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Albright says the U.S. should focus on Afghanistan's future


(CNN) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks with CNN Anchor Judy Woodruff about the impact of making broad coalitions and U.S. support in Afghanistan.

WOODRUFF: We know the administration continues to weigh its diplomatic options, its military options. And I am joined here now in Washington by the former Secretary of State under President Clinton, Madeleine Albright.

Madame Secretary, thank you for being with us.

ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: How good a job has the Bush administration done so far since September the 11th on this?

ALBRIGHT: I think they've done a very good job of trying to assess the situation and pull the options together. They have made, I think, some important statements -- most of them good. And I think they have done a good job. The hard part starts now.

WOODRUFF: You were just saying to me that one of the fears, or one the concerns we should all have is not overdoing it, not making the American people feel unsafe unnecessarily. Do you think that's happened to some extent?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think there's a very delicate balance here between making sure that we are aware of various damagers that most people kind of were in denial about, and looking behind every corner and seeing everybody with a non-white face as some kind of a potential suspect.

So I think they have been pretty good about it. I think there's a question, frankly, as you all have to keep covering it, and whether that, in fact, then creates it's own momentum. But we have to find a balance.

I was in New York yesterday, and it's a very interesting balance of soberness and sadness, and yet trying to get back to work.

WOODRUFF: On the diplomatic front, Secretary Albright, as we know the administration is now -- it's been reported, and they've acknowledged, they're trying to create alliances, if you will, with anti-Taliban forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Can they be getting dangerously close to what is called nation building, where the United States is trying to determine what comes next after the Taliban?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I know nation building is used as a pejorative, as a way of attacking what we did in various places. I don't know what the term really means.

But basically, what I think we need to focus on is the future of Afghanistan, and not to walk away from it in case the Taliban disintegrate or fall apart in some other way. There -- hindsight is a wonderful thing.

But basically the United States walked away from Afghanistan once the Soviets pulled out, leaving a vacuum. We have a tendency to kind of walk away before the job is done. It happened in Iraq, and it's happening in Afghanistan. And we wanted to make very sure, for instance, that nobody walked away from the Balkans when the job still needed to be done.

So in this case I think we can't choose the government of Afghanistan. We do need to be supportive of those forces that look towards the future, and that is what we should be trying to do -- not to leave a vacuum.

WOODRUFF: So you think it's smart to be doing what they're doing -- working, whether it's the Northern Alliance or some other group that could be a successor to the Taliban?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't think we should actually name whatever the successor is, but I think we should be looking to try to deal with the refugee problems, to support what Kofi Annan is doing -- is asking for more money -- thinking about potential structures within the system, and basically letting it be quite clear that the U.S. and our coalition allies won't just leave a vacuum in Afghanistan.

WOODRUFF: In the process of trying to build these coalitions of support for the war against terrorism, the United States seems to be just doing an about-face with a number of countries. Pakistan: We're sort of turning an eye away from their nuclear program. The Central Asian republics, these -- some of them are countries with pretty terrible human rights records; we're now saying, we'll work with you. Iran, Syria -- is it possible that the U.S. could be dropping principle in an effort to put the war on terrorism ahead of everything else?

ALBRIGHT: I am concerned about that, because I think you then find yourself sometimes in alliances or friendships with people or countries that are unsavory and that you regret later. And if we go back and look over the history of the Cold War, we divided everything into those who were with us or those who were against us.

I do think there has to be a certain amount of pragmatism. We have to watch -- for instance, Pakistan has, in fact, I think taken some fairly brave steps -- President Musharraf in terms of limiting his -- or cutting off contact with the Taliban, giving messages -- or limiting contact with the Taliban and giving messages to them and...

WOODRUFF: Is that worth saying: Your nuclear program is all right for now?

ALBRIGHT: No. I think that the sanctions, though, were limiting Musharraf's ability to run the country economically.

But I am concerned about tradeoffs. When you form very large coalitions you, in fact, then end up making a lot of compromises. And you have to, as a policymaker, look at the cost-benefit ratio, basically. Are you are going to give in on principles? I'm very disturbed, for instance, that we might never mention again that what the Russians are doing in Chechnya is counter to what we had been saying before, being involved in some terrible things vis-a-vis the civilians there.

WOODRUFF: And that's another country where the diplomatic language has changed in the last few days with regard to Chechnya.


WOODRUFF: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thank you very much, we appreciate it. Good to see you.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.


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