tv Meet the Press NBC August 15, 2010 7:00am-8:00am PST
>> from afghanistan, this is a special edition of "meet the press" with david gregory. >> we have come to kabul at a critical moment of this war. nine years into the conflict, president obama has doubled down surging u.s. forces in order to route the insurgency and help the government of hamid karzai, a government ripe with corruption, stand up on its own. the man behind this new strategy is general david petraeus, the commander behind the successful surge in iraq. petraeus has taken over command of u.s. and coalition forces here after general stan mcchrystal was fired by president obama for publicly
airing his grievances with the war effort. general petraeus is speaking out for the first time exclusively to us about all of the big issues in this conflict. the strength of the taliban, the government of hamid karzai here in afghanistan and leaking of secret war documents on the internet and whether president obama's july of 2011 withdrawal time line will hold. we'll explore those questions in this special hour. is nation building possible in the bad lands of afghanistan? at 57, general david petraeus is easily america's most famous warrior. on this morning, we find him in the middle of physical training as this fiercely competitive four-star general works over soldiers half had his age. >> good morning, marine. how are you? >> with the same intensity as he
works the war plan. despite his reputation for taking on the toughest jobs, general petraeus admits he had his doubts about this assignment. >> obviously that crosses your mind. to be candid, i thought i had done my last one of this type but it's a privilege to do it with the tremendous team that we have out here. >> he recalled the candid one-on-one conversation he had with president obama the day he was tapped for the job. >> well, we talked about literally again the importance of the mission, the importance of our commitment to it. talked about the way ahead. talked about the various dynamics that are at play here that obviously give impressions about our commitment and so forth. i didn't come out here to carry out a graceful exit or something like that. i came out here committed to achieving our objectives and doing everything that we can to
doing that. >> as the former head of central command, general petraeus oversaw the war strategy. >> good morning. how are you? >> now as commanding general on the ground, he's clear eyed about how hard this mission is. >> we have to achieve consensus. >> his morning briefing normally closed to cameras includes a thorough battlefield report. he seizes on word of a taliban attack at a mosque near the border with pakistan telling an adviser to get the word out to the local press. >> damage to the mosque is a good one to hang around the neck of a taliban. >> he is a strategist, a student of the conflict, and savvy enough to handle bottom line questions very delicately. you always say you're a realist. are we winning or losing here? >> we're making progress and progress is winning if you will. but it takes the accumulation of a lot of progress ultimately
needless to say to win overall and that's going to be a long-term proposition without question. >> there's a washington clock. there is talk of a deadline. july 2011 when forces are supposed to begin to come out. is your job as commander to try to slow down that washington clock? >> well, i think our job is again to show those in washington that there's progress being made and to do that we've got to build on the progress that has been established so far because there's certainly nothing like irreversible momentum. what we have are areas of progress. we have got to link those together, extend them and build on it because the security process is the foundation for everything else for the governance progress, the economic progress, rule of law progress and so forth. obviously they influence security as well. they can either reinforce it or they can undermine it. the trick is to get all of this
moving so that you are spiraling upward where one initiative reinforces another. >> general petraeus says he supports the beginning of troop withdrawal next july but it's a qualified response to a highly charged issue back in washington. >> vice president biden also commented on it. he said recently it could be as little as a couple thousand troopers who go home next july. again, that remains to be seen. it will be premature to have any kind of assessment at this juncti juncture about what we may or may not be able to transition. what the president very much wants from me and what we talked about in the oval office is the responsibility of a military commander on the ground to provide his best professional military advice. leave the politics to him. certainly on the where of the context within which i offer that advice but that just informs the advice. it doesn't drive it the
situation on the ground drives it. that's what he wants. that's what he told me to provide and that's what i will provide. that's what i owe the country and our troops fighting hard on the ground. >> you'll take a hard look at this and make a determination about when america's footprint should be diminished and when that's appropriate? >> absolutely. again, as he has said, as nato officials have said, that's a real key element of this. we have since drawn up a number of other principles and guidelines which we provided up our operational chain of command. >> the level of u.s. troops is not the most pressing concern on the ground. the biggest obstacle, rampant corruption in the afghan government. president hamid karzai promised a crackdown but u.s. officials have awaited results. u.s. ambassador carl eikenberry
