Bolton on Obama's Afghanistan Decision: 'This Is Like a Slow-Motion Trainwreck'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama holds a high-level meeting with his national security team. On the table, the war in Afghanistan. Now, President Obama was given four options by his team today, and according to the Associated Press, the president rejected all the options.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan has forceful reservations about a troop surge because he still has so many questions about the leadership of Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

So what should the president do? Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton joins us live. Ambassador, nice to see you. And you know, he got -- he got that report in August, and still -- we still don't have an answer from the president and there are soldiers over there at high risk. What's -- I mean, I'm -- I like that he's taking time to think about it, but I -- you know, it's -- we got to help these people over there. They're our soldiers.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Right. Well, this is like a slow-motion train wreck, watching this decision-making process, and it is really is having a debilitating effect, I think, on troop morale in Afghanistan. And globally, it's having a debilitating effect on America's reputation. It's not just the president's indecisiveness in Afghanistan, but his weakness and indecisiveness in other areas, as well, that gives the reputation that he's got a problem making hard decisions.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm less worried, big picture, about his reputation making decisions and making maybe the United States look like it's indecisive. I'm really more worried about the men and women on the ground there who, you know, they may -- either they should be -- maybe they should be pulled out or they need reinforcement or something. The one thing we do know, the status quo is bad. The numbers are up in terms of casualties, and injuries are catastrophically higher than they have been. So something needs to be done, and that's the -- that's the only question I have is that we need to make some decision.

BOLTON: Well, I think we have to focus on what America's strategic interests are in Afghanistan. I think they're basically two. One is we don't want Taliban and al Qaeda retaking control of the country to use it as a platform to launch terrorist attacks. And number two, and I think more important now, we don't want the situation in Afghanistan contributing to instability in Pakistan that could cause that government to fall into radical hands, and with it a very substantial supply of nuclear weapons.

We don't have an unlimited amount of time, and our strategic interests exist regardless of the performance of the government of Afghanistan. Our interests can't depend on how well they do. And I think to the extent that the president is looking for ways to lay this off on the government in Kabul, he's missing the real point of why we were there in the first place.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know what? It has already spilled over. We were in Pakistan a week ago, 100-plus blown up at a market. It's -- I mean, that -- that instability in Afghanistan has already poured into that nuclear-armed country of Pakistan. So I mean, we are -- we are, you know, perilously beyond that point.

BOLTON: No, but that's precisely why we need a steadfast strategy in Afghanistan to grind the -- both the Afghan and the Pakistan Taliban organizations between the Pakistan military on their side of the border and U.S. and NATO forces on the Afghan side of the border because if we're not able to bring this under control, I think there's a very grave question in the fairly near future that we would see even more instability in Pakistan and the possibility that the government would fall, which would be an enormous setback to U.S. and other interests around the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not to mention scare India to death. All right, the AP article -- something caught my attention. Tell me if this is significant or not. It says -- this is talking about the ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. It says, "In strongly worded classified cables to Washington, the ambassador said he had misgivings about sending in new troops while there are still so many questions about the leadership of the president."

The question I have is that "strongly worded classified cables" -- the fact that the American -- that the Associated Press has that means that they are -- there are leaks, that there is, you know, this sort of -- you know, this is -- this is getting to a situation where -- where people are talking, and you have leaks when you have dissension. You don't have leaks when everybody's happy and on the same page.

BOLTON: Right. Well, I think the only thing more troubling than the disorder in the administration's decision-making process is the media's reporting of how it's going on because I don't think it necessarily portrays accurately how this is being fought out. The fact that cables like that are being leaked I think demonstrates that whatever decision is reached, there will still be disagreement after it's over. And I think that could have a further unfortunate effect, no matter what troop increase the president decides upon, because it means that he is not leading his team, at least not so far, toward a coherent decision, despite working on it for almost four months.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.

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