This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 1, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight: Wait a second. Did we hear this right?
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CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, "HARDBALL": I didn't see a lot of warmth in that crowd out there that the president chose to address tonight, and I thought that was interesting. He went to maybe the enemy camp tonight to make his case.
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VAN SUSTEREN: "Enemy camp?" What did that mean? President Obama just finished a major speech at West Point. Is Chris Matthews saying that's enemy camp? Ouch!
Well, the president announcing he's sending 30,000 more troops to war in Afghanistan tonight.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The review is now complete, and as commander-in-chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.
Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the grounds.
We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul, but it will be clear to the Afghan government, and more importantly, to the Afghan people that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.
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VAN SUSTEREN: We're live in Washington for a special "On the Record," and we have a packed hour. First, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger joins us live.
Good evening, Dr. Kissinger. And Dr. Kissinger, why is it so important that we stay and win this war?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It's important for the reasons President Obama mentioned, the danger that otherwise, Afghanistan becomes another headquarters for al Qaeda operations, another base for al Qaeda operations. It's important also because of the stability of Pakistan, crucial for the stability of Pakistan. But beyond that, it's radical jihad that gets a boost in Afghanistan by driving us out. That would move the frontier of that conflict to the border of India and to other regions. So I think the policy that was announced today deserves support and the reasons given for it deserve support.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why didn't the Soviet Union win? Why did they pick up and leave instead of fighting to the end to win?
KISSINGER: The Soviet Union failed in part because it attempted to cover all of Afghanistan from a central headquarters and tried to make the writ of the Afghan government run over the whole country. Nobody has ever succeeded in doing that.
My understanding is, and from what I have -- what I at least hope is happening, is that we are conducting this as a counterinsurgency operation and not an exercise in nation-building so much as an exercise in enabling various regions of Afghanistan to reestablish security, reestablish local government, and then, eventually, and maybe even after we've left, find themselves together into a national government, which has never fully existed in Afghanistan.
VAN SUSTEREN: So that, as I understand you correctly, means that we basically have to make sure that the Afghanistani government is not corrupt. How do you make them not corrupt?
KISSINGER: I think -- no, I don't agree with that statement. I think it is -- it is a swamp which we cannot drain, to assume that we can create a national government in Kabul. We should put the emphasis the other way around. We should try to create local governments and regional governments based on the various tribes and regional ethnic groups. And if they can create a viable system, then one can go on from there to have an effective national government.
Of course, we should do our utmost for it not to be corrupt, but we cannot judge (ph) the success of what we're doing. We're not fighting for an Afghan government. We are fighting for the national security of the United States and the stability of a region which is essential to national security of the United States.
And I'd would like to make another point. We talk a great deal about our NATO allies, and I'm delighted if they are giving more support. But there are other countries -- Russia, China, India -- that are directly affected by the danger of terrorist bases in Afghanistan. And as our strategy evolves, they have to be brought into not so much the military effort but the political effort to create a legal status for Afghanistan in the name of which the evolution can take place.
I must say I don't like the fact that a deadline has been given for our effort, and I hope it is given as a hope, rather than as a commitment.
VAN SUSTEREN: You raise the issue of India, and I know India has been helpful in Afghanistan, but isn't working with India and Afghanistan wrought (ph) with even greater problems because Pakistan hates to see us so chummy with India, they fear that if for some reason they get a better foothold, that that's going to create even more tension between both India and Pakistan?
KISSINGER: Well, there are two aspects to this. I'm not talking about an Indian military presence in Afghanistan, but there are many civilian efforts that can be conducted. But of course, the best contribution Pakistan can make to avoid any contingency like this is to support wholeheartedly the eradication of the base (ph) area (ph) are on its territory, and then the issue of what role India will play in that conflict will never arise because the conflict will die out.
VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary Kissinger, thank you very much, sir. Always nice to see you.
KISSINGER: Always a pleasure.
VAN SUSTEREN: General Bob Scales joins us live here in Washington with more. General, after listening to the president tonight, can you please tell us what is the plan? Give me sort of the strategic (INAUDIBLE)
MAJ. GEN. BOB SCALES, U.S. ARMY (RET.), FOX MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. Greta, if we'll go to the map here real quick, I'll see if I can lay it out. Really, there are two key centers of gravity in this war. The primary center of gravity is in the south, in Kandahar, and the other is east of Kabul and the roads that lead from Kabul into northern Pakistan. And also the area of the Helmand River valley, which is shown where that -- where that second spotlight is.
