Panel: Foreign Policy Challenges

Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Bob Corker, Richard Haass and Martha Raddatz on "This Week."
3:00 | 01/13/13

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Transcript for Panel: Foreign Policy Challenges
Good morning, and welcome to "this week." America and the world. Debating a new chief for the pentagon. Chuckagel is the leader that our troops deserve. This is an in-your-face nomination. Ending the war in afghanistan. Our troops will have a different mission. And starting one with iran. That conversation with senators jack reed for the democrats and republican bob corker, plus abc's chief global affairs correspondent martha raddatz and the president of the council on foreign relations, richard haass. Then with the white house set to act on guns -- there's got to be some common ground here. -- We join the search for solutions with the new leaders of no labels. Plus, the short strange life of that trillion dollar coin. We should have known a coin was the solution to obama's everything. It was right there in his an, "change." That and all the week's politics on our powerhouse roundtable with paul krugman, "the wall street journal's" peg noone, america's last comptroller david walker, judy woodruff from pbs and al hunt. Hello again. Lots to get to this morning including the treasury department's decision late yesterday to bury the idea that a trillion dollar platinum coin could solve the debt limit stalemate. Advocate paul krugman and our roundtable ready to weigh in on that but first the national security debate with our panel of experts and policymakers including bob corker, democratic senator jack reed, who just returned from his 14th trip to afghanistan, council on foreign relations president richard haass, author of the forthcoming book "foreign policy begins at home" and martha raddatz. Martha, let me begin with you. We saw that announcement from the president on friday speeding up the withdrawal of american troops out of afghanistan. That's a little faster than the military wanted, but he was silent on how many troops would be left behind. What's behind the decision, and where do you expect it will end up? Well, I think all through the election season, all they ever talk about was leaving afghanistan, but this is real. This was a very big deal this week and a very big change. U.S. Troops will be in an advise and train -- that's all they'll be doing come spring. Pulling back from the front lines. Pulling back from the front lines. They will be with afghan forces. The president has not announced how fast they'll draw down but i suspect by the end of this year we could be down to 30,000 troops. We're 66,000 troops now, possibly down to 30,000 and when we really draw down in 2014, when we are no longer doing combat missions, I think you'll see anywhere from only 6,000 to 9,000 and the important thing to remember about that, george, is two details. Tail means the enablers, the support, we would really have if we had 3,000 troops there, we would really have only 800 trigger pullers. You'll see a lot of counterterrorism action, all of those things joe biden talked about a long time ago. I think that's all we'll have there in the future. Senator corker, are you comfortable with that? Well, I think the decision about the number of troops we have on the ground after 2014 is something that ought to be weighed as we move along. I realize we're going to be moving down to about 30,000 troops. I'm relatively comfortable with that, but I think as far as what we -- the contingent we have after 2014, I would wait and i don't know of any reason why we would make that decision today. It seems that we'd want to see what the state of afghanistan is. We'd want to see what's happening in the electoral process. All of those things are obviously big factors. My sense is there's no reason to decide whether 6,000, 9,000, 15,000 troops until we get to that point. But, senator reed, how about by the spring. To simply training and support by the spring? Last month's pentagon report said 1 of 23 afghan battalions is capable of operating on its own. I was down in the patyka province, and essentially 87% of the operations in the eastern part are initiated and conducted by afghan forces, so we are already seeing a transition and by next spring the afghani forces will be in the lead. That's what our military has been doing and preparing for the last several months, so I think we're making great progress. There are issues ahead in terms of the election, but ultimately this has to be an afghan-led effort. President karzai recognizes that. I think the military leaders i met, both american and afghan commanders, recognize it also, and there's something about a deadline to sort of coalesce and spear action and actions t place dramatically in afghanistan today. Richard haass, the president addressed our overall success in afghanistan on friday and said it was less than ideal and went on to say this -- have we been able, I think, to shape a strong relationship with a responsible afghan government that is willing to cooperate with us to make sure that it is not a launching pad for future attacks against the united states. We have achieved that goal. We are in the process of achieving that goal. He said we're in the process of achieving that goal. Is he right about that and is it sustainable after 2014? The short answer is no. What we started in afghanistan after 9/11 was a warranted war of necessity. We expanded it over the years, particularly under president obama in 2009 when we tripled our forces and we decided to go