Transcript: Sec. Gates and Sen. McCain

GATES: I think that most people who -- the people that I've talked to in the Pentagon who are the experts on counter-terrorism essentially say that counter-terrorism is only possible if you have the kind of intelligence that allows you to target the terrorists. And the only way you get that intelligence is by being on the ground -- getting information from people like the Afghans or, in the case of Iraq, the Iraqis.

And so you can't do this from -- from a distance or remotely, in the view of virtually all of the experts that I've talked to.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if that -- if that's not going to work, then -- and then you have General McChrystal, who said in his report that you need a full blown counter-insurgency campaign, counter-insurgency is the answer. That certainly seems to be endorsed by General Petraeus.

Is there a middle ground between those two poles?

GATES: Well, I think -- I think people are -- are, frankly, so focused on -- on the comment that -- in General McChrystal's report about additional resources that they're neglecting to look at the rest of what's in his report. And that -- and where he talks very explicitly about the fact that -- that a preoccupation with the resources or with additional forces, if you don't have the strategy right, is a mistake.

And -- and he, as I say, he understands this process that's underway.

But -- but what he talks about in most of that assessment is not resources, but a different way of using U.S. forces and coalition forces in Afghanistan. It talks about accelerating the growth of the Afghan national security forces. It spends a lot of time talking about how we stay on side with the Afghan people.

This is mostly what McChrystal's assessment is about.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's a resource-intensive strategy, isn't it?

He says that the troops have to probably be more lightly armed and engage more with the population. And it's hard to ignore that stark conclusion. Success is not ensured by additional forces alone, as you point out, but continued under resourcing will likely cause failure -- failure.

GATES: Well, that's what we're discussing and how do we avoid that?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, as you said, you hope to have this done in a few weeks and you want to avoid failure, as well. But the president has not made any -- any decision at all on resources?

Has he -- has he ruled it out?

GATES: No, I haven't even given him General McChrystal's request for resources. I have the -- I -- I'm receiving the -- the report. I'm going to sit on it until I think -- or the president thinks -- it's appropriate to bring that into the discussion of the national security principles.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what -- General McChrystal says we have to have more troops to avoid failure. Where we've had a lack of clarity on what success means in Afghanistan, you pointed out at the beginning of this year what it was. And he said we're not - we shouldn't expect a Valhalla in Afghanistan.

The president's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, was asked for his definition of success last month and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMB. RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL ENVOY, PAKISTAN & AFGHANISTAN: I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the simplest sense, the Supreme Court test for another issue, we'll know it when we see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that good enough?

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