACK,
PRESIDENT CLINTON HAD ORDERED
CRUISE MISSILE EQUIPPED
SUBMARINES TO PATROL OFF THE
COAST OF PAKISTAN.
AND THESE SUBMARINES WERE
CAPABLE OF DELIVERING MISSILES
TO A TARGET JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE
IN AFGHANISTAN WITHIN ABOUT SIX
HOURS OF A PRESIDENTIAL ORDER.
THAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS
TRACKING TEAM, TO LOCATE BIN
LADEN RELIABLY ENOUGH SO SUCH
AN ORDER COULD BE CONSIDERED.
THEY BEGIN THEIR DISCUSSION
ABOUT THIS PROBLEM OF THE
SINGLE-THREAD AS TENET WOULD
PUT IT, AND THEY IMMEDIATELY
ENCOUNTER A SECOND SOURCE OF
COMPLEXITY.
ANALYSIS OF THE CAMOUFLAGE
PATTERN AND TAIL NUMBER ON THE
C130 PARKED NEXT TO THE CAMP
SHOWS THAT IT BELONGS TO THE
GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED ARAB
EMIRATES, AN OIL-PRODUCING
ALLIE OF THE UNITED STATES,
PORT OF CALL FOR AMERICAN
AIRCRAFT CARRIERS.
IT WASN'T SORT OF SHOCKING IN
AND OF ITSELF TO CONSIDER THE
POSSIBILITY THAT MEMBERS OF ONE
OF THE SEVEN ROYAL FAMILIES OF
THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES MIGHT
BE PRESENT AT THIS ENCAMPMENT.
THE UAE WAS ONE OF THREE
GOVERNMENTS IN THE WORLD THAT
RECOGNIZED THE TALIBAN AS
LEGITIMATE RULERS OF
AFGHANISTAN AT THE TIME.
MEMBERS OF THEIR ROYAL FAMILIES
DID OCCASIONALLY CONSORT WITH
BIN LADEN AND THE TALIBAN ON
SUCH HUNTING TRIPS.
STILL, NOW THE STAKES DOUBLE.
ARE YOU PREPARED TO FIRE ON THE
BASIS OF A SINGLE SOURCE INTO
AN ENCAMPMENT THAT MAY CONTAIN
UNKNOWN MEMBERS OF THE UAE
ROYAL FAMILIES?
NOW FINALLY THERE WAS A THIRD
LAYER OF COMPLEXITY, AND IN
TRUTH, I DIDN'T REALLY
UNDERSTAND THIS FULLY AT THE
TIME THAT I WAS REPORTING THIS INCIDENT.
AFTER THE BOOK BECAUSE WHILE I COULD, I FOUND
MANY SOURCES WHO COULD RELIABLY
DESCRIBE WHAT I'VE JUST
DESCRIBED TO YOU.
I WAS UNABLE AS I WROTE THE
FIRST EDITION OF THE BOOK TO FEEL...
100 percent CONFIDENT ABOUT
PRECISELY WHEN THIS DISCUSSION
HAD OCCURRED.
I KNEW THAT IT HAD OCCURRED, I
KNEW ROUGHLY A SIX-WEEK RANGE
IN, WHICH IT OCCURRED.
AND I THINK I FUDGED IN THE
FIRST EDITION AND SAID
SOMETHING LIKE YOU KNOW EARLY
THAT WINTER, OR SOMETHING OF
THAT SORT.
WELL THE 911 COMMISSION ISSUED
SUBPOENAS AND OBTAINED EMAIL
AROUND THIS SERIES OF EVENTS
AND THEY NOW HAVE MADE PLAIN
THAT THIS DISCUSSION UNFOLDED
OVER THE FOUR DAYS THAT
PRECEDED PRESIDENT CLINTON'S
IMPEACHMENT TRIAL IN THE UNITED
STATES SENATE, FEBRUARY OF
1999.
IN FACT THE DECISION TO STAND
DOWN AND TO NOT SHOOT, WAS MADE
ON THE FRIDAY BEFORE WHAT I
RECALL TO BE A SATURDAY
ACQUITTAL.
YOU'LL RECALL THAT HIS
ACQUITTAL WAS MORE OR LESS A
FOREGONE POLITICAL CONCLUSION
BY THE TIME, HIS IMPEACHMENT
REACHED THE SENATE.
STILL, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A, A
FAIRLY BOLD ACT TO UNDERTAKE A
SHOT OF THIS KIND IN THAT WEEK.
WELL, THE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN
THE OPERATION, THE ONES WHO
WERE RUNNING THESE AFGHANS, THE
ONES WHO WERE INVOLVED IN
SUPPORTING THE, THE
CONVERSATION AT THE WHITE HOUSE
FELT THEN AND SAY TODAY, ONE OF
THEM IS THE MAN FORMERLY KNOWN
TO YOU AS ANONYMOUS, MICHAEL
SCHEUER THE AUTHOR OF "IMPERIAL
HUBRIS" AND OTHER BOOKS, THEY,
HE WAS RUNNING THE BIN LADEN
UNIT AT LANGLEY THAT WAS
INVOLVED WITH THESE AGENTS AT
THE TIME.
AND THEY BELIEVED THAT THIS WAS
THE SINGLE, BEST, CHANCE THAT
THEY HAD TO DECAPITATE AL
QAEDA, TO DISRUPT BIN LADEN
PRIOR TO SEPTEMBER 11TH,
BECAUSE IN PART IT WAS THE ONLY
TIME HE EVER STOOD STILL LONG
ENOUGH FOR THEM TO GET A FIX ON
HIM.
SO LEST WE CONSIGN THIS EPISODE
AND ITS SOURCES OF COMPLEXITY
TO A PRE-911 WORLD OR TO THE
PARTICULAR CHARACTER OF THE
CLINTON ADMINISTRATION'S
DECISION MAKING ON NATIONAL
SECURITY I WOULD JUST QUICKLY
URGE YOU TO TAKE A LOOK SOME
TIME AT A PASSAGE IN TOMMY
FRANKS' RECENTLY PUBLISHED
MEMOIR ABOUT THE CONDUCT OF A
CHASE FOR MULLAH OMAR IN
AFGHANISTAN, THAT HE OVERSAW IN
THE FALL OF 2001 AFTER 911.
TOMMY FRANKS MOST OF YOU KNOW
IS THE, WAS THE COMMANDER OF
THE U.S. CENTRAL, COMMAND, THE
MILITARY FORCE RESPONSIBLE FOR
THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR IN
AFGHANISTAN THE FALL OF 2001
AND HE DESCRIBES CHASING MULLAH
OMAR WITH A PREDATOR IN OCTOBER
OF 2001.
