This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," Sept. 30, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Bob Woodward's latest book, as always, is making headlines. The book is "Obama's Wars." Bob Woodward joins us live here in Washington. Hi, Bob.
BOB WOODWARD, "OBAMA'S WARS" AUTHOR: Hi.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I loved the book.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: It was riveting. It was disturbing, though.
VAN SUSTEREN: Because I guess I didn't want to see all the sausages made. And I had hoped that when I read it, there would be, like, strong certainty and direction in the war. And it is an impossible war, but I was hoping that I felt better about how it was being executed.
WOODWARD: It's a fair point. What it shows is that on an intellectual level Obama realizes how dreary everything is. And so, as the commander in chief, he designed a plan which reflects his inner Obama who wants out of Afghanistan. He does not like this war. He does not like war.
And as you may note when I interviewed him, he never uses the word "win." He never uses the word "victory."
VAN SUSTEREN: But going throughout book, all these national security meetings in the Situation Room which you chronicle in here, they are constantly asking like what's our mission?
I guess when I think of all the men and women fighting, those who have lost lives, the families, if we are still, nine years later, we are still trying to figure out what is the goal here? I think that's what I think is distressing and disturbing.
WOODWARD: It is. And you go back before the strategy review last year and they hadn't even defined whether they wanted to defeat the Taliban insurgency or whether they wanted to degrade it.
And for a long time, and this explains McChrystal's aggressive request last year for 40,000 troops, the secret orders said we want to defeat the Taliban. That is a much more difficult task than just degrading them.
Then they get into these meetings and they realize how hard it is, and the mission suddenly becomes degrade, which supposedly is easier. But if you are a soldier on the ground there --
VAN SUSTEREN: Or a family member here.
VAN SUSTEREN: I took a lot of notes. And Secretary of Defense Gates says you can't defeat the Taliban. General Petraeus says, you can't defeat the Taliban. And Petraeus even says you have to recognize that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting.
It's a little bit like Iraq actually. This is the kind of fight we are for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives. And then Ambassador Holbrooke says it doesn't work. I mean, these are the people trying to sell to the American people that we are on the right path.
WOODWARD: Yes, it is painful. Reporting it and seeing how this evolved and seeing and connecting to exactly what you're asking about the families, but the soldiers on the ground.
Somebody was asking me from one of the military organizations today, saying isn't this demoralizing? And I can see where it would be demoralizing. At the same time, as the reporter you can't give a laundered or sterilized version of what the reality is here.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it sort of seems like a little, and I understand how difficult it is for the president, and everyone who is trying to -- everyone wants the same thing. It is or not they are being realistic that it can be achieved.
And worse, are they being candid with the American people? Because right now, as we wait nor this next study to come in December, I've looked at the numbers. We did research of the numbers that are dying. The numbers, they are going up. In January it was 30, and then the numbers keep going up. In June it was 60, July 65.
WOODWARD: The casualties and the people killed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, the casualties are going up. And if we've got the general and we've got the secretary of defense and everyone saying, Holbrooke saying they can't win. If everybody says they can't win --
WOODWARD: Well, they're not precisely saying they can't win. Holbrooke said the strategy can't work because it's military, and his view is the only way you get out is some sort of diplomatic settlement. In the case of Gates and Petraeus when they are saying you can't defeat the Taliban, it's like the Republicans can't defeat and eliminate the Democrats and vice versa.
The Taliban is a part of the fabric of Afghanistan. And the people who have look at it, the intel people, the military people, say it is going to be here. You have to have some form of reconciliation.
And the idea is to kill or capture the radical elements in the Taliban and then take the people who are less radical, less committed, and find a way to win them over to our side and the side of the Karzai government.
VAN SUSTEREN: You raised the Karzai government. That all sounds nice, but in your book I read over and over how everybody, including the vice president, General Petraeus, they say the Afghanistan government is a criminal syndicate.
WOODWARD: Yes. Isn't that something?
