But the thrust of most of McCain's responses to Gregory amounted to a full fledged attack on the idea that the surge in troops which hasn't been completed yet will change in a year from now, when the Obama administration has said that troops in some parts of Afghanistan would come home. In the process, McCain criticized all of the top military officials in this country, such as Petraeus, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the rest. Read below.
SEN. McCAIN: Look, I, I'm against a timetable. In wars, you declare when you're leaving after you've succeeded. And, by the way, no military adviser recommended to the president that he set a date of the middle of 2011. So it was purely a political decision, not one based on facts on the ground, not based on military strategy