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ABC "This Week With George Stephanopoulous" - Transcript


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(UNKNOWN): Barack Obama...

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): A puzzling prize for peace...

OBAMA: I will accept this award as a call to action.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... as the president deliberates on war.

(UNKNOWN): What approach should we take in Afghanistan? I say humility.

CLINTON: There is no discussion going on about leaving Afghanistan.

GATES: The situation in Afghanistan is serious and deteriorating.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congress pushes forward on health care.

PELOSI: We're coming around the curve.

MCCONNELL: The bill it's referring to will never see the light of day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Two defining issues, two powerhouse roundtables. Afghanistan with key Senate leaders, the retired general who devised Iraq's surge and the congressman leading the charge for an exit from Afghanistan, our "This Week" debate.

Then, health care, ethics and all the week's politics with George Will, Arianna Huffington, and our dueling strategists, Democrat Donna Brazile and Republican Nicolle Wallace.

And, as always, the Sunday funnies.

FALLON: Along with the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama also gets $1.4 million. Usually to get a check that big, you need to blackmail David Letterman.


ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week" with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the Nobel committee thinking? What impact will the peace prize have on President Obama and his agenda? We're going to debate both those questions today, but we will begin with the president's looming decision on the war in Afghanistan.

And for that, let me bring in our first roundtable. I am joined by the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein...

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... the former vice chair of the -- the chiefs of staff for the military, Jack Keane, retired general, architect of the surge in Iraq, Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, the author of a bill calling for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, and Senator Saxby Chambliss, member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committee.

Welcome to you all.

And, Senator Feinstein, let me begin with you. You met with the president this week. He had a group of members of Congress and senators down to meet with him. And I -- we -- we know -- and you saw Secretary Clinton say that, as well -- the president seems to have ruled out immediate withdrawal...

FEINSTEIN: That's correct.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... from Afghanistan or a major increase of troops, in the hundreds of thousands. But did he reveal anything else about his thinking? And what did you recommend to him?

FEINSTEIN: Well, what he revealed was his thinking up to this point, and that the fact that he wanted to hear from various members, and some of us spoke up. And I'll tell you what I said. I reviewed all of the intelligence and looked at the situation, and it was pretty clear to me that violence was up 100 percent, 950 attacks in August. The Taliban now controls 37 percent of the people in the areas where these people are. Attrition in police is running 67 percent, either killed or leaving the service.

And the mission is in serious jeopardy. I think General McChrystal, who is one of our very best, if not the best at this, has said a counterterrorism strategy will not work. The president said to us very clearly, just as you said, George, we will not pull out.

Now, if you're going to stay, you have to have a way of winning. The question is, what is that way? And I think the counterinsurgency strategy, which means protecting the people, not shooting from afar, but securing, taking, holding, and providing security for a period of time is really critical.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How many more troops does that take?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I don't know how many he's proposed. I only know what I've read in the newspapers. At the same time, there has to be a process of reconciliation. At the same time, there has to be a process of finding out, which of these people can we work with and which can we not, like the Haqqani network, which really need to be taken out? How do you grow this sort of feudal-type warlord government into stability? How do you strengthen Karzai's spine, if you can?

And I think those are all questions that have to be put together into a strategy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of questions there, Senator Chambliss. Does that lead you to believe that the president should approve General McChrystal's request now?

CHAMBLISS: I don't think there's any question (inaudible) going to have to, and I think it's the right thing to do. He sent General McChrystal over there in the spring and said, "You go see what it's like on the ground. Give me a report, and let's devise a strategy for going forward." He's done that, and Dianne's exactly right. It's a very fractious government over there. It's a lot of corruption within the Karzai government and not much stability.

CHAMBLISS: But if we're going to move forward, we've got to do two things. First of all, we've got to think about the civilian side and what we're going to do with that government. From the standpoint of trying to help the Afghan people clean it up, in order to be successful at doing that, then we've got to quell the violence.

We've got to slow down the Taliban. That means prevailing militarily. And, obviously, that's where the additional resources in the form of troops come in. That's where General McChrystal has -- has recommended. And I think the president has got to follow his commanders on the ground...


CHAMBLISS: The situation in Iraq that Jack was very much involved in is -- was not unlike where we are right now. The Iraqi government was very unstable. The violence was up. We stopped the violence for the most part, and then you saw people have confidence in government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let's -- let's get into that, and I want to bring General Keane in on that, because you were very involved in the -- in the surge in Iraq. But there are differences, as well. As unstable as the Iraqi government was, it did have -- the Iraqis did have a history of having a strong central government, number one. Number two, the surge, as far as I understood it, led you to a situation where you had about one American soldier for every 100 or 125 Iraqi civilians. Here, even if you approve General McChrystal's 40,000, you're going to be at a 1-to-200 ratio.