defends karzai now but last fall he privately warned that karzai could not be trusted. my direct question is you made it clear that you did not trust him as a partner in this debate. that may not have been a view that you wanted public but there it is. have you changed your view about that and based on what? >> david, we have a very good cooperation with the government of afghanistan to work at the challenges we have here of helping to build a capable government. this is a hard task and my role here as united states ambassador is to take forward the president's strategy here. we've got a very clear strategy, david. we've got for the first time -- we've got the proper resources. we've got an array of good programs here in working with the afghan government and law enforcement, their judicial
sector and we remain cautiously optimistic about our ability to make progress. >> during our visit with general petraeus, he focused on examples of that progress. security gains in the center of the country. >> you can see again the construction going on here. >> we accompanied him to near kabul to fly over the sprawling capital city. a much safer city than baghdad was when he assumed command there. >> it's a tough environment. 50 to 60 attacks that day during that time in addition to car bombs. there are periodic attacks in kabul. the frequency is vastly less. >> the general speaks of expanding security out from kabul using the metaphor of an oil spot that grows larger and
larger on the map. >> the oil spot if you will is a term in counterinsurgency literature that denotes a peaceful, secure area. what you're trying to do is always extend that, to push that out. of course what we sought to do was to build an oil spot that would encompass the six provinces including marjah and others and keep pushing that out ultimately to connect it over. kabul is a huge entire province and not just the city. all but one district in kabul by the way has afghan security forces in the lead. >> petraeus is greeted warmly by the governor. security is vastly improved here and now officials see the area
as an emerging model for development projects and good governance. counterinsurgency at work. the general's visit was in part to undermine the importance of that security bubble being expanded. even during this afternoon's meeting with tribal elders and the governor, the general's visit was interrupted by rocket fire. apache helicopters scrambled in response to the fired round. security immediately tightened. the meeting gets interrupted by rocket fire and gets people nervous. >> i didn't see anybody in there nervous. clearly this is what it is about. it's about pushing the security bubble out. it's about rooting out every last guy so there's not even somebody who can fire a single
solitary rpg round. >> the fight in afghanistan is village to village and it still faces tough odds. even a friday morning run with staff and young soldiers provides little relief. there's no hiding from the pressure of rescuing america's longest running war. up next, much more from kabul including my exclusive sit-down conversation with general ♪ [ man ] if it was simply about money, every bank loan would be a guarantee of success. at ge capital, loaning money is the start of the relationship, not the end. i work with polaris every day. at ge capital, we succeed only when they do. whoo! awesome! yes! we've got to get you out of the office more often.
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with general david petraeus at the headquarters of u.s. and coalition forces here in kabul in the very room where general petraeus gets a daily briefing on the progress of the war. general, thank you for having us in the situational awareness room. it's good to be here. >> it's good to have you in afghanistan, david. >> this is a very difficult time in this war and we have talked about your assessment of winning versus losing. the reality that you understand is that the american public is not behind this war. our new poll with "the wall street journal" indicates that 7 in 10 americans lack confidence in a successful outcome to this war. and yet your position was that we're actually winning because we're making some progress. what is it that the american public is missing then? >> well, i think it's incumbent on us to show greater progress, to show sustained progress. i would argue that the progress, if you will, really just began this spring, late spring was when we started to see the
operations in central hellman province truly were starting to improve security. taliban fighting hard as we took away important sanctuaries from them and now you can see it expanding into kandahar province and then other areas around the country in the northwest up in the north and all of these are small pockets of progress. >> can't you understand the american people for nine years have been hearing about incremental progress in afghanistan and remain confused, frustrated, and not invested. >> i can understand it. in fact, that's why i have sought to explain over the last 18 months what we have sought to do in afghanistan is get the inputs right for the first time. a lot of us came out of iraq in late 2008 and started looking intently at afghanistan we realized that we did not have the organizations that are
required for the conduct of a comprehensive civil military counterinsurgency campaign and in some cases we needed individuals in charge of those organizations that we didn't have. we needed to refine the concepts to build in some cases concepts that didn't exist reintegration. you don't want to have to kill or capture every bad guy in the country. you have to reintegrate those that are willing to be reconciled and be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. and then by the end of august we'll have nearly tripled the number of u.s. forces on the ground. we've expanded the non-u.s. nato forces. increased funding to enable 100,000 more afghan national security forces and so on and indeed that's enabling already the inputs are already enabling some outputs and of course what we've got to show is that these
