All-Star Panel: Can the administration put faith in Afghanistan partnership?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 24, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those common sacrifices, and simultaneously take the opportunity to pay tribute to the 2,215 American service men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice. You stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and I would like to say thank you.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: President Ghani has requested some flexibility on our drawdown timelines. I've consulted with General Campbell in Afghanistan and my national security team, and I've decided that we will maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of this year.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Press conference today with visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Let's talk about it with our panel, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Great to see all of you tonight. All right, we talked with the president earlier and fresh off that press conference today, word that U.S. troops, Charles, are going to stay put for a little bit longer than expected in Afghanistan.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that this as a direct reaction to what they did in Iraq, the fact that they went on the timetable and withdrew all Americans, and now they are back in a much worse situation where Iraq is sort of being divided between ISIS and Iran, which is sort of the worst of both worlds. They understand that the timeline is not something you can stick to.

They also -- the other reason is not just disaster in Iraq. The other is they have a player they can work with. This is not Karzai who insisted on tweaking and insulting the United States and really sort of implying that he was sympathetic with the Taliban. This is a guy who is very pro-American. And what we heard him say is a thing we never heard from Karzai which I think turned America against the war more than anything else -- no expression of gratitude. And I think what he did knowing about the sacrifices Americans had made would go a long way till Obama being, quote, "flexible" in deciding on the withdrawals.

BREAM: And A.B., to that point, he went and visited Arlington National Cemetery, he and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive, but he said repeatedly he wanted to speak to veterans, to those who lost somebody. He thanked the U.S. taxpayer. He thanked the administration. He is effusive with the thank-yous on this visit.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: How could you say no to him? He is very convincing and very grateful. And that -- I think he is a very compelling leader, and President Obama made it clear that we have a reinvigorated relationship now, that things are going well there and that it's something that we can put our faith in.

But, President Obama was also very blunt and he said it is so we don't have to go back there. And he is being asked -- it wasn't his idea. It's not for long. So we'll see what happens with this flexibility, because this is -- as you pointed out, Iranian aggression all over the region. What's going to happen to Afghanistan when the flexibility ends and we leave? So, I thought it was really fascinating, not surprising that he would say yes to this compelling request, but that he would admit it's so we don't have to go back there.

BREAM: All right, I want to talk about something else that has gone on in the last 24 hours, allegations that Israel was spying on the considerations, negotiations over the Iran nuke deal, so they could report back to U.S. lawmakers. This is from a piece in the Wall Street Journal quoting a senior U.S. official who was briefed on this matter, saying, quote, "It's one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It's another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy." Responding to reports about this story, here is what the House Speaker John Boehner said today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OH, HOUSE SPEAKER: I read that story this morning and, frankly, I was a bit shocked because there is no information revealed to me whatsoever.


BREAM: Chuck, what do you make of it?

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's interesting they say steal U.S. secrets, which is not the same thing as spying on the Iran-U.S. talks. I believe the Israeli version of this is that they were eavesdropping on the Iranian side of this talk, of these talks, and/or gathering intelligence in other realms. I think they are denying that they actually spied on the U.S.

But nevertheless, it shows the bitterness that remains in the relationship between Obama White House and the Netanyahu government and this clearly orchestrated leak to the Wall Street Journal is an effort to sort of flesh out the administration's argument against Netanyahu to show that its grievance has a basis in sort of dirty tricks that the Israeli government were allegedly pulling on the United States.

Now, of course, the Israeli side of this is you guys went off and held secret talks with Iran for a year or so without ever letting us know that it was going on or thinking that you could do it behind our backs. It's just more evidence of how terribly toxic this relationship has become. And I think as long as the rest of this administration at least is probably beyond repair.

BREAM: Charles, the president was asked about it today and said something about it is not as easy as singing Kumbaya and holding hands. These are very difficult issues.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he danced around it, but he lets his henchmen go out and conduct this incredibly hostile campaign against Israel, adding onto the refusal to accept Netanyahu's statements about a Palestinian state, et cetera.

But the idea that the American side, the White House here, is shocked that Israel is spying on the talks is ridiculous when you read in the Wall Street Journal article that the way that the U.S. found out about it was by spying its on Israel. And we listen in to Angela Merkel, the idea that this is some kind of shocking development. And, in fact, the Israelis could easily have gotten it from eavesdropping on the Iranians and they might have gotten it openly from the French who are in these talks and who are quite dismayed by how much Obama and the White House have given away in these negotiations. And they are largely opposed to what has been going on.

But one last point. So what's the big charge against the Israelis, that they shared some of this with Congress? Isn't it the obligation of a White House administration negotiating the most important deal in the generation that it should share information, this is secret information, so the White House is withholding it from the Congress of the United States? That in and of itself is rather shocking.

BREAM: Well, hundreds of members of Congress are feeling very left out of these discussions, as we have seen.

All right, up next, the panel talks 2016.

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