NOONAN: Oh, he did, but -- but the -- look, I think the key number here is nine. It's not 30,000 troops. It's not July 2011. It's nine. That's the number of years we have been in Afghanistan. That is enough time for the American people to essentially decide how they're viewing it.
I think they will probably give more time to the president after his decision, but I also think it is up to the people to decide -- and we'll see how they're deciding month by month in the polls -- how they feel about this war. No president certainly nine years in can execute and lead a war if the people are not with him. He's not only in trouble with his base; I think he -- he has an uphill climb convincing...
NOONAN: ... people after nine years this is still good, it's viable, we've got a new plan here, it can work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So at best, he's bought himself a little bit of time. The clock is ticking to, at best, again, 2011. But we have no clarity -- and talking about Secretary Gates and Clinton -- about what happens in July 2011.
WILL: Not much, because the situation -- the president did -- with a little bit of rhetoric -- leave wiggle room, and he will wiggle. That is, the conditions on the ground are not going to be dramatically different then than they are now. Therefore, his hope of beginning withdrawal 12, 13 months, 14 months before the next presidential election is probably going to go a-glimmering (ph).
HAASS: That's exactly right. And the answer is, none of us knows how this is going to work out. My -- my hunch is that, after 18 months, it's not going to be a transformed situation.
But I keep coming back (inaudible) George. The president really has to answer not simply the question of "Will it work?" but "Is it worth it?" And I simply don't think they've made the case either that Afghanistan is central to the global effort against terrorism, when honestly it's not. This is not 1991 or this is not, rather, 2001, right after 9/11. Afghanistan is not the home or the sanctuary for -- for Al Qaida, nor is Afghanistan central to Pakistan, which is what really matters. It's...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because that's the key point, though, I mean, because as you -- you saw a fundamental difference there between Secretary Gates on the one hand and Senator Feingold on the other. Does putting more troops in Afghanistan make the situation more secure in Pakistan or less?
HAASS: It makes it worse in the sense that you're pushing a lot of bad guys across the border. The biggest question is, regardless of whatever we do in Afghanistan, will the Pakistani government show the mettle and show the seriousness about cracking down on what has essentially become an internal threat to their own long-term survival? Up to now, they've not, and the answer is obviously...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... let me put the counter (inaudible) and let me put it, the question, to you this way. If they see us leave Afghanistan, wouldn't the Pakistanis say, "We're next. They're going to abandon us again"?
VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I think it's much more complicated, and our occupation of Afghanistan is going to deepen divisions in Pakistan and destabilize an already fragile civilian government.