Pakistan's President Answers Critics of His Terror Response

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has been a close ally in fighting al Qaeda since the terror attacks of 9/11. But in recent months, there have been growing questions about his and his army's role, especially in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. ABC News' chief White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz is in Pakistan, where she conducted an exclusive interview with Musharraf. What follows is an excerpt from their conversation.

Osama bin Laden

Martha Raddatz: There are people who don't feel you've gone after him [bin Laden] aggressively enough -- that if you wanted to find him, the Pakistanis could find him.

Pervez Musharraf: Well, I, I -- that is not true at all. Now what do you mean going after him really? Should we be using this whole force out in the mountains checking all over the place looking for him? That is not what is done. We are operating against al Qaeda and basically, 80,000 troops really are being used to operate against al Qaeda and Taliban who are in South and North Warizistan mainly and we are concentrating that.

We are not using the army only to track down Osama. I mean, this kind of a misperception should be removed. We are using the army against al Qaeda and Taliban. Now in the process, if you get word on him, very good. But we are not certainly focusing entirely only on tracking Osama bin Laden and Zawahri. This is not the case.

Raddatz: So he is not a priority?

Musharraf: He is a priority as well as -- when you're operating against al Qaeda, well, he's the leader of al Qaeda. So we are operating against him. But what I am trying to explain is that if somebody thinks that we aren't doing anything but trying to track him, no, we are not doing that.

Wherever we find them, wherever we get information or intelligence of location al Qaeda or Taliban, we attack them. Now, in the process, if he's attacked, very good.

Bin Laden in Pakistan?

Raddatz: He [bin Laden] never comes back over into Pakistan, you don't think?

Musharraf: Now, if anyone says he comes here, he's just guessing. I call that in intelligence terms information.

Raddatz: And you're not guessing. You know he's in Afghanistan.

Musharraf: Absolutely. Because he's not located. We are listening. We are seeing. We have far more greater intelligence than [Afghan president Hamid] Karzai has. I'm sure you would understand that. What intelligence does he have?

Raddatz: You're listening and seeing intelligence, and you believe from that intelligence that you're listening to -- that Osama bin Laden's in Afghanistan, not Pakistan?

Musharraf: No. No. I will never say something which I don't know. I don't believe in saying something which is information -- if somebody tells me something. I believe in only giving intelligence when I'm sure what has happened. Now talking about Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar is all information.

Where Osama bin Laden is concerned, we had intelligence in the past. As far as Mullah Omar is concerned, there is absolutely never has been any intelligence of his being here other than now, just five days back when President Karzai gives me a list of numbers, ridiculous kind of numbers that they are here and they are talking and we find that two-thirds is a waste of time. They are all dead numbers. They are not even there.

And I have involved CIA and I've told my intelligence agencies to involve the foreign intelligence also, bring them in also and take them to the place where they have said that Mullah Omar is there, the geo-coordinates that he said. I've told my intelligence people, call the foreign intelligence guys. Take them there. And show them which families are living in those houses so that their lies are once and for all nailed down. And this is a nonsensical thing.

Fight Against al Qaeda

Raddatz: The president often says that America, with your help, has captured three-quarters of the known al Qaeda leaders. First of all, do you think that's true?

Musharraf: Yes, it's certainly true. Maybe more than three-quarters.

Raddatz: But in those intervening years, how many more do you think have been created?

Musharraf: Well, I can't estimate that. We've caught much more than three-quarters. I mean, there are few leaders who are left. But whenever we catch somebody, there is always, always an alternative which is created. So I wouldn't be able to say how many have been created. I can't say that.

While we are applying military against terrorism, we need to address bigger issues, bigger issues of political disputes. I think that is at the root, root of the problem. We have to resolve political disputes. And then the issue, I keep saying, poverty and education which is a long-term issue, but in the short term getting to the resolution of the political disputes and military action, this combination of the two.

Raddatz: And what do you mean specifically in political --

Musharraf: Well, we have to resolve this Palestinian dispute. And from our point of view, in this region, in our region, the Kashmir dispute. Because that has its fallout on Pakistan. That has its fallout on people wanting to operate in Kashmir having nexus with the al Qaeda or the Taliban or the extremists who live in our society. So this becomes a very, very dangerous nexus and combination. So therefore, Kashmir dispute and Palestinian dispute, both are ripe for resolution and we must resolve them.

Going After the Taliban

Raddatz: I'm also told by many American officials that as far as the Taliban is concerned, you're not going after them. Who have you arrested? Who have you gone after in the Taliban, not al Qaeda?

Musharraf: I think this is another misperception that everyone has and they keep asking me. I think the number of Taliban we have arrested and deported to Afghanistan should be well-known to the whole world.

I think we are just not clear about what we are doing-

Raddatz: In the last year you've arrested senior leaders of the Taliban?

Musharraf: Just a few months back. I'm just talking three months back. He was the main spokesman of Taliban whose name -- he used to appear and gave interviews on their behalf. We caught him. And we gave him to Afghanistan.

Karzai Cooperating?

Raddatz: Did President Karzai give you more names? These are unfortunate perceptions, misperceptions even being created by Afghanistan and sometimes President Karzai himself.

Musharraf: Yes, indeed, he gave these names just now when he came here. He gave me telephone numbers. He gave me a lot of names. Now, I first asked him, "Were you waiting for me -- and meeting me to give these names? Why didn't your intelligence agency give these names before so that we act?"

Two-thirds of them are dead numbers and I'm quoting this with full authority. Even CIA here, we have involved them in the whole process. Even they are saying they are all dead numbers. So these are some, one year back, or six months back, they must have heard them on the telephone through some means and they are giving all those numbers to us. Now the other one-third is, we are trying to track down these numbers.

Pakistani Suicide Bombers?

Raddatz: There are reports that Pakistanis are going in as suicide bombers. They're recruited in Pakistan and sent into Afghanistan?

Musharraf: Right. Now, this is, nobody denies that. Nobody denies that there is Taliban and al Qaeda activity here in our border. Nobody denies that. I don't deny it. There is and that is against whom we are operating. But if anyone thinks that everything that happened in Afghanistan is from Pakistan, Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan --- certainly Mullah Omar is in Afghanistan. I'm 200 percent sure. And let him not cast any aspersions that he's in Qettah or anywhere. He's in Afghanistan. He's living in his own area. His own area there is a big void.

Muhammad Cartoon Controversy

Raddatz: You think it will go away?

Musharraf: Yes, yes, indeed. Absolutely.

Raddatz: Why will it go away? What will it take to make it go away?

Musharraf: We need to get a hold of those leaders behind the scene who incite people for political ends. These are the people who are inciting them for political ends. Their interest is not so much in the blasphemy but in creating some kind of destabilization against me, against the government. That is their interest. And the moment we get hold of the people behind the scene, it will die down.

Terrorist Training Camps in Pakistan?

Musharraf: Let's be very clear. Certainly there are people here. I have been telling Karzai and the United States, "Let us fence the border and let us mine it." Today I say it again: let us mine their entire border. Let us fence it. It's not difficult. We'll do it. Let the United States come, let Afghanistan in so that nobody crosses. They die when they cross.

Raddatz: That's all you can do about it?

Musharraf: (laughs) 80,000 troops are operating. That is what I'm doing about it. 400 casualties we've suffered. That is what we are doing about it.