'This Week' Transcript: Panetta

But it's clear that one of the things that's been most interesting in this town is the expected national intelligence estimate on Iran and it's been delayed over and over and over. And he basically gave us an outline of what is going to contain and the concern that we're going to reverse what was the controversial NIE under the Bush administration, that Iran wasn't working on weaponization and now the U.S. believes it is. And of course that then escalates the timetable, how much time do we have to try to get the Iranians to come to talk to us, to engage with the international community. And this is going to, I think, play into the questions of what do we do next since there's every indication, as he said, that the sanctions alone are not going to be enough to convince them to either give up their enrichment program or to come back in the negotiating table.

TAPPER: Interesting. Well let's move on to the big news of the week which is obviously President Obama's dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal. George, do you think the president did the right thing?

WILL: Life is full of close calls, this is not one of them. He did the right thing and he did it with the right way, with the right words and an agreeable parsimony of words saying this is just not behavior acceptable at the senior levels of our military. And then he picked the only man around who could fill the leadership vacuum in Petraeus. But this again raises the question of you're sending Petraeus into a situation with this deadline. One of the reasons of setting the July deadline was to concentrate the mysterious mind of Hamid Karzai on what, reconciliation. But having the deadline makes the incentive for the Taliban to reconcile minimal.

TAPPER: And in fact, here's Senator Lindsey Graham talking about that this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would argue that when the Taliban sends around leaflets quoting members of the administration and suggesting to people in Afghanistan after July, the Americans are going to leave you, that the enemy is seizing upon this inconsistency and uncertainty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: David, can we do this on this timetable? The timetable is July 2011, U.S. troops will begin to withdraw, according the Vice President Biden, a lot of troops. According to other members of the administration, maybe not so much. But is this timeline even feasible?

SANGER: It strikes me from listening to what we have heard this past week and the underlying debate that was taking place before General McChrystal was dismissed that the general's timeline and the politicians' time lines are very different. President Obama has got a big reason to want to begin to withdraw, even if it's a small withdrawal, by next summer.

There's an election that follows here in a few months after that. But at the same time, anybody who has done counterinsurgency work in the military tells you the same thing which is counterinsurgency is taking a decade or more. That was the British experience in Malaysia. It's been the experience in many other countries.

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