after the taliban, essentially join afghanistan's civil war and nation build. The idea that we're going to be able to leave behind a self-sustaining capable afghanistan able to for a government to keep control of its territory, we're not going to be able to do it. It was a mistake to try. We won't achieve that result. Essentially what we' to is what we could have years ago, a limited mission with trainers and advisers on the ground and when we have to, we'll send in special forces or drones to deal with if there are, for example, remnants of al qaeda who move back into the country. The president that wants to run the pentagon, chuck hagel, former senator. Here was the president announcing that pick earlier this week. I came to admire his courage and his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind even if it wasn't popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom, and that's exactly the spirit I want on my national security team. Senator corker, you had some positive things to say about senator hagel when his name was first floated. You said he had good relations on the senate foreign relations committee. Do you see anything that should disqualify him from the pentagon post? Well, I think like a lot of people, the hearings are going to have a huge effect on me. I know I talked to chuck this week. He's coming in to see me next week. But I think the hearings, this is going to be a real hearing process unlike many of the people who end up being confirmed or not confirmed. You know, I have a lot of questions about just this whole nuclear posture abuse. Those are things that haven't been discussed yet. Obviously people have concerned about his stance towards iran and israel. But I think another thing, george, that's going to come up is just his overall temperament, and is he suited to run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the pentagon and so look -- do you have questions about his temperament? I -- what's that? Do you have questions about his temperament? I think -- I think there are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them. I have certainly questions about a lot of things. I begin all of these confirmation processes with an open mind. I did have a good relationship with him. I had a good conversation with him this week, but I think this is one where people are going to be listening to what he has to say, me in particular, about the things I just mentioned, but especially some of the positions he's taken, generally speaking, about our nuclear posture. I think you know that I affirmed the new s.T.A.R.T. Treaty. A lot of modernization was supposed to take place on our nuclear arsenal. That's not happening at the pace it should. The pentagon is going to have a big effect on that, and for me, that is going to be a very big issue. Senator reed, I have not heard those questions about senator hagel's temperament before. I wonder if you have heard anything like that. Do you have any concerns like that? I did note that chuck schumer said he's not yet convinced that senator hagel will be confirmed. Do you agree with that? Well, I believe confirmed, I think bob is right. This confirmation process will be a thorough evaluation of chuck's positions and chuck's very capable explaining those positions. I think he brings some unique quality to this job. He is someone who is involved in issues of national security as a united states senator. He's someone who has been involved as a leader of the atlantic council. But I think one thing that's terribly compelling, and it goes to his credibility with the forces, he's been a combat soldier. He's fought. He has literally walked in their boots. That I think will inspire great confidence in the military, also enlisted men that he deals with and women. So I think this situation where he's going to have to answer questions, he's prepared to do it, and I think he'll come out of this with strong support. Martha, the president emphasized that senator hagel will also be the first enlisted soldier at the head of the pentagon. You talk to the military every day, have been embedded with the troops. How much of a difference do you think that will make that he served as an enlisted soldiers? I was in touch with a lot of soldiers last night via facebook and via e-mail, and they said it's great he has combat service but that's not what we're looking atd this is a military that has so much combat experience and really far more than chuck hagel, so I think they appreciate it, but it doesn't make an enormous difference. The one thing I think is really important here is the next two years, we are going to be bringing a lot of veterans home. That matters. Chuck hagel understands that. He understands what it's like to be wounded, and he would probably pay very close attention to that. Richard haass, the questions are coming at senator hagel from so many different directions, questions about his views on gay rights and israel and heard senator corker about questions from his staff on his temperament. You served in the administration, head of the foreign relations committee. What should be relevant? His ability to run the pentagon and views on position and I think there is a space and should be for the hearings and more broadly to ask chuck hagel what is he prepared to do about iran, what does he think the right mix of sanctions or possible use of military force? What should we be doing about cutting the pentagon budget or senator corker said about nuclear issues? All totally legitimate. Where I think people are going over the line is how many attacks -- questioning whether he's an anti-semite. I've