Sunday, October 11, 2009

'Meet The Press' Transcript, Video (10-11-09): Sen.Graham, Levin

Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:
GREGORY: But doesn't it flow--war of necessity, massive counterinsurgency strategy announced in March, handpicked guy goes in there, an expert on counterinsurgency, says, "I need at least 40,000 more troops," doesn't it flow that the answer would be yes?

SEN. LEVIN: The flow is that you want to succeed, and what--how do you maximize the chances of success? That is the question, and that's what the president is struggling with. We don't know what all those recommendations are, by the way, of General McChrystal. But General McChrystal said a number of things, not that he just needs more resources, whatever that number is. He also says we need a new strategy and that that is even more important than the resources. Those are McChrystal's own words. He also says deliberate, take the right amount of time to think this thing through. And he also says that what is even more important than numbers is the resolve. And I had a personal conversation with McChrystal, and what he says is that you want to find ways of showing resolve to the people of Afghanistan. There are many ways to show resolve in addition to more and more combat forces, including many more trainers to get the Afghan forces to be a lot larger and a lot stronger.

GREGORY: Right. You say no, don't send more troops?

SEN. LEVIN: I'm saying at this time don't send more combat troops, but I say focus on the Afghan forces, the army; faster, larger, better equipped. Why are we shipping--why don't we have a great plan to ship equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan? We ought to do that to strengthen the Afghan army. So there's a lot of ways to show resolve other than more and more combat forces.

GREGORY: Senator Graham, where are you?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think I'm with General McChrystal. He says that the force structure we have today--68,000 American troops plus our NATO partners plus the Afghan army--are not sufficient to turn around the momentum that the Taliban have gained. I am all for more trainers. The president says we're not going to withdraw. He's rejected the counterterrorism strategy. The only difference this morning is whether or not you put combat troops in to enable the trainers. The Afghan national police are getting slaughtered. It's hard to train people, send them off to fight when they get killed at their first duty station. So without better security, the training element will fail. That's exactly what happened in Afghanistan. So we need more combat power. General McChrystal says 40,000, in that neighborhood; I would go with the general.

GREGORY: There, there's a larger question of what the nature of the fight is right now, and I'll turn to the two generals here. This is how The New York Times reported it on Thursday in terms of the debate that's taking shape within the White House: "President Obama's national security team is moving to reframe its war strategy by emphasizing the campaign against al-Qaeda in Pakistan while arguing that the Taliban in Afghanistan do not pose a direct threat to the United States." In fact, General Myers, the current national security adviser, General Jones, says there's fewer than 100 al-Qaeda fighters actually currently operating in Afghanistan. What is the central front here in this war?

GEN. RICHARD MYERS (Ret.): I think the central front is against violent extremism, which plays out in both Afghanistan and, as we saw just recently in the last several months, in Pakistan as well. So I don't know how you differentiate between violent extremists that have an extreme view of their religion and are willing to take--go to any means to achieve their political goals. And, and we--we're seeing it play out in Afghanistan, we're seeing the Taliban in Pakistan. So it's, it's more than Afghanistan, it's Pakistan as well, it's the region. Uzbekistan has terrorists that have found safe haven in Afghanistan before. And then it's--I think that, that's spills over into the, the rest of the world, matter of fact.

GREGORY: But where should the fight be, General McCaffrey? I mean, in--within the White House there seems to be a very strong view that the focus on Afghanistan and counterinsurgency against the Taliban might be misguided. We went to war after 9/11 to take out al-Qaeda, and they don't appear to be there in big numbers in Afghanistan.

GEN. BARRY McCAFFREY (Ret.): Well, you know, I actually think Senator Levin sent the--set the argument up correctly. The last thing we ought to debate is whether the answer is 40,000 or 10,000 troops. The real question is you've got this giant nation, 32 million people, it's 500 miles from the sea, which complicates matters. Our logistics lines go through Pakistan. The question is do we have resolve to build a viable state in Afghanistan? And that's a function not just of troop strength. Now, having said all that, there's 25,000 Taliban on the ground now is the unclassified number we're talking about. The country's then quadrupled in terms of direct enemy threat, we're about on the verge of losing small U.S. combat forces. I don't see how the president can't back up his ground commander in the short run.

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