additional inputs can allow greater progress and that that's progress that can be sustained over time by afghanistan forces and officials. >> can you prevail in this war if you don't have the backing of the american people? >> it's not just american people. it's the citizens of all of the 47 or so troop contributing nations and of other nations to are contributing money and not forces. they have to have a sense that we can achieve the very important objectives that we have here. we're here so that afghanistan does not once again become a sanctuary the way it was when al qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks. and of course other attacks have emanated from here or the region because it's a regional issue as well. >> you talk about unity of
effort but the national security team under this administration has not had that. i wonder what you think the impact is, the residual impact is of general mcchrystal being fired because his speaking publicly aired some real differences within the national security team which undermine the effort. >> first of all, let me just start in afghanistan and state very clearly that there is very good civil military unity of effort. ambassador ieikenberry, the nat senior civilian representative, we are like this. in fact, we have done numerous meetings with president karzai together when there have been particularly important issues at hand. for what it's worth my sense is from dealing with the national security team that since president obama made this decision that everyone has linked arms and is moving forward together. >> there's another developing story that the military isn't
happy about and that's the leaking of secret war documents that were put on the internet by wikileaks. another 15,000 documents that are coming out. what's in those documents? how damaging will they be? >> well, first of all, this is beyond unfortunate. this is a betrayal of trust. someone who had apparently had access to highly classified material, albeit not top secret and so forth and a lot of this when we first looked at it we saw it as first report. it's undigested. it's not the final analysis. as we have looked through it more and more, there are source names and in some cases there are actual names of individuals with whom we have partnered in difficult mission s in difficul places and that's reprehensible. i'm not sure what's in the other 15,000 or whatever it is and we'll have to see what that is. >> there is talk it could be worse than the previous batch.
can you add to that? >> i can't. no. until we see what it is and evaluate it as we have now been able to do with these previous materials released. >> you're a unique figure in this situation. conventional wisdom about a war that's effectively lost without public support. it's corruption and lack of confidence in a host government. sounds like the dark days of iraq when you came to lead the surge. is it comparable? >> it's different. it is comparable in some ways. there's a reasonably heavy responsibility that goes with a position like this. there's a host of great individuals out there. our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and civilians who all shoulder this as a team of teams and all of our international partners and of course our afghan counterparts as well. let's not forget the enormous sacrifice that our afghan partners are making because the
afghan army, the afghan police, are taking much higher casualties than our forces are. >> talk about u.s. troops. i asked you before when we talked about this july deadline of next year, how stifling is the concept of this deadline and this washington debate to what you're trying to do here? >> i don't find it that stifling. i'm not bowed over by the knowledge that july 2011 is out there. in fact, the president has been very clear, vice president biden has been very clear as well more recently that this is a date when the process begins that is conditions based. as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our afghan counterparts and security forces and various governmental institutions and that enables a "responsible drawdown of our forces." >> could you reach that point and say i know that the process is supposed to begin but my assessment as commander here is
that it cannot begin now. >> certainly, yeah. the president and i sat down in the oval office and he expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best professional military advice where i understand the mission that's been assigned. we have recommended the strategy and the resources that are required for that strategy and as there are changes in any of that that obviously i would communicate that to him recognizing that he has some issues with which he has to deal that we don't have to worry about and that's real life and that was the process that we worked through last fall. a process i thought was very good. the outcome of which was something we strongly supported. let me point out one other item about july 2011 if i could. what i have often noted was that in the speech that the president made at west point, there were two messages. one was a message of substantial additional commitment. additional 30,000 troops. more civilians. more funding for afghan forces, authorization of 100,000 more of
them and so forth. but also a message of increased urgency and that's what july 2011 really conotes. to those of us in uniform, our civilian counterparts, we have to get on with this. this has been going on for some nine years or so. there is understandable concern and in some cases frustration and therefore we have got to really put our shoulders to the wheel and show during the course of this year that progressing can achieved and again one manifestation of that is out there that you have this date. again, we've had good dialogue on this and i think the president has been quite clear in explaining that it's a process and not an event and that it is conditions based. >> there's a feeling that general petraeus with the credibility you have will be in a position to prevail in a debate about this and say to the president, look, you put me in this position to do a tough job. now you have to listen to me. i need what i need at the time that i need it.
