I wish that -- that candidate Romney and all the others would sit down with General Petraeus and understand how this counterinsurgency is working and succeeding. And it still has enormous challenges, the Karzai government, the latest problems with Pakistan. But for us to abandon Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban and radical Islamic extremists I think would be repeating mistakes we made before.
AMANPOUR: Another thing that Mitt Romney said was bring them back swiftly in accordance with what the general said, he added. But of course, right now that debate is going on. What do you think Congress will support? Will it oppose President Obama if he decides on, let's say, a 5,000 to 10,000 troop withdrawal this summer?
MCCAIN: I think that Congress will support a, quote, "modest withdrawal." One of the major reasons for that is because Secretary Gates, who is probably by all measurement one of the most respected men in America today, has called repeatedly for a, quote, "modest withdrawal." So the president really has Secretary Gates to back him up if he makes that decision.
One other pure political point: Suppose the surge continues to succeed, and the summer of 2012 the president was able then to announce a massive withdrawal? That would be very helpful to the president politically. I always try to help him as much as I can politically.
AMANPOUR: I can't believe you're giving him this strategic advice.
MCCAIN: But I think it's -- but it's also, I think, clear that we do need to move into the eastern Afghanistan and finish this fight with one more season.
AMANPOUR: So just to be clear then, what you're saying is that you would support a, quote, "modest withdrawal" of 5,000 to 10,000...
MCCAIN: Yes, mainly support troops.
AMANPOUR: ... as Secretary Gates has said.
MCCAIN: Yes, support troops, yes.
AMANPOUR: And you think Congress will give him that backing? They won't oppose him this time?
MCCAIN: I think there's going to be a huge debate about it. I think there's going to be a real struggle. But I remember, again, the summer of 2007, they were within one vote of 60 votes to force withdrawal. And, again, I would hope that Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus and General Allen, his successor, would be appearing before Congress. I think they can make a case.
AMANPOUR: Key to the success of Afghanistan and to America's strategic relationship is, obviously, Pakistan. And there's been so much talk about Pakistan in the news this week, including that they arrested the CIA informant who helped the United States kill Osama bin Laden. I mean, what does this say? Is it a chilling effect on the relationship even beyond what already exists? And can it be overcome?
MCCAIN: I think it's one of the most -- probably the most frustrating aspect of this whole issue. We have known for years that the ISI had contacts and relations with -- with the Taliban, the Haqqani network in particular. Part of that, by the way, was the result of the fact we abandoned Pakistan with the so-called Pressler amendment some years ago.
But -- so it seems to me that to restore our confidence in our relationship with Pakistan, they have to make certain steps. And we have to sort of set up some benchmarks as to what we expect.