A PREDATOR YOU KNOW IS AN
UNMANNED DRONE THAT FLIES AT
ABOUT 5,000 FEET AND IT CAN BE
OPERATED REMOTELY THESE DAYS
ALMOST LIKE A VIDEO GAME BY
JOYSTICK.
AND FRANKS DESCRIBES HIMSELF
FLYING THE PREDATOR NOT
LITERALLY HOLDING THE CONTROLS,
BUT STANDING OVER A PILOT WHO
WAS DOING SO AND IN FRONT OF
HIM IN A THEATRE MUCH LIKE
THIS, WERE REPRESENTATIVES OF
EACH OF THE SERVICE CHIEFS WHO
HE FELT WERE THERE TO SECOND,
GUESS HIS CONDUCT OF THIS
PARTICULAR HUNT.
AND TO HIS RIGHT, AS HE
DESCRIBES IT WAS AN ATTORNEY.
AND THIS PREDATOR IS UP AND ITS
GOT A VIDEO SCREEN AND BELOW IS
A CONVEY OF VEHICLES RACING OUT
OF AFGHANISTAN, RACING OUT OF
KANDAHAR, TOWARD THE DESERT AND
FRANKS IS DESCRIBING HIS
EFFORTS TO GET A CLEAN SHOT
BECAUSE HE BELIEVES THAT MULLAH
OMAR IS IN A LEAD VEHICLE.
AND AS HE CONSIDERS SHOOTING
EACH TIME HE TURNS TO THE
ATTORNEY AND SAYS ANY ISSUES
MAN?
IT HAPPENED TO BE A WOMAN AND
SHE WOULD SAY YES SIR OR NO,
SIR.
WELL, THE CONVOY STOPS OUTSIDE
OF A MOSQUE.
THE GROUP INSIDE GETS OUT, GOES
IN TO WORSHIP AND TOMMY FRANKS
SAYS OKAY, NOW THEY'VE STOPPED,
LET'S HIT THE BUILDING.
ANY ISSUES?
AND THE WOMAN SAYS YES, SIR
THERE ARE ISSUES.
UNDER THE AUTHORITIES GRANTED
TO YOU BY PRESIDENT BUSH TO
CONDUCT THESE OPERATIONS YOU
ARE OBLIGATED NOT TO
DELIBERATELY STRIKE PLACES OF
WORSHIP IN THE COURSE OF AN
OPERATION OF THIS KIND.
SO, I HAVE TO TELL YOU, YOU
CANNOT FIRE.
SO HE, HE SAYS THAT HE HAD AN
IDEA.
WHICH WAS WHAT IF WE SHOOT 50
YARDS OUTSIDE THE MOSQUE,
THEY'LL ALL COME RUNNING OUT
AND THEN WE'LL KILL THEM.

[Audience laughs]

Steve continues AND THE ATTORNEY
SAID THAT WAS FINE.
AND THAT'S IN FACT WHAT HE DID
AND THEY ALL CAME RUNNING OUT.
EXCEPT THEY DIDN'T STAND STILL,
THEY JUMPED IN THEIR VEHICLES
AND THEY RAN OFF.
AND HE DESCRIBES CHASING THEM
BACK INTO THE CITY OF KANDAHAR
AND NEVER HAVING A SHOT AT THEM AGAIN.
SO, WHAT'S MY POINT?
I DON'T START
WITH THESE ANECDOTES TO DRAW UP
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT EXACTLY WHO
WAS RIGHT AND WRONG BUT BECAUSE
I'D LIKE TO TEASE OUT A LITTLE
BIT OF A DISCUSSION OF THE
POLITICS...
OF COUNTERTERRORISM AND THE
POLITICS OF TERRORISM.
THE PRACTICE OF
COUNTERTERRORISM WITH A SENSE
OF HOW COMPLICATED IT CAN BE.
AND ALSO WITH THE SMALL
OBSERVATION THAT TERRORISM AND
POLITICS DIDN'T SUDDENLY BEGIN
INTERACTING ON SEPTEMBER 11TH.
I THINK IF WAR IS POLITICS,
WHETHER IT MEANS SO TOO, IS
TERRORIST VIOLENCE, TERRORISM
IS POLITICS BY SPECTACULAR
MEANS AND IN AMERICA THESE DAYS
IT SOMETIMES SEEMS AS IF OUR
SPECTACULAR POLITICS IS MAINLY
ABOUT TERRORISM.
SO HOW, HOW DID WE ARRIVE AT
THIS INTERSECTION?
MY AMBITION IN RESEARCHING THE
BOOK THAT BECAME "GHOST WARS."
WAS TO TRY TO PULL TOGETHER THE
ANTECEDENTS OF THE SEPTEMBER
11TH ATTACKS AS THEY WERE
LOCATED IN AMERICAN ENGAGEMENTS
IN AFGHANISTAN OVER 20 YEARS.
I HAD LIVED THROUGH SOME OF
THAT AS A JOURNALIST, AND AS I
THOUGHT ABOUT THE EFFORT TO
PULL TOGETHER A UNIFYING
NARRATIVE OF THE AMERICAN
EXPERIENCE IN AFGHANISTAN I
IMMEDIATELY CONFRONTED ONE, BIG
STRUCTURAL PROBLEM.
WHICH WAS THAT THE HISTORY THAT
PRECEDED THESE SURPRISE ATTACKS
IN COMPARISON TO HISTORIES THAT
HAD PRECEDED OTHER SURPRISE
ATTACKS WAS UNUSUALLY ROOTED IN
THE ACTIVITIES OF INTELLIGENCE
AGENCIES.
NOT ONLY THE CENTRAL
INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, WHICH HAD
TAKEN THE LEAD IN AMERICAN
ENGAGEMENTS IN AFGHANISTAN
DURING THE 1980S.
QUITE DRAMATICALLY AS THE
AGENCY THAT RAN THE COVERT
ACTION ON THE PAKISTAN, AFGHAN
FRONTIER.
BUT ALSO THE ACTIVITIES OF THE
PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE SERVICE,
THE SAUDI INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
AND THIS MADE THE WORK OF A
JOURNALIST BOTH, SORT OF
UNUSUALLY USEFUL IN THE SENSE
THAT INTERVIEWING WAS ALMOST
CERTAINLY THE MOST PLAUSIBLE
PATH AVAILABLE SINCE THE
ARCHIVES WERE NOT LIKELY TO BE
PUBLISHED IN A REASONABLE
PERIOD OF TIME.