>> look, my job is again to provide my best professional military advice informed certainly by an awareness of the context within which i provide it but not driven by it. that's the same way we approach the very difficult recommendations that we made during the effort in iraq. over time i think those worked out and over time they can work here as well. >> let's talk about the afghan government. hamid karzai, president of afghanistan, is he a friend, a foe or something in between? >> he's a president of a sovereign country and we have to understand that. in many cases, most cases, we have converging objectives as is the case in any of these situations but in some cases we see things a little bit differently. that's natural. we went through this with prime minister maliki on numerous
occasions. there's a situation in which the security forces from outside and the government officials of that particular country occasionally see things or come at things a little bit differently. we've had those moments and we'll continue to have them. when folks ask how's the relationship i say it's a good relationship because we can have those kinds of discussions. >> how often do you discuss things? >> i have talked to the president on average about once a day. a couple times where we've had multiple meetings on a given day. every now and then we'll go a day without talking. we've had numerous conversations. a couple of those have been at his residents walking in his garden out behind his house and so forth. and again we have the kind of relationship that i believe we can each be forthright with the other and that means occasionally again confronting issues that are difficult for either of us. >> is he a real partner of the united states? >> i think he is. beyond that he's the sovereign
president of his country. >> that may be the case and disagreements are one thing but reality is that if his government is rife with corruption, corruption is fueling the insurgency and basically fueling the enemies that we're fighting. >> i think he's been quite forthright about recognizing that. he has stated repeatedly most recently of course just a couple weeks ago in the kabul conference publicly and openly about the various activities that need to take place to combat the kinds of corruption and other activities some predatory practices if you will of local governance and so forth so that indeed you have to get rid of this to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the government. if you look at the number of individuals who have been fired or arrested and tried for corruption, it is a very growing list and there are some others that are pending as well. >> real red flags have been
raised by his interference with the anti-corruption task force. there's not a resolution to this yet but is this something that you are watching very closely? >> it is certainly. he knows that. we've talked to him about that. again, he had some issues about the legal basis, sovereignty and so forth and western involvement with it. some of those understandable. but very clearly we have to watch this and again that's exactly what is going on. >> this may sound unrealistic. isn't it fair to ask is there a statute of limitations on this guy? a cutoff point where he's either with the program, with us or against us? >> he's been elected for a term of office. he will be the president during that term of office. >> sponsored by us. without us he can't stay alive can he? >> in the international community at large. certainly the international community has every right if you will to engage with him on these kinds of issues and that's what's going on. >> is there a cutoff point for him in your mind?
>> no. again this is a process. this is a case in which each side has concerns and there are different pressures on all of the partners involved in this. not just the u.s. and afghan partners but the other international partners, our other diplomatic colleagues and so forth and all of that then gets dealt with. >> here's a small example of the problem if we look at the map. down at the bottom is kandahar province which is where the big campaign is expected to be in the fall. "the washington post" wrote this about resistance to outsiders. many regard the taliban, insurgen insurgents as wayward brothers and cousins. they also worry about siding with their government because they fear taliban retribution both now and when u.s. troop reductions begin next summer. isn't that an example of the
problem you face? >> there are numerous challenges and those are among them. let me highlight what they say. first of all, the rank and file of the insurgency is indeed local brothers. there are some other ethic groups involved and some transnational elements as well but it's an insurgency and they are candidates for reintegration into afghan society and that is starting to happen a bit more over time and we're still awaiting the fairly imminent announcement we think of the actual reintegration and reconciliation policy. again, we think that is going to move forward and that's what you want to have happen. now, what it also highlights is the intimidation that the taliban has been able to carry out and that's a factor of us having to provide better security. >> isn't the bottom line that if
the afghan people trusted their own government they would defeat the taliban on their own and the fact is they don't yet trust their government. >> well, government's first responsibility of course is to secure its people so that those people can indeed declare their allegiance if you will. if the government has not been able to secure the population in an area, particularly in a country that has been at war for some 30 years and where the people have in some cases been professional camelions and side with whichever side appears is going to prevail and that's how you survive. our first and most important task with our afghan security force partners has to be to improve security for the people so they literally can cast a vote not just in the elections in september for their parliamentary leadership but for or against the afghan
government, a government that has to earn legitimacy in their eyes through their actions. >> you talk about getting the big ideas right. it seems like one of the biggest ideas that you have yet to surmount is the fact that there are afghans sitting on the fence because they don't trust the government, there's no love loss for the taliban but at least perhaps they can turn to them or they fear retribution and everybody in the region is now aware that the days of u.s. troops being here actively securing the country are numbered and everybody is making moves based on that information. >> well, first, i would caution those in the region not to jump to conclusions. i think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our afghan partners can do more and we're able to do less in certain areas certainly.
