'This Week' Transcript: Leahy and Sessions

TAPPER: Let me switch to another actual civil war or potentially in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai came to the White House this week, and it was after a very rough month that had existed between President Obama and Karzai, but they put on a good face. Here's a little clip from that visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With respect to perceived tensions between the U.S. government and the Afghan government, let me begin by saying, a lot of them were simply overstated.

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: It's not an imaginary relationship. It's a real relationship. There are days that we are happy, there are days that we are not happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Helene, we're going to probably have some days that we're not happy ahead of us, right, with what's going on in Kandahar, with what's still not necessarily completed in Marjah. Were the tensions overstated?

COOPER: Of course not. A lot of these tensions were generated by the administration itself. And don't forget, you know, for some reason, it didn't seem to come up in the past week while Karzai was in town. This is a man who threatened to join the Taliban a month ago when he said that he was under too much pressure from the West. These perceived tensions that President Obama talked about were coming from his -- well, his own administration, his ambassador to Afghanistan, General Karl Eikenberry, with the famous diplomatic cable saying that President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner.

So these tensions are definitely real. The White House now is trying to -- because Karzai has responded so poorly to the efforts of pressuring him, are switching now to a more be-nice strategy.

But the underlying -- the fundamental tension remains, which is that even after the U.S. military went into Marjah, which is a pretty sleepy hamlet, to clear out the Taliban, there was no Afghanistan government there to roll out. They talk about this government in a box, and this one administration official was joking with me and saying they opened the box and there was only one guy standing there. There's not really an Afghan government in this point and place.

And so you can't even secure, you know, clear, build and hold Marjah, which is a much smaller place, and now we're talking about going to Kandahar, which is the cultural heartland of the Taliban. It's so much more complicated. You know, you can see some real problems ahead.

TAPPER: We only have a couple of minutes left. But Ed, you've actually been in meetings with Karzai and President Bush. What is Karzai like?

GILLESPIE: He is a very cagey and shrewd person. And look, there's always tensions. We're a country with troops in his country. There are casualties, civilian casualties that occur from time to time. There's going to be tension. And, you know, but in the Bush administration, we kept those in the private channel, or at least below the radar. And you know, this administration, I think, got out there way too far too fast, and they had to scurry back. Because as they look around, you know, as you said, there is not a lot else there in Afghanistan other than Karzai to be helpful.

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