-- (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on ABC's THIS WEEK, GOP showdown -- the candidates facing off in just three days.
For the first time Donald Trump slipping in a key state.
So can Trump take back the spotlight?
The brash billionaire is right here, reviewing his next move.
The comeback -- Hillary Clinton riding high. But with Democrats back on the campaign trail in Iowa...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Iowa.
ANNOUNCER: -- the new hurdles ahead and her new message at a major event overnight.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just getting warmed up.
From ABC News, THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS begins now.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: Good morning.
The presidential campaigns took a tough new turn overnight, with Donald Trump raising questions about Ben Carson's religion, Carson demanding an apology and Donald Trump is standing by live to respond.
And on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders strikes the sharpest contrast yet with Hillary Clinton, echoing the Iowa speech that launched Barack Obama's campaign eight years ago.
ABC's David Wright was there and he starts us off off from Iowa -- good morning, David.
DAVID WRIGHT, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George.
Bernie Sanders never mentioned her by name, but as he ticked down the issues -- the environment, the Iraq War, same-sex marriage -- he made the case that his views haven't changed with the polls. Sharp elbows there, just as Clinton was beginning to breathe easy.
WRIGHT (voice-over): Ninety-nine days until the Iowa caucuses and Hillary Clinton is enjoying a comeback. Fans and supporters gathered early, serenaded by pop star Katie Perry, dressed like a patriotic superhero.
Clinton is the woman of the hour, but does she have the nomination locked down?
She got a warm reception last night.
CLINTON: I'm not running for my husband's third term and I'm not running for Barack Obama's third term, I'm running for my first term.
WRIGHT: But don't count her opponent out just yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is saying it's all over.
Did you not get the message?
WRIGHT: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders laughs off that suggestion.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we are going to prove the pundits wrong again. I believe we're going to make history one more time.
WRIGHT: He's now taking some of his sharpest shots yet at Clinton, calling her out for flip-flopping on the president's new trade deal, for instance. Clinton had called it the gold standard. Now, she's against it.
SANDERS: That agreement is not now nor has it ever been the gold standard of trade agreements. I did not support it yesterday. I do not support it today and I will not support it tomorrow.
WRIGHT: Still, it caps off what may be Clinton's best week since she announced her candidacy. Not only did three potential rivals, including Vice President Biden, veer out of her path, but she managed to hold her own at the Benghazi hearings.
CLINTON: I'm sorry that it doesn't fit your narrative, Congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were.
WRIGHT: Clinton's worst enemy could still be herself. There's still that FBI investigation of her email server and the fact she's a partisan lightning rod.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton.
WRIGHT: Her own remark calling Republicans enemies prompted Joe Biden to chastise her.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't consider Republicans enemies. They're friends.
WRIGHT: Clinton still needs to prove she can untie people.
WRIGHT: The nomination is clearly hers to lose, but Hillary Clinton has been there before. And the fact on the ground here is that Katie Perry aside, Bernie Sanders is generating more excitement, as measured by larger crowds and smaller donations. He's a force to be reckoned with -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, David, thanks very much.
Things also heating up on the Republican side, as the two latest polls show Ben Carson taking the lead from Donald Trump in Iowa ahead of this week's next big debate.
Trump is still on top nationwide and he's swinging at Carson. He's going to join us live after this report from Tom Llamas.
TOM LLAMAS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the 3,000 who turned out to hear Donald Trump in Florida Saturday, a different message from the brash billionaire.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm number two in Iowa. I said I don't believe it.
LLAMAS: Trump, who likes citing his lead in the polls, now raising questions about them. After two new polls show him slipping to second place in Iowa, Trump taking new shots at the man in the lead, Dr. Ben Carson.
TRUMP: Carson is controlled by his PAC. Carson is lower energy than Bush.
LLAMAS: But it was this comment referencing Carson's religion...
TRUMP: I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that's down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean Seventh Day Adventist I don't know about. I just don't know about it.
LLAMAS: That has the former neurosurgeon calling for an apology.
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, a couple of months ago, I said something which he took as an attack on his faith and I apologized for that. I hope he will have the same grace.
LLAMAS: The Carson-Trump showdown just one angle to watch in Wednesday's critical GOP debate, another, can Jeb Bush make a comeback, the man who just months ago was the frontrunner, slashing his campaign's payroll by 40 percent on Friday...
JEB BUSH (R), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: We've made an adjustment in our campaign. That's what leaders do.
LLAMAS: And finally, are Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio set to rise?
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LLAMAS: But Senator Ted Cruz says he will not attack Trump at the debate because he admires how Trump has been able to frame this race about standing up to Washington.
And George, we should mention, Trump still the clear frontrunner when it comes to national polls on the Republican side -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He is the national frontrunner. Trying to be honest.
Thanks very much.
Let's bring in Let’s bring in Mr. Trump right now.
Thank you for joining us again this morning, Mr. Trump.
And let’s begin.
With those comments about Ben Carson’s religion, Seventh Day Adventist, I don’t know about that, what were you trying to say?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t. I know nothing about it really. I’m a Presbyterian and I had mentioned that, and I did say I don’t know about it. And, in fact, those are my exact words.
So I just really don't know about the Seventh Day Adventists. I just -- you know, and that’s what I said.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But why raise it all?
