STEPHANOPOULOS: That is pretty unequivocal. Yet I was reading the proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. They had an interview with Tom Ricks, the U.S. military historian, where he says he worries that the president is being wildly over-optimistic. He says we may be only halfway through the war. And he talks about a conversation he had with the commanding general in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, who told him he'd like to see 35,000 troops in Iraq in 2015. Is that what you expect, as well?
MULLEN: Well, certainly the direction from the president and the status of forces agreement that we have with Iraq right now is that we will have all troops out of there by the end of 2011. And that's what we're planning on right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But can Iraq be safe with all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2007 (sic)?
MULLEN: Well, we're on a good path now. And we'll have to see. I mean, the next 12 to 18 months are really critical there in that regard, and I think that answering that question will be much clearer given that timeframe.
The other thing is, we have -- this is a long-term relationship we want with Iraq, and Iraq has stated they want with the United States. And part of that is the possibility that forces could remain there longer. But that's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government to initiate discussions along those lines, and that hasn't happened yet.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government. It's up to the president, of course, as well. But from a military perspective, General Odierno says that he would like to see 35,000 troops in 2015. Is that what you all believe is necessary to secure Iraq from a military perspective?
MULLEN: There's no definitive number right now beyond the end of 2011.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's not zero?
MULLEN: Well, I mean, when I'm engaged in other countries around the world, I have very small footprints of military personnel in that engagement. You know, and I would hope long-term, that we would have a great military-to-military relationship with Iraq.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That could include U.S. troops there?
MULLEN: Well, I mean, we've got small numbers of troops throughout the world that conduct training activities, exercises, and those kinds of things. So long-term in Iraq, I would look to be able to do something like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're also increasing our troop presence, of course, in Afghanistan, and that's raised a lot of concern in the Congress recently. Some members of Congress -- leading members of Congress, like Dave Obey, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, saying he's willing to support funding now, but he's only going to give you a year to show progress.
Here's also what Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts said on the floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm not advocating for an immediate withdrawal of our military forces from Afghanistan. All I'm asking for is a plan. If there is no military solution for Afghanistan, then, please, just tell me how we will know when our military contribution to the political solution has concluded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a great question. How will we know when the military contribution has been successful?
MULLEN: Well, I think as we move more forces into Afghanistan this year -- literally, we're doing that as we speak -- that's absolutely necessary to provide to turn the security situation around.