Transcript: George Stephanopoulos Interviews President Obama

And that means having a stable Afghanistan that has a trained security force, that is not allowing the Taliban to take over huge sections of the country, and potentially allow another platform for al Qaeda to operate. And in that process, what we've seen is steady, demonstrable success over the last several months. Now, President Karzai, I think, is going to be a critical partner in this effort, because if we are just succeeding on the military side, but not succeeding on the civilian side, then you're going to continue to have instability in the region.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he a partner now?

OBAMA: Well, I think he has been a partner, but I think that he has his own domestic politics that he has to deal with. I think that -- what in my last meeting with him, what I said to him was, the -- the most important thing from the United States perspective, the thing we want most, is not to control Afghanistan or have a presence in Afghanistan. We want a prosperous, stable, secure Afghanistan that we can partner with to make sure this isn't a base for terrorist activity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that means he has to be there.

OBAMA: And -- and -- and that means that he has to adjust and make continual changes and improvements that give his government greater legitimacy. That make ordinary Afghans feel that it is in their interest to support this national government, that they're seeing better irrigation, that -- that their crops are getting to market, and they're getting a decent price. That there's rule of law, and they're not experiencing corruption. That -- that people -- you know, their government is -- is representative of those concer -- their concerns.

And I think the fact is, is that real progress has been made, but, you know, this is a country that went through 30 years of -- of war. It's one of the poorest countries in the world. Does not have a tradition of a strong centralized nationalized government. And so, part of President Karzai's challenge is he's got to bring his country along into a 21st century in which it is functioning and effective and --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But are you convinced he's committed to doing that?

OBAMA: I think he is committed to doing that; that doesn't mean that it's easy. And that doesn't mean that there aren't going to be times when he and I disagree in terms of how things should proceed, and how rapidly things should proceed. But, you know, generally speaking, what I've seen is each time I've had a conversation with him -- one that's respectful of Afghanistan's independence and sovereignty and traditions and culture, that I say to him, "Here are some things that are going to make us more effective in partnering with you -- to achieve a strong, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan."

Each time I've had those conversations, he's responded. And the key is to continue to have those frank and honest conversations in a way that allows that strategic partnership to develop, and grow so that we can succeed, again, primarily from our perspective, because it's national for our national security.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. I just have two quick questions. Number one, the governor of Virginia proclaims Confederate History Month in Virginia. What did you make out of that?

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