You know, some conservatives claim the Seventh Day Adventists are not Christian.
Were you trying to send a dog whistle to them because Ben Carson is beating you among Evangelicals in Iowa?
TRUMP: No, not at all. In fact, I think nationwide, I’m beating Ben with the Evangelicals.
But, no, not at all. I just don’t know about that particular religion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back to my question, why raise it?
TRUMP: Because I just said, I don’t know about it. I said nothing about it. I would never say bad. I’d never say bad about any religion. And, as you know, in fact, I think you just had a quote on, I said exactly "I don’t know about it." So, you know...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ben Carson has asked...
TRUMP: -- that’s not an insult.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ben Carson has asked for an apology. Will you give it to him?
TRUMP: Well, I didn’t say anything bad about it. I just don’t know about it. I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it. But I didn’t. All I said was I don’t know about it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re not going to apologize to Ben Carson.
Let’s talk about some of the policy differences you have with Mr. Carson now that you guys are the top two candidates on the Republican side. On immigration, he says your deportation plan is quote, "not practical," and it could cause collapse of parts of the agricultural sector.
TRUMP: Well, it’s totally practical and, frankly, people can come and -- you know, legally come in with work visas and other ways to come and, you know, solve agricultural problems if they have that.
But, frankly, you know, Ben is extremely weak, as you know, on illegal immigration and you can’t have that now. We have to have a country of borders. We need strength in our country. And you can’t be weak on illegal immigration. He is for amnesty and I’m for a very strong border.
If we had strong borders, if we had strong rules and regulations, you might not have had the collapse, which was the big story a couple of days ago, the collapse and the attack of the World Trade Center.
So we have very weak rules on immigration and I’m for making them strong and solid, like a country should have. And Ben is very weak on that subject.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he says you still haven’t spelled out how you can actually deport those 11 million undocumented aliens who are in the country right now.
Will you do that?
TRUMP: Yes and through very good management that will happen and the people that are really good and outstanding and have had outstanding records will come back in and they’ll come back in legally. They’re going to come back in legally so we have a country.
And the bad ones -- and you know there are many bad -- you have -- I have been so right on that subject and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m leading in virtually every national poll and most, almost every state poll, frankly, including, by the way, some in Iowa.
But it’s one of the reasons -- is illegal immigration -- they’ll come in legally. The ones that are bad -- and we have some real bad ones in this country -- they’re going to get out so fast your head will spin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: On health care, Ben Carson’s calling for health savings accounts. He says he wants to shift money from Medicare and Medicaid and other health spending to these accounts and he says that, under his plan, Medicare probably won’t be necessary.
What do you think of that?
TRUMP: Well, I’m OK with the savings accounts. I think it’s a good idea; it’s a very down-the-middle idea. It works. It’s something that’s proven.
The one thing we have to do is repeal and replace ObamaCare. It is a disaster.
People’s -- I don’t know if you have been watching lately over the last couple of weeks -- people’s premiums, George, are going up 35 percent, 45 percent, 55 percent. Their deductibles are so high nobody’s ever going to get to use it. So it is -- ObamaCare is turning out to be a bigger disaster than anybody thought.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you’ve no --
TRUMP: Forget about the $5 billion website; that was the beginning. That was really the beginning of the end. ObamaCare is a disaster.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you agree with these health savings accounts idea, do you also agree with Ben Carson when he says Medicare probably won’t be necessary?
TRUMP: Well, it’s possible. You’re going to have to look at that, but I’ll tell you what, the health savings accounts, I’ve been talking about it also. I think it’s a very good idea and it’s a -- it’s an idea whose probably time has come.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bottom line: is Ben Carson your number one challenger right now and can you stop his surge?
TRUMP: Well, in Iowa he is. Not everywhere else, because everywhere else I see -- they’re all different people all over the lot, all scattered all over the place. New Hampshire is totally different.
In New Hampshire I have a massive lead and we have different seconds. You look at different states, it seems to be a lot of different people. But certainly in Iowa, he got a lot of PR by going a little bit ahead of me in Iowa. But we’ll see what happens because I find it hard to believe.
I was in Iowa three days ago; we had such an unbelievable turnout that I find it really difficult to believe that I’m in second place. But we’ll find out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Jeb Bush. He’s, as we know, made severe cuts in his campaign and his budgets. He said yesterday he doesn’t want to sit around and see gridlock. And he went on to say this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: That is not my motivation. I got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think -- elect Trump?
TRUMP: Well, all I’m saying is he’s not going to get the job done. He doesn’t have the temperament for it.
He doesn’t have -- you know, I used the word energy, but -- and, by the way, Ben Carson’s a very low energy person also.
Hey, look, we’re being ripped off by the entire world. You look at what’s going on, our trade deals with China, with Japan, with Mexico, with everybody. We lose with every single thing.
You need somebody that’s done it before; you need somebody that has that real ability to bring our country back, to make our country rich again and we can do that and, therefore, to also, without the money, without the rich, we can’t make it great again, George.
Bush does not have that. Jeb does not have that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bush --
TRUMP: It’s not for him.
And, you know, I hate to see what’s happening with him, but his campaign is a disaster. He’s paid one person $1.3 million, some finance director, paid him $1.3 million -- that’s almost more than I paid for my whole deal.
