Pakistani Forces Keep Up Attack

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", March 18 that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. ET

BRIT HUME, CO-HOST: The excitement all began when Pakistani President Musharraf (search) told a reporter that he and his government, "feel we may have a high-value target encircled in the mountains." Pakistani sources think it's al Qaeda No. 2, Ayman al Zawarhiri (search).

At times like this, the man to talk to is the Fox News foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz, whose contacts in that part of the world are unmatched. He joins us tonight from London.

HUME: Mansoor, what do we -- first of all, what caused the Pakistani forces to go into that particular area, and what kinds of forces are they? Are these elite forces? What?

MANSOOR IJAZ, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, there's Special Forces Operations. There's no question about that, Brit. And I think what really got them moving in this area -- this was part of a sweep that they have been doing along certain areas that they know terrorists, shall we say, cells had been operating in before.

And some of the local intelligence that they were getting from the warlords and other people that have been sort of cooperating not fully, but sort of cooperating with them.

As they did the sweep and they ran into this massive firefight of resistance, let's keep in mind what happened. Twenty-four hours ago, there was a firefight in a small village called Kaloosh (search), which is near the southern town of Wana, and in that firefight there were 13 Pakistani military trucks, three armored carriers, and 18 -- those were knocked out, and then 18 soldiers were killed.

The type of armaments that were used by the terrorists hiding out in this area were the type that could only be used if, in fact, they were trying to, you know, protect someone of significant importance to their operations.

HUME: All right. So the -- one assumes here that there have been no sightings of someone that either is or looks to them like Ayman al Zawarhiri. They are extrapolating from the intensity of the resistance, and perhaps from information provided them by people in the area, that this is he. But no one has seen him in this -- in this particular location, correct?

IJAZ: Well, there are two things that we have to keep in mind.

No. 1, it is my understanding late tonight, before I came on the program, I had a discussion with an intelligence source that said that one of the reasons that they're fairly certain that it is Zawarhiri is because when things got tight in the last 24 hours -- sorry, last 48 hours as they were really closing in on this area, certain, shall we say, radio frequency communications took place, in which they were able to pick up that, in fact, Zawarhiri was in the area. That's No. 1.

No. 2, we have to keep in mind that if you look at that videotape this we were just seeing on the television a few minutes ago of Zawarhiri and bin Laden walking down the side of a mountain, this is almost identical to the terrain that is of this area, the Wana and Kaloosh and some of these other small villages that are right around that area there as well. So, it is not improbable that he is, in fact, there, No. 1. No. 2, keep in mind that his son was captured in an area not too far away from that about three weeks ago.

HUME: All right. Now, what is the next step? First of all, how confident are you, knowing the shape and ability of the Pakistani military, that when they say they have got this place surrounded and encircled that they do, in fact, have it surrounded in a way that can't be -- that they can't get out?

IJAZ: Well, that's a tough -- tough problem because they can surround it from the top. But we have to keep in mind that this is all an area that has these very intricately designed, ground networks of caves and everything like that and exit routes.

And only the locals know exactly where all of those places are, because most of these Pakistani troops were in their diapers when these caves were -- and underground tunnels were put in place in the first place. So I think that there is a real problem here.

And that is why the intensity of the effort being made in this 24-hour period is so significant, because if they don't get him now, they may not get him. They may have the firefight, and it will be a lot of intense resistance. But we'll be all looking in one place while he has already gotten out somewhere else.

HUME: Are the Pakistanis able to bring airpower to bear here? I suppose if this were the U.S. conducting this operation, you could make the decision while you'd rather capture the guy, or at least get his body dead, that you could annihilate the place. Is that likely to happen here?

IJAZ: Yes. Well, it is my understanding that in about three hours, there is going to be a massive air assault launched on this area. I think, in fact, the decision that you described is the one that has been made that it doesn't matter whether he is dead or alive. We got to get him and make sure that he doesn't get out of there. And it is my understanding that most of the airpower that will be used will be from helicopters and not fixed-wing aircraft.

Now, General McInerney (search), Tom McInerney, who is a good friend of yours and mine, he would probably know a lot more about this than I do. But the types of helicopters that are being used are pretty significant.

HUME: Are we talking, Mansoor about Pakistani air or are we talking about U.S.?

IJAZ: Well, it is my understanding that the Pakistanis asked for U.S. air support. I don't know whether the command and control issues got sorted out. I think saying more than that would probably compromise mission security, and we probably shouldn't do that.

HUME: All right.

IJAZ: But it is my understanding that it was asked for.

HUME: All right. Let's assume this is -- the guy is in there and they get him or kill him. What in your view is the significance of it?

IJAZ: Look, Ayman Zawarhiri is the single most dangerous human being walking the face of the planet. He is smart enough to be able to figure us out. He has, in fact, put in place plans to conduct the same type of operations that occurred in Madrid last week, in other European capitals. There is no question that they're planning maritime attacks against significant waterways and other parts of the seafaring global economy.

This is a man who has the capacity to plan, above anyone one else that I know, terrorist attacks that could destroy the fundamental economic structures by which we live. It cannot be underestimated and under said what it is the importance of capturing him is. It will be the single greatest important victory in the war on terrorism if, in fact, we get him.

HUME: Is it your view that he is the guy directing these attacks, for example, in Iraq? Is he the -- would he be the mind behind Madrid, for example?

IJAZ: He was the mind behind Madrid in my estimation and the information that I have. I think he is deeply involved in other types of terrorist planning and operations.

And the interesting thing is that he also knows how to camouflage what he does, almost as well as some of the best state sponsors of terrorism do today. And that's what makes him so dangerous. He knows where all the networks are, where the sleeper cells are, exactly how to operate them and how to communicate with them.

And that is why we've got to remove this brain because the nerve impulses can then not go out to cause other terrorist attacks to take place. Maybe there will be some in the very short-term, but in the long- term, we dismantle al Qaeda entirely from the inside if we get this guy out of the way.

HUME: Why do you think the Pentagon and other sources in the U.S. government are being so skeptical and careful about this?

IJAZ: Because of the size of the catch. Because of what it means and because they know that those underground tunnels are set up in such a way that somebody like this has thought through all the possibilities of what happens if he gets cornered in one way or the other. That's No. 1.

No. 2, they've got to be very careful not to step on the Pakistanis' glory, if you will, if, in fact, Zawarhiri is caught. Because having lived through the nuclear scandal, they have to make sure they don't have a situation in which the Pakistanis think that the Americans are trying to take credit for something that Pakistani men and soldiers gave their lives for.

HUME: All right. Mansoor Ijaz, good to have you, sir. Thanks very much.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.