TAPPER: More, right, if you include NATO troops?
BIDEN: Oh, yeah. I'm just talking about Americans.
BIDEN: A hundred and forty thousand people there. And there's going to be a drawdown of forces as we transition. There are 34 districts in Afghanistan and the plan is, as we train up the Afghanis, we are going to, beginning in August, say, OK, now you've got this province, we no longer have to have American or NATO forces in that province. There will be a transition.
And really what I was responding to was the idea that the president had been outmaneuvered. I was saying make it clear. And so it -- it wasn't so much numbers I meant. It could be as few as a couple thousand troops. It could be more. But there will be a transition.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the present in Afghanistan. Marjah did not as well as hoped. Kandahar has been delayed.
How is you and the president, your new way forward in Afghanistan, where are we in that?
Are we -- are we losing?
Are we trading water?
Where are we?
BIDEN: It's too early to make a judgment. We don't even have all the troops of the so-called surge in place yet. That won't happen until August.
TAPPER: But it's not -- it doesn't seem like it's going...
TAPPER: -- according to plan.
BIDEN: No, it is -- well...
TAPPER: We're losing a lot of troops.
BIDEN: Well, unfortunately, everyone knew that in these summer months, when they can infiltrate from Pakistan under the cover of foliage and the rest and it's open, that there would be more deaths. That's been the pattern. And now we're engaging them more and there are more deaths.
But we still believe that the policy that the military signed onto, put together initially, signed onto, is, in fact, going to work. And let me define what I mean by work. We are making considerable progress against al Qaeda, which is our primary target. We're taking out significant numbers of the leadership in al Qaeda. And we are, in the process, which is painfully slow and difficult, of training up Afghani forces in order to put them in a position they can deal with their own insurgents. There is, for the first time now, a real attempt and a policy of trying to figure out how to reconcile those in the Taliban who are doing it for the pay, who are not the Mullah Omars of the world, into the government of Afghanistan.
All of this is just beginning. And we knew it was going to be a tough slog. But I think it's much too premature to make a judgment until the military said we should look at it, which is in December.
TAPPER: There was a recent incident involving the commanding general -- now the ex-commanding general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal. And I just wondered, since you were one of the people mentioned disparagingly by his aides. I know he called you to apologize.
BIDEN: He did.
TAPPER: I'm wondering, what was your reaction when you...