BUT ALSO ESPECIALLY
CHALLENGING.
I DON'T, I DON'T WANT TO TRY TO
SUMMARIZE THE FULLNESS OF THE
HISTORY THAT I ATTEMPTED TO
PULL TOGETHER IN THE TIME WE
HAVE AVAILABLE.
BUT I WOULD LIKE TO JUST TEASE
OUT SEVERAL THEMES IN PART
HOPING THAT THEY MIGHT
STIMULATE YOUR COMMENTS OF
QUESTIONS LATER.
OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO BEGIN IT
SEEMS TO ME IN 1979 WITH THE
SOVIET INVASION AND THE
UPHEAVALS IN THE REGION THAT
PRECEDED IT.
AND THERE IS A DISTINCT CHAPTER
IN THE STORY THAT BEGINS WITH
THE SOVIET INVASION AND ENDS
WITH THE SOVIET WITHDRAWAL AND
WHICH DESCRIBES THE CHARACTER,
AND THE SPECIFICITY AND THE
CONSEQUENCES OF THE AMERICAN
COVERT ACTION PROGRAM THAT
UNFOLDED DURING THE 1980S.
OF COURSE, YOU'LL RECALL THAT
THE JUST THE BASIC OUTLINE OF
THAT PROGRAM THE UNITED STATES
CONGRESS ALLOCATED EACH YEAR, A
CLASSIFIED AMOUNT OF MONEY TO
SUPPORT AFGHAN REBELS FIGHTING
SOVIET OCCUPYING TROOPS IN
AFGHANISTAN.
THAT AMOUNT BEGAN IN THE SORT
OF 50,000,000 dollar RANGE AND
BALLOONS TO NEARLY HALF A
BILLION BY THE END OF THE
CAMPAIGN.
EACH YEAR, THAT, THAT MONEY WAS
ALLOCATED THE DIRECTOR OF
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE OR HIS
AIDE WOULD FLY TO RIYADH,
PRESENT THE FIGURE TO THE
SAUDIS AND THE SAUDI GENERAL
INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR WOULD
WRITE A MATCHING CHEQUE.
THAT MONEY WAS USED TO PURCHASE
GUNS, USUALLY OFFSHORE, WHICH
WERE SHIPPED THROUGH THE
PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
AND DELIVERED TO AFGHAN REBELS
ON THE FRONTIER.
NOW ONE OF THE PATTERNS THAT
EMERGED AS THIS PROGRAM
UNFOLDED IN THE 1980S THAT
SEEMS I THINK ESPECIALLY
CONSEQUENTIAL NOW WAS THE
DECISION BY THE CENTRAL
INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, SUPPORTED
BY THE POLICY COMMUNITY AROUND
IT TO WHO ESSENTIALLY
SUBCONTRACT THE POLITICS OF
THIS JOB TO THE PAKISTAN ARMY.
THIS WAS A GENERATION OF CIA
OFFICERS, SOME OF THEM RECENTLY
SCARRED BY THEIR EXPERIENCES IN
VIETNAM WHO ESSENTIALLY SAID NO
MORE HEARTS AND MINDS FOR US.
WE HAVE NO INTEREST IN TRYING
TO, WE'RE TERRIBLE AT PICKING
POLITICAL WINNERS AND LOSERS IN
THE DEVELOPING WORLD.
WE HAVE NO INTEREST IN
ATTEMPTING TO DO SO HERE.
WE'RE HERE FOR ONE PURPOSE.
THAT'S TO CHALLENGE THE SOVIET
UNION, TO RAISE THE COST OF
THEIR INVASION.
EVENTUALLY IT BECAME POSSIBLE
TO BELIEVE THAT THE INVASION
MIGHT BE REVERSED.
BUT IF THE PAKISTAN ARMY AS THE
OPERATORS OF THIS JIHAD WISHED
TO PROMOTE MORE RADICAL WINGS
OF THE RESISTANCE.
IF THEY WISHED TO SUPPORT A
PROGRAM OF RADICAL, POLITICAL
ISLAM IN WHICH, THEY INTEND TO
GAIN CONTROL OF THE AFGHANISTAN
POLITICALLY OVER TIME AND TO
BUILD A FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD,
THAT MAY NOT BE OUR FIRST
CHOICE FOR THE CONDUCT OF THE
POLITICS OF THIS JIHAD.
BUT WE DON'T HAVE INTERESTS
HERE SUFFICIENT TO CHALLENGE
THEIR PRIORITIES.
AND SO THROUGHOUT THE 1980S THE
UNITED STATES AND THE CENTRAL
INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS WHO RAN
THE PROGRAM PRIDED THEMSELVES
ON THEIR ROLE AS
QUARTERMASTERS.
THEY WOULD LET THE PAKISTANIS
BE THE POLITICAL OFFICERS.
THEY WOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF
AMERICAN SUPERIORITY AND MONEY
AND TECHNOLOGY AND STAND BACK.
BY THE END OF THE 1980S THAT
BECAME INCREASINGLY, VISIBLY,
CONSEQUENTIAL, BECAUSE THE
AFGHAN RESISTANCE BY THEN WAS
DOMINATED NOT ONLY BY ISLAMIC
TRANSNATIONAL RADICALS LIKE
OBIDEEN HECTMARTIER WHO STOLE
AT LARGE IN AFGHANISTAN.
BUT ALSO BY OUR VOLUNTEERS,
WHO, WHO BEGAN TO ARRIVE IN
SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS ON THE
FRONTIER AND TO CLUSTER
THEMSELVES AROUND THE PAKISTANI
ARMY'S MOST RADICAL WING OF THE
RESISTANCE.
AROUND THAT TIME
A DEBATE OPENED UP WITHIN THE
U.S. GOVERNMENT, WHICH IS THE
SECOND SORT OF ELEMENT OF THIS
HISTORY THAT I JUST HIGHLIGHT BRIEFLY.
WHICH ESSENTIALLY REVOLVED AROUND THE
QUESTION NOW THAT THE SOVIETS
HAVE MADE CLEAR THEIR INTENTION
TO LEAVE, DO WE HAVE INTERESTS
SUFFICIENT AND COMPELLING
ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY OUR OWN
CONTINUED INVOLVEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN?
SHOULD WE LEAVE AS WELL?
