This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, only here, both of Arizona's United States senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, go "On the Record." And the day is packed with huge headlines. Right now, General Stanley McChrystal is in the air, on his way to Washington, D.C., for an Oval Office meeting with President Obama. Why? Well, in a sizzling new "Rolling Stone" article, General McChrystal and his aides shred the president and several top officials in the Obama administration. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Kyl, Senator McCain, nice to see you both.
SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: Great to be with you.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator McCain, let me start with you. The news is that General McChrystal is on a plane scheduled to land 4:00 AM Eastern here in Washington. Your thoughts on today's news?
MCCAIN: I'm saddened and concerned. I'm saddened because I have a great admiration and respect for General McChrystal, who is a wonderful leader, and I'm sorry that he finds himself in this situation. But obviously, those words were not only unfortunate but inappropriate.
I'm concerned that if General McChrystal has to resign -- and he may - - that what happens to the leadership in the middle of a very crucial time in Afghanistan. As you know, the Kandahar offensive is just beginning, and losing the leader at that time would be very unfortunate. But I respect the president's decision as commander-in-chief on this situation.
VAN SUSTEREN: We're hearing reports that, you know, there's speculation that -- and maybe by the time we hit air tonight he will have resigned. If he doesn't resign, should he be fired?
MCCAIN: I think that's a decision that the president makes as commander-in-chief. As I say, his remarks were unfortunate. He also has a background of outstanding service to the country. So I really can't say as to what the president should do.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Kyl?
KYL: I agree. I just hope that when this is resolved, and I suspect it'll be resolved quite quickly -- we'll get back to the business of trying to win the war in a more unified way than apparently we're doing right now. We all need to be pulling together on this. That means the folks in the field, commanders, the president, the people in the Congress. It's been a bipartisan effort, and I hope we can return it to that.
MCCAIN: Could I add one additional point here about my concern? The president has stated and continues to repeat that we'll be leaving in the middle of next year. We cannot win if our enemies are emboldened by the knowledge that we are leaving, no matter what, and our friends are discouraged. A lot of Karzai's behavior has got to do with his belief, apparently, that we may be leaving and he may have to be there to accommodate (ph). Our friends there are beginning to wonder and our enemies are encouraged. The president needs to say unequivocally that it is based on conditions, withdrawal is based on conditions and nothing else, not on an artificial date.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what do we do now, though? I mean, if -- if -- you know, if we have to -- we have a new general in charge, a new field commander in charge, how do we regroup from this? Because you know, the people in Afghanistan are going to hear this. Our enemies are going to hear this. It's not something that we can sort of keep in the family. This is out there, that General McChrystal has said these things, and he has said very pointed things about the president, even saying that when he met with him, it felt like a photo-op.
KYL: Well, that's why I said we have to reunify on this. But part of the reunifying is around a common goal. The goal has to be success, and success is not defined by a date, it's defined by circumstances on the ground. Senator McCain I believe is absolutely correct, as he was, by the way, back in the time of the Iraq war when he called for the surge. We cannot afford to have an arbitrary date that friends and enemies alike view as a certainty that we're going to be leaving, and as a result, they make their accommodations as they need to.
VAN SUSTEREN: The surge seemed to be very successful in Iraq. But now in the month of June, we've had more than 1,000 American deaths in Afghanistan and we've now hit the point where this war has lasted longer than the Vietnam war. So what is it going to take to win?
MCCAIN: I think the strategy is correct. I worry about the diplomatic side. I worry about the relationship between our military leaders and our embassy. I worry about the special envoy, Ambassador Holbrooke, and what role he plays in and out (ph). I don't see as much of a concerted team effort as we had in Iraq between General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker and others. I have not seen that yet.
I have great confidence in our military leadership, no matter what it is, and the men and women who are doing the fighting. But I'm very worried about the diplomatic side of this whole situation.
VAN SUSTEREN: But how do we rehabilitate it? That's the problem. I mean, you know, I -- of course, every -- you know, we share your worry. I mean, this is rather a frightening thing to discover today that there apparently has been this dissension between General McChrystal and even -- and the president and that there's been some level of belittling by the military leadership of the president of the United States and maybe the president doesn't have the authority with them. I don't know what the situation is, but we have to rehabilitate a situation. How do we do that?