His -- you know, when I look at what I’ve done, I’m number one in virtually every poll and I spent less money than any other candidate that’s running.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going to have to start spending now --
TRUMP: That’s what we do for our country, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- are you going to have to start spending that money now on ads in Iowa?
We see Ben Carson --
TRUMP: Oh, I don’t mind doing that at all. Yes, sure.
By the way, Ben Carson, you know, Ben is spending a lot of money on ads. He’s -- his super PAC is running Iowa for him, which shouldn’t be. I’m asking everybody to disavow their super PACs, like I do. I don’t want any money from anybody. I’m self-funding my campaign.
But Ben, he’s being led by his super PACs. And if the super PACs in Iowa are doing a lot of the work for him and that’s not supposed to be happening, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There was a remarkable focus group in Indianapolis, run by Peter Hart this week, among Republican voters, had some good things to say about you, but they were also worried that you might be divisive. Listen in on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He’s going to offend everyone. He’s intolerant and has a lack of empathy, calling everybody idiots and is combative and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He’s just -- he’s a hothead. He (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn’t listen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hothead, offends everyone, doesn’t listen.
You’re going to have change your approach?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t think so, because you know, one by one they’re dropping out. I’m against -- I was against 16 other candidates and, you know, I’m being divisive right now because I want to win. I know how to win; that’s what I have to do.
Ultimately if I do win, I’m going to be a great unifier, George. I will be a great unifier for the country.
The country right now is terribly divided by a president that doesn’t know how to lead and he’s a very divisive person.
I will be a great unifier. You will be surprised to see that but you will see that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How are you going to be a unifier when, in your campaign rallies like yesterday, you said the country is going to hell if Hillary Clinton gets elected?
TRUMP: Well, I think that’s true. I think if Hillary Clinton gets elected, the country will go further down. It will down to a lower level than it is right now.
We owe $19 trillion; we’re the laughingstock all over the world. Our military doesn’t perform because it’s not allowed to perform and it’s not in great shape, as you know. All you have to do is speak to the generals. It’s in probably the worst shape it’s been in in 50 years.
Our country is in serious trouble. We make deals for Bergdahl; we make the Iran pact, which is one of the worst contracts I’ve ever seen negotiated and one of the dumbest.
No, our country’s in bad shape and if we have Hillary, it will just get worse.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Jeb Bush’s advisor telling "The Washington Post," in the debate this week he’s going to position himself as someone who can fix a broken Washington and focus on national security.
Are you ready for that and what’s your debate strategy?
TRUMP: Well, I think that’s a good thing to focus on. I think it’s excellent. I don’t think he’ll have the chance to do it but I think it’s an excellent thing to focus on.
Don’t forget, in my book, written in 2000, I was the one that predicted Osama bin Laden would trouble -- was trouble, and you better do something about him. Well, guess what? 19 months later, he came down and knocked out the World Trade Center, killed thousands of Americans. I put it in a book. In fact, a couple of your competitors were saying, whoa, they just saw that yesterday or the other day. And they said, whoa, Trump actually mentioned Osama bin Laden and that we better do something about him or we’re going to have problems. That was before the World Trade Center came down.
So I know much more about this stuff than Bush or anybody else running, believe me.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: Donald Trump, thanks very much for your time this morning.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, George.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: Up next, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign is standing by live to respond to Donald Trump and last week’s attacks from Bernie Sanders.
Plus, dramatic new video inside that deadly special ops rescue mission in Iraq. It was the first American killed in combat operations against ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You want to have a mess of a country, you want to have nothing but problems, you want to have a country that's going to go to hell, you have Hillary elected president, you're going to have a country that's going to hell, I'll tell you right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: There was Donald Trump in Jacksonville yesterday. I'm joined now by the chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign, John Podesta. John, welcome to THIS WEEK.
You saw Donald Trump just double down on that comment. Your response.
JOHN PODESTA, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Look, I think Trump makes your head spin. And I think that if he is a person who thinks he can actually lead this country it's just shocking that what he says -- what he said about Ben Carson, what he said on your show this morning deciding that today maybe he feels like he needs to repeal Medicare. So every day is a new day with hi.
But he just hurls insults across the board.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you explain that so many of these national polls and head-to-head matchups with Hillary Clinton, he's ahead of her?
PODESTA: Well, look, I think if -- you know we feel very good about where the campaign is today. In most of the national polls we're ahead of him, and I think that the -- we feel very good about where we are today in terms of winning the nomination. And I think, you know, kind of moving forward if he's the nominee of the Republican Party, I think that's a matchup that works very well for us, because she's out listening to the American people offering real solutions, talking about the fight she'll fight for them, and he's out, you know, hurling insults..
And Like I said, I think some people find him entertaining -- not me so much.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bernie Sanders last night stepping it up against Hillary Clinton, pointing out those five issues where he suggested she shifted. He's always been strong.
The message is pretty clear, he's the candidate of conviction, she's the one of calculation. That is a line of attack that worked for Barack Obama. Worried it can work now?
PODESTA: No, I don't think so. I think that Hillary has been consistent in the fight she's fought during her entire career. She started right out of law school fighting for women, fighting for children, fighting to make the country a better place and that's what she's doing, she's out listening to people, talking to them about the problems that keep them up at night and she's providing affirmative solutions.
