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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript


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MADDOW: The Pentagon just released its report that shows the results of
President Obama`s big surge of troops into Afghanistan after he took office. The report found that violence in Afghanistan after the surge is higher than it was before the surge. Enemy-initiated attacks are higher now than they were before the surge started -- the surge that was supposed to decimate the enemy.

One of the other main goals of the surge, which was supposed to train up Afghan forces, that goal has been roughly 1/23rd successful. I meant that in the sense of a fraction.

There are 23 Afghan army brigades. And of those, of those 23, one can operate independently without support of American or NATO forces -- one of 23.

And remember, the surge is done, and that`s the result. More violence and one out of 23 brigades.

And there are 66,000 Americans in Afghanistan right now. And American combat operations in Afghanistan are slated to continue there for another two years.

But the whole basis of the plan to keep Americans in combat operations there for another two years was this idea that the surge was going to reduce violence and make it so the Afghan army could fight on its own. Well, guess what didn`t happen? Either of those things. I don`t mean to be a bummer, but it`s true. At least the Pentagon says it`s true. And it seems important -- not just for the military, not just for politics, but for us as a country. It`s our war, right?

Even the traveling press corps with Secretary Panetta and even the people who get stories into their papers and on to the wire services about what`s going on in Afghanistan, even when we are talking about the war, which is rarely, what the press and the politicians who are talking about it seem mostly to be focused on is what happens after two years from now, what happens after the end of 2014. Are there going to be a thousand Americans who stay around in country after combat operations are over? Is it a thousand or 6,000 or 10,000?

We`re told that the president will make a decision soon, that he is reviewing options about the U.S. mission after 2014, about how many residual troops will stay after combat operations are over. But combat operations do not end for another two years.

And here is one other thing to consider about this. Here are the troop levels, the number of American soldiers deployed in Afghanistan over the years. The big hump there, you can see the Obama surge starting late in 2009 and ending just a few months ago.

Now, side by side next to it, over the same time period, these are the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in each of those years. See the pattern?

I mean, look at those numbers on the same chart. The more troops you send to the war in Afghanistan, the more American troops die in the war in Afghanistan.

Of the more than 2,000 American troops that have died in the war of Afghanistan, of the more than 2,000, more than 1,200 of those, more than
half, have died since the start of the surge in 2010, in just last few years of an 11-year long war.

And so, as the White House decides what happens in the last two years that they have slated for continued combat operations in Afghanistan, there is this very pressing question -- not for what happens after 2014, for what happens after now. I mean, how big are you going to let the number get? Yes. We need to talk about what`s going to happen after combat is over in 2014. But it`s 2012. There`s two years between now and then. What happens right now, what happens at the end of 2012? What happens in 2013? 2013 starts in two weeks.

Joining us now for the interview is Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine. She`s a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman Pingree, thank you so much for being here. It`s real pleasure to have you here.

REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D), MAINE: Thank you very much and thank you for bringing up this topic.

MADDOW: Let me ask -- in my summation, it`s hard for me to talk about troop deaths in terms of their statistical manifestation over time. It`s a difficult thing to put in those terms.

But that basic thesis, the more Americans we have in Afghanistan, the more Americans are dying there -- do you think at base level that has to be part of the calculation for how much time we spend there and how many Americans are there over the next two years?

PINGREE: Oh, absolutely. We have had a suspicion that the surge didn`t work and now, we have concrete proof that it didn`t, and in fact, it`s only made things worse. I mean, I personally have opposed the war since 2002. You have been talking about it for a very long time.

We have been encouraging the president and arguing that we should bring the troops home. Losing 2,000 lives, the billions of dollars that we`ve spent and not to have increasing progress says to me, we need to have an end. We can`t be talking about what to do after 2014. We have to talk about what to do before 2014 and bring our troops home.

MADDOW: You are in a position of some responsibility here and, also, you have good access to information here because of your position on the Armed Services Committee. When you think about the strategic goals of why we are there, I don`t think we are there for wanton reasons. They have articulated a strategic way out that they think would leave the country more stable, at least according to the strategy, than if we didn`t stay.

Do you think the failure of the surge on its own terms disproves the basic strategic reason for why we are staying? Do you think it says the longer we stay doesn`t necessarily make things more stable there?

PINGREE: I mean, I think it gives concrete proof to that. I think it is what many of us believed for a long time, that we are a bigger target in Afghanistan and frankly around the world. It is time to allow the country to proceed and it is time to discontinue the loss of lives and the spending of American taxpayer dollars at something that`s not becoming more effective, not working any better and, in fact, as you say, it`s getting worse.

And, you know, the American public is strongly behind this. I occasionally get the argument from my colleagues that say, we should set new conditions. There should be more and more reasons that we stay. But I don`t hear that at home from my constituents.

I hear from people -- you know, most people, it`s off their radar screen. They think it should have ended a long time ago. Now, they really want it to come to an end.

MADDOW: Do you think there is -- I guess asking your advice -- what should we watch for in Washington if we are hoping for some substantive debate on this? What needs happen in Washington in order for this to become a media enough political issue that it`s debated to enough extent that it might make a difference in when the troops do come home?

PINGREE: Boy, I feel like we`ve tried everything. We have just gone through an enormous election cycle. It hardly made it on to the radar screen.

You know, I hope that the president, now that he has won the election, starts to say, I need to be effective here. I have to do what`s right for our troops, for our country, really for the future of Afghanistan, and make the argument that it is time to come home. And that we can`t be talking about post 2014, we have to say, can we speed this up? I mean, there is good, concrete evidence that says, it`s not getting better. It`s getting worse.

And for all of the talk of the challenges that we have of reducing the deficit, of nation-building back here at home, rebuilding our infrastructure here, how can we justify spending taxpayer dollars there and particularly with the figures you showed us, the increasing loss of lives? We are a bigger and bigger target all the time. And we can`t keep saying to people or letting one more general say to us, oh, it`s going to get better. We`ve got this new idea. It`s right around the corner. It is not. It`s not and it hasn`t been going in that direction for
quite a while.

MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Chellie Pingree of Maine, member of the House Armed Services Committee -- thank you so much for being with us here to talk about it.

PINGREE: Thank you. Thank you.


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