AND THIS ARGUMENT WAS RAGING
WHEN I ARRIVED IN ISLAMABAD AND
IN PESHAWAR AND OCCASIONALLY
FLIPPING OVER TO THE NOTIONALLY
COMMUNIST SIDE OF THE WAR IN
KABUL AND OTHER AFGHAN CITIES.
IT WAS RAGING WITHIN THE U.S.
GOVERNMENT AT A, A MID LEVEL OF
THE BUREAUCRACY.
IT SOUNDED LIKE THIS.
ON ONE SIDE THERE WERE THOSE
WHO ARGUED, THEY WERE PRIMARILY
IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT THOUGH
IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO GENERALIZE
ENTIRELY SORT OF INSTITUTIONS.
THEY ARGUED AN UNSTABLE
AFGHANISTAN IS DANGEROUS FOR
CENTRAL ASIA.
IT WILL BECOME A FULCRUM FOR
REGIONAL TERRORIST VIOLENCE.
NO ONE COULD VISUALIZE A
TRANSNATIONAL, A TRANSOCEANIC
ATTACK.
IT WILL BECOME A FULCRUM FOR
DRUG TRAFFICKING AND IT WILL
UNDERMINE POST-SOVIET CENTRAL
ASIA, WHICH WAS BEGINNING TO
EMERGE AS AN, AS AN OBVIOUS
PROJECT.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
ARGUMENT PRIMARILY, MADE BY THE
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AND
THOSE WHO HAD RUN THE PROGRAM
OFFICERS ARGUED, POLICY MAKERS
ARGUED.
LOOK, WE CAME HERE FOR ONE
REASON.
TO CHALLENGE THE SOVIET UNION.
BEYOND ALL ACCOUNTING WE HAVE
SUCCEEDED.
WE HAVE NO FURTHER INTERESTS
HERE.
IT WOULD BE A FANTASY TO
BELIEVE THAT WE COULD ATTEMPT
TO RECONSTRUCT A CENTRIST,
STABLE, VIABLE, AFGHAN POLITICS
FROM THE RUBBLE OF THIS WAR.
WE SHOULD WITHDRAW.
AND THIS ARGUMENT UNFOLDED OVER
A PERIOD OF SEVERAL YEARS, SOME
OF THEM MEMORANDA AND, AND
CONVERSATIONS THAT, THAT
REFLECTED IT ARE NOW AVAILABLE
TO US.
THERE'S A COUPLE OF THINGS THAT
I THINK WERE REMARKABLE ABOUT
IT, LOOKING BACK ON IT OR
COMING ACROSS IT AS A, AS A
RESEARCHER.
ONE WAS TO THE EXTENT TO WHICH
THIS DEBATE NEVER REACHED THE
HIGHEST LEVELS OF THE AMERICAN
GOVERNMENT TO CREATE A CONTEXT
FOR PRESIDENTIAL OR EVEN
CABINET LEVEL DECISION MAKING.
AS FAR AS I CAN TELL THERE
NEVER WAS A CABINET MEETING TO
MAKE A FIRM, CONSIDERED, FULLY
DEBATED DECISION ABOUT THIS
DILEMMA.
INSTEAD, INDIFFERENCE, AS MUCH
AS THE DELIBERATION SHAPED
AMERICAN DECISION MAKING ABOUT
AFGHANISTAN THESE YEARS.
THAT DEBATES RAGED AT WORKING
LEVELS.
THEY OFTEN RESULTED IN
STALEMATE.
THAT STALEMATE CONTRIBUTED TO A
CABINET THAT SIMPLY DIDN'T HAVE
AN INTEREST OR A CONTEXT TO
REALLY SIT DOWN AND, AND THINK
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES.
TO BE FAIR, THE WORLD IS
CHANGING RAPIDLY.
THE BERLIN WALL FALLS IN
NOVEMBER OF 1989.
THE SOVIET UNION COLLAPSES
FINALLY IN DECEMBER OF 1991.
AND AFGHANISTAN, A SEEMINGLY,
ATTRACTABLE CONFLICT OF NO
PARTICULAR URGENT CONSEQUENCE
TO THE UNITED STATES JUST KEPT
FALLING FURTHER AND FURTHER
DOWN THE LIST.
YOU KNOW IT'S THE BENEFIT OF
HINDSIGHT ONE, ASPECT OF THIS
MISSED OPPORTUNITY THAT SEEMS
ESPECIALLY TRAGIC IN THE LIGHT
OF EVENTS CLOSER AT HAND, WAS
THAT FAILURE TO PULL TOGETHER A
COALITION IN 1989, BETWEEN 1989
AND 1992 OF EXACTLY THE SAME
CHARACTER THAT WAS PULLED
TOGETHER AT BONNE IN THE FALL
OF 2001.
IN OTHER WORDS IF YOU ASK ME
WHAT WAS THE PROPOSITION ON THE
TABLE IN THIS PERIOD.
IF THE UNITED STATES HAD
DECIDED TO ENGAGE, WHAT WOULD
IT HAVE ENGAGED WITH?
WELL, WHAT WAS BEING DISCUSSED
WAS THE ATTEMPT TO SLOWLY BUILD
AND RECONSTRUCT AFGHAN POLITICS
THAT WOULD PULL TOGETHER,
ROYALIST, CENTRIST PASHTUNS
INCLUDING THE KARZAI FAMILY.
THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE LED BY
AHMAD SHAH MASOOD AND ITS
ETHNIC BRETHREN ACROSS THE
NORTH AND WEST OF AFGHANISTAN,
AND EXILED ELECTORALS AND
TECHNOCRATS WHO MIGHT WITH THE
RIGHT INDUCEMENTS BE PREPARED
TO RETURN TO AFGHANISTAN AND
HELP REBUILD IT.
NOW, THIS WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE
BEEN AN UNCERTAIN PROJECT AND
AN EXPENSIVE ONE.
BUT IT WAS EXACTLY THE
COALITION THAT THE ARCHITECTS
OF BONNE IN A MORE URGENT
CLIMATE OF NOVEMBER OF 2001
WENT BACK TO, BECAUSE IT WAS
THE CENTER, IT IS THE CENTER OF
AFGHAN POLITICS AND AFGHAN
NATIONALISM.
THE THIRD SORT OF PHASE OF THIS
HISTORY THAT I JUST WOULD WANT
TO CALL ATTENTION TO BRIEFLY,
DEVELOPS AFTER THE TALIBAN TAKE
POWER IN AFGHANISTAN IN THE MID 1990S.
