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

CQ Transcriptswire






[*] GREGORY: First, the debate about the way forward in Afghanistan. Joining me now: the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin; and the Republican from South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham; as well as Retired Generals Richard Myers and Barry McCaffrey.

Great to have all of you here for such an important discussion.

So here's where we are. On the president's desk, a request for more troops, up to 40,000 troops, from his general on the ground, General McChrystal. The president has said in Afghanistan it is a war of necessity. In March he said there was a massive counterinsurgency strategy, that was the strategy.

So, Senator Levin, if his commander comes to him and says, "I need more forces," why isn't the answer yes?

LEVIN: The answer is that the president of the United States has got to look at all aspects of this. Obviously a commander's recommendation is important. It will be given great weight, I have no doubt about that, and it should be given great weight. But so also should the recommendation of a secretary of defense who is the choice of the president to be in that position.

And the president has to look at a much broader perspective than the commander's request, as important as that is.

GREGORY: But doesn't it flow -- war of necessity, massive counterinsurgency strategy announced in March, handpicked guy goes in there, an expert on counterinsurgency, says, "I need at least 40,000 more troops," doesn't it flow that the answer would be yes?

LEVIN: The flow is that you want to succeed, and what -- how do you maximize the chances of success?

That is the question, and that's what the president is struggling with. We don't know what all those recommendations are, by the way, of General McChrystal. But General McChrystal said a number of things, not that he just needs more resources, whatever that number is. He also says we need a new strategy and that that is even more important than the resources. Those are McChrystal's own words.

He also says "deliberate," take the right amount of time to think this thing through. And he also says that what is even more important than numbers is the resolve. And I had a personal conversation with McChrystal, and what he says is that you want to find ways of showing resolve to the people of Afghanistan. There are many ways to show resolve in addition to more and more combat forces, including many more trainers to get the Afghan forces to be a lot larger and a lot stronger.

GREGORY: Right. You say no, don't send more troops?

LEVIN: I'm saying, at this time, don't send more combat troops, but I say focus on the Afghan forces, the army; faster, larger, better equipped.

Why are we shipping -- why don't we have a great plan to ship equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan?

We ought to do that to strengthen the Afghan army. So there's a lot of ways to show resolve other than more and more combat forces.

GREGORY: Senator Graham, where are you?

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