Transcript: Sec. Gates and Sen. McCain

If you're looking for something else -- I was struck by what Lyndon Johnson said. "I just don't know what else to do." And when you look at what else they can do, it's very limited. You've talked about drone strikes and intelligence. You've got Stanley McChrystal there, who is the best man in -- in counterinsurgency and intelligence and special operations. And if he doesn't think you can do it through drones and special forces on the ground, I don't know who to turn to.

WOODWARD: But, no, but -- see, he hasn't said that. He has taken the strategy they gave him, which is counterinsurgency, protect the population, get into the village, take care of the people, listen to them, and so forth.

What the White House is now saying is, we're going back and looking. Maybe that's the wrong strategy. As George says, maybe we have to change our minds.

RADDATZ: That President Obama laid out.

WOODWARD: Yes. But -- but -- but there is a middle ground here. And people think, oh, no, there's never a middle ground. And the middle ground has been presented by Vice President Biden, who says, have a strategy where you keep lots of troops there so Al Qaida can not come back into Afghanistan. We don't have to kind of remake the -- the government and take care of all of the people.

Our interests -- what are our interests here? To prevent another attack on the United States, to keep Al Qaida on its ass, as somebody was saying the other day, and I think that's, to a certain extent, where they are now, they -- they believe.

RADDATZ: But isn't that what we tried in Iraq?

WOODWARD: No. No. No.

RADDATZ: But you tried strikes. WOODWARD: Yes.

RADDATZ: You tried killing the enemy. You didn't get the support of the people, and that's what they're arguing...

WOODWARD: No, but, in fact, this is...

RADDATZ: ... here that you have to do.

WOODWARD: I spent years of my life on this. And, in fact, as Tom has pointed out, the...

RADDATZ: Me, too.

WOODWARD: Yes, that's right. But -- but -- but the -- the whole idea of the Sons of Iraq, reaching out to the people actually began with the Iraqis, not with the United States, and the top-secret operations that they conducted in Iraq, that General McChrystal, when he was head of the Joint Special Operations Command there, they killed thousands of the other guys.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They still face the question, though...

WOODWARD: And -- and the violence fell off (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... of -- of costs and benefits. Even if this strategy, of -- of -- of stepping up drone attacks is not perfect, what have we seen in the last week? We had threats -- Al Qaida threats from Springfield, Illinois, Dallas, Texas, and Queens. I think everyone now agrees that Al Qaida has been dismantled or largely disrupted in Afghanistan. So if the idea is just to keep them from coming back, maybe you don't need hundreds of thousands of troops.

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think that's part of the point, you know, that's being made, George, by some of the critics, which is that we're -- we're now in 2009. This isn't 2001. Have we moved not from -- why did we go into Afghanistan first? It was because Al Qaida had taken over a country.

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