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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Should U.S. Afghans Who Refuse To Help In Terrorist Hunt?

Aired January 18, 2002 - 08:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, 21 minutes after the hour. Even as Secretary of State Colin Powell is promising American aid to help rebuild Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces are hitting a significant roadblock on the ground in eastern Afghanistan.

"The New York Times" says some Pashtun tribal leaders there are refusing to help U.S. troops hunt for al Qaeda terrorists. Should the U.S. be pledging a long-term commitment to the country's future leaders when some are still protecting terrorists, and perhaps even Osama bin Laden?

Joining me now to look at this issue from Washington, "Newsweek's" Evan Thomas and Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax.com. Good morning gentlemen. Welcome.

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX.COM: Good morning.

EVAN THOMAS, NEWSWEEK: Good morning.

ZAHN: So Christopher, do you have a problem with the American government pledging long-term aid at a time when the Pashtun tribes are saying hey, we're not going to help you get to these caves and do cave-to-cave searches.

RUDDY: Well Paula, I think any thinking America has to have a problem with that. I have a big problem with it. In fact, I'm really angry about it. I think it's outrageous that we would be supporting the regime there and the Pashtuns, if they're not going to cooperate. And I think it's a continuation of our long-standing policy in this country of playing the role of Santa Claus around the world, giving millions of dollars to aid to countries and groups that are critical and inimical to American interest.

In fact, we know that just before 9-11 we were sending tens of millions of dollars in aid to the Taliban. Meanwhile we knew full well that they were harboring al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and I hope that the administration puts a reality check here and makes any funding grants with strings attached so that we get support rather than just giving out money.

ZAHN: Evan Thomas, shouldn't there be strings attached to any aid the U.S. government gives this government ...

THOMAS: Yes. ZAHN: .. a new government in Afghanistan? And are you troubled ...

THOMAS: Sure ...

ZAHN: ... by the fact that these Pashtun tribal leaders aren't helping the government to the level they want to be helped.

THOMAS: Well yes, obviously I'm troubled by it. But the point is we don't have a choice here. We are in this. We started bombing. We put our troops in there. We have to be in Afghanistan, and we have to put a lot of money in Afghanistan, and we can't go away. This is our problem now. Our allies are going to be bad allies. That's nothing new about that. A lot of them are going to disappoint us and even betray us, but we're stuck. We're there.

RUDDY: Well with all due respect to Evan, I think that this has been the policy that has led to the 9-11s where we give money to countries, and they do us harm, and Afghanistan is not the only country. We had close relations with Saudi Arabia. I don't think they've been as supportive as they need to be. The last time anyone in the U.S. government demanded that our money used wisely and properly and not against us was Gene Kirkpatrick in the 1980s, and I think ...

ZAHN: All right, but Christopher, what are you suggesting the U.S. government does now? Not back this transitional government?

RUDDY: Well I think we made a mistake by not putting more U.S. forces there to establish American authority. The problem we're going to have, Paula, in Afghanistan is that most of the ethnic groups there are not pro American. The Pashtuns were very supportive of the Taliban. They probably still secretly are. The Northern Alliance, most of that group there are very supportive of the Russians, not the United States. The one ethnic faction headed by General Dostum, he's in such a shaky position, I understand that the U.S. government has to provide security around the clock for him.

ZAHN: All right, but Evan Thomas, you get the parting shot today. You're basically saying we have to accept the fact that we're going to have, as what you describe, bad allies.

THOMAS: Because the alternative is worse. If we just walk away, it's going to turn into a swamp again, and more snakes are going to crawl out, and we're going to have to deal with them at home. We have to be there to bring some semblance of order to Afghanistan.

ZAHN: Evan Thomas, thanks so much for your time. Christopher Ruddy, you as well. Go off and have a good day. Delighted to have you wrap up the week here on "AMERICAN MORNING" - Anderson.

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