I REALLY DON'T
THINK IT'S POSSIBLE TO
UNDERSTAND THE TALIBAN'S CLAIMS
ON NATIONAL POWER IN
AFGHANISTAN, WITHOUT
UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY WERE AN
INSTRUMENT, A CLANDESTINE
INSTRUMENT OF THE PAKISTAN ARMIES...
AMBITIONS LONGSTANDING, TO MANAGE
AFGHANISTAN THROUGH THE
PROMOTION OF POLITICAL ISLAM.
THE TALIBAN BEGAN AS A REGIONAL MILITIA.
THEY MAY HAVE BEEN PARTIALLY
SPONTANEOUSLY GENERATED.
BUT THERE CLAIMS TO NATIONAL
POWER ARE INSEPARABLE FROM THE
AFGHAN ARMIES AMBITIONS TO USE
RADICAL, SUNNI POLITICAL ISLAM
AS AN INSTRUMENT OF REGIONAL
CONTROL AND ALSO AS A WAY TO
PUNISH INDIA.
OF COURSE BY THE TIME THE
TALIBAN BECAME A SERIOUS FORCE
IN AFGHANISTAN THE PAKISTAN WAS
MANAGING ANOTHER JIHAD IN
KASHMIR.
AND IT FOUND AFGHANISTAN'S
TRAINING CAMPS, AL QAEDA'S
TRAINING CAMPS, THE TALIBAN'S
COOPERATION ESSENTIAL TO THAT
PROJECT.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE UNITED
STATES?
WHAT WAS OUR RECORD WITH THE
TALIBAN?
THE TALIBAN TOOK KABUL IN
SEPTEMBER OF 1996 AND UNFURLED
THEIR REGIME OF RULEMAKING AND
CULTURAL REPRESSION THAT WITH
THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT OFFERS
LITTLE TO JUSTIFY THE TOLERANCE
THAT WE, AND OTHER NATIONS
OFFERED.
AND IF YOU LOOK BACK AT THE
RECORD OF AMERICAN ENGAGEMENT
WITH THE TALIBAN AND ASK THE
QUESTION, WELL, WHY DID WE NOT
RECOGNIZE THE TALIBAN AS AN
ADVERSARY?
SO PERSISTENTLY AND FOR SO
LONG, REALLY BECAUSE THE UNITED
STATES CERTAINLY DID NOT
RECOGNIZE THE TALIBAN AS A
SERIOUS ADVERSARY RIGHT UP
UNTIL THE YEAR 2000 AND 2001.
AND THE RECORD REALLY IS KIND
OF, UNMITIGATED ABOUT THIS.
SO WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CAUSES
OF THIS FAILURE OF EYESIGHT?
WELL, FOR ONE THING OUR TWO
MOST IMPORTANT ALLIES IN THE
REGION, THE PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT
AND THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT KEPT
ARGUING THAT WE OUGHT TO GIVE
THE TALIBAN TIME.
THE SAUDIS IN PARTICULAR LOOKED
AT THIS MILITIA AND SAID WE
WERE LIKE THAT IN THE EARLY DAYS.
A LITTLE BIT ZEALOUS, BUT
EVENTUALLY WE MATURED.
THEY WILL TOO.
IF YOU OFFER THEM THE PROPER
INCENTIVES ENTERING INTO, INTO
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
THEY'LL COME ALONG WITH YOU.
THE PAKISTANIS WHO HAD AN EVEN
MORE DIRECT INTEREST IN THE
TALIBAN'S SUCCESS, THEY, ALL
SORTS OF ARGUMENTS, MANY OF
THEM BASED ON OUTRIGHT
FALSEHOODS TRANSMITTED BY
BENAZIR BHUTTO FOR INSTANCE TO
HER COUNTERPARTS IN THE CLINTON
ADMINISTRATION, TO MEMBERS OF
THE UNITED STATES SENATE ABOUT
THE NATURE OF THE PAKISTANI
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TALIBAN.
SO THIS WAS IN AMERICAN EARS
OVER AND OVER AGAIN DURING
THESE YEARS.
THEN THERE WAS THE SOMEWHAT
TAWDRY EPISODE OF THE UNICAL
PIPELINES, WHICH I'M AFRAID
MICHAEL MOORE HAS DONE A
DISSERVICE TO IT BY DISTORTING
IT BECAUSE IT'S, IT'S ACTUALLY
MORE TAWDRY IN, IN THE TRUE
VERSION.
BUT I WON'T DWELL ON IT.
BUT IT WAS A FACTOR IN THE
CLINTON ADMINISTRATION'S
RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS PROBLEM
BECAUSE UNICAL AND ITS
LOBBYISTS PROVIDED THE ONLY
CLEAR AND CERTAIN VOICE IN MANY
INSTANCES AT THE NATIONAL
SECURITY COUNCIL ABOUT WHERE
AMERICAN INTERESTS IN
AFGHANISTAN MIGHT LIE.
IN RETROSPECT YOU HAVE TO SAY
THAT REALLY ONLY THE, ONLY THE
FEMINISTS GOT THE TALIBAN
RIGHT.
BUT FOR THERE PUSHING ON THE
RELATIVELY ISOLATED IN AMERICAN
FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE OF HUMAN
RIGHTS AND GENDER IN
AFGHANISTAN THE RECORD THAT THE
UNITED STATES OF, OF AMERICAN
FOREIGN POLICY VISA VIE THE
TALIBAN THESE YEARS WOULD BE,
BEREFT OF ANYTHING THAT YOU AND
I MIGHT BE PROUD OF TODAY.
BUT THEIR ABILITY TO RESHAPE
AMERICAN ENGAGEMENT IN
AFGHANISTAN IN THE END PROVED,
PROVED LIMITED.
SO WHO WAS OSAMA IN ALL OF
THIS?
I JUST WANT TO MAKE A LITTLE
BIT OF A LEFT TURN AND TALK
ABOUT HIM FOR A FEW, A FEW
MINUTES IF I MAY.
BECAUSE I, I DO THINK THAT OUR
CARTOON CHARACTERIZATIONS OF
HIM, NOT ONLY DEPRIVE US OF AN
OPPORTUNITY TO UNDERSTAND THE
NATURE OF THE CHALLENGE THAT HE
AND HIS MOVEMENT POSE.
BUT ALSO DEPRIVE US OF
ENGAGEMENT WITH A, WITH A
REALLY, INTERESTING CHARACTER
ON CURRENT AND HISTORY, ON
HISTORY'S STAGE.
