This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Lindsey Graham says he is worried the United States is going soft. But it gets worse. He says our troops are sitting ducks in Afghanistan. And ready for more? He warns that the president needs to make a decision about a strategy.
Earlier, we went to Capitol Hill and Senator Graham went "On the Record."
VAN SUSTEREN: You were in Afghanistan in August. You've been all over the world.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R - S.C.: Yes. Yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: So naturally, I want to ask you about Afghanistan. What are we going to do?
GRAHAM: Well, I...
VAN SUSTEREN: What should we do?
GRAHAM: Well, here's what I think would be best for the country and the region and the world, quite frankly, is for the president to decide to reinforce our troops and to give General McChrystal the reinforcements he's asking for. The best thing for our country is for the president to give the 40,000 troops that General McChrystal says he needs to turn around Afghanistan.
And if I were the president, I would do it before this next round of elections because to vote in Afghanistan, you literally risk your life because the Taliban is trying to deter people from voting. They'll cut off your finger. They'll assassinate your family.
So I'd like to see our president say to the world and to the Afghan people, Go back and vote again. We're going to give you a better election. We're going to be with you after the election. And to the people who win the election, we're going to be your partner but you're going to have to do better, and let the Taliban know that you're not going to drive us out, that we're going to partner with the new Afghan government and the people, and we will defeat you.
That's the message I want the president to deliver to the extremists and to the good people of Afghanistan because if we do anything short of that, we're sending the wrong message to Pakistan, who's finally engaged in the fight for the first time, and we're sending the wrong message to Iran.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, this week, you said that you feared the U.S. was "going soft."
VAN SUSTEREN: Going soft?
GRAHAM: Well, what I fear the most is that Pakistan is finally engaging their Taliban. The Pakistan Taliban are the cousins of the Afghan Taliban. The government and army in Pakistan for the first time in maybe 20 years really are going after the Taliban in Pakistan. And we've been asking them to do this for a long time. At the very moment they're engaging in the fight, we're pulling back and showing uncertainty. So I think that is sending the wrong signal to the Pakistan government and to the Taliban.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, you said that this decision should be made before the election.
VAN SUSTEREN: The election is tentatively scheduled for November 7.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I don't know if that can be pulled off or not, which is another whole issue.
VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary Gates said we shouldn't sit on our hands.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is the president sitting on his hands? Rahm Emanuel says that they want to see what government they're going to be dealing with, so it seems like they want to wait the outcome of the election.
GRAHAM: Well -- well...
VAN SUSTEREN: Are we sitting on our hands?
GRAHAM: Secretary Gates's concerns are very legitimate. We've had the McChrystal report since August the 30th. Now, I don't fault the president for being deliberative and thinking this thing through because committing people to combat is a very hard decision for any commander-in- chief. But the reality is we have 68,000 people in combat who need help. So the longer we wait, the worse it will be.
As to this idea we've got to wait to the next round of elections -- I think that's backwards. No matter who wins the election on November the 7th, if that's when we'll have it, corruption and governance is a huge problem. But without security, it doesn't matter who wins the election. You cannot train the police and the army when the families of the people you're trying to recruit are getting killed.
Right now, to join the Afghan police, they come after your family. We've got to get better security to the people of Afghanistan so they'll be willing to join the army and police.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, two-part question. Number one is, do you really think that a November 7th election will get off the ground? It's very difficult to sort of organize a national election, and certainly under those conditions. That's the first thing. The second thing is, why do you think the present is waiting so long? You know, if it's August 30th he got the report or -- or -- are we at the point where he's still in that deliberative process, or is there indecision?
GRAHAM: Well, it's becoming indecision? I've tried to be friendly to the idea that the president needs to take his time because this is a hard decision. And quite frankly, I don't want to do to him what happened to President Bush. I don't want this to be President Obama's war. This is America's war. If he will give the generals what they want, I'll be one Republican, along with Senator McCain and Lieberman and others, plenty of Democrats, who will stand behind this president. I know the war is not popular. We're a war-weary nation. But this is the place we were attacked from. So I'm urging the president to give the commander what he wants. The commander's been waiting way too long. The troops in battle now are really at risk.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are we really going to have an election on November 7th in Afghanistan? I mean, is that realistic? I mean, we're all focused on that date.
GRAHAM: Well, let's put it this way. Yes, I think it's realistic. Would it help clear the air? Probably. Having a new election between the two leading candidates may legitimize the outcome because the first election was filled with fraud.
But I was there on election day. The one thing you don't hear much about is how brave you had to be to go to the polls. I saw the flyers that were sent around by the Taliban with a noose around people's necks, with the images of fingers being cut off. I saw firsthand the intimidation that people had to go through to be able to vote. The fact that we had an election and people went to the polls, risking their lives, is a good news story. We're going to have another election. And when we talk about voting here at home, sometimes we worry if it rains and is it convenient. Over there, they worry if you get killed.
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