Nov. 29, 2009 — -- "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Nov. 29, 2009
STEPHANOPOULOS: Tuesday night, the president travels to West Point to announce his new strategy and more troops for Afghanistan. Now, the cadets are likely to be a receptive audience, but will the country rally behind President Obama? Will the new strategy work? And will Congress come up with the cash to pay for it? That's topic A for our roundtable today, and we're going to get to them in just a minute, but we begin with two key senators, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Gentlemen, welcome, both.
SANDERS: Good to be with you.
GRAHAM: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator Sanders, let me begin with you. We've seen the details of this strategy leak out over the last several days. It sounds like President Obama is set to announce about 30,000 new U.S. troops for Afghanistan, supplemented by about 5,000 or 6,000 NATO forces, if they can get them. That appears to give General McChrystal most of what he asked for. Can you support it?
SANDERS: I have real concerns with that, George. You know, if I were to put Afghanistan into the context of what's happening in America today, and what's happening now is not only a $12 trillion national debt; we're in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The middle class is collapsing. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider.
Piece in the paper today, one out of four kids in this country are on food stamps. One out of eight Americans. And when we go Christmas shopping, we're going to be buying our products from China, who are lending us money to fight the war in Afghanistan. So I've got a real problem about expanding this war where the rest of the world is sitting around and saying, isn't it a nice thing that the taxpayers of the United States and the U.S. military are doing the work that the rest of the world should be doing?
So what I want to see is some real international cooperation, not just from Europe, but from Russia and from China, because what happens in Afghanistan impacts what happens in Pakistan. That is enormously important. The world should be involved. We should not be...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know the Russians are not going to be going back...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... to Afghanistan. So does that mean you're not going to support this?
SANDERS: I have a real problem supporting 30,000 or 40,000 more troops and $100 billion more a year for that war on top of what we're spending in Iraq.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: Well, I'd like to hear the details from the president Tuesday, but I would support an increase in troops, for the reasons that Bernie just kind of indicated about Pakistan. The whole world is watching what we're doing there. The Iranians are threatening to withdraw from talks regarding their nuclear programs, and we'll be evaluated by some pretty tough characters in the world as to how we handle Afghanistan.
This is not just any place on the planet. This is the place where the Taliban took control after the Russians left, aligned themselves with Al Qaida, and attacked this nation and killed 3,000 Americans, and I hope the president will tell the world, our troops and anybody listening Tuesday, that will never happen again. With this new surge of forces, Taliban will never take back over Afghanistan. We're going to put measurements and benchmarks on the Afghan government, but we're going to have troops in Afghanistan to win the conflict. I hope he says that, without any uncertain terms.