This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 21, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
E.D. HILL, HOST: Barack Obama says that he wants our troops out of Iraq in two years and Iraq says it does, too, as long as there hasn't been an increase in violence. The Iraqi government released a statement saying that it's hopeful conditions on the ground will allow American troops to leave by 2010. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly warns against setting a specific time line:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard. I'm convinced at this point in time that making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: So, how and when will our troops come home?
With me now is the Senate's Republican Whip, Jon Kyl from Arizona.
Thanks for being with us.
SEN. JON KYL, (R-AZ) SENATE MINORITY WHIP: Hi, E.D. You bet.
HILL: So, has anything really changed? I know that, you know, Americans want our troops home but we don't want to have everything that we've done there go to waste.
HILL: So, are you seeing anything different today in what was said today versus what our plan has been?
KYL: No, E.D., you just said it exactly right. You do not want the great gains that have been made primarily because of the surge to be squandered by leaving too soon. Al Qaeda has essentially been defeated, the sectarian violence has essentially been stopped, and the Iraqi government has met the conditions that we intended for them to meet.
Now, while that situation portends, you don't want to immediately begin your drawdown, giving the Iranians and Al Qaeda an opportunity to come back in at a point when the Iraqis are not yet ready to do it all themselves.
Everybody agrees it would be great to be out in two years. But the key difference between what Senator McCain believes and what the Iraqi government believes on one hand, and what Senator Obama has steadfastly said is — that on one hand, you need to make sure that the conditions on the ground warrant additional drawdown of American troops. That's what the Bush administration also believes.
Obama, on the other hand, has always said, "Absolute 16 months, no conditionality and that's it." And even the Iraqi government says, "No, we want to make sure the conditions on the ground justify it."
HILL: Although people on his campaign have said, "Well, when he becomes president, that of course, he would consult with everybody on the ground and then it might change."
Now, I want to play a sound byte from Senator McCain, because there is this question about what was it that has brought us to this point — was it the surge?
Listen to McCain:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-ARIZ.), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The major point here is — Senator Obama could not have gone to Iraq as he did because he opposed the surge. It was the surge that succeeded. It was the surge that is winning this war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: All right. So, let's say, the surge works, things stay the same and we are able to start bringing our troops out of Iraq, it now sounds — and I know that Senator Obama has said he'd like to send at least two divisions right over into Afghanistan — but it sounds like we're simply going to be shifting our focus from Iraq back to Afghanistan. Is that accurate?
KYL: Partially, but first of all, we've already drawn down five brigades. In other words, we're down to roughly the same level we were before the surge started. We've taken those troops out now.
The question is how much further can we go? And I think everybody believes we will be able to go down further but let's make sure that the conditions on the ground warrant it.
And to your point, I am sure that some of those troops will be redirected to Afghanistan or to put it another way, troops that ordinarily would have come back into Iraq will probably be diverted to Afghanistan, because more troops could be used there.
HILL: Well, you're in the politics business, so you know that one of the arguments is, you know, Senator Obama has said this is an occupation that we're in in Iraq. Other people say, "No, this is a War on Terror that must be won."
What about Afghanistan, what's your understanding of the feeling of the government in Afghanistan? Do they want us back? Do they want more of our soldiers on their territory in their country?
Karzai, who is the leader in Afghanistan, has been very supportive of U.S. policy. In fact, he's been very critical of the Pakistani government next door, for its unwillingness to help the United States and Afghanistan deal with a lot of these terrorists who are hanging out in Pakistan, just across the Afghan border. So, he's been very, very supportive of our efforts, and I think the Afghans would be very pleased if we can get some additional troops in there to help stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.
It's only been relatively recently that the Taliban in Pakistan have begun coming across the border in these numbers and creating the problem there. And so, fortunately, at about the time we're able to begin withdrawing more troops from Iraq is the time when it's probably when it is propitious for us to get more into Afghanistan.
HILL: All right. Senator Jon Kyl, thank you very much for being with us.
KYL: Thank you, E.D.
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