'This Week' Transcript: John McCain and Robert Gibbs

I think it's very important that we have a strategic agreement with Afghanistan for a long-term U.S. presence here. I think that's the best way to bring about a peaceful solution, is to make sure that we are here to stay, to support the Afghan government and people, and we will supply that assistance for as long as is necessary.

TAPPER: The reason I ask, sir, is Mitt Romney says there should be absolutely no negotiation with the Taliban, whereas I've heard you say in the past, you make peace with your enemies, and that's who you need to negotiate with. So on this issue, not the withdrawal date -- I understand you guys are in congress on that -- but on this issue of whether or not there should be any negotiating with the Taliban you and Mitt Romney disagree.

MCCAIN: Well, I haven't had a conversation with him about it, but I'm sure that Mitt Romney would like to have peaceful solution. But he has a realistic approach. When the president of the United States keeps withdrawing -- announcing withdrawal dates than as one of the Taliban once said to his captor, an American, said, "You've got the watches, we've got the time."

So by the president declaring withdrawal dates before our military commanders recommend it, and increasing the risk, in their view, lessens the chances for success of any negotiations.

TAPPER: Let's go to neighboring Iran. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this weekend said in an interview that an Israeli military strike on Iran would be, quote, "destabilizing and would not achieve their long-term objectives. I wouldn't suggest sitting here today that we've persuaded the Israelis that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion. We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor. And we also know or we believe we know that the Iranian regime has not decided to make a nuclear weapon."

Do you agree with what the Obama administration and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are telling the Israelis?

MCCAIN: I think the Israelis face an existential threat when Iran has a nuclear weapon. I agree with the president of the United States, who said such a eventuality of Iranians having undercover weapons is, quote, "unacceptable."

I think the Israelis are pretty good at assessing the threats to their vital national security interests. They are surrounded by countries, some of whom are dedicated to their extinction, and there's no doubt about the Iranian intention concerning the existence of the state of Israel.

So I hoping that working together with the Israelis that sanctions would work, and they have not changed -- deterred the Iranians so far -- that we can bring about a peaceful resolution. But there may come a time where they reach an unacceptable place, which the president of the United States has stated would be an unacceptable situation.

TAPPER: You're heading to Egypt, where the government has many American citizens who are active in democracy work, is not letting them leave the country. You're chairman of one of these groups, the International Republican Institute. If the Egyptian government refuses to release these Americans, should the United States threaten to cut off aid to Egypt?

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