So, I think she's looking to the future. I think her speech last night really put forward a positive vision of where the country can be. And I think she's got the experience and she's god the meddle obviously to fight those fights on behalf of working people and the middle class to make their lives better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Think Bernie Sanders has peaked?
PODESTA: I think Bernie Sanders seemed to have a course correction in the JJ dinner from one in which he said he wasn't going to go negative to -- to obviously focusing his, you know, his fire on her.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you've had a good run in this -- in this campaign. But David Axelrod and others have observed that Hillary Clinton seems to be better when her back is up against the wall. And he says, "Her challenge is to not settle back into the posture of the cautious, calculating frontrunner."
Does he have a point?
PODESTA: I think that what she's demonstrated is that she has the grit and the determination to go out and fight for the nomination, fight for every vote and she'll be doing that.
I think there's no chance that she will, you know, rest on one or two good appearances. She obviously has, in my view, won the Democratic debate. She had a tremendous performance and endured 11 hours before the so-called Benghazi Committee.
But that's, you know, last night I think she did an outstanding job at the JJ dinner in Iowa. But we're out there fighting for every vote, building a strong organization across the country.
And I think if anything, from her experience in 2007-2008 has convinced her that you've got to keep your nose to the grindstone every day, fight for every vote, tell people what you want to do for them, what the future could look like if they elect you. And I think that's what she's doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: She did get good reviews generally for those 11 hours before the Benghazi Committee. But several members of the Committee and others have raised questions about some of the new emails that came out and whether there was an improper release of classified information, particularly in that email to Chelsea Clinton.
Listen to Hugh Hewitt and Carly Fiorina right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH HEWITT, HOST: Do you think Chelsea Clinton is cleared to receive that kind of information on ongoing terrorist attacks.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, that's a really interesting question. I doubt it. I doubt it.
HEWITT: Is there a different...
HEWITT: Is there a difference between that and what David Petraeus did with his author/girlfriend?
FIORINA: I would say probably not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's your answer to that?
PODESTA: Well, I think there's a massive difference between those two things and I think we've said this. If they want to -- they're going to -- look, they're going to pick at this for between now and next November, I suspect, trying to pull a thread here, pull a thread there. That's what that Committee, which was really a, you know, a $5 million taxpayer funded opposition research operation was doing.
But she has answered the questions. She's -- as she's noted, it was -- she made a mistake. It was a wrong choice to have it -- to use two systems.
But nothing that she sent or received was marked classified.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So -- so are you confident there are no other shoes to drop and nothing will come of this FBI investigation?
PODESTA: Yes, I'm confident of that. I think that it's a security review and Hillary has totally cooperated with them and, you know, it's in their hands and, you know, at this point, she's put forward 55,000 emails. They're being reviewed by the State Department for release, but we hope that they're released, because I think when they are released, actually, they show a secretary who's working hard, hour by hour, across the board, projecting American values and wracking up an impressive record as secretary of State.
STEPHANOPOULOS: John Podesta, thanks very much for your time this morning.
PODESTA: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up, the roundtable here to analyze all the week's politics. They'll weigh in on what we just heard from Donald Trump and John Podesta, the Carson surge and the best stretch yet of Hillary's campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now to that deadly U.S. rescue mission in Iraq, where the first American was killed since the battle against ISIS began last year. That just comes despite President Obama's claim that Americans would not be involved in a combat role on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan.
And our chief global affairs correspondent, Martha Raddatz, was there this week to see with that non-combat role really looks like.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This dramatic video taken by British special operations forces shows that deadly, during raid and the freeing of hostages, one after another. Five U.S. helicopters carried Kurdish troops and 30 U.S. Special Operations soldiers to the ISIS-held facility.
A firefight broke out. Delta Force team leader Joshua Wheeler playing a pivotal role. Up to 20 ISIS militants were killed and 70 hostages rescued.
But Master Sergeant Wheeler, a highly decorated father of four, was shot dead. Wheeler had survived 14 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan but it was this train and assist mission, a mission that was not supposed to involve combat, that ultimately took his life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that is an inherent risk that we ask people to assume. Again, it wasn't part of the plan, but it was something that he did. And I'm immensely proud that he -- he did that.
RADDATZ: The train and assist mission in Iraq is much the same as the one President Obama described for Afghanistan earlier this month.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our troops are not engaged in major ground combat against the Taliban. Those missions now belong to Afghans.
RADDATZ: Afghans who need a lot of help.
(on camera): And this is what a non-combat mission looks like at Bagram Air Field. I'm surrounded by F-16s and we've got a C-17 coming in right now.
(voice-over): In just the last six months alone, U.S. warplanes have flown 2,500 sorties, 11,000 hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's F-16s in the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We've employed over 200 times here, expended over 7,000 rounds of .20 millimeter and -- and dropped hundreds of munitions.
RADDATZ: And there are armed, unmanned aircraft operating, as well.
(on camera): So if you saw an enemy, you would alert the convoy but possibly fire on the enemy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we needed to, yes, ma'am, we would.