and then you're right there are some on the fence. there's no question about that. again, they are professional survivors. when the afghan government shows that it can secure them and see to their basic needs among which are conflict resolution, local conflict resolution, land dispute, petty crime and so forth and if the government can't do that or won't do it or doesn't do it properly, that's when the taliban can appear to be an alternative and that's reality and we and our afghan partners are aware of that. it's one reason that we are supporting the civilian effort to enhance rule of law and so forth in a much more significant way than we have in the past. >> on this big point, how do you respond to critics who say, look, general, you have got to redefine your nation building goals for afghanistan. it is simply too much to accomplish dealing with a population too resistant to outsiders. we can't succeed at that.
>> at the end of the day it's not about their embrace of us and not about us winning hearts and minds it's about the afghan government winning hearts and minds. this isn't to say there's any kind of objective of turning afghanistan into switzerland in three to five years or less. afghan good enough is good enough and that means having traditional social organizing structures as part of the ultimate solution, if you will, with tribal councils which are quite democratic. they then connect at the district or province level with what goes up to kabul and comes out as well. >> afghanistan good enough, does that entail redefining, defining down some of the goals for rebuilding the nation? >> i think some of that was done last year actually during the course of the process that president obama and the new administration led. i think there was a refinement of objectives. a recognition of realities on
the ground that need to be measured in what it is that we can actually achieve. that's where this concept again of not trying to turn afghanistan into a western industrialized democracy in five to ten years. >> if the outcome is like iraq, is that achieving the mission? >> the outcome in iraq is still to be written. if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90% to 95% as was the case in iraq to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that certainly at least elected representatives and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people as the previous one, if that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well. >> want to ask you about the enemy here and if you would, we have a pointer here. would you point out on the map
where the sanctuaries in pakistan are that are the biggest threat to u.s. forces because of the taliban can operate out of those sanctuaries, cross the border and fight and run back into pakistan. >> first, let me just point out that what we face is not some kind of monolific enemy. but what we face generally is in the southern part of the country this is the taliban, the afghan taliban and then as you work your way up into the eastern part you start to get the network linked to the taliban that has a relationship with them but is not subservant one to the other. we do have some small elements of al qaeda. you have the islamic movement.
