CBS "Face the Nation"-Transcript
MR. SCHIEFFER: We're joined now by Senator Joe Biden. He's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations. Senator, you're also a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. We invited you this morning to talk about presidential politics, but obviously we need to put those questions aside for later and talk about this.
In your view, give us the context of this. This is an extremely dangerous situation, because this is a nation that has nuclear weapons. How do you view what's happened overnight?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Well, Bob, as I've been saying for the last two years, this is the most dangerous and complex relationship we have, and we have a huge stake huge stake in seeing to it that the moderate majority in Pakistan have a political outlet.
Absent that political outlet, what I worry about is if they were to join league with the extremists, not unlike what happened years ago with the Shah. It's not directly analogous, but moderates turn to the extremists, and we ended up with a circumstance where we know we had the overthrow of the Shah. We had an extreme government come into power.
And as you point out they have nuclear weapons. And lastly the fact is that all these dots are connected, Bob. I've been saying for some time, you have, others have, the whole issue of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, this is all connected; they're all connected. And this administration doesn't have a policy. It has a Musharraf policy, but it doesn't have a policy relative to Pakistan and how it's affecting everything else in the region.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, we're going to take a break here. When we come back we're going to talk about this. We're going to examine it from every possible angle. And we'll be joined by David Sanger, who is the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times who has been following this story literally for years.
Back in a minute.
MR. SCHIEFFER: We're back now with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden. Joining us this morning, David Sanger, who is the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times.
Senator Biden, one of the interesting things, when Musharraf went on television to explain why he was suspending the constitution, at one point he stopped and began speaking in English. And here's part of what he said, because he said this was addressed to the American people.
PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: I personally with all my conviction and with all the facts available to me, consider that inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan, and I cannot allow this country to commit suicide.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, what do you think of that?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, look, he understands, we're the only relationship he has in the world, and this has been aÃÂhe's trying to make the case to the American people that this isn't about him staying in power; it's not about him worrying about the supreme court; it's about him saving his country which is in our interest that it not be in the hand of radicals.
Obviously it's a direct appeal to the American people and I think it's pretty blatant.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator, let me just ask you the bottom- line question here -- This country has nuclear weapons. Should there be riots, even if Musharraf is able to hold power, are those nuclear weapons adequately guarded at this moment?
SEN. BIDEN: I believe they are. But look, Musharraf has pretty firm control of the military. The military has pretty firm control of the nuclear arsenal. And right now what they have, to the best of my knowledge, Bob, is, they have their nuclear weapons and the delivery systems, that is, the missiles, in separately. They are in separate places guarded by their military.
But what I worry about is that the total degeneration of that country and who knows what will come out of the military as well if this thing gets really out of hand.
And the bottom line is, at the end of the day, if radicals and the Islamicists that country, they are going to obviously have control and be able to marry those two things, the actual nuclear weapon and the missile to deliver the nuclear weapon.
Right now I believe the military has full and firm control of both of those.
MR. SCHIEFFER: David Sanger.
MR. SANGER: Senator, since 2002 we've sent about $10 billion in aid to Pakistan, most to hunt down al-Qaeda, and of course the Taliban in the tribal areas. If you were president today would you be advocating cutting that aid off? And if we did so, would we be hurting us or hurting them?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I would be -- first of all I would be on the phone with actually I am -- just exchanged calls with him -- but I'd on, as president, on the phone with Musharraf, making it clear that our patience wasn't unlimited with him. And I would be making the point to him that to the extent that he has control of the military now, it's questionable whether or not if we start to take away other things that they are very concerned about, F-16s and P-3s are aircraft and they are designed not to deal with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, but designed to deal with their security relative to India and in the subcontinent, that he may not have that kind of overall support from his own military.
Secondly, David, I think that he has his own equities here with regard to that Northwest Province and with al-Qaeda and Taliban. While he is trying to maintain his control in Islamabad, and while he is trying to maintain control throughout the country, I'm not sure he's going to let himself be distracted very much by focusing forces, fighting the Taliban and fighting al-Qaeda.
And the last point I'll make is, I think when we withdraw a significant number of our forces and directed them from Afghanistan toÃÂto Iraq, that sent a signal to him that he better be thinking about cutting his own deal with the extremists up in that Northwest Province.
So I'm not sure how much good that military aid we're giving him to figure the, quote, extremists is doing us anyway right now.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just bring up what just moved on the Associated Press wire out of Jerusalem. It says that Secretary of State Rice says that the United States will review its aid program to Pakistan.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, it should review its aid program to Pakistan. You know as we -- as many have discussed, General Fallon -- or Admiral Fallon was in Islamabad; made it clear that there's be consequences for this -- as Bhutto referred to it as this coup against his own government, and that -- and yet what I hear from the administration briefing I got last night, I don't know that they have any notion of what they're going to do right now. There is still this faint hope that this martial law will last only a day or two, but that isÃÂI think we're kidding ourselves.
So they're in a very tough spot. Look, as you know, this administration has a Musharraf policy, not a Pakistani policy. It's tied to Musharraf, and it's also, his hands are pretty well tied right now. And he's put himself in a very difficult position, and in turn, us in a difficult position.
MR. SCHIEFFER: David.
