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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript


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CHETRY: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who serves on the armed services committee.

Thanks for being with us this morning, Senator.

MANCHIN: Thanks for having me, Kiran.

CHETRY: So, your colleague, Senator McCain, essentially said you don't know your history. That we withdrew from Afghanistan once and that's how we got the Taliban and al Qaeda. What is your response?

MANCHIN: First of all, John McCain -- I have the most utmost respect for John McCain, the sacrifices he has made for our country, the service that he has given to our country, and his experience. I truly do.

And he is correct. I don't have the experience he has.

But, Kiran, what I do have -- like most West Virginias -- a little bit of common sense and saying enough is enough. After 10 years and we're still where we are today, spending more money than ever. I was there in 2006 as the governor the state of West Virginia, thanking our National Guard, the greatest National Guard in the country, thanking them for what they do and went back as a United States senator in 2011.

So, I saw firsthand -- I spoke to the general, spoke to the troops and spoke to all the different people that I could, and I was able to come to my own conclusions and speaking to West Virginians who truly -- we have a need in West Virginia. We have a need all over this country for the roads and water and sewer and bridges and schools and helping our seniors, and everybody.

And then, all of a sudden, we have spent $443 billion to date in Afghanistan, on track to spend another $485 billion. I just think it's time to refocus and rebuild America.


CHETRY: Right. Let me just ask you about that because I will - I mean, we al are acknowledging this is a war-weary country for sure. We just have a poll, 74 percent of us want all or some troops out, those that were polled.

But as you pointed out, so we spent more than $400 billion on the war. We've had more 1,500 of the U.S. military losing their lives in Afghanistan. Do we risk losing whatever gains we've made on those investments? Meaning, are you OK leaving Afghanistan broken?

MANCHIN: I'm not leaving Afghanistan broken. I don't think that we can build a nation in Afghanistan, pure and simple.

Now, what I've asked and what I would hope to see from the president tonight is basically a mission statement, a dedication of a mission statement back to a war on terror. That's a complete different war than what we are fighting today and that's what I would hope to see. And I believe, and you'll see a direction.

We have already sent a message very loud and clear. You can't hide and you can't outwait us. We'll find you, if you're going to harm our country or any American.

CHETRY: But, technically, you can outwait us -- technically, you can outwait because we are planning a withdrawal. We're planning 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and another 20,000 by next year. Eventually, the other 70,000 troops are coming home.

So, how do you guarantee that you're not just -- it's not just a wait -- a waiting game?

MANCHIN: Kiran, we went to Afghanistan on the war on terror. By all accounts right now, there's less than 50 to 100 al Qaeda members still left in this country of Afghanistan. We don't even know the size of our Taliban, the enemy that we are fighting. By all accounts, we've heard 5,000 to 30,000.

And the war on terror, had we won that war there in Afghanistan as it moves somewhere else. You have the greatest strike force in the world and the best as far as counterinsurgencies that we've had.

But, basically, our troops, they can do the job anywhere we sent them to. The mission should be clear. Wherever there's terrorism, wreaking harm in our country, we're going to go find you, no matter what country. You can't hide. We'll go get you.

CHETRY: But -- all that means is we're ramping it up more. I mean, I get what you're saying, but then we should be in Yemen and we should be in Pakistan and we should be perhaps in Somalia and we should be considering action in several other places. It just doesn't seem realistic.

MANCHIN: Well, it seems that wherever there is a strike and wherever there's a force is coming after America, we're going to retaliate back. But you need to occupy, you need to go in there and basically have a nation building -- and here's the thing that took me offer the top, Kiran, is, when I heard that the only country was able to go in there and extract minerals which is copper, they are extracting from China. China doesn't have any investment there, doesn't have any forces there to keep the peace or build stability.

CHETRY: Right.

MANCHIN: They have to be depending on us. Is that our mission to build that nation and that economy?

I think we need to rebuild America and focus our efforts back here.

CHETRY: All right. Well, it's good to get your take this morning.

Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia -- always great to talk with you. Thanks for being with us.

MANCHIN: Thank you. Thank you, Kiran. Appreciate it.


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