you have some pakistani taliban and other elements that come into the country. now, this of course is the federally administered tribal area. this is swat valley. this is the area where pakistan has fought hard and taken significant casualties over the last 18 months. there are areas that they have not yet dealt with. north waziristan is one of those. they had operations in south waziristan and then there are some of the other agencies that they know. let me point out one other point if i could. what's interesting is the taliban leads from the rear. the taliban leads from pakistan and rank and file is just catching onto this. we actually see discussions among them and chatter among them and conversation wondering where their senior leaders are and wondering why he hasn't stepped food back in afghanistan or heard from in months and months. the senior leaders don't come in
and share hardship and risk with troopers on the ground. they send messages. they do it by cell phone or what have you. that is actually going to be a problem for them as is what we have pointed out with our afghan partners much more in recent weeks and that is what the taliban have been doing despite their supposed counterinsurgency guidance of being nice to the people and so forth, they are much more responsible for civilian casualties that afghan forces. most recently they were distinguished by flogging and assassinating a pregnant woman. they have used children and teenagers to carry out attacks. what they have done is really quite egregious particularly in the context of the religion and in the context of the normal codes of conduct. >> let me ask you what is the biggest threat if there are few al qaeda that are actually operating in afghanistan today, you have outlined the sanctuary
difficulty that you face that is in pakistan and this is a country that the united states pays billions of dollars to and yet some of that money is going to aid and abet insurgents and terrorists who are killing our troopers. >> i don't know that i would buy that. our money goes to the security side to pakistani army and the economic assistance goes to various elements of society and to pakistani government directly. again, first remember what pakistan has done over the course of the last 18 months. remember the casualties they have sustained in taking on the extremists in their country albeit focusing on those most threatening the existence of pakistan as citizens know it and recognizing that there's no question about the sanctuaries or about the need to do more
work in those particular sanctuaries. >> could pakistan deliver osama bin laden today? >> i don't think anybody knows where osama bin laden is. the fact that it took him four weeks to get a congratulatory message out or message of condolence in the course of the last year or so and we've seen these indicates how far buried he is probably in t >> is his capture less important today than it was? >> i think he remains an iconic figure and capturing or killing osama bin laden is still a very, very important task for all of those engaged in counterterrorism around the world. >> if the taliban comes back into government in afghanistan in any form, do you automatically believe that al qaeda comes back? >> these are the kinds of questions that people talk about when they talk about reconciliation and that is of course with the more senior leaders of the taliban and other elements. i think there is a prospect for reconciliation with some of the groups.
i didn't mention another element that's out there that's made a number of overtures and reportedly is entertaining thoughts of agreeing to the red lines that president karzai put down accepting the constitution, laying down weapons, renouncing al qaeda, being a productive element in society. the way these kinds of endeavors typically end as with the case in iraq, ultimately we had to face the question in iraq of will we sit down across the table from people who have our blood on their hands. and the answer was yes. that was a decision that i had to make early on in the surge. it doesn't mean that omar is about to stroll down main street in kabul any time soon and raise his hand and swear an oath on the constitution of afghanistan but every possibility that there can be low and mid level reintegration ration and some fracturing of the senior leadership that could be defined as reconciliation. >> you see that cover of "time"
magazine in the last couple of weeks. an example of the brutality of the taliban with the woman whose nose was cut off her face. a reminder of what taliban rule was. how often do you think about that as there's the prospect of the taliban returning and reconciling becoming a part of this country's future. >> we think about it all of the time. we think about it in the human context which that photograph so horrifically represented and we think about it when it comes to our core objective. it was the taliban that allowed al qaeda to establish its bases and sanctuaries in afghanistan when it controlled a good bit of the country. and that gives big pause needless to say and that's why again this insurgency has to be combatted. >> the bottom line question that i've been thinking about asking you is if we win in afghanistan what do we win?
if we lose, what do we lose? >> well, the latter is almost easier because if you lose, it has, i think, some significant repercussions not just for this country although they would be enormous and the start with the cover of "time" magazine for starters and then think about security interest and then think about the region and what it could do to the region if extremists were able to take over all or part of this country again after what presumably would be a very bloody civil war. different countries in the regions take side. again, the prospect is, i think, is pretty frightening. if we succeed on the other hand, obviously, we are, again, succeeding in a region that has implications and links to the security issues throughout the world. if afghanistan can become the central asian round-about to use
karzai's term to where it can be the new silk road, think of the implications for that. we're calling that afghanistan is blessed with the presence of what are trillions with an s on the end, trillions of dollars worth of minerals if and only if you can get the technology and human capital operated and lines of communication to enable you to get it out of the country and all of the rest of that. very big if. there's a foundation of security that would be necessary on which to build all of that. but again the prospects are very significant if you can achieve objectives and by the way, i'm always leery of using terms actually like winning because it seems to imply that you just find the right hill out there somewhere, you take it, you plant the flag and you go home to a victory parade. i don't think that's going to be the case here. this is going to -- i've said this repeatedly when i was central command commander before that that this was going to require a substantial