So even if you approve this, will there be enough for a full counterinsurgency strategy, as Senator Feinstein was talking about?

KEANE: Well, first of all, you don't have to do the counterinsurgency strategy in the entire country. The south is really the center of gravity of the Pashtun insurgency and also in the east. So there are areas where we can focus.

The problem we have is, we know what the defeat mechanism ultimately is. It is the Afghan national security forces, just as it has been in Iraq, with the Iraqi security forces.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They have to take the lead.

KEANE: They eventually will come in full play. The problem is, they're too small, George. Right now, we only have about 200,000, and -- and most who look at this, to include the generals, believe we need about 400,000. If that's the case, we can't get there until 2013, 2012 at the earliest.

In the meantime, to put the counterinsurgency strategy in play, we need the additional U.S. forces. That's -- that's why this issue now is so pregnant, in terms of timing, because we cannot wait for that strategy to take hold.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me -- let me bring that question to Congressman McGovern. You and 99 other members of Congress have called now for an exit strategy, want that exit strategy by the end of this year. Does that mean that you can't accept more troops now as a component of an exit strategy later, if, indeed, the final exit strategy means you need Afghan forces built up?

KEANE: Well, I think adding more -- more American forces to -- to Afghanistan would be a mistake. I think it would be counterproductive. And I think there's a strong case to be made that the larger our military footprint, the more difficult it is to achieve reconciliation. And, quite frankly, it's been used as a recruiting tool by the Taliban.

The reason why we want an exit strategy is in part because I want a clearly defined mission, and that means a beginning, a middle, a transition period, and an end. And we don't have an end in Afghanistan.

When I voted to use force to go to war after 9/11, I think I and everyone else in Congress voted to go after Al Qaida. That was our enemy. And Al Qaida has now moved to a different neighborhood, in Pakistan, where, quite frankly, they're more protected. And we're told by General Jones that there are less than 100, if that, members of Al Qaida left in Afghanistan.

So we're going to need to -- so we're -- we're now saying we should have 100,000 American forces to go after less than 100 members of Al Qaida in Afghanistan? I think we need to re-evaluate our policy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That leads to -- that leads to a key question that I know the White House was debating, actually, this week. In order to defeat Al Qaida, do you need to completely defeat the Taliban or can you learn to live with the Taliban?

What's your answer to that question, Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: I think it depends on what you mean by "Taliban." I think if you take the Haqqani network, which I gather was generally responsible for the bombing of the interior ministry in Kabul, I think they're hardcore fanatics.

If you look back, too, at Taliban control, when it had more in the earlier days, and I've got to tell you, I particularly worry about women in Afghanistan, acid in their face of children, girl children who go to school, women who can't work when they're widowed, huddled on the streets, begging, women beaten and shot in stadiums, you know, Sharia law with all of its violence, I mean, that's one element of the -- of the Taliban.

I think we need to look for those warlords that we can work with, those Pashtuns who want to work for stability, for good, solid governance. I don't think we can make the country into a Jeffersonian democracy, but I do think you -- you've got to stabilize this country.

You leave this country, and the Taliban are increasing all of the time. They're taking over more. It will have a dramatic impact on Pakistan one day. I really believe that.

FEINSTEIN: Now, should we stay there for 10, 12 years? General, I don't think so. I don't think the American people are up for that or want that. But I think -- I don't know how you put somebody in who was as crackerjack as General McChrystal, who gives the president very solid recommendations, and not take those recommendations if you're not going to pull out.

If you don't want to take the recommendations, then you -- you -- you put your people in such jeopardy, just like the base in Nuristan. We lost eight of our men. We didn't have the ability to defend them, and now the base is closing, and effectively we're -- we're retreating away from it. And so I think the decision has to be made sooner, rather than later.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you've got Democrat and Republican agreeing to accept the McChrystal recommendations right now. I think part of the reason, though, Senator Chambliss, that the president is at least rethinking this right now is that concern that -- that Congressman McGovern talked about, about the footprint, about your increasing the -- the number of troops in a way that might be counterproductive, that might drive more people into the arms of the Taliban.

CHAMBLISS: Well, you're not going to increase the footprint just for the sake of adding more troops. It's got to be done for the right purpose, and obviously, that's what the president's got under consideration right now.