OSAMA'S FATHER OF COURSE WAS AN
ILLITERATE YEMENI, WHO WALKED
OUT OF YEMEN ON THE CUSP OF THE
GREAT DEPRESSION WITH HIS
BROTHER WHO DIED ON THE
JOURNEY.
HE REACHED JEDDAH, A WALLED
CITY OF NO NOTABLE MEANS OTHER
THEN THE MONEY THAT ARRIVING
HAJ PILGRIMS MIGHT THROW OFF AS
THEY TRAVELLED TO, TO MECCA.
HE BEGAN AS A BRICKLAYER AND BY
THE BEGINNING OF WORLD WAR TWO
HAD INGRATIATED HIMSELF WITH
THE SAUDI ROYAL FAMILY.
FROM THAT RELATIONSHIP HE BUILT
A CONSTRUCTION FORTUNE.
AND THAT PATTERN OF
SERIAL MARRIAGES THAT PRODUCED
25 SONS BY A ROUGHLY EQUAL
NUMBER OF WIVES.
TONY LAKE...
WHO WAS NATIONAL
SECURITY ADVISOR IN PRESIDENT
CLINTON'S FIRST TERM TELLS THE
STORY OF THE FIRST MEMO HE
RECEIVED DESCRIBING A BIOGRAPHY
OF OSAMA BIN LADEN.
HE LOOKED IT OVER AND HE SAID,
AH, IT'S THE 17TH SON SYNDROME.
THEY ALWAYS TURN OUT THAT WAY.

[Audience laughing]

Steve continues BUT HOW DID
OSAMA BECOME RADICALIZED?
HE GREW UP IN SUBURBAN JEDDAH.
AT 17, HE HAD HIS OWN MERCEDES.
HE PLAYED SOCCER WITH HIS
NEIGHBOURS.
HE WAS LIVING WITH HIS MOTHER
AND HIS STEP-FATHER.
HIS MOTHER HAD ONLY REALLY BEEN
VERY BRIEFLY MARRIED TO HIS
FATHER.
HE ENROLLED AT KING ABDUL-AZEEZ
UNIVERSITY IN JEDDAH.
COMMUTING DISTANCE FROM THE
HOME WHERE HE LIVED.
AND HE WAS AN IMPRESSIONABLE
SOPHOMORE AT UNIVERSITY IN THE
YEAR 1979 AND HIS POLITICAL
SCIENCE PROFESSORS WERE MEMBERS
OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN
EXILE FROM SYRIA AND EGYPT.
AND IT WAS THAT MOMENT OF
UNIVERSITY LIFE AND UPHEAVAL IN
THE SUNNI, ISLAMIC WORLD AND
INDEED IN THE SHIA ISLAMIC
WORLD THAT ENFLAMED NOT ONLY
OSAMA, BUT A GENERATION OF
COLLEGE SOPHOMORES OF HIS ERA.
AND IT WAS IN THE COMPANY OF
HIS PROFESSORS THAT HE WENT TO
AFGHANISTAN AFTER THE SOVIET
INVASION.
AND IT WAS WITH THEIR
INSPIRATION IN, IN MANY CASES
THEIR MENTORSHIP THAT HE
DEVELOPED A SENSE OF BELONGING
ON THE AFGHAN FRONTIER AND, AND
A ROLE THAT BEGAN INITIALLY AS
PHILANTHROPY, AND EVOLVED
STEADILY TOWARDS ASPIRATIONS OF
LEADERSHIP.
OSAMA IS AN UNUSUAL LEADER OF A
TERRORIST OR MILLENNIALLY,
MILLENNIAL MOVEMENT, ANIHILIST
MOVEMENT OF THE SORT THAT HE
EVENTUALLY CAME TO LEAD, IN THE
SENSE THAT HE'S CREATED A VERY,
RICH RECORD OF HIS OWN THINKING
OVER THE YEARS.
THIS HAS NOT SOMEONE WHO HAS
SKULKED FURTIVELY FROM SAFE
HOUSE TO SAFE HOUSE.
HE'S GIVEN INTERVIEWS.
HE'S BEEN A PUBLISHER OF
PAMPHLETS AND NOW MORE RECENTLY
A PRODUCER OF MINI-
DOCUMENTARIES.
SUCH AS THE ONE HE DELIVERED
INTO THE U.S. ELECTION SEASON
IN NOVEMBER.
AND IF YOU READ THE RECORD OF
HIS WORDS AND IDEAS FROM THE
TIME THAT HE BEGAN TO ASPIRE TO
LEADERSHIP IN AF, IN
AFGHANISTAN IN THE MID 1980S
UNTIL TODAY I THINK YOU, YOU
SEE THE NARRATIVE OF A MAN WHO
HAS ALWAYS BEEN MORE OF A MEDIA
AND POLITICAL STRATEGIST THEN
HE HAS BEEN A VIOLENT OPERATOR.
HIS RECORD IN THE AFGHAN WAR
DURING THE 1980S IS REALLY
QUITE LIMITED.
HE TURNED UP AT A COUPLE OF
BATTLES.
HE STOOD HIS GROUND UNDER
ASSAULT.
HE MAY HAVE BEEN WOUNDED
SLIGHTLY, BUT HE DIDN'T GO
BACK.
INSTEAD, HE HAD HIS EXPLOITS
CHRONICLED IN THE ARAB MEDIA
AND RESTED ON HIS CLIPPINGS FOR
A GOOD, LONG, WHILE.
HE WAS ALWAYS CHARISMATIC
BECAUSE OF HIS STYLE AS WELL AS
HIS ORIGINS.
HE WAS THAT RARE SAUDI, WITH AN
OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE A LIFE OF
PRIVILEGE AND ALONG THE
MEDITERRANEAN IN THE SUMMERS,
WHO FORESWORE HIS INHERITANCE
TO LIVE ON ROUGH FRONTIERS WITH
MUSLIM BRETHREN OF MUCH LESS
PRIVILEGED BACKGROUNDS IN
SERVICE OF COMMON CAUSE.
HE SLEPT ON COTS.
HE KEPT HIMSELF MODESTLY.
USED HIS RESOURCES FOR LARGELY,
PHILANTHROPIC PURPOSES AND IN
PERSON WAS ALWAYS DESCRIBED BY
HIS COMRADES AS A SOFT-MANNERED
MAN, SCHOLARLY.
SOMEONE WHO LIKED TO RUN A
POLITICAL MEETING.
AN ORGANIZER OF SEMINARS.
