In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Jim Angle Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney said Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership is essentially history and that he fully expects American forces to get their hands on Mullah Omar soon. He also suggested that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should be paying close to heed to events in Afghanistan. The following is a full transcript of the interview as broadcast on Special Report With Brit Hume.
JIM ANGLE, FNC: Mr. Vice President, thanks for joining us.
DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jim.
ANGLE: Let me ask you first. The president commemorated the three months since the terrorist attacks. And in the ceremonies, the president said we will never forget what we have lost and what we have found. Aside from the loss of so many precious lives, what did we lose in this terrible tragedy, and what did we find?
CHENEY: I think, in terms of loss, one of the things that comes to mind is the sense of invulnerability that we've enjoyed now for a couple of centuries as a country. We were behind two oceans and therefore relatively immune to attack. Concerned, obviously, during the Cold War, about the possibility of global war, but we managed all that. I think that's a significant change.
In terms of what we've sort of reaffirmed, or found, I think of it in terms of our sense of national unity, our commitment to defeat terrorism on a global basis, the determination with which the country has responded to the task at hand.
ANGLE: To your knowledge, have we foiled any terrorist attacks since September 11?
CHENEY: I believe we have. It would be hard to put your finger on one specific thing. But there's been speculation, for example, that there was a fifth terrorist team, other kinds of activities planned, various places around the world, and that that's been disrupted, or those activities have been disrupted as a result of our cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, our work with joint intelligence operations. I think putting the heat on the Al Qaeda and bin Laden in Afghanistan, as we have, has made it very difficult for them.
ANGLE: How close are we to accomplishing what we set out to do in Afghanistan?
CHENEY: We're close, in the sense that we've clearly taken the Taliban out of power. They're history. We've not yet wrapped up Mullah Omar, but I expect we'll do that shortly. We've had a significant impact on the Al Qaeda network in disrupting that whole operation. And they had a base in Afghanistan that's now been pretty well destroyed.
The one remaining major piece of business there, of course, is to get Usama bin Laden as well, too. But I think that will happen.
ANGLE: Where does the war against terrorism go after Afghanistan? What's the next step?
CHENEY: We've got the network, if you will, the Al Qaeda network, that clearly exists around the world. The estimates of how many people went through the training camps in Afghanistan runs as high as 70,000. That's the high side estimate.
There are cells in 50 or 60 countries around the world, many of them good friends of the United States, so they're clearly there oftentimes surreptitiously. But we've uncovered Al Qaeda operatives during the course of this investigation, for example, in Germany, in Hamburg, Spain, a lot of other places around the world.
We've got to wrap all those up. We've got to deny them the ability to operate. We also need to dry up their financial resources, which we're doing. But also, we need to work on the non-governmental organizations and the charitable foundations that they've used in the past to provide cover, logistic support, financing for their activities.
There may be a few cases where military force is the only option, or where military force is required for one reason or another to wrap up these cells. And when that's the case, the president, I'm sure, will do whatever's necessary to achieve that objective.
ANGLE: There have been several reports that Somalia is one of those places — that it's lawless, that there are places where Al Qaeda can hide that are beyond any government. And where it might be necessary for us to act.
CHENEY: Speculation about a lot of places. I don't want to be specific about any one particular one. That would be forecasting, if you will, operational details, and I don't want to do that. Somalia is clearly one of those place where there is no central government that controls all the real estate, and where the possibility exists that an organization could operate with impunity and not be subjected to local law enforcement, and, therefore, represent a threat to its neighbors or to the United States.
ANGLE: What have we learned about the so-called Arab or Muslim street from this encounter in Afghanistan? There was a lot of talk beforehand about what would happen if the U.S. went to war against Muslims, even though it had Muslims on its side. What have we learned about that factor in the Muslim world?
CHENEY: I think we've been successful in conveying a couple of things. I think we've worked hard to make it clear that this is not a war against Islam. I think it's also fair to say that they respect success, and they've seen President Bush's determination. They have seen his leadership, the way he's pulled together the world and the international community. And seen what happened to the Taliban.
ANGLE: The president is talking about the dangers of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. What is the administration's chief concern at this moment on that front?
CHENEY: It used to be if you worried about nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, you worried about the capabilities of a state, of another government. And you can deal with that by deterring them from using those weapons, by holding things they valued at risk, international agreements, inspection regimes and so forth.
What is new and different now, after 9-11, in addition to our recognized vulnerability, but is the emerging link, if you will, between the terrorists on the one hand and weapons of mass destruction on the other. And a nuclear weapon in the hand of a terrorist is a very different proposition than a nuclear weapon in the hand of a state. You can't deter a terrorist. What are you going to hold at risk? What does he care about defending? Arms control agreements, meaningless to a terrorist. Summit, treaty, diplomacy — how do you deal with a terrorist with a nuclear weapon, who is prepared to not only slaughter Americans, but to die himself in the act. That's new.
ANGLE: One of the fears for many years has been that Saddam Hussein in Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. When the president answered a couple of questions recently about Iraq, his remarks were widely interpreted as a sign that the administration is looking at Iraq as the next target in the war on terrorism. Has that decision been made?
CHENEY: I would say that we're looking at all areas of the world that could conceivably threaten the United States or our friends. And Iraq is a concern because of Saddam Hussein's track record, because he has tried aggressively to develop weapons of mass destruction. He was well on his way to developing nuclear weapons in 1981, when the Israelis destroyed the reactor. He was well on his way again 10 years later in 1991, when we invaded and took out much of his WMD capability. And he's trying again now.
ANGLE: So, would you say it is, if he doesn't change his ways, that it is inevitable that Iraq will become a target in this war, even if it's not imminent?
CHENEY: I never say anything is inevitable, Jim, But if I were Saddam Hussein, I'd be thinking very carefully about the future and I'd be looking very closely to see what happened the Taliban in Afghanistan.
ANGLE: One other point. One of the most interesting things out of this is the sudden popularity of Donald Rumsfeld. And I understand that some members of the administration have been teasing him a bit, and suggesting that he's become a babe magnet for the 70-year-old set.
CHENEY: There's a lot of good-natured ribbing that Don has to suffer these days, but he seems to enjoy it. He's thrived on it. The latest report I heard was a rumor that his afternoon Pentagon briefing is taking audience share away from the afternoon soap operas. So I don't know who is watching him out there, but it appears to be a fairly significant group.
ANGLE: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for your time, sir.
CHENEY: Thank you.
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