MCCAIN: The president sets the goals. The president agrees to the strategy and helps devise the strategy. And then you get sufficient personnel, equipment and individuals, both military and civilian, in place in order to ensure success. That also requires cooperation and help from our allies.
So we can put a team in place. There are many talented people that can serve this country in an outstanding fashion. But they have to have the right direction and the right commitment from the very top, and that means we will not withdraw until we succeed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Kyl, how do you get sort of -- how do you get the confidence of the American people? I mean, we've got to get the confidence of our military. We've got to send a message on the ground in Afghanistan. But the American people -- and some are queasy on whether we should remain in Afghanistan or leave Afghanistan. I mean, how -- how do you regain the confidence of the American people that we should stay, assuming that you believe we should stay?
KYL: It seems to me that they have to be able to answer the question, Is it worth it for another American to die? They have to be able to say there are circumstances in which, for the sake of our country, it is worth it. If they can say that, then support begins to erode very, very rapidly. And that's the problem with the uncertain trumpet that's been sounded here by the automatic withdrawal date.
If the president were to come out and say, No, I always intended that to be the beginning, but to be dictated by circumstances on the ground and we will not leave until we've achieved our mission, then I think the American people will not only rally behind the president, the troops will know what they're fighting for, and our allies will perhaps stand a little taller with us. And our enemies are going to then have to account for the fact that they can't just wait us out. And the folks in the region will perhaps stop making accommodations with everybody else in the region, figuring that we're going to be gone one day.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is our goal, though? When the bombing started October 7th, 2001, we had a specific goal, but this has now dragged on. And we pushed al Qaeda out I think into Pakistan -- you know, that's at least what I read. What's our goal now?
MCCAIN: Our goal is very simple, to make sure that Afghanistan is never used as a base for attacks on the United States and our allies again. That requires a stable government, control of the country and progress towards democracy, the same thing we are seeing in Iraq. And I might point out things were far worse in Iraq when we started the surge than they are in Afghanistan today.
VAN SUSTEREN: But in Iraq, they at least had had some form of government, you know, that was not so remotely dissimilar from our own. Afghanistan is a tribal area, where they have different tribes and different families. It's a different -- can we do that?
MCCAIN: Greta, I say with respect, you forget that nobody believed that Maliki was anything but terribly weak. We had incredible sectarian violence on a level we don't have in Afghanistan between Sunni and Shia. We had divisions on the Kurdish border. We had the Iranians playing -- sending in the most lethal IEDs. So there was open ethnic strife in Iraq when we started this the surge.
There's not that in Afghanistan. And yes, there are problems with ethnic divisions, but that doesn't mean that an effective government that really works for the people, without corruption, wouldn't be supported by every ethnic group.
VAN SUSTEREN: What does that government look like? Does it look anything remotely -- I mean...
MCCAIN: Karzai government. He's got a -- they've got a functioning parliamentary body. But they've got to make progress against corruption. He's got to show strong leadership. And we have to help build the Iraqi army and police, and that's very tough.
KYL: It's been traditionally very regional-based, and to some extent tribal-based. We're trying to help him create a stronger central government. But there will be undoubtedly a strong regional and local component here, too, perhaps a little more than Iraq, which is a more developed country.
But I totally agree with Senator McCain. It can be done. But it won't be done, I think, as long as people see an artificial date which then causes them to have to plan for what happens the day after that day.
MCCAIN: Counterinsurgency strategy works. And each country and area is different. Iraq is different from Afghanistan. But principles, the fundamental principles actually written by David Petraeus apply in any counterinsurgency. You just have to tailor it to the particular situation.
And again, corruption is a very big problem and we have to make it clear that progress has to be made in that area. I would point out that the Afghan army that we have are excellent fighters. We just need a much bigger one.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do we have to worry about morale in our military in light of this rather explosive information today?
MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think that our military is so professional and well trained -- I think they all admire and respect General McChrystal, as I do. But I think, overall, I think they understand the mission is greater than the individual. But there's no doubt that he is an outstanding leader. And if the president decides that he's not the right person, then we're going to have to find the right person to lead.