Transcript: Sec. Gates and Sen. McCain

Photo: Defense Secy Robert Gates on "This Week"


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: And we begin with the secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.

Welcome back to "This Week".

National security was front and center all week long. Let's begin with Afghanistan. We saw the leak of General McChrystal's review. And he concluded that the United States has about 12 months to reverse Taliban momentum and that without new troops, the strategy laid out by the president is likely to fail.

And I want to show what the president said back in March when he laid out that strategy. He called it "new and comprehensive."


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This marks the conclusion of a careful policy review. My administration has heard from our military commanders, as well as our diplomats. We've consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments with our partners and our NATO allies and with other donors and international organizations. We've also worked closely with members of Congress here at home.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, this was clearly a carefully considered strategy. And now the president is telling us -- he told me last week that he can't approve General McChrystal's request until we get the strategy right.

Why the second thoughts on the strategy?

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't think there are second thoughts so much as when he made his decisions at the end of March, he also announced that he would -- we would be reviewing the policy and the strategy after the elections...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he said the tool was in the tactics, not the strategy.

GATES: Well, I -- I think that he -- he clearly felt that we would have to reassess where we are after the election. Now, in addition to having a flawed election in Afghanistan, we now have General McChrystal's assessment. When the president made his comments at -- at the end of March, his decisions, obviously, General McChrystal was not in place. We now have his assessment. He has found the situation on the ground in Afghanistan worse than he had -- then he anticipated.

And so I think what the president is now saying is in light of the election, in light of McChrystal's more concerning assessment of the situation on the ground, have we got the strategy right, were the decisions in -- that he made at the end of March, the right ones?

Do we need to make some adjustments in light of what we've found?

And once we've decided whether or not to make adjustments in the strategy, then we will consider the additional resources.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But did -- but didn't General McChrystal take these problems of the election into account?

He didn't even deliver his report until August 30th, which was after the elections. Dennis Blair, the head of National Intelligence, said back in February or March that we could foresee that there would be problems with this election.

GATES: Well, I think -- I think that the potential magnitude of the problems in the election really didn't become apparent until the vote count began in early September. So -- so I think it was really after he submitted his -- his assessment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So now we have a real dilemma.

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