significant commitment and that it is going to have to be enduring to some degree again albeit its character and its size being scaled down over the years. >> you said five years ago the longest campaign of the long war. >> i did. as i mentioned to you, i met with secretary rumsfeld after conducting an assessment for him after leaving iraq after a second tour there where we stood up the train and equip mission and he asked we use what we learned there to evaluate what was going on here. we went all around the country. did a reasonably good assessment. went back and met with secretary rumsfeld and laid out a variety of areas in which actions could be taken that could based on what we learned in iraq, where there could be improvements as it to what was going on in afghanistan. i talked about areas that just needed to be sustained as well. and then added that my sense of the situation was that given the
30 years of war and given the lack of human capital because of all that fighting given before 30 years of war began afghanistan was one of the five poorest countries in the world that my sense was that this would likely be the longest campaign in what we then called the long war. >> a couple of additional questions. i would like to ask you about iraq again. do you consider this a durable success? durable success? >> well, again, i think the final chapter for iraq is certainly still to be written and of course there's an immediate pressing issue there which is the formation of the government. i think they can come together. i think that what will end up happening is it won't be a question of just who will be the president, prime minister and speaker of the council of representatives rather there will be power sharing agreements that will be officially or
unofficially made that will enable selection of the key leaders. i think that's what's holding the process up. very important of course to get that government in place and hopefully to ensure that it is like the previous government for all its challenges it was representative of the iraqi people and it was broadly responsive to it. they knew there were elections coming up and they took action because of that. >> do you think president bush will get more credit for the iraq war? >> i think he certainly made a very courageous decision in ordering the surge and deciding on that. obviously that was not the most popular move at the time having been in the center of that and it was a very tough call and we went through a number of very difficult months as you recall because of the level of violence that went up quite considerably as surge forces arrived and as they went into offensive operations to take away the sanctuaries from the enemy that al qaeda in iraq had enjoyed for a couple of years in some cases.
it's not unlike a bit of what is playing out here albeit not quite the same scale throughout the country because again the situation here is quite different. >> when it comes to iran and its effect in this country, are you now considering active talks with iran as it applies to the future of afghanistan? >> i am certainly not. obviously that would be a huge policy decision but the fact is that president karzai has had discussions with iran. there are areas of convergence. this is a country in which there are actually some common objectives if iran can look past its desire that we not succeed too easily. iran doesn't want to see the taliban come back anymore than do most afghan citizens. it's an ultraconservative extremist sunni islamic organization and they don't want to see it rule the country the
way it did in the past. having said that, they also don't want to see us achieve our objectives easily and they have indeed provided over time what one might call modest amounts of weapons, explosives, and funding and some training to the taliban as well. >> what's worse, iran with a nuclear weapon or the fallout of an attack on iran to prevent a nuclear weapon? >> that's one for the policy makers. of course that's the huge question that looms out there. obviously when i was a central command commander, we had a variety of different input and made a variety of different plans and so forth. what the military gets paid to do is think about what ifs and indeed to prepare for them. >> i want to get a sense of your frame of mind while you're here. what are you reading? >> i just read a book about copy ling in india of all things and most recently i've been reading
about the history of grant regarding him as the true hero and then over time in the 1900s there was a period when there were disparagingly views of him and then it came up in recent years. >> i have this quote prepared for you from someone that you admire. it is this. i'm not a politician. never was. i hope never to be. you know who said that? >> was it grant? >> it was grant. >> i am not a politician. i will never be. i say that with absolute conviction. >> that's what he said. but does that mean that you're totally clear you would never run for president. >> i really am. i have said that if you go back to look at what's been a shermanesqe answer on that.
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>> finally, a few take aways from my trip to afghanistan. the deeper you go into this story through reporting and studying the history of this country the more you feel the weight of just how difficult and confusing this place is. it gives you a very uncertain outlook for the future here. america's history in the region is long but it's also short sided. even as america has a more robust commitment to the war now, i sense a certain weariness and even doubt about what is ultimately possible here with deep debates about whether nation building can work and whether the conflict will end in anything other than stalemate. general petraeus is a military
leader with great commitment and great intellectual rigor but you have to wonder whether he has enough time politically to achieve what he thinks is possible here. president bush told people before leaving office privately that succeeding here in afghanistan would be vastly more difficult than even iraq and here we are still fighting in what general petraeus himself said five years ago would be the longest campaign in the long war. the question now for the american public is whether it has the stomach and the will to do what it takes to succeed here and whether it has the stomach for what could happen here if the u.s. and its allies fail. for afghanistan, that's all for today. i'll be back next week from if n gtshin's s i if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." pain. that's breakfast with two pills. the morning is over, it's time for two more pills.
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