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CQ Transcript: Sens. Levin, Graham on NBC's 'Meet the Press'

President Obama is smart to push Karzai. But I think it's going to be required of him in this nation to understand this is a generational struggle. You're never going to make progress until you provide better security. You can have 10,000 American civilians over there helping the Afghans. They can't get off the base because they'll get killed.

GREGORY: But, Senator, you're still talking...

GRAHAM: The Afghan army and police...

GREGORY: You're still talking about goals, and my question is about timeline. We have been there for more than eight years, and the situation is deteriorating.

GRAHAM: Yes.

GREGORY: Senator Levin, why isn't it appropriate, as Democrats did with Iraq, to say here and now that there should be a timeline for how long we're there?

LEVIN: There should be milestone for success, obviously.

GREGORY: A deadline?

LEVIN: No.

GREGORY: For withdrawal?

LEVIN: No. I don't think we can put a deadline. I don't think we know enough about how these events are going to unfold for there to be a deadline. But the mistake, going back to that last question, I believe that was made in Afghanistan was taking our eye off that ball, not going after bin Laden when we had him where we wanted him and instead putting -- shifting our major focus to Iraq. I think that was the major mistake that was made.

But now I think it would be a mistake for us to do anything other than to look for ways to succeed in Afghanistan. And there's a legitimate debate going on as to how do we succeed in Afghanistan, and that's what we ought to focus on. Setting a timeline I don't think would be the right thing.

GRAHAM: David...

GREGORY: Senator?

GRAHAM: David, could I add something? I don't mean to interrupt.

GREGORY: Yes, go ahead.

GRAHAM: Can I add something?

GREGORY: Yes, sir.

GRAHAM: I think, in the next 24 months, if we'll follow McChrystal plan to reinforce the 68,000, bring about better security, come up with a game pan of -- plan of better governance, in 24 months from now we'll change the security environment, we'll build up the Afghan army and police and we can been -- begin to do in Afghanistan what we're doing in Iraq in 24 months. That's what I think.

GREGORY: Realistically, from both of you generals, what is victory in Afghanistan?

MYERS: Some sort -- in my view, it's some sort of stable government. And back to Senator Levin's point...

GREGORY: So we can't leave? We can't pull troops out of Afghanistan until there's a stable government?

MYERS: I think it has to be a viable, stable government that the people believe in. And if you're going to have Afghan security forces that are effective, they have to be connected to the central government and feel that there's some connection and some direction coming from their central government. Otherwise it doesn't work; they're just in the field doing what they do but there's no connection to the overall mission of that country.

So I think, clearly, that's -- that's part of it. And I think there has to be some economic development to give people there hope that there's something beyond what they're doing today.

GREGORY: Can we beat the Taliban?

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