HE WAS NOT THE SORT OF MAN WHO
ESTABLISHES AUTHORITY OVER HIS
MOVEMENT BY TAKING HIS RIVALS
OUT INTO THE BACK AFTER A
PARTICULARLY CONTENTIOUS
MEETING AND SHOOTING ONE IN THE
HEAD JUST TO DEMONSTRATE THAT
HE COULD DO IT AS FOR INSTANCE
WE UNDERSTAND SADDAM USED TO OPERATE.
IN FACT, OSAMA'S
STYLE WAS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE.
IF YOU READ THE TESTIMONY OF
JAMAL AL FADDEL THE MOST
IMPORTANT DEFECTOR FROM AL
QAEDA WHO CAME OUT IN THE
SUMMER OF 1996 AND EVENTUALLY
TESTIFIED AT A TRIAL IN NEW
YORK.
HE DESCRIBES THE STORY OF THE
TIME THAT HE STOLE MONEY FROM
OSAMA BIN LADEN.
HE WAS WORKING
AS HIS PERSONAL SECRETARY IN
KHARTOUM, SUDAN, WHERE BIN
LADEN WAS LIVING IN EXILE AND
HE WAS ENTRUSTED WITH IMPORTANT
COMMERCIAL DEALS.
INCLUDING THE ATTEMPTED
ACQUISITION OF URANIUM FOR
POSSIBLE USE IN NUCLEAR
WEAPONS.
BUT HE TOOK 60,000 dollars IN SOME
SALT FARM DEAL THAT DIDN'T
BELONG TO HIM AND HE GOT
CAUGHT.
AND ONE OF BIN LADEN'S KEY
AIDES SAID THE SHAKE WANTS TO
SEE YOU.
AND HE DESCRIBES SORT OF
SHAKING IN HIS SHOES AND
WONDERING WHETHER HE SHOULD
KEEP THIS APPOINTMENT, DECIDING
IN THE END HE HAD NO CHOICE.
SO HE GOES INTO THE OFFICE, AND
OSAMA SITS DOWN ACROSS THE DESK
FROM HIM AND SAYS JAMAL, I'M
TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU.
I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT A PIOUS
MAN LIKE YOURSELF WOULD KNOW
BETTER, DO BETTER THEN THIS,
AND WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO IS TO
GO BACK, DO SOME MORE SERIOUS
READING ABOUT YOUR OWN PERSONAL
MORALITY AND, AND, AND THE WAY
THAT THE KORAN CAN INSTRUCT YOU
TO IMPROVE.
AND I'VE ALSO GOT AN
INSTALLMENT PLAN FOR YOU TO
REPAY THE MONEY.
YOU'RE GONNA GO, YOU'LL, YOU'LL
GO BACK TO WORK AND YOU'LL OWE
US 50 percent OF YOUR SALARY FOR THE
NEXT EIGHT MONTHS OR SOMETHING
LIKE THAT.
AND FADDEL DESCRIBES WALKING
OUT OF THIS MEETING JUST
ABSOLUTELY STUNNED.
HERE, TRULY IS A GREAT MAN.
A MAN OF FORGIVENESS.
A MAN OF VISION.
A MAN OF TOLERANCE.
AND SO HE ACTUALLY WENT BACK TO
WORK FOR HIM AND HE DOUBLED HIS
EFFORTS FOR EIGHT OR TEN MONTHS
UNTIL HE STOLE ANOTHER 80,000 dollars.

[Audience laughing]

Steve continues AND DECIDED THE
SECOND TIME THAT HE WOULD WALK
INTO AN AMERICAN EMBASSY AND
OFFER HIS TESTIMONY AGAINST AL
QAEDA, WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE A
USEFUL EVENT.
UM, I WANT TO JUST SORT OF TAKE
US BACK TO WHERE WE BEGAN AS I
FINISH MY REMARKS AND TALK A
LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PROBLEM
THAT THE UNITED STATES
CONFRONTED IN THE LAST PHASE OF
THIS HISTORY, WHICH YOU CAN I
THINK START THE CLOCK RUNNING
ON ANY NUMBER OF MOMENTS.
BUT LET'S TAKE OURSELVES BACK
TO THE SUMMER OF 1998 WHEN THE
THREAT AND THE NATURE OF AL
QAEDA AND ITS POLITICAL
VIOLENCE WAS NO LONGER
SOMETHING THAT, THAT MIGHT BE
DOUBTED.
AFTER THE AFRICA EMBASSY
BOMBINGS IN THE SUMMER OF 1998
THE PROBLEM MADE ITSELF PLAIN.
AND FIRST THE CLINTON
ADMINISTRATION THE PRESIDENT
ADMITTEDLY WEAKENED BY THE
IMPEACHMENT PROCESS, IN THE
CONTEXT, THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
THAT IT CREATED, AND THEN THE
BUSH ADMINISTRATION FOR NINE
MONTHS ATTEMPTED TO SORT OUT
HOW SERIOUS THE THREAT BIN
LADEN POSED WAS AND WHAT
REALISTICALLY THEY MIGHT DO
ABOUT IT.
AND IN THE COURSE OF THAT
SERIES OF DEBATES AND DECISIONS
THEY CONFRONTED A COUPLE OF
LARGE QUESTIONS.
ONE WAS, WHO IS YOUR FRIEND IN
AFGHANISTAN AND WHO IS YOUR
ENEMY?
THERE WAS THIS INSTINCT BORN I
THINK OF POLITICAL
CIRCUMSTANCES AS MUCH AS
CAREFUL ANALYSIS TO NARROW THE
PROBLEM OSAMA BIN LADEN POSED
TO THE GREATEST POSSIBLE
DEGREE.
IN ORDER TO SIMPLIFY IT AS A
PROBLEM OF POLICY.
AHMAD SHAH MASOOD, A NAME SOME
OF YOU WILL RECOGNIZE,
IMAGINATIVE, CHARISMATIC LEADER
OF ANTI-SOVIET GUERILLA FORCES
DURING THE 1980S IN NORTHERN
AFGHANISTAN.
FAILED DEFENSE MINISTER IN A
SELF-IMMOLATING GOVERNMENT AFTER
THE SOVIETS LEFT.
THEN AGAIN CHARISMATIC LEADER
OF THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE IN THE
LATE 1990S.
HE FOUND HIMSELF AT WAR DAY TO
DAY WITH BIN LADEN AND THE
TALIBAN ON THE GROUND IN
AFGHANISTAN.