VAN SUSTEREN: And these are our partners.
WOODWARD: Right. I mean, imagine partnering with a criminal syndicate? What's the history of nations or individuals who have made deals with criminal syndicates? It's not a happy one.
And this of course, we see it almost every day in the news. Karzai one day is, you know, with us. Then he's criticizing us. He's crying in public. The intel reports, which are cited here in the book, say he's a manic depressive. And that he's on his medication, off his medication. He's a shaky partner.
VAN SUSTEREN: It was very clear in October of '01 why we went into Afghanistan. It was to look for bin Laden. Interviewing Secretary of State Clinton others they have told me they think that Usama bin Laden is no longer in Afghanistan but he's in Pakistan.
In your book you talk about our attempts to sort of partner with Pakistan, which is double dealing us at every single turn. They've got the most criminal military intelligence agency. Every time we do drone attacks, according to your book, is that they notify the people who are about to do it so they can scurry out of there.
WOODWARD: That's what was happening early on. There is less of that. But you are exactly right. Go to the world of Barack Obama two days after he's elected president of the United States, and the intel people come in and they take him into this secret room called the "secure compartmented information facility" where no one can eavesdrop.
And one of the things they say is Pakistan is living a lie. And the problem here is the Quetta Shura in Pakistan, and they tell him this is the center of gravity of the problem we've got. And he says, well, what are we doing about that? And they say not much.
Now, Obama is doing more. But, when I talked to him about this, he said Pakistan is doing more. And I said "But not enough." And he said, "Exactly."
VAN SUSTEREN: Pakistan is -- I mean, there's so much -- six out of 10 people according to a Pew poll in July, six out of ten in Pakistan think we are the enemy. It doesn't sound like our partners.
You've got the whole problem they have with India where they are pointing nuclear weapons at each other. And you've got the president of the country, Zardari, who when his country gets flooded he sort of jets off to his chateau in France and doesn't take care of his people.
We are spending a gazillion dollars to try to help these people but militarily and humanitarian. None of this in your book gives me a sense of, OK, good this is going work.
WOODWARD: Yes, I agree.
VAN SUSTEREN: This is the most disturbing book. When you see inside how the sausage is made, it is almost like we might be able to maintain, but that's the best we can do.
WOODWARD: Yes. And this is the dilemma Obama has. Where is the good news? Where is the progress? General Petraeus has said, well, if I show some progress, I can put more time on the clock so this date to begin some kind of withdrawal nine months from now can perhaps be postponed.
In the secret orders that Obama issues to the military and his national security team, they list forest being factors. We've talked about some -- Karzai and the whole problem of that government. We haven't talked about the Afghan National Security Force with the army and the police corrupt. The fact the attrition rate is larger than the growth rate --
VAN SUSTEREN: It's a nightmare.
WOODWARD: A nightmare. International support in peril. Support in this country in peril. And then there is the Pakistan problem, which --
VAN SUSTEREN: One quick question and then I've got to go. Is Secretary of State Clinton, does he listen to her and take her advice or does he just humor her because of their political history?
WOODWARD: No. A lot of White House political advisers as David Axelrod says to Obama when they are considering Hillary for a job right after the election, he said how can you trust Hillary? Obama, I think, trusts her --
VAN SUSTEREN: Take her advice?
WOODWARD: No. I think her impact on the policy is not that great. She joined with Gates in the military and I call it four, five blocks of granite that Obama could not move around. Joe Biden emerges as a dynamo.
VAN SUSTEREN: He's the provocateur, asking the tough questions. He was quite impressive in this book in terms of the --
WOODWARD: His intellectual arguments are as sound as anybody's.
VAN SUSTEREN: "Obama's Wars" -- if you are in the military you should read this book. If you know anybody in the military or even if you give a damn about what is going on in the world, we get to see how the sausage is made, regrettably. Great book. Thank you, Bob.
WOODWARD: Thanks, Greta.