Transcript: Sens. Bond, Bayh on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the July 22, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now to continue our discussion of how to win the War on Terror are two key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the top Republican, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana.

And, Senators, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

BOND: Thank you.

BAYH: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: As we said in the last segment, the new National Intelligence Estimate talks about Al Qaeda regenerating itself, getting stronger in western Pakistan.

Senator Bayh, what should we do about it?

BAYH: It's a tough problem, Chris. We've got to work with the Pakistani government, as Fran Townsend was indicating. They're in the best position to do something about this.

Thankfully, they're trying to get back into that area after having withdrawn for a year. That was a disastrous policy. Hopefully they've changed that.

But the real question is, "Are they capable of doing this even if they want to?" And as she was indicating, we can use some other means — covert means, that sort of thing — but you've got to be careful, because if it is clear that we're going into their national territory, we run the risk of undermining a regime that has been one of our allies in this struggle.

So we've got to be more aggressive, but we've got to do it in a way that doesn't undermine the Pakistani government.

WALLACE: Well, I want to pick up on that, Senator Bond, with you.

As a member of Senate Intelligence, first of all, do we have the information, not specifically about bin Laden or Zawahiri, but about where this growing Al Qaeda and Taliban force is in western Pakistan? And should we consider a covert war to take out their safe haven?

BOND: Obviously, we'd be talking all about that on this show if we had a covert action, and Evan and I do know of many efforts going on. But as he indicated, we have to work with the Pakistanis.

WALLACE: Not by ourselves, not unilaterally?

BOND: We work in cooperation with them. And if we knew precisely where Usama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri were, action would be taken. And I am confident of that.

And when Evan and I were in Pakistan a year ago January, went up to Peshawar, which is right on the border, and we found out how absolutely treacherous and almost inaccessible that area is.

Just three weeks before we were there, they tried to establish a military outpost with 12 people. They were warned not to do it. The tribes came in, killed as 12. Twenty people came in to back them up.

It is not an easy place, even for the military of the government of Pakistan.

WALLACE: Senator Bond, President Musharraf, I don't have to tell you, is now being whipsawed both by violent extremists on one side and by the pro-democracy movement on the other.

How much trouble do you believe he is in? And should we have a more independent policy toward Pakistan and Musharraf, or should we try to put more distance between ourselves and the president?

BOND: Well, we work with our allies based on who is in power. While many of these countries are not our ideal Jeffersonian democracy, we can't expect them to meet all of our standards. We're pretty sloppy in some areas ourselves.

And yet as long as Musharraf is the head of Pakistan — and he is cooperating with us, in many areas. There are problem areas, as Fran said, but we're going to continue to work with him and we're not going to do anything to undermine an ally who has worked with the United States.

WALLACE: But, Senator Bayh, as you know, sometimes we get ourselves linked to some of these leaders in these countries and then when there's a popular movement to throw them out, we're on the wrong side of history in those countries.

BAYH: Well, Chris, it can happen, and it's a tough balancing act. As Kit was saying, for the moment, he's the constituted government in Pakistan. He's trying to work with us to deal with some of these problems.

We can't allow another safe haven to exist. But if we do things to prevent that safe haven from being created that undermine the government, we create a bigger safe haven with an unstable Pakistan. So, look. They've got an election coming up later this year. We'll see what happens.

Now that the chief justice is back in the supreme court, we don't even know what their supreme court is going to rule about whether he can run again. So let's work with the government we've got to try and secure that area.

If there's an internal change in Pakistan, even if it's one we might not like, we'll have to work with the folks who come to power then.

WALLACE: Senator Bond, all this raises the question, "Is the war in Iraq the central front in the War on Terror, or have we taken our focus off the central front, which is Al Qaeda in Pakistan?"

BOND: Well, it's both, because Al Qaeda is the number one enemy. This is the greatest threat to the United States. The intelligence community has said that Al Qaeda's top priority is attacking America, the homeland, the United States, attacking U.S. interests and allies abroad.

Ayman al-Zawahiri and Usama bin Laden say that Iraq is the focal point, as Ms. Townsend said earlier. That's where they're trying to establish the caliphate.

They thought they had it established in Ramadi until the Sunni sheiks in Ramadi started cooperating with us, and the very successful surge that General Gaskin waged, as I saw firsthand two months ago, in Ramadi.

WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Bayh.

Your view of this issue? Is Iraq the central front, or should we be focusing more and have we been distracted from Al Qaeda in Pakistan?

BAYH: We have a difference of opinion on this one, Chris. Iraq is not the central front in the War on Terror. As the National Intelligence Estimate indicates, it's Pakistan and Afghanistan.

We've got to finish the job in Afghanistan. We were attacked from there. And Pakistan is where the Al Qaeda leadership is reconstituting itself today.

So the unfortunate reality in Iraq is that it — actually, many of the experts who have looked at this believe that we are actually creating more terrorists than we're killing because of our presence in Iraq.