AND BECAUSE BIN LADEN WAS HIS
ENEMY, APPARENTLY ALSO THE
ENEMY OF THE UNITED STATES
AFTER 1998 HE AGREED TO
COOPERATE WITH THE CIA AGAINST
BIN LADEN.
AND THE CIA WOULD SEND THESE
TEAMS INTO THE PANCHUR VALLEY
TO MEET WITH MASOOD AND
MASOOD WOULD MAKE THIS
ARGUMENT OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
HE SAID AS LONG
AS YOU INSIST ON SEEING THE
PROBLEM OF BIN LADEN AS
SOMETHING THAT A SINGLE, CRUISE
MISSILE STRIKE WILL SOLVE, YOU
WILL FAIL.
YOU HAVE TO SEE BIN LADEN IN
THE AFGHAN CONTEXT, IN WHICH HE THRIVES.
YOU HAVE TO SEE
HIM IN THE CONTEXT OF
AFGHANISTAN'S HUMANITARIAN
CRISIS, THEN THE WORST, AMONG
THE WORST ON EARTH.
YOU HAVE TO SEE HIM IN THE
CONTEXT OF THE SUPPORT HE
RECEIVES FROM PAKISTANI
INTELLIGENCE IN EXCHANGE FOR
THE ROLE HE PLAYS IN THEIR
KASHMIRI JIHAD.
YOU HAVE TO SEE HIM IN THE
CONTEXT OF PROSELYTIZING
NETWORKS IN THE PERSIAN GULF
THAT ARE POURING MONEY INTO
THIS REGION, SOMETIMES FOR
REASONS OF STATE CRAFT AND
SOMETIMES FOR REASONS OF FAITH.
YOU HAVE TO SEE HIM IN THE
CONTEXT OF THE TALIBAN'S
ILLEGITIMATE GRIP ON
AFGHANISTAN AND THE SUPPORT
THAT THEY RECEIVE FROM THE
PAKISTAN ARMY.
AND UNTIL YOU SEE HIM AS PART
OF THIS LARGER MACHINERY YOU'LL
NEVER DEFEAT HIM.
YOU INSTEAD INSIST ON RUNNING
WHAT MASOOD CALLED A HOLLYWOOD
OPERATION.
COME IN WITH A HELICOPTER,
PLUCK HIM OFF THE GROUND,
DECAPITATE HIM WITH A CRUISE
MISSILE AND YOU THINK THAT
THIS, THAT THIS WILL BE OVER.
WELL SOME OF THE CIA OFFICERS
WHO HEARD THIS ARGUMENT WOULD
RETURN TO WASHINGTON AND REPEAT
IT WITH CONVICTION, CONVINCED.
BUT THERE WAS NO WILL, THERE
WAS NO CONTEXT IN WASHINGTON IN
THOSE YEARS TO SEE, SEE BIN
LADEN IN THE AFGHAN CONTEXT IN
WHICH HE'D THRIVED OR TO
CONFRONT HIM IN THE, IN THE
BROAD, WITH, WITH AN EYE ON THE
BROAD LAYERS OF SUPPORT THAT
HE, HE ENJOYED.
WE TALKED ABOUT SOME OF THE
REASONS WHY.
BUT AS 1999 AND 2000 APPROACHED
THIS FAILURE JUST BEGAN TO
CALCIFY INSIDE THE AMERICAN
GOVERNMENT.
AND THE MOMENTUM OF REPEATED
ARGUMENTS AND REPEATED
STALEMATES UM, DEPRIVED ALL BUT
THOSE AT THE WORKING LEVELS OF,
OF EVEN AN ARGUMENT THAT WOULD
SOUND RECOGNIZABLE TO YOU AS,
AS THE RIGHT ONE.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2001 IN WAYS
THAT WE DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND
BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE OSAMA
AVAILABLE TO EXPLAIN HIS
THINKING TO US THE MANAGEMENT
COMMITTEE OF AL QAEDA
DISPATCHED A PAIR OF
JOURNALISTS TO MASOOD'S
ENCAMPMENT IN NORTHERN
AFGHANISTAN.
THEY ARRIVED IN LATE AUGUST AND
SOUGHT AN INTERVIEW WITH HIM.
AND ON SEPTEMBER 9TH IT WAS
GRANTED.
THEY SAT BEFORE MASOOD AND HIS
BEST FRIEND FROM HIGH SCHOOL, A
REMARKABLE AFGHAN POET, NOW
AMBASSADOR FROM AFGHANISTAN TO
NEW DELHI, NAMED MUSU KALILI.
AND THEY SETUP THEIR CAMERA
EQUIPMENT AND THEIR RECORDING
EQUIPMENT AND AHMAD SHAH
MASOOD ASKED MUSU KALILI, WHAT
ARE THEY INTERESTED IN, WHAT
ARE THEY GONNA TALK ABOUT?
KALILI WHO SPOKE A LITTLE
ARABIC ASKED THE JOURNALISTS
AND THEY REPLIED THAT THEY HAD
SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW HE WAS
GOING TO SOLVE THE OSAMA BIN
LADEN PROBLEM.
THEY ASKED FIVE OR SIX OF THESE
QUESTIONS, AND ONE OF THEM
DETONATED THE PLASTIC
EXPLOSIVES THAT WERE EMBEDDED
IN THE, IN THE CAMERA.
THEY CALLED MASOOD INSTANTLY.
WOUNDED KALILI WHO'S STILL
RECOVERING FAMILY HIS WOUNDS.
ONE OF THE ATTACKERS DIED IN
THE EXPLOSION.
ANOTHER RAN OUT OF THE ROOM AND
WAS CHASED DOWN BY MASOOD'S
BODYGUARDS AND EXECUTED.
AND TWO DAYS LATER, ANOTHER
TEAM OF AFGHAN OPERATIVES
ANNOUNCED THEMSELVES IN THE
UNITED STATES IN THEIR
SPECTACULAR WAY, AND IT WAS
ONLY THEN THAT MANY NORTH
AMERICANS UNDERSTOOD THEY HAD
SOMETHING AT LEAST IN COMMON
AFTER ALL WITH THE SUBSISTENCE
FARMERS OF THE PANCHUR VALLEY
IF NOT SHARED POLITICAL IDEAS
OR SHARED POLITICAL
ASPIRATIONS, THEN AT LEAST THE
ENEMIES WHO HAD CHOSEN THEM.
THANKS FOR YOUR ATTENTION.

[Audience applauding]

Watch: Steve Coll on Ghost Wars