Does the U.S. Have Enough Troops Trained for a WMD Attack?

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: Also, breaking today, remember the panel warning that a nuclear or biological attack is likely here in the U.S. by the year 2013? The presentation was public today. And some national security experts now say they have doubts about the Pentagon's new plan to assign another 15,000 to handle attack here at home.

Would U.S. troops be able to fight something they can't see? Retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North here tonight. He was recently in Afghanistan. He is back home safe. He is also the host of "War Stories" here on FOX. Colonel, how are you?

RETIRED U.S. MARINE LIEUTENANT COLONEL OLIVER NORTH: I'm doing great, Bill. Think about the name of this outfit that just delivered this report, the National Bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism. How about that for a title (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

Video: Watch Bill Hemmer's interview

HEMMER: I mean, they are saying 15,000 troops here at home trained to respond to an attack. Some say it is not enough. Do you have a position on that, Colonel?

NORTH: Well, first of all, there are vulnerabilities and I think they identified them very clearly, and they're not new. The biotech industry is number one, security for things like anthrax. Number two, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea for their nuclear weapons program and the lack of security over Russian loose nukes.

Senator Bob Graham has become the spokesman, this former U.S. senator from Florida. He describes Pakistan as the intersection for a perfect storm. Now, of course, as I say, none of this is new, Bill. And what you've got is the U.S. northern command responsible for putting those 15,000 troops on military bases, not in American communities, prepared to respond.

I'm going to give you an observation. In the aftermath of Katrina, the only organization that functioned as it was supposed to was the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Guard. We're going to need something like that if that kind of attack occurs in this country. I think it's appropriate. You have...

HEMMER: You mentioned Pakistan. That was highlighted quite prominently in that report. Quickly here to move to another topic — the suggestion in the report is that biological weapons are a lot easier to obtain now than they have ever been before.


HEMMER: Is that something that keeps you up at night?

NORTH: Well, it doesn't keep me up at night, but I know it keeps a lot of folks at Fort Dietrich and those places like down at Fort Stewart where the first of these units was just stood up and prepared to respond. This is not an outfit that's going to go out and take preemptive action.

This is a consequence mitigation unit that the Armed Forces are supposed to be able to handle. And of course, it's the aftermath of one of these terrible things that's going to kill so many people whether it is biotech or a bad, you know, nuclear device of some kind.

HEMMER: I want to talk about your trip to Afghanistan. We hear constantly — sometimes it comes every day, sometimes it's week by week — about the hellfire missiles on these unmanned area vehicles above the sky space there in Afghanistan, picking off al-Qaeda and picking off the Taliban leaders. You were there on the ground. Are these hellfire missiles effective, Colonel?

NORTH: Well, as a matter of fact, we saw a bunch of that stuff occur out there directed by U.S. operators in some faraway place called in by troops on the ground based on intelligence. And today, of all things, the Pakistanis actually sent their own air force operations out in the federally administrated tribal areas in northwest Pakistan.

HEMMER: They did. Basically, they took out 30 militants.

NORTH: You got it.

HEMMER: You know, is the Pakistani government OK with these hellfire missiles? Or do they put on a good public face?

NORTH: They put on a good public face. I mean, there is an agreement that we have with the Pakistanis between our military and theirs, that's why you had Admiral Mullen, who's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today talking about how the Pakistani military has got to step up to the plate and help the Indians solve this problem with the attack that they got in Mumbai a week ago today.

I mean, there is a very close working relationship that's going to have to get better if we're going to deal with the problem.

HEMMER: How are we are doing in Afghanistan? Many would argue that's what matters now.

NORTH: Well, they're winning and you're going to find will turn out a whole lot better once you get more Americans on the ground. My humble opinion, we ought to thank our NATO allies for being there, give them all medals, send them back home, and have Americans take over.

HEMMER: Wow. All U.S. operation?

NORTH: Yes. In fact, it's going to have to become —

HEMMER: How come?

NORTH: The NATO command and control structure out there has just been totally dysfunctional. Most of the 39 NATO nations that are out there, some kind of what they call national caveat or rules of engagement restrictions that keep them from even going off bases.

You've got to be able to get out there and meet the people. That's how you fight a counterinsurgency. That is what the U.S. has done so well.

HEMMER: Thank you, Colonel. Good to have you on. Good to have you home.

NORTH: Thanks, Bill. Good to be here, Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Oliver North, host of "War Stories" here. To pick up a copy of the DVD, head to our Web site at Great stuff there from the colonel and his team on the ground here in New York.

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