RADDATZ (voice-over): And the biggest threat, the IEDs, homemade bombs; the number just this year, astonishing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actual IED events, probably around the 5,000 range.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Klaus' (ph) team now training Afghans to counter those IEDs, the calling card of the Taliban, the group still a major presence here after 14 years of fighting.
(on camera): General John Campbell is the commander of the mission in Afghanistan.
The United Nations says right now one-fifth of the country is either controlled or contested by the Taliban.
GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL (USA), COMMANDER, RESOLUTE SUPPORT MISSION AND UNITED STATES FORCE-AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban have been fighting. It's been a very, very tough fighting season.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Campbell has had to deal with these threats even as the U.S. has been drawing down troops.
(on camera): You're down to about just a couple of dozen (INAUDIBLE) for how many (INAUDIBLE)?
CAMPBELL: Upwards of 700-800 across the country at one point in time (INAUDIBLE) way down below that.
RADDATZ: What different does that make for you as commander?
CAMPBELL: I lose eyes and ears that could give me indications and early warning, potential enemy movements, enemy attacks.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Less intelligence about the enemy worries Afghanistan's national security adviser as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they are not as watched as they used to be. That has given them the ability to fight in larger formations.
RADDATZ (voice-over): And it's not just the Taliban. U.S. officials here told us ISIS training camps are now operating in Afghanistan. These photos of what looks like an ISIS graduation ceremony surfaced on the Internet this week. Officials told me they look authentic.
CAMPBELL: I mean, they continue to build their command and control capacity. They continue to expand space that they have.
RADDATZ: So this threat to the homeland from Afghanistan remains?
CAMPBELL: Yes, absolutely. And left unchecked, I do personally believe that the sanctuary continue go grow. And there are terrorist groups that out there that want to do harm to the United States. They're going to continue to do that. We shouldn't kid ourselves that that's not out there.
RADDATZ: For the people of Afghanistan, the U.S. troops' presence has given some measure of security and most people we talked to want them to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we need military help. We need (INAUDIBLE) in the number of soldiers and professional (INAUDIBLE) soldiers.
RADDATZ (voice-over): But U.S. forces have come under withering criticism after that deadly airstrike on a Doctors without Borders hospital, which killed at least 30 staff and patients. The military first said the strike was to aid U.S. forces in trouble but then soon backed away from that statement with General Campbell saying unequivocally that the airstrike was a mistake.
(on camera): Can you say with certainty that no U.S. personnel knew that was a hospital?
CAMPBELL: Well, I can say it was a mistake because we would not attack a protected facility like a hospital.
RADDATZ (voice-over): An investigation is still ongoing, despite the hospital tragedy, Campbell is confident the president's decision to halt the drawdown will make a difference.
(on camera): Do you suspect we'll be here even beyond 2017?
CAMPBELL: Many places in the world over the years where we've had a presence, we've stayed there. Look at Korea; look at Germany; look at Japan, other places. The difference here is that the Afghans want us here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Martha joins us now along with two former officers who've played key roles in fashioning military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Doug Ollivant, now a senior fellow at New America and Lt. Col. John Nagl, author of "Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War."
And, Martha, incredible report there. And we just heard General Campbell say everyone wants us there.
But are there enough troops for the mission they've been given?
RADDATZ: Well, one of the hidden costs there is the contractors. It's a 3:1 difference. You have about 9,800 U.S. troops; you have about 30,000 contractors and most of them are U.S. and most of them are doing jobs out in the field around backing up those troops wherever they can.
I asked General Campbell, do you have enough U.S. troops?
Obviously any commander's going to tell you he probably wants more. But they're getting by with those 9,800. He thinks the Afghan forces are doing a lot better. He says he's a glass half-full kind of guy. The Afghan forces still have a long way to go, George. Basically what they're in right now is a reactive mode. The Taliban has changed its strategy. It's going into cities.
The Afghan forces that have to go to those cities and leave the other areas like the south, which is what they really want, the Taliban, in the south, and take over there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Colonel Nagl, is the glass half-full?
Are there enough troops?
LT. COL. JOHN NAGL, AUTHOR, “KNIFE FIGHTS”: There are not enough troops right now. The president is finally decided to keep 5,000 troops in Afghanistan over the course of the rest of his presidency. But the fact is that the U.S. has enduring national security interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
That will remain the case for decades to come. And I think the right thing to think about is South Korea, where we've had 30,000 troops for 65 years. I predict the next president will triple the number of troops, will put 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and they'll be there for decades.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Triple the number of troops, Col. Ollivant. I saw the mention in South Korea. You sighed.
LT. COL. DOUG OLLIVANT, SENIOR FELLOW, NEW AMERICA: Look, we're hearing this metaphor a lot now. And it's just -- it does violence to this situation. South Korea is not Afghanistan. And South Korea, after the Korean War, we put troops there to essentially maintain the status quo. And they sat there to make sure the North Koreans did not come and invade the place.
And other than that, they say there; they trained and, frankly, they drank a lot of alcohol.
Afghanistan's different. It's the middle of the civil war and we need to transform that place. And it's a landlocked country that does not have a lot of product to export except for opium. It seems unlikely that we're going to fundamentally transform this place at incredible cost, as Martha brought out.
You know, the back-of-the-envelope math we use is about $1 million to $2 million per year per soldier. And that's largely because there's three contractors to every --
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- 14 years in.
