Transcript: Sec. Gates and Sen. McCain

We have today another threat called the virtual Afghanistan. The virtual Afghanistan is this World Wide Web-like network that motivates recruits and energizes these young men, as you saw in Dallas. My favorite line from that story in Dallas of the Jordanian that they captured, right after he was about to...

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: ... he was about to push the plunger was, they asked him if he wanted earplugs. And he said, "No, no, I want to hear it," OK? So there's -- there's -- there's a lot of threats out there.

But we have Afghanistan. That's not to say we don't have to deal with that. We now have the virtual Afghanistan, which is why I think Obama is doing the right thing, taking out a blank piece of paper and saying, "Where are we today?" And let's try to figure out what is the threat, what is the -- what is the strategy.

RADDATZ: But don't we think we need to know what the number of troops? This is the thing that has baffled me. I do not understand why he doesn't want to hear what the troop numbers are. I mean, it's sort of like ordering a meal and not asking...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but it's a fiction. Senator McCain said that. It's 40,000.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODWARD: It's the right order.

RADDATZ: Yes. But why...

WOODWARD: If -- if you're going to build a house, you want to have a plan before you call in the carpenters, and that's exactly -- or how many carpenters you need.

RADDATZ: But they have -- I want to know how much it's going to cost, too, when I have that plan.

WOODWARD: Well, that's another issue, sure.

RADDATZ: And that's the cost -- it's not another issue. It's everything.

WOODWARD: That's something...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: You want to know if you want a partner. You want to know if you can resource those troops. Because if you have a plan and you don't know the troops -- and I think this is what's frustrated the people at the Pentagon. Why can't we talk about the troop numbers? And, clearly, we know a lot of the reasons we're not talking about them.

WILL: Well, we're going to talk about them, because Mr. McChrystal, General McChrystal, is going to have to go up to that building behind us and talk about it. Ike Skelton, chairman of the -- Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wants him to testify.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Calls him the right man with the right plan.

WILL: All the Republicans on the House Armed -- on the Senate Armed Services Committee want him to testify. He will testify.

But, Martha, it's perfectly possible that the light footprint, do it off-shore, counterterrorism-type strategy won't work militarily. It's also, I think, very likely that the heavy footprint, 40,000, protracted counterinsurgency politically will fail in this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know...

WOODWARD: But it's not -- we're mis-defining things, where we're saying counterterrorism is off-shore. We have 68,000 troops or soon will in Afghanistan. That's not off-shore. They're there.

And what the military is afraid of -- and in these debates, they're saying, "If we don't get what we want and we seem to step back, that means we're heading out, and that's the exit." And the argument -- and I think one of the decisions here -- is going to be very clear. This is not an exit strategy. This is a change.

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