'This Week' Transcript: Panetta

And certainly if you look at what Director Panetta said today about how the Taliban are not yet facing any incentive to reach reconciliation, it tells you that it would take a much longer time. And I think that's the fundamental issue. You know, the president said he doesn't mind dissent, he can't stand division. Firing General McChrystal I think only submerged the dissent. It is going to come back when this review takes place in December of the overall policy.

TAPPER: Robin?

WRIGHT: Absolutely. And I think that one of the challenges is it's not when they do the review in December, they have to look at what can they accomplish in the remaining six months and the fact is, this is Afghanistan, this is not Iraq. This is a place where you don't have a middle class. You don't have a lot of literacy even among the army and the police you're trying to recruit. The tribal structure, we relied in Iraq on the tribes to be the ones we could recruit to turn against al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, they have been decimated first by the decade-long war with the Soviet Union by the war lords and the civil war afterwards, and by the Taliban. And so you don't have the kind of network that you can turn in your favor to help lure, either defeat the Taliban or lure the Taliban in. And so the obstacles we face with just a year left in the cycle are truly daunting. And it's very hard to see how we can be very successful.

TAPPER: Rajiv, you just returned from Afghanistan. You were there a couple of weeks ago. And in fact, you were in Marjah.


TAPPER: What did you see?

CHANDRASEKARAN: A long, hard slog there. Contrary to the initial messaging out of the Pentagon and the White House that Marjah was turning successful very quickly, what I saw was the start of what is going to be a month's long effort to try to stabilize it. And what they had hoped -- General McChrystal and Petraeus hopes for is that Marjah would be exhibit A in demonstration momentum, showing that the strategy is working.

TAPPER: It's a relatively small town, 60,000 or so.

CHANDRASEKARAN: And it really should be a fairly self-contained fight. And it is, but it's not moving as quickly as they want. Now, the White House I don't think was under illusions that counter- insurgency wouldn't take a long time in Afghanistan. I think what they were hoping for was that in this narrow window, the 18 months between President Obama's decision to commit those 30,000 additional troops and next summer, that they would get enough momentum that it would compel the insurgents to sue for peace. It would get the Afghan government to get off the fence and move more quickly, to be able to field more Afghan security forces. That U.S. civilians would get out there and start to engage in helpful reconstruction efforts.

What we're now seeing is that all of that is taking much longer than anybody anticipated. Really raising the question, what can you accomplish by the summer of 2011?

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...