MR. SANGER: Senator, President Bush has often said that he wants Pakistan to move toward democracy and true free elections. There are a lot of people who believe, and a lot of polls that indicate, that if we truly had a free election in Pakistan today, we wouldn't like very much the government that came out of it.
What's your view on this? What kind of move toward elections or democracy do you think we need to have, and at what pace?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I -- I thought the pace this was on held some promise, David. I thought the idea of there actually being an election, a full election, the general standing -- now the president, Musharraf -- him taking off his uniform, allowing free parliamentary elections, Bhutto's party probably would have run, there would have been the beginning of a mix of having to accommodate this moderate middle, and it was a transitional means by which to move towards a democracy that was more stable.
But now that whole -- that whole thing has been blown, and I -- granted, a Bhutto-led government might not be what we want, but look what we have now. What we have now is the prospect that you assume a significant liberal -- you know the country as well as I do -- a significant moderate middle have decided that their only recourse is, you know, to make -- to make connections with the more radical elements to try to take down Musharraf, and God only knows what happens then. I mean this is a real mess, and it's a lack of a policy for the last five years.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, let's take another quick break here, Senator, and we'll come back and talk about this some more.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Senator Biden and David Sanger of the New York Times. Senator, aid or no aid, one thing we do know or we think is that Osama bin Laden is somewhere out there in those what they call the Northwest Territories of Pakistan between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At this point, Mr. Musharraf has not made the effort we have wanted him to make in tracking down Osama. Should we now begin to rethink our policy on that? Is it time to start thinking about sending American troops into that area, into Pakistan, to see if we can find Osama bin Laden?
SEN. BIDEN: Bob, it's long past time when we should be putting ourselves in the position, or the physical capability of going that. That's why I said all these dots are connected. When we're now talking about invading or bombing Iran, when we not -- excuse me, an exit strategy from Iraq. We've diverted all those forces away from Afghanistan.
Where we should be surging troops, as a lot of us have been saying for two years, into Afghanistan, so we have a physical capacity to do that, if we conclude that we have to do that. And as you know it is our policy as a nation, our policy is that if in fact a terrorist is being hidden and/or operating out of another country's territory, they are not taking action to deal with that, and it's affecting U.S. interests, then they are effectively forfeiting their sovereignty.
But the problem now is, the capacity does not exist in Afghanistan. I as president would be moving significantlyÃÂI would execute the Biden exit strategy in IranÃÂI mean Iraq. I would not be talking about going into Iran. I'd be focusing on Afghanistan and building up the capacity to do that, if in fact I had actionable intelligence that if I acted I could success.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And you are saying this morning it would not bother you to go into a sovereign country, Pakistan, to track down Osama bin Laden?
SEN. BIDEN: I've been arguing for seven years now that a country forfeits its sovereignty when it is either promoting, operating with, or engaged in benign neglect against terrorists who are using their forces to damage U.S. interests and threaten United States of America.
And the argument would be made that if we had actionable intelligence, meaning we knew where they were, we could do it and it was likely to succeed, and the Pakistanis did not support us in doing that, and/or would not help us, I would not hesitate to use that if it was actionable and my military told me I would likely succeed.
But the problem is we have to be in a position to be able to have the capacity to do that if we have the intelligence. And my point now is, because of this failed policy, and now the connecting of these dots because of the debacle in IranÃÂI mean, excuse me, the debacle in Iraq, and all the preoccupation and talk about Iran, we have ramped this thing up in a way that we don't have the capacity to act even if we have the intelligence.
MR. SANGER: Senator, if I could follow up on that, you say we would move more troops into Afghanistan. Right now we have about 25,000, which is the most we've had in many many years.
What kind of troop presence do you think we need in Afghanistan to be able to both hold that country and put the pressure on the Northwest Territories in Pakistan? And what kind of operations do you think we could actually accomplish in this very mountainous very difficult no-man's land where Americans have never been really successful before?
SEN. BIDEN: It is very difficult, David. And this -- I think you asked a $64 question. It's the type of troops; it's not merely the number. It is special forces. It is intelligence assets that have to be diverted to Afghanistan. It is a process that is going to take some time.
I was in Afghanistan right after the Taliban. I met with a British two star. I asked him, he was in Western Kabul, I said, general, how long are your forces let you -- your -- (inaudible) let you stay here? He looked at me and he said, Senator, in my country we have an expression -- as long as the big dog is in the pen, the small dogs will stay. If the big dog leads, the small dogs would lead. If we beefed up with the right troops and the right components in Afghanistan, we would find considerably more support from NATO as well.
And so it's the type of troop, as you accurately point out, that we need. The idea of an invasion is not what I'm talking about. The likelihood 50, 100, 200,000 troops going into Western provinces is not how it would work. It would be special forces. It would be as a consequence of actionable intelligence, and it would be more targeted. It's not so much an invasion, but it would be an incursion.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator, we have 30 seconds left. If you were president, and that's what you're running for, for president, what would be the first thing you would do tomorrow?
SEN. BIDEN: The first thing I would do tomorrow is, I would be on the phone with Musharraf making it clear to him that there is a price to pay if he does not rectify what he has just done. I'd be sitting down with military and saying, get us out, get this federalism going in Iraq. Free up our forces. And I would be asking what I need to do in Afghanistan to have a back up.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, thank you so much for being with us this morning, Senator Biden.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.