known him for 20 years. For what it's worth, doesn't have a place in the public space. We often ask why aren't public debates better? Why aren't sometimes the best people going into public life? This is one of the reasons. I think there is a legitimate place here and the senate offers it for questioning senator hagel or senator kerry or anyone else about their policies. I really don't think there's a legitimate place in american political life on attacks. These are loaded words being cast about and simply beyond the pale. His views on iran and did address that in an interview with his home paper. I want to show what he said about that. He was responding to the question he opposed unilateral sanctions and said "i have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone, they don't work and they just isolate the united states. United nations sanctions are workling. When we just decree something, that doesn't work." Senator corker, let me bring that question to you because i was stuck by an article in foreign affairs" magazine. Robert jarvis pointed out the u.S. Pointed out with sanctions in places like panama and serbia and afghanistan and iraq, indeed, did not succeed. So does senator hagel have a point there? Well, there's no question that multilateral sanctions are far more effective when we began the process with iran. One of the amendments that i actually put into that process was to ensure that the sanctions we put in place were much -- multilateral, and what we didn't do was really hurt those people who are friends, the very companies and countries that are our allies, so there's no question that when we put sanctions in place, we need to do everything we can to make sure that they are multilateral. One of the reasons that I want to spend time with chuck hagel is I think as richard haass pointed out, there's been a lot of one-liners, if you will, that have been looked at, and I want to dig in and find out whether that really is chuck hagel's view of the world or whether we're taking these things out of context, but certainly I have concerns as we move forward. They're not disqualifying concerns, and, again, I think the meetings that I have with him, the hearings that will take place are going to be very, very important in his case. Senator reed, are you confident we can avoid an armed conflict with iran this year over their nuclear program, and what's it going to take to prevent that? It's going to take increased pressure, economically, and that's why the issue of multilateral sanctions is so critical. Up until we basically listed to president obama, the entire world or significant parts of it in putting pressure on the iranians, they were not at all responsive, we have to continue that pressure. We also have to begin to look very closely at what developing inside iran. They have elections scheduled for june. That is going to perhaps shape the direction -- we hope it will shape it in a positive way that they will back down from their aspirations for nuclear technology and nuclear weapons. But the first issue is keep the pressure on. As the president has said and as chuck hagel will say, we need every option on the table. We have to assess all those options. And one of the things interesting about this issue of temperament there, I know there's a close relationship between the president and chuck hagel. I've traveled with them. I understand it, but I also understand that chuck has the wherewithal and the ability to speak truth to power. He's demonstrated that throughout his entire career. That is a value that is extraordinarily important to the president, and I think he recognizes that, and that willing one of his virtues as secretary of defense. Senator reed emphasizes pressure but one of the points that robert jarvis makes is get more creative on the carrot you'll offer to iran so there might be some way to have a resolution without a conflict. And that's teed up right now. I think these economic sanctions are having far more impact than any of us imagined, and there's a really interesting debate going on in iran, george, one we haven't seen before. The supreme leader is allowing a debate to take place about the nuclear policy and about the economy. This suggests to me the administration can and will go forward with the big negotiation, with the big proposal, and the real question is, can we come up with an approach that's enough for the iranians, and not too much for the united states and the israelis? Can we, if you will, park the iranian program out of place that sufficiently far from nuclear weapons status that we can live with it. I don't know, but we want to find out. Is either of the alternatives going to war against iran or living within iran that has nuclear weapons are extraordinary unattractive and costly alternatives, so we want to do everything we can to see whether we can come up with a solution through negotiations. Martha, we're just about out of time, but as we're talking about iran's nuclear program, we're learning that north korea may be planning another nuclear attack. Yep, there are a lot of signs. I spoke to a u.S. Official there, a lot of signs that north korea is planning another test. There are trucks in the area but one of the things is they're doing this very conspicuously. Our satellites can see it. They are aware of when our satellites are around, so baffled by this and think it must be just some sort of negotiating tactic of some sort. One more, okay, martha, gentlemen, thank you for your time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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