Two things, though. One, we've got an Afghan citizen that is simply a better fighter than what we had in Iraq. And I think we have the opportunity to train those folks at a quicker pace than what we did in Iraq and, ultimately, turn the -- both the military and the -- and the police over to the Afghan people to run that country. That's our goal there.

Secondly, you can't de-link Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are coupled together. If Afghanistan falls, if we pull out and it goes totally in the hands of the Taliban, it doesn't make any difference whether there are 100 Al Qaida in there right now or not or whether there are 1,000 across the board or in -- going back and forth. We know that the neighboring country has the opportunity to be really invaded or encroached upon by bad guys.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that question. I'm going to bring that to General Keane, as well.

But, first, Senator Feinstein raises a question that -- that I do want to ask you about. How does President Obama put General McChrystal in, say that, "I want you to implement this counterterrorism strategy with a counterinsurgency element, as well," and then not take his recommendations? You served in the military. What are the pressures like right now? And what does General McChrystal do if the president rejects his recommendation?

KEANE: Well, I can't speak for what General McChrystal's, you know, reaction would be to a presidential decision that opposed him. I can say this. I mean, if you're a general on the ground, then you believe that a recommendation you made is the -- is the winning recommendation in terms of strategy that'll accomplish the goals that you've been assigned.

And then you're told that you cannot execute that and ask the troops to go out and do something else that you don't believe will accomplish those goals, that gets very difficult, in terms of a moral dilemma, asking your troops to do something you believe is going to fail.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you resign?

KEANE: That would be up to face that. I mean, that's something personal for every general...


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that what you would do in that situation?

KEANE: Probably, yes, under those circumstances, yes. But the fact of the matter is, you know, the -- presidents have a right to make decisions, George. And one of the recommendations they get all (ph) from generals. That's -- that's the reality. And the president also has a right to take information from -- from other sources to inform those decisions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And it -- and it's my understanding that that's actually what's happening inside the White House review right now and that several other options, in addition to what General McChrystal has already put forward, are likely to be generated.

So I want to bring that question back to you, Congressman McGovern. If the president lays out a clear mission, a focused mission on Al Qaida, if he determines the -- and if puts a time limit on that mission, says that we're not going to be there forever, and then -- but also says that we do need some -- 10,000, 12,000, maybe even 20,000 troops to implement that strategy -- what would be wrong with that? And could you go along with it?

MCGOVERN: Well, I'd have to wait and see the details of whatever he comes up with. But, look, nobody's talking about cutting and running in Afghanistan and -- and this notion that if we lessen our military footprint, that somehow the Taliban is going to come back in control, I think, is wrong.

We have been in this war for 8 years. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars. We have lost a great deal in terms of U.S. blood and treasure already. We have trained their military; we have trained their police.

One of the central problems in Afghanistan right now is you have a government that is corrupt and incompetent. And according to Peter Galbraith, who just got fired by the United Nations for being outspoken, 30 percent of Karzai's vote -- votes are fraudulent. You know, if you don't have good governance at the center of all of this, you can put all the troops you want in there, you can invest all the money you want in there, and it won't make any difference.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that right, Senator Chambliss?

CHAMBLISS: I don't think there's any question but what (ph) that's right. And that's why you've got to approach this from a dual point of view. Number one, you've got to stop the violence. If you don't stop the violence, then, you know, we -- we can't hope for a healing to take place in Afghanistan and hope for the people to take over that government.

It is corrupt; there's no question about it. But we know, too, that if we don't prevail there, we have the opportunity for the bad guys to come in and have access to nuclear weapons next door. We can't afford for that to happen.

We know that there is a training opportunity for Al Qaida in Afghanistan if we're not there, as well as in Pakistan. We can't afford for that to happen.

So it's clear that, from a military standpoint, we've got to listen to the guys on the ground who have the opportunity and the know-how to make sure that those things don't happen.

One other component of this that we haven't given enough talk to, I think, is the civilian side. You have to remember that the Afghan people have a literacy rate of somewhere in the high teens or low 20s. That is -- there's no way for those people to develop any kind of economy. The economy in Iraq this year is going to be about $900 billion. The economy in Afghanistan, $900 million.

We've got to stop the violence, work towards influencing the -- the Afghan people to make sure they take their government back and develop an economy for the long term. That's going to take a while...


STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to take a while. It's going to take a lot of money. But -- and you -- you do have to put a cost-benefit analysis on any decision like this. And this is something raised internally by Vice President Biden.