About 95 percent of the insurgents we're fighting in Iraq are Iraqis fighting over the future of Iraq, not these outside jihadists who are coming in.

And I guess the bottom line, Chris, is, look, we've spent four years, close to $400 billion to $500 billion, we've got 165,000 troops in Iraq, and our National Intelligence Estimate indicates Al Qaeda has gotten stronger.

The strategy is not working. We need to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, but do it in a smarter way.

WALLACE: Senator Bayh, I want to follow up on this because you had a very different view about this issue just two years ago, and let's put it up on the screen.

You said then about Iraq, "It really is a central front in the battle on the War on Terror. And if we leave too soon, it would be a catastrophic event and it would be a major defeat for us, a major win for the terrorists."

Were you right then or are you right now?

BAYH: Well, I'd like to think I was right both times, Chris. And by the way, shame on you in having a politician have to see his own words. But accountability is important in all spheres, particularly ours.

Look, I think we've learned a lot over the last couple of years. And what we've learned most of all is the unfortunate and, in some respects, maddening inability of the Iraqi political leadership to get their act together.

And I think one thing that Kit and I would agree on here is that no matter how long we stay, no matter how brave our soldiers are, including his brave son, this ultimately is up to the Iraqis. They have to make the hard decisions to reconcile their differences or this is not going to work.

Now, two years ago we believed if we just stood by them, if we continued to encourage them, if we said, "Don't worry, we're here for you," that that would increase their security and they'd make hard decisions. That hasn't worked.

So what has changed my mind and many other people's minds, Chris, is that to give us the best chance of them making the hard decisions, we've got to take the crutch away. No more enabling of dysfunction.

We've got to tell them, "Look, you get your minds right, you make the tough decisions, or we're not going to do this for you anymore." That's what's changed.

WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Bond, because everybody in Washington is waiting for this September progress report from General Petraeus, but this week two of his generals said that they're going to need well into next year or even beyond to secure their parts of the country. Let's take a look.


MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH: We can over time, between now and about 15 months from now, which takes us into next summer, transition those areas to capable Iraqi security forces.



MAJOR GENERAL WALTER GASKIN: I believe it's another couple of years in order to get that to that, and that's not a political answer. That's a military answer.


WALLACE: Having said all of that, Senator Bond, even your own party leader in the Senate, Senator McConnell, talks about a new direction in September.

BOND: Well, first, I want to commend Evan on being right two years ago. I think he was right two years ago. We made mistakes.

BAYH: First time for everything.

BOND: No, we made mistakes. We followed the Bremer plan for three years. We will whack a mole. We'd make a foray in and leave, as General Conway said.

WALLACE: All right. But let's go to right now.

BOND: OK. Right now, I — it's always difficult to predict the future, as Yogi Berra said, but I see our future. Al-Maliki is not getting the job done. Politically, he's not going to succeed by September, by December, by next March, by next summer.

But we have a strategic interest. The United States interest is not just to see that a political government is democratically working in Iraq. It is to see that the place does not descend into chaos with great civil war and not to give a safe haven to Al Qaeda.

Those are the two dangers. With the new Petraeus plan, the surge is working. I've seen it. General Gaskin, who was on, is one of the implementers of that in Al Anbar — terrific job. They've driven Al Qaeda out of Al Anbar and out of Ramadi. We want to...

WALLACE: So what are you saying, no matter what happens in September — I mean, first, it's, again — well, let me just say, your leader, Senator McConnell, and you know an awful lot of your Republican colleagues, say, "Look, September is the drop-dead day."

BOND: OK. Well, the drop-dead day, we're going to have to say that al-Maliki is not meeting the goals. What do we do then?

I will tell you — and I spend an awful lot of my time looking at this — the only option for us is to continue to train the Iraqi security, Iraqi army and Iraqi police, which are getting better. They're conducting missions on their own.

And then as they are successful, we draw down the U.S. troops, and there will be significant draw downs, but it will be based on decisions made by the commanding officers in the field, not some political timetable by 535 generals in the air-conditioned comfort of Congress. And that's the future for our safety.

WALLACE: Senator Bayh, you get the last word.

BAYH: Well, we all hope for success in Iraq, Chris. But the ultimate question is whether the Iraqis are able to do this and what will make them most likely to make the hard decisions.

Continuing to support them in spite of their inability to do that has not worked. We need a better course.

We need a middle ground where we keep enough forces there to fight Al Qaeda but to begin to draw back so they can't use us as a recruiting post around the Islamic world, they don't use us to undermine moderate Arab regimes that we have to rely on, and that we do a better, more effective job in focusing on those areas that are the central front, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

BOND: That's the Petraeus plan, and I agree with Evan. He's just outlined the Petraeus plan. That's the way we need to go.

WALLACE: You guys are like our panel. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for coming in, Senator Bayh, Senator Bond. Thank you both for coming in again, and please come back, both of you.

BAYH: We'll do it.

BOND: Just ask.