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Special Report

Tragedy for Troops in Afghanistan

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES STRANGE, FATHER OF NAVY SEAL MICHAEL STRANGE: We're very proud of him. And he succeeded with the SEALs. He became E-6 in four years.

CHARLES STRANGE III, BROTHER OF NAVY SEAL MICHAEL STRANGE: He was trained for it. It was something he wanted.

JON WOODS, FRIEND OF NAVY SEAL JOHN BROWN: He was an all-American GI Joe, just a great guy that just loved his countr y.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As heavy a loss as this was, it would even be more tragic if we allowed it to derail this country from our efforts to defeat Al Qaeda. And deny them a safe haven in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: 30 American troops, seven Afghan commandos, one Afghan interpreter killed when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter apparently was shot down by an RPG by the Taliban Saturday. They were on their way to try to rescue another group that was involved in trying to track down a high value target and they came under fire.

We're back with the panel. Juan, this is the single deadliest loss of life for U.S. forces in this war. What about this, and how does it affect the overall outlook of the war, if it does?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, it does. I think you heard from Defense Secretary Panetta an effort to stop some of the drain in terms of public support for the war. But the drain is wide open. People are buying off of this war increasingly. The whole argument about what is possible, how long it has taken, how much money has being spent is weighing on this effort.

Nonetheless, the military of course wants to not just leave abruptly and they don't want this to be the occasion that people would use to say, look, it's not going well, time to get out. They want to do so in an in orderly fashion. That's what the whole drawdown has been about. And they want to be able to leave a structure that ensures they don't have to go back because you won't have resurgence of Al Qaeda. But it's becoming a difficult political argument.

BAIER: Bill, the president said today we will press on, we will succeed. You've heard various statements about this attack, the speaker saying this is a dark conflict. What about political support for Afghanistan?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think there is enough support, honestly, as long as the president keeps his nervous. I mean, there was too much triumphalism after Usama bin Laden was killed. And if you were against the war you said let's get out now, we've killed Usama. Now there's a terrible loss, then people say, well, there has been a terrible loss, a helicopter was shot down, we lost30 brave young men and let's get out. If the war is worth fighting, it's worth fighting. And war is difficult and comes with these losses unfortunately.

BAIER: And so many members of Navy SEAL team six. They were not the members who apparently were involved in the bin Laden mission, but so a large percentage of this helicopter was in fact, the SEAL team, were elite commandos, elite fighters.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a truly heartbreaking loss. It would be in any war at any time. But I think what makes it all the more problematic they were out there risking their lives and losing their lives on behalf of a mission. And the question is, how committed is the president to the mission? He is the one who ordered the surge. We had a surge in Iraq. The intent of that mission was to turn the war around and to stay until it was concluded. And the surge succeeded. It turned the war around.

Now, in Afghanistan, the president announces it -- on the day he announces it, he announces a withdrawal date. And then he affirms that -- reaffirms that, as he did a few months ago and says in September of next year a surge will be unwound, without any relation at all to military necessity. There's no military argument why September. It could be December, it could be in the spring but not September.

And the question is -- the secretary of Defense says it will not derail our efforts to defeat al Qaeda to succeed here. Does Obama want to succeed or does he simply want to make a gesture because the Democrats for a decade had said it is a good war, the one we ought to focus on? Or is he intent on succeeding? That is the open question.

BAIER: When I was in Afghanistan earlier this year, there were a dozen or so of these special ops raids every night, 300 a month. And it's picked up since then, some 2,900 since -- from April to June. This is the new outlook of the war, Juan, going after these high value targets with these specialized forces.

Yeah, you go in like laser specific, and you do it as opposed to just branching out and establishing these bases. That is the way they are doing business. I differ by the way. I think that this president has through the fact that the surge and through the continued commitment demonstrated he wants to have some success there. But you know, the question is what does it mean to win this war?

BAIER: That is the question, one to pose to GOP candidates as well this week in Ames, Iowa, Thursday night.

That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see a rising political party that may have been overlooked.

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