'This Week': John Kerry on Syria and Afghanistan

ABC's Martha Raddatz goes one-on-one with Secretary of State John Kerry from Vietnam.
3:00 | 12/15/13

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Transcript for 'This Week': John Kerry on Syria and Afghanistan
We're back in ho chi minh city for more on my exclusive interview with john kerry. And his take on those alarming developments this week out of syria. Al qaeda appears to be gaining ground, taking over warehouses full of aid meant for american-backed moderate rebels. The u.S. Has suspended nonlethal aid because islamist rebels took over a warehouse. How did that happen? It happened because there's a certain amount of infighting taking place within the opposition, and this is the nature of the beast that has been unleashed by bashir al-assad. He likes to play the card that he is the better alternative to these extremists. So, there's some indicators that he's even fueling some of that. But the problem is, you have some radical islamic elements there. So, what's the next move? The moderate opposition has been united up until recently. We believe they can still be united. We're aiming towards the geneva 2 conference in the latter part of january, we're committed to try to bring people together, a strong representation of the opposition, together with the assad regime represented, and maybe 30 or other countries, and all try to work in the same direction, which is to get a political settlement out of syria. When can you start the nonlethal aid back again? I think, very quickly. What are you waiting for? Well, we already had some proffers to have the warehouse protected and other kinds of things. But I think people want to be careful, have the meetings that we need to have and make certain we can proceed forward thoughtfully. No one wants to fill up the warehouse again. And have it taken over again. That doesn't make sense. We need to make sure where we're going, but look, this is complicated, this isn't easy, you know, a year ago before the president started to focus on this and figured that we have to accelerate the efforts to get a political solution, nothing was happening, except fighting and killing. And a year ago, chemical weapons were being used and under control of the assad regime. Now, through our diplomatic efforts, we're moving towards a peace conference. And you really think that's going to happen? Countries are committed to going. john McCain says that the moderate opposition groups are losing, as a result, extremists are filling the void, and entire sections of syria, stretching deep into iraq, are now effectively safe havens for al qaeda, true? There's some truth -- yeah, it's absolutely true. Al qaeda has greater clout there than it had before and it's an increasing threat and it's a threat that we're going to have to confront. But john also understands that the members of congress, with whom he serves, were not willing to put additional money in, in order to fund overtly and put money into the opposition significantly. Let's turn to the war we're still in and that is in afghanistan, and there is very little progress, it appears with hamid karzai, the president who does not want to sign this security agreement that would allow u.S. Forces to remain beyond 2014, making it clear that's what the u.S. Wants to allow troops to stay beyond 2014. The u.S. Wants success in afghanistan and success means having an afghan armed force that has the ability to sustain itself and provide security to the people of afghanistan, so they can continue on the road to developing their society, their institutions, their health care system, their education and other things that are happening today. When america went into afghanistan, martha, there were about 900,000 kids in school, they were all boys. Today there are about 7 million to 8 million children in school and about 40% are girls. There's a huge transformation taking place. If we don't leave those troops there, can you guarantee that young women can still go to school over there? No, absolutely not. You can't guarantee anything. I think, if american forces were not there, I think there would be serious cenges with respect to afghanistan security. But, here's the but -- but i believe hamid karzai, either he or his successor will sign this. He needs to sign it. By when? We negotiated an agreement, that wasn't in place by the way a year ago, now we have an agreement that has been negotiated and he has said to me personally, as recently a day ago, reiterated through his minister that the language is fine, so we are very close to the ability to move forward and I believe it will be signed and I hope it will be signed as soon as possible. Is there a cut-off date where you have to say you can't -- there is a cut-off date. First it was october, does it have to be by january? No, this needs to be signed as soon as possible. I think he understands that. How long do you want troops to stay there? Well, that's up to the president of the united states and it's up to the process on the ground. But the president has already said we are prepared to be there a number of years going forward in a very different role, a very diminished role of training, and equipping. America will not be engaged in combat. But counterterrorism. We'll be doing counterterrorism. But that's combat? Not directly. It can be intel gathering. It can be providing information to the afghans. That they act on. And in some cases it might wind up being kinetic by american forces. But the point is, it's not day-to-day combat against the taliban. On behalf of the afghan people. It's counterterrorism to fight against terrorists, al qaeda, and others, who are threatening american assets. And america itself. Your first year in middle east peace. You got the parties talking, but has there been any concrete progress? Yes, there has been. We have agreed not to be talking about what we're doing, because it just creates great expectations, it creates pressure, it creates opposition in some cases. This conflict was easy, this would have been done years ago, martha, it's confounded presidents and secretaries of state for 30 or 40 years. And you feel this time it's different? I think we're in a different moment now, and hopefully, the leaders will seize this moment and at least move the ball forward somewhat. We're sitting in ho chi minh city. You're a vietnam war veteran and an anti-war activist after the vietnam war. How much of your world view comes from your time spent here? Well, obviously, some of it, martha, but one thing that I'm very, very careful not to do is, see everything through the lens of vietnam, that would be a huge mistake and it's informative. But it doesn't imprison me. It doesn't dominate me. Thanks very much, mr. Secretary.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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