Transcript: President Barack Obama

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's also -- before we go -- talk about something else the president brought up there. And, George, I heard a little bit of news as I was talking to the president about Afghanistan, saying for the first time, I believe, he is skeptical of the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan. This comes in a week where his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was before the Congress saying more troops are probably going to be necessary.

WILL: Three words that should get all our attention. Skeptical is one of them. The other was secure. He said, I sent 21,000 troops to Afghanistan to secure the elections. That's a very minor thing. The elections are over, or maybe they're not...


WILL: ... because of the Afghan winter, the run-off, if there is one, because of the corruption that we failed to secure the elections against, we may have six months effectively without leadership in Kabul.

Third, he said to you his aim is to narrow the mission. What General McChrystal is trying to do is broaden it, at least in turns of the manpower-intensive nature of it, to protect the population, not narrowed, not secured.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That -- that is the dilemma. The president has a narrow goal of stopping Al Qaida, but a very broad mission, this counterinsurgency mission that McChrystal has come up with. He actually fired his previous commander in order to get McChrystal in there. So doesn't that mean he almost has to approve what McChrystal comes back with?

GILLESPIE: I think it does, George. And I think Republicans will support him in that. And, I'll tell you, I think this is definitional for President Obama. The fact is, he campaigned and said that Afghanistan is a strategic imperative for the United States. It is critical to our national security that we be successful there. If he reverses that and backs away from it and is pulled by his left in Congress, I think that would be a huge...


GILLESPIE: ... mistake.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... the timeline and just, you know, tries to buy some time and just doesn't immediately add more troops?

GILLESPIE: I think, if you listen to the commanders in the field, that's not going to result in doing what needs to be done to be successful there. And I think that would be an even worse mistake. Then you're...


GILLESPIE: Then you're out there in the middle of the road. It's the wrong place to be on this.

REICH: This is a classic example of mission creep, and we've seen this again and again. The president knows this. He mentioned that to you. He said mission creep. He used those words.

The problem is that, if he follows the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said this week, look, I want a major increase, a huge increase, more than McChrystal is talking about, we could get bogged down in Afghanistan forever.

The goal here, remember, is Al Qaida. Al Qaida is moving into Pakistan. Al Qaida can easily move its entire operations out of the -- of Afghanistan. What do we need to be in Afghanistan for?

STEPHANOPOULOS: He -- the president said you simply can't take out Al Qaida with drones alone, as George Will has recommended.

BRAZILE: And Senator Levin has made it clear that sending more troops without a very defined mission of perhaps training the Afghan army -- I mean, security forces and police is a non-starter. It's going to be a very tough sell on Capitol Hill.

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