All-Star Panel: Dealing with 'green on blue' attacks in Afghanistan

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I tell you what is different than this time than other visits I have had.  Particularly, what is different about this conversation is that the Afghans themselves are now as seized and concerned about this as we have been.  That wasn't always the case.


JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR: General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an exclusive television interview with our Jennifer Griffin talking about these so called green on blue attacks. There have been 32 of them so far this year. Ten U.S. service members have died in just the last couple of weeks. A.B., is there a plan to deal with this?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I hope the chairman of the Joints Chiefs is right that there is some response and engagement on the part of the Afghan police and of President Karzai. He has not been reliable partner in the past. The Afghan police security forces have been disappointing to say the least. And Al Qaeda, and Haqqan,i and Pakistani Taliban, and Afghani Taliban, all these forces are thriving and growing in Afghanistan as we try to wind down this war, which, by the way, is going to be one of the most painful and costly and challenging jobs of the next president, which President Obama doesn't want to talk about and Mitt Romney does not want to talk about, because it's so unpopular.

So as this continues to fester and we have this challenge of these dangerous and disloyal and inadequate security forces harming our coalition forces and our own soldiers we don't have a debate in the political campaign about how the next president will approach it and change the policy.

ROBERTS: At the surprise press conference that he had this afternoon in the briefing room, the president was asked about this. He did address it.  Let's listen to what he said.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are already doing a range of things. And we're seeing some success when it comes to better counter intelligence, making sure that the vetting process for Afghan troops is stronger. But obviously we're going to have to do more because there has been uptick over the last 12 months on this.


ROBERTS: A stronger vetting process, Fred, in a place like Afghanistan with all these shifting allegiances and loyalties, that's a tall order.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It is a tall order, and particularly since of the 32 attacks I think half of them have been by Taliban infiltrators and the others mainly by malcontents.  I'm not sure what is going to show up in vetting. I wasn't particularly encouraged by that, although, I don't have a better solution than we've heard from Dempsey or from the president.

What I hope is, though, that this is not used as another excuse to speed up the already sped up withdrawal plan of the president, one that the military doesn't agree with. And it's true that the Afghan forces are better than they are given credit for, but they're not quite where the Iraqi was when we pulled out of -- where the Iraqi army was when we pulled out of there. I think we need to extend the stay there rather than make it shorter.

ROBERTS: It's really two competing opinions here in the United States in regard to Afghanistan, Charles. One is look, you are not going to be able to fix it. Nobody has over all of these decades. Why try? Just bring the troops back so no more of them die. And then there's the other side of the coin that Fred elucidated, and that was stay over there until you get it right.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: But the question is, where is the president on that question? We heard General Dempsey say that the Afghans are now seized with the issue. Fine. And I know General Dempsey and our troops are obviously seized with the issue. Is the president in any way seized with Afghanistan, in any way? Do you ever hear them speaking about it? He had to bring it up today because it's becoming an epidemic what's happening to our troops. But it isn't as if it's just happened overnight. It's been happening all year. A quarter of all the deaths of the NATO troops over there, this year, are by friendlies. The president now speaks about it, you know, in an answer to a question in a press conference. Where is he on this war?

He comes into office, he spends nine months dithering on it. He comes up with a policy triples our troops. Obviously, as a side effect it increases our casualties, he loses complete interest in war. Never speaks to the people about a war, which is ongoing in which our guys are getting shot. And now he's got a policy -- I mean is it even a policy? You asked which way does he want to go? Who knows where he wants to go other than not talk about it. You can't conduct war and expose our troops and not in some way try to explain to the nation what you're doing, why, and why it's worth having anyone die over there under your policy. And it's now his policy.

BARNES: Charles, there is one way the president could be forced to do that, and that would be if Mitt Romney were actually disputing his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan. And Romney has taken a pass on it. He's not at all -- as A.B. said -- there is no debate on it.

ROBERTS: Today at St. Anselm College, Governor Romney and Paul Ryan came out fairly strong against the president on this, Ryan saying that the president is making decisions that are more political than military. But Romney also promised to withdrawal, consistent with maintaining the national security. That's almost an impossible promise to make when you're dealing with a place like Afghanistan.

STODDARD: It's not nonspecific. He basically had the same complaints that Charles did, which is the president doesn't address it and he doesn't inform us. But he doesn't have a specific policy on Afghanistan that differs from the president.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's not the job of the opposition to make the commander-in-chief be a commander-in-chief. If this weren't an election year and we didn't have a Romney you would still be asking, where is the commander-in-chief when our troops are getting shot, and why are they getting shot under his orders? Where is he going and why? So, you can have a critique of Romney and Ryan on this, but the real issue today for the Americans who are being shot, as happened in a village yesterday, the Americans train a policeman, hand him a gun and he takes the gun and then shoots them right there on the spot. Now if that's happening, you want a commander-in-chief to explain something. It's not the Republicans' job to make him what he ought to be on his own.

ROBERTS: And with that, we'll leave it there. Fred Barnes, A.B. Stoddard, Charles, always great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in today.

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