Martha, you say the Afghan troops are doing better.
But are they ever going to be strong enough to go it alone?
RADDATZ: I mean, certainly not with airpower for a long, long, long time. I mean, we listened to that F-16 pilot talk about how many bombs they've had to drop They've got medevac. You saw John Campbell sitting in front of that medevac helicopter.
The Afghans really don’t have that. Their air force is very, very tiny. So I think it will take a long time.
One thing we haven't mentioned, George, is Iraq. That's one of the lessons here that the president obviously relied on, pulling out all troops in Iraq; look what happened. He doesn’t want to happen --
STEPHANOPOULOS: He doesn’t want that to happen. You only just heard Secretary of Defense Ash Carter say there are going to be more raids like the ones we saw in Iraq right now.
And, Col. Nagl, do you think the American people are prepared for that kind of a commitment, the kind of commitment we're going to need to make in Iraq and Afghanistan?
NAGL: I absolutely do. We have an all-volunteer force. We've got record retention levels. The American soldiers I talk to are willing to continue to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan in order to keep the homeland safe against the enduring threats from both regions against the homeland.
And that's probably the biggest difference between the American commitment to South Korea and the enduring American commitment to Afghanistan and Iraq. There are still threats to the homeland from Iraq and Afghanistan as there are not in South Korea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Col. Ollivant, what would you say to someone who says, boy, the military situations there aren't all that much different from when President Obama took office?
OLLIVANT: It certainly appears that way, certainly in Afghanistan, just doing a quick read over the last few days' papers, the Taliban is knocking on the door in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand in the southeast. The road between Kabul and Kandahar is cut by the Taliban in Sabo (ph). That would be like someone cutting I-95 between Washington, D.C. and New York.
Clearly, the Taliban is on the move in Afghanistan. I think John is right that there are not enough troops there to keep that from happening. The question is, do we want to spend 20, 30, $40 billion a year for as long as the eye can see -- and, you know, that real money even by government standards. Do we have that much national interests in Afghanistan? And for that matter is the threat to the homeland from Afghanistan any higher than it is from, say, Libya or Yemen or Syria, which if I were a terrorist I think I would want to put my base camp in one of those countries, much closer to Europe, much closer to America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Martha, we are just about out of time. This debate is going to be joined again in the next campaign.
RADDATZ: It certainly will, this will be a big issue, I think. But it's quieted down a little bit, because the president left troops there. But honestly, George, I don't think the Americans are ready for what's actually happening on the ground in these places. And if it keeps happening, and we keep losing Americans in the fight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much.
Up next, Ben Carson stirs up controversy, surges in the polls. His challenge to Trump.
Jeb Bush's drastic moves and what to look for in this week's big debate, that's all on our roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: Catch THIS WEEK online all week at ABCNews.com, on Facebook and Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll do Jeb Bush. And start here and go around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Riding coattails.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Riding on the coattails.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Career politician.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) stand on immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That meant positively or negatively?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love his family. I just don't know enough about him.
UNIDENITIFIED FEMALE: Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Career (INAUDIBLE) conservative. Been there, done that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That Indianapolis focus group giving you some insight on some of the challenges facing Jeb Bush. We're going to talk about the Republicans and the Democrats now on our roundtable joined by ABC's Jon Karl, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, Democrat Jennifer Granholm and the political team from Bloomberg's With All Due Respect.
Mark Halperin and John Halman (ph) (ph) on the scene in Iowa for us this morning.
Let me begin with your guys since you're in Iowa, the big speeches last night at the J-J dinner. Mark Halperin, we just heard John Podesta take off a little bit on Bernie Sanders' new tone. How tough was it?
MARK HALPERIN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: It was medium tough. You know, he never mentioned her name. He did point out a lot of contrast. Look, George, he has a ton of material to work with. There are a number of issues where he is more in line with the party than Hillary Clinton, where Hillary Clinton's position has either shifted or she can't erase what she's done in the past.
Its' a range of issues.
The question I think going forward is was last night the start of Bernie Sanders drawing these contrasts? Or is that as far as he's willing to go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, John Heilemann, one thing he didn't do is repeat a line that was actually in his written speech about being the candidate of principles, not polls, suggesting a bit of a pulled punch.
JOHN HEILEMANN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Yes. I mean, look, that line I think really only got cut because of time. You know, Sanders was running quite long, and he had to cut off a chunk of the bottom of his speech, because he was being kind of rushed off the stage.
But I think Mark's question is exactly right, we were with the Sanders high command last night after the speech. There's no doubt that they think that the campaign has moved into a new phase. And they call it the persuasion phase. We might call it the contrast phase.
The question of how far Bernie Sanders is willing to go -- and I don't mean in terms of personal attacks, but how explicit and specific he's willing to be, not just drawing implicit contrasts, but explicit contrasts, that is the big question going forward I think, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jennifer Granholm, you are a big supporter of Hillary Clinton. How worried are you about that?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FRM. GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Well, I do think that his contrasting comments last night, his negativity, showed that she's doing really well. So he's got to kick it into some other phase.
But, honestly, for him to call her out on the Defense of Marriage Act or, you know, or NAFTA, or you know, any of the things that he husband did, personally I find that -- you know, she's not running for his third term or Obama's third term, she's running for her first term.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He also mentioned Iraq, where he was against the war from the start, she was for it.
