'This Week' Transcript: Adm. Mike Mullen

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So I'm certainly concerned about how -- and in particular, how we look and also this -- this emerging relationship with Russia and what it would mean to not do that. And they've clearly sent signals already with respect to that which haven't been positive.

AMANPOUR: What signals?

MULLEN: Just -- they've spoken to the need to get this done, the importance of it, and whether or not it would be tied to this relationship, given all that we've done in the course of the last couple of years.

AMANPOUR: Let's move on to Afghanistan, an area where you said that they have been cooperating. They've just said that they're going to offer more roots through their -- through their territory for material for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

In NATO, summit in Lisbon, talking now about a 2014 deadline for transferring combat responsibilities to the Afghan forces. I've also heard -- is that an absolute date?

MULLEN: Yes, it is.

AMANPOUR: Absolute?

MULLEN: Yes, it is. It's one everybody signed up to.

AMANPOUR: All combat operations will be handed over to Afghans at the end of 2014?

MULLEN: I would describe it much like what we just went through in Iraq, where clearly they have the lead for their own security. We are then in some capacity, in a training, advising, and assist mode, which we would expect to be for some time, but in terms of combat operations, they would have the lead.

AMANPOUR: So you see post-2014 just like we see in Iraq today?

MULLEN: As best we can tell, absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Any more?

MULLEN: Any more...

AMANPOUR: ... troops, operations. I mean, I ask you, because right now, how many areas have even been transferred to Afghan control?

MULLEN: Well, one of the things that happened -- one of the things that happened in Lisbon was the commitment to start to -- that transfer in the spring, and that will be based on conditions on the ground and a recommendation from General Petraeus, literally district by district. So it's a significant commitment to start that this spring.

Again, it really is a situation where -- where the Afghans then lead, specifically in terms of their own security, and we think that's absolutely critical, and that they'll be capable of starting to be able to do that this spring.

AMANPOUR: Well, your own officers say, in fact, even in the least combative areas of Afghanistan, that it could take something like 18 months to 24 months to complete a transfer to Afghan lead, in terms of security. Can they really, do you believe, take over security within four years?

MULLEN: I do believe, as best we understand things right now, that that's very much a reachable goal. There's a lot to do between now and then, clearly. Very dangerous place, very tough fight we're in right now. We certainly understand that.

But that's a goal actually that President Karzai set out there and that all NATO allies -- actually, all countries who are providing forces -- because there are some 20 other countries doing that -- have signed up to, and we think it's reachable.

AMANPOUR: In order to do that, it looks like the situation on the ground is shifting. In other words, that there is a huge spike in raids, whether it be drones on the Pakistan area, whether it be trying to kill as many Taliban as possible on the ground in Afghanistan. Is that what's happening now?

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