Robertson: Al Qaeda confident of winning
(CNN) -- CNN's Nic Robertson recently returned from Afghanistan, where he met with representatives of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network al Qaeda.
Robertson said the representatives threatened the United States and Britain with serious consequences if civilian homes are damaged in U.S.-led air raids on Afghanistan, the Taliban-controlled country where bin Laden is hiding.
They also said that bin Laden felt he had successfully defined the terms of the conflict as a Western war against Islam. Bin Laden, the representatives said, felt like he would win this war. The following is Robertson's report:
ROBERTSON: Just before we left Jalalabad, inside Afghanistan, we met with members of al Qaeda. I asked them if he had survived the last week of attacks; they said he had. This representative I was talking to had met with bin Laden two days ago, and he said he was well.
I asked him what his mood was after these attacks. They said that his mood was good, that he believed that they were going to win this war. He said that bin Laden felt that they had already dictated the terms that this war was being fought on, and from their view, this was a fight to save Islam in the face of forces that they say are trying to destroy Islam.
He also said that bin Laden says that the only way the United States can avoid this conflict is to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia and also withdraw itself from the Palestinian situation. They also said that there was a special message, and that special message, they said, was that if in Afghanistan civilian houses were attacked by the United States' bombers and any other allied bombers, there would be serious consequences.
CNN: These representatives were telling you the truth?
ROBERTSON: We can only take their word for it. They were certainly presented to me by an individual whom I have met before on previous trips to Afghanistan, and they were presented to me as representatives of al Qaeda. They certainly seemed to be very confident in what they were saying. They certainly seemed to be able to speak very clearly and precisely on bin Laden's part. And they were very convincing when they told me that they have seen him in the last few days.
At one point, they asked me in conversation if I was I scared, sitting there talking to representatives of al Qaeda. They did come across very persuasively, and they did come across as true representatives of al Qaeda. Of course, there is no way to independently verify that.
CNN: Did this representative give you any more insights as to the strategy of bin Laden now and what will follow in the future?
ROBRERTSON: They believe that they are already winning this war, and they base that on several things, and one of them is, they say, "Look at the economic impact that we have had already," that this will bring economic ruin to the United States and to the rest of the world, because the way the global economy, all economies, are linked.
They say this will be particularly bad for Britain as well; they singled out [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair. They also said that this would be bad in the long run for President Bush and for Tony Blair politically because they said they believe their power and support will erode because of their position on this issue.
They also said another thing, that they believe anyone supporting their group -- they likened supporters of their movement, of their beliefs, to equal one corps, a modern army -- they said, "One supporter from us can destroy a huge amount of property in the United States. One person in a particular type of suicide mission can destroy an equivalent of what one corps in a modern army can do."
That, I think, is indicative of the way that they would perceive their struggle at this time and the way that they will prosecute the war that they say that they believe they are winning at this time.
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