GRANHOLM: Absolutely, and as she will say that positions do evolve. And, you know, I mean, he's got a position on guns that he's trying to message, too. Every candidate has some sort of evolution.
But the bottom line is for her that her speech last night was forward looking and issues based and I think that contrast is a good one for her.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jon Karl, you've got to say that after the last 10 days Hillary Clinton now has the race wants. She's basically one on one with Bernie Sanders. Martin O'Malley staying in there, but still stuck at 1 or 2 percent.
JON KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, look, she had a terrible summer. Her campaign was foundering. And now she's had the best 10 days of her campaign. The debate performance, that Benghazi hearing, she no longer looks like a vulnerable candidate. That was the biggest thing that Bernie Sanders had going for him was doubts about Hillary Clinton. There are a lot fewer doubts today than there were a month ago.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ana Navarro, a lot of conservatives even gave Hillary Clinton props for how she did before that Benghazi committee. Is that issue over?
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I think the emails issue is not over. And we have to remember that they are two completely separate investigations.
But I think she did perform well in the Benghazi hearing. You know, you're talking about nine hours of testimony, 11 hours of hearing. I think you know we don't -- there was all these charges that it was politically motivated, I don't buy that. But I will tell you that the results were political. And the political results were benefiting Hillary Clinton. She looked good. She was able to endure -- the Benghazi committee did for Hillary Clinton what Hillary Clinton has not been able to do for herself for the last six months: get the Democrat base unified in sympathy and support...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on to the Republicans right now. The big story this week, Ben Carson going to a lead in Iowa.
Mark Halperin, that was a poll you guys had with the Des Moines Register showing him in front. And there was something also fascinating inside that poll. And I want to put this up right now. It shows that Carson's controversial comments, the more he makes them, that it actually is helping them. 81 percent think his comparison of Obamacare to slavery is attractive, 77 percent say when he says Hillary might not have been a (INAUDIBLE) they think that's attractive, 73 percent think it's attractive when he raises questions about whether a Muslim should be president.
HALPERIN: Look, George, we know for a fact that those comments are unpopular with the East Coast media, they're popular with a lot of Carson supporters and a lot of Republicans generally. We know for a fact that Carson is not only ahead in Iowa now, but a better fit of Iowa and the Iowa caucus electorate than Donald Trump.
We also know that the other campaigns, including the Trump campaign, long-term doesn't wory about Carson as a threat for the nomination.
Now, all those things could be right, but they could be wrong in the last case, which is the Carson campaign feels that they can raise money, that he will find a following elsewhere after this state. But for now, there's a lot of people underestimating Ben Carson. Their view is, as I've said, Trump, Bush, others don't believe that Carson is a long-term threat.
STEPHANOPOULOS: John Heilemann, Trump may not be worried long-term about Ben Carson, but boy those comments about Seventh Day Adventists, they really strike at -- he may be right, but he didn't criticize being a Seventh Day Adventist, but he's raising it for a reason.
HEILEMANN: Yes. Well, there's no doubt he's raising it for a reason. And George, I think, you know, there's two different ways to say I don't know. Donald Trump on the air this morning with you said, well, all I said was I don't know about it. There's another way in which you can hear that, which is "well, I don't know about that." And I think there was a little bit more of that tone in the original version than he is willing to admit.
I just don't know that he's on very strong footing, especially here in Iowa, trying to get into a religious battle with Ben Carson. I think there are a lot of Iowa voters, at least from what we've seen, who have some questions about the authenticity of Donald Trump's religious commitments.
No one has those doubts about Ben Carson out here, though.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all, Jon Karl.
And we'll see if he continues to rise after that. He's not going to get his apology.
KARL: Yes, he's not going to get his apology. And as for Trump, I mean this is -- this was a big milestone. We finally see a state where Trump is no longer the frontrunner, at least in -- in two polls.
But by my count, George, Trump is still leading in roughly 49 other states. You know, so -- so we'll see where that goes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We will.
And meanwhile, Ana Navarro, you're a big supporter of Jeb Bush. You've raised money for Jeb Bush.
We saw this week that he was having to cut his payroll, and partly in response to donors who are getting very agitated -- agitated with the poor responsors -- performance of his campaign.
NAVARRO: I was very happy to see that. You know, you -- I was very happy to see what I see...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Happy to see that?
NAVARRO: Yes, I was, because I -- you know, I have -- I think I see it as a course correction, a needed course correction.
Look, I think with McCain when he hit rock bottom. He was nowhere in the polls. He was nowhere in fundraising. He was nowhere period. He was declared dead politically.
And he was able to rise from the ashes.
But it's got to begin by acknowledging that the political landscape is completely different than what was first imagined, but any of us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- there's a big difference -- isn't there a big difference from McCain last time around, even when McCain dropped out and was at the bottom in the polls, most Republicans still thought pretty well of him. When you dig inside these polls, Jeb Bush still has pretty deep unfavorables, doesn't he?
NAVARRO: Well, look, he's got to...
NAVARRO: -- a lot of ---
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeb Bush leads in many of these polls on the question, who will you definitely not support?