There's a report in Newsweek this morning -- it's actually on the cover of Newsweek, where the vice president is pointing out that this year we're going to spend about $65 billion in Afghanistan, about $2.25 billion in Pakistan. And according to the report in Newsweek, this is what the vice president went on to say in the National Security Council meeting: "By my calculations, that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question: Al Qaida is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?"

What's the answer?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this whole situation is a bit of a conundrum. I basically agree with Senator Chambliss in what he said. I think reconciliation -- the first thing has to be to stop the violence. It has to be security. The Taliban has to know it cannot take over all of Afghanistan because the next step in Pakistan. And that's very serious.

And the Pakistanis are only recently beginning to show, I think, their mettle. I think Swat was a big wake-up call for them. I listened to the Pakistani foreign minister yesterday, and they -- they seemed to have much more get-up-and-go, to really be -- be able to work with us in securing some of the FATA areas and other -- other areas. So I think that -- that's really critical.

This is not an easy situation. Nothing is straightforward. Our allies have 39,000 troops. That's a lot of people over there. They, I gather, will continue their involvement on that level. I think we ought to press for them to increase it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not going to happen.

FEINSTEIN: I think obviously -- I know it's not, but financially, we ought to have more financing from the rest of the world community. We cannot be everyone's gatekeeper, everyone's policeman, and I think what's lacking in the world is some universality of putting together movements which can change the dynamics in difficult situations.

STEPHANOPOULOS: General Keane, what do we do now in Pakistan? Three major attacks in the last week. Yesterday, the most brazen attack yet, the insurgents take over their army headquarters. It would be like coming in to the Pentagon. And how do you see the interrelationship between putting more troops in Afghanistan and putting more pressure on the situation in -- in Pakistan?

KEANE: Yes, the elephant in the room with Pakistan -- and, also, to a certain degree, with Afghanistan -- has always been, their lack of understanding that we're going to stay in that region. They -- they're not sure we are.

And -- and given our track record in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan, there's reason for that skepticism. That's why Musharraf and this regime to this day has a hedging strategy with the Taliban. We have to convince them that we're there, that Pakistan's stability is in our national interest. And we also have to prove that, as well, by stabilizing Afghanistan.

I agree with the senators. If we ever lost in Afghanistan, that contributes directly to destabilizing Pakistan. So our actions in Afghanistan relate clearly to Pakistan.

KEANE: The other thing, to get specifically to your point, we're starting to make some headway with Kiyani and the generals in Pakistan, to pull forces away from the Indian front, so to speak. We have great difficulty convincing them that the major threat to the nation-state is, in fact, the ranging insurgency inside the nation- state and not the external threat of India. To us, it's self-evident, but to them it's not.


KEANE: And that's the reality of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. I want to go once around the table with this question: What's the one thing you want President Obama to have in mind as he makes these decisions?

CHAMBLISS: Our troops and the stability of our troops and -- and the fact that we're giving our troops what they need. And I mean, from the top down, we've got to make a decision from the leadership standpoint whether we're giving more troops, but we've still got to make that commitment of making sure that we're enforcing and reinforcing them like we need to.

MCGOVERN: I would urge them to keep in mind that stabilizing Afghanistan should not mean and does not mean enlarging our military footprint there. I think it would be counterproductive.

I also think we're going bankrupt. We have wars in Iraq, in Afghanistan, hundreds of billions of dollars that are all going on to our credit card. Our kids and our grandkids are paying for this. You know, we need to be smarter about where we deploy our -- our resources. And I think enlarging our military footprint in Afghanistan would be a mistake.

We need to come up with a strategy that includes an exit strategy because it'll also put pressure on the government of Afghanistan to step up to the plate, which it has not done so far.

KEANE: Well, I think he has the opportunity to be decisive, in terms of our national interest in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. The reality is, since 2003, when we shifted our priority to Iraq, Afghanistan has been a distant second priority. Now those resources are available to make it the main effort, and that we should do, and that's what I mean by -- he now has the opportunity to be decisive, to control the outcome in Afghanistan, and we can get the outcome that we desire. FEINSTEIN: He said we're going to stay. If we stay, we cannot lose. What strategy, what tactics give us the best chance to carry out the mission? And the mission has to be to stop the violence and secure the country and see that you have an honest government that can begin to take care of its people. And to me, that's the plan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much. Difficult problem, very enlightening discussion.

The roundtable is next, George Will, Arianna Huffington, Donna Brazile, Nicolle Wallace. And later, the Sunday funnies.


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