'This Week' Transcript: McCain

The ideal team, of course, was Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus in Iraq. Let's hope we can establish that same kind of relationship here in Afghanistan.

TAPPER: Almost a year ago, in August 2009, you were on this program and you and George Stephanopoulos had this exchange about the progress you said you were confident we would see in Afghanistan within 12 to 18 months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say 12 to 18 months. What do we need to see in 12 to 18 months to make sure the public and the Congress stay behind this war?

MCCAIN: I think you need to see a reversal of these very alarming and disturbing trends on attacks, casualties, areas of the country that the Taliban has increased control of. In other words, you need to see all of those things reversed and on a significant downward slope, and I think we can do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Senator, do you think that we're going to see a reversal of those trends in the next seven months?

MCCAIN: Well, I hope so. And as I said then, that it -- it needs to happen. As I said earlier in response to your questions, it hasn't gone as well as we had hoped. There has been some success, although it's been bought at great cost in Marjah and other places. And we need to succeed here. We cannot afford to lose. There will be catastrophic effects in the region, as well as a return of the Taliban and Al Qaida.

And the people of -- of Afghanistan do not want the Taliban back. So it -- I would remind you that the situation in Iraq, before we started that surge, was far worse than the conditions here in Afghanistan.

I'm a bit disappointed we haven't seen more progress, but I still believe we can succeed.

TAPPER: Senator, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, was recorded in recent days privately telling Republican candidates the following about Afghanistan. Quote, "Keep in mind, again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. If Obama is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan, all right, because everyone who has tried over 1,000 years of history has failed," unquote.

Republicans such as Congressman Tom Cole, William Kristol, Liz Cheney have -- have said that Michael Steele needs to resign because of those comments. Do you think a chairman of the Republican National Committee can be effective if he thinks that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, as Steele seems to think?

MCCAIN: I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there's no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was -- his remarks were misconstrued.

Look, I'm a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.

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