And if we go to the next map, I'll blow that up for you and give you a sense of where the initial operations are going to take place. This is Kandahar city. Greta, Kandahar city is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban. This is -- they view this as their capital, as their -- as sort of their ethnic center of gravity. And Lashkar Gar (ph), which is just to the west, sits in the Helmand River Valley, and this is the region that they have to control. This is where the poppies are grown.
So when the Marines go in, the initial contingent of 9,000 Marines, which will give a total force of 20,000, will allow this initial contingent beginning in March and April to begin to gain control of the cities, the roads that go into the cities, and the surrounding countryside.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. OK. So let's say that we have enormous success there. This is what I suspect, that it sort of pushes everybody south, farther deeper into Pakistan. We have an enormous problem with Pakistan...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... even with their -- their security agency, the security service -- many of them are very sympathetic to the Taliban...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... to al Qaeda. That's not good for us. It's a nuclear-powered weapon country. That's not good for us. Their president is weakened. That's not good for us. We've just given them $7.5 billion in aid, and the country is suspicious of us and they're very unhappy with our aid because we -- they say we put strings attached. They don't like us. We were just there. So Pakistan is not real chummy with us. They're -- you know -- and we need their help.
SCALES: Greta, it's interesting. This is really not a war for Afghanistan. This is really...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... Pakistan.
SCALES: ... a war for Pakistan. And if we don't establish a strategic alliance with the Pakistanis, if we don't -- if we don't get their army up to speed, if we don't -- if we don't nudge them into giving up their relationships, particularly with al Qaeda in Pakistan, then virtually anything we do in Afghanistan is going to be wasted because Pakistan and the tribal areas in Pakistan is where the enemy's power base really nests (ph).
VAN SUSTEREN: And General, right now, they don't like us! Many Pakistanis -- they don't trust us. Their military is -- is infiltrated with people who don't like us. And every time we help Pakistan, India gets angry with us because they don't understand why in the world we're giving $7.5 billion of aid to a country that's just nothing but a hotbed of -- of -- for growing terrorists against India and against us.
SCALES: Greta, I don't care if the Pakistanis don't like us. I think the approval rating...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if they're a fertile -- if they're fertile ground for creating terrorism, we need to care.
SCALES: It's the whole idea about mutual interests. What we have, I guess only in the last six months, particularly with this -- with the -- with the Pakistani offensive in the tribal areas, for the first time in a long time, we have a Pakistani army and an intelligence service who suddenly realize that their interests are the same as ours. They still may not like us...
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean like...
SCALES: It's not that...
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean like us. They are actually sympathetic to the extremists.
VAN SUSTEREN: I use the -- I use the term "like us" as sort of -- loosely. But they actually -- many of them are sympathetic to the extremists. And if this Pakistani government falls, and they have a weak president, we have big -- we have more problems...
SCALES: Huge problems.
VAN SUSTEREN: Huge problems.
SCALES: Because they have nuclear weapons. Look, the thing I'm trying to -- the point I'm trying to make here is it's not about like or dislike. It's about converging national interests. It's in the Pakistani government's national interest to defeat this insurgency on their side and we defeat it on the Afghan side.
VAN SUSTEREN: And that's -- that's -- that's seemingly the rational viewpoint that we have.
VAN SUSTEREN: But what fuels them, a lot of people there, the insurgents, is not sort of the discussion you and I have.
VAN SUSTEREN: It is something that when you -- when it is a hotbed of hate -- and there are pockets there that hate and want to destroy, that's a problem, especially if they've -- if there are -- they've got sympathizers in the military and the intelligence service.
SCALES: Look, the nightmare -- the nightmare is radical Islamism tied to nuclear weapons. That's what we...
VAN SUSTEREN: That is the...
SCALES: ... keeps us awake at night.
VAN SUSTEREN: That is the nightmare. And the fact is, is that they do have nuclear weapons and the extremists are -- do have buddies in the intelligence service and the military. That's a fact!
SCALES: That's a fact. So...
VAN SUSTEREN: And that's -- and that's an enormous problem for our country.
SCALES: It is, and that's why we simply can't write Pakistan off the strategy. The president was right to talk about this as the third led of his -- of his -- of his strategic stool. And we need to pay attention to...
VAN SUSTEREN: Which is...
SCALES: ... to the Pakistanis, but we -- we can't maintain a strategic relationship with the Pakistanis unless we're able to clean out the Taliban strong points in Afghanistan. Look, there is no Afghanistan or Pakistan to the Pashtun tribesmen. It's all their country, as far as they're concerned.
VAN SUSTEREN: And it's an enormous and very serious problem. General Scales, thank you, sir.
SCALES: Thanks, Greta.
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