He's right near the top. I mean, you know, when he got into this race, it was thought that his biggest liability would be his name, that he was a Bush. Now, it looks like that may be the only thing that is keeping his campaign alive. That's where his fundraising is coming and all the other attributes his campaign is -- is struggling. He's got the name. That's what he has left.
NAVARRO: Yes, but what there is right now is the recognition that there needs to be a turnaround, a massive turnaround of the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
NAVARRO: Not only when it comes to structure, but also when it comes to branding and you've got a candidate who is committed to continue working. He has told me, I'm going to work harder. You're going to see him, I think, even more on the trail. And he's got a lot of fight in him.
So as long as he keeps fighting, people like me will stay by his side.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And meanwhile, the candidate who seems to be in the catbird seat right now, Marco Rubio, some of the betting sites putting him, saying he now has the best chance of getting the nomination. Look at this one from PredictWise, a 35 percent chance for Marco Rubio. It's still 20 percent for Jeb Bush. The Smart Money, only 17 percent for Donald Trump.
And Jennifer Granholm, is Marco Rubio the toughest candidate for Hillary Clinton or whichever Democrat gets the nomination?
GRANHOLM: Yes, I don't know that he's the toughest because he's one of the most extreme. And they're all extreme. But he -- the fact that, for example, he doesn't agree with a woman's right to choose even in the case of rape or incest. He doesn't believe -- like all of them don't believe in same-sex marriage, where a majority of the population agrees. All of the -- most of the population agrees that we shouldn't be shutting down the government to defund Planned Parenthood.
STEPHANOPOULOS: There's a new generation though.
GRANHOLM: Well, he is a new generation, but he's got the old ideas. So if you're a new generation person and you've got ideas that are back in the -- in the '50s, I don't know that that helps you at all.
NAVARRO: George, I remember in 2008 hoping and praying that Barack Obama would be the nominee, because I thought he'd be easier to beat than Hillary Clinton. Boy, were we wrong.
Marco would be a great contrast in age, in energy level. He is Hispanic. He's got an amazing ability to engage with an audience, to emote when he speaks, you know, the most eloquent speaker in politics today, probably, I would say, on both sides of the aisle.
So, yes, he'd be a challenge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mark Halperin, anyone else poised to make a move now in that second tier of the Republican candidates?
HALPERIN: Well, look, Ted Cruz has a real good chance now. I think he might have the second or third best chance today to be the Republican nominee. Strong in Iowa, strong in both grassroots fundraising and big donations.
But the real open lane, George, is still the establishment lane. Rubio is going to have his chance to be the establishment candidate. There's no doubt.
But Jeb Bush, John Kasich, maybe Chris Christie, also have a chance, because no one in the establishment lane is moving up the way that Trump, Carson...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, John, how...
HALPERIN: -- and Cruz currently have -- are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right, but John Heilemann, the big question this time -- you go back 50 years, the Republicans always nominate the establishment candidate.
Is that pattern going to hold or is this year different?
HEILEMANN: Well, it -- George, if you -- on the basis of everything we've seen over the course of the last 10 months, which has been totally surprising and totally confounding of all conventional wisdom and historical precedent, it looks like this time could be different and that the Republican Party has changed sufficiently that the non-establishment wing may have the upper hand. The -- we just don't know.
But if you look at the strength of Cruz and Carson -- of Cruz, Carson and Trump together, you'd have to say that right now, it's more likely that one of those three guys is the nominee than anyone in the establishment...
NAVARRO: The good news is pundits...
NAVARRO: -- have been wrong all along. So I can only hope that John Heilemann is wrong now.
KARL: And the one thing I'd say is that if you look in the polling, when voters are asked, who is your second choice, Rubio is consistently near the top or at the top.
KARL: He is the second choice for most Republicans.
GRANHOLM: You -- you made some news today though in getting Donald Trump to admit that he is considering eliminating Medicare in favor of (INAUDIBLE)...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, you and John Podesta are both jumping on that...
GRANHOLM: Well, no, but it's true...
GRANHOLM: But they're all -- if they're all going to go down that road...
NAVARRO: Go ahead, Jennifer...
NAVARRO: -- remind -- remind Floridians. Go ahead.
GRANHOLM: I mean...
GRANHOLM: -- right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We've got to go...
GRANHOLM: A lot of Republicans (INAUDIBLE)...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And before we do...
GRANHOLM: -- on Medicare.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to run out of time. But I've got to ask our Powerhouse Puzzler, inspired by Biden's decision to forego another run for the White House.
Which four sitting vice presidents have been elected president?
We'll be back with that after this from our ABC stations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Everyone scribbling away.
Which sitting vice presidents were elected president?
Mark Halperin, you go first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh. We're halfway done, George, because in Iowa, things move just a little slower.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What have you got?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got -- well, we've got -- we've got -- I don't think -- John and I are sharing a board here. We have -- we're confident of the first two. I don't think we Jefferson...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- you know, you're going to...
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- three out of four.
Did you get them, John?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Adams, Bush, Monroe, no, no, no.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No Monroe. Jefferson, Adams and Bush.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bush, Adams, Monroe. You guys...
GRANHOLM: I trust...
STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys, it's Martin Van Buren.
NAVARRO: Oh, come on. (INAUDIBLE).
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us.
Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. And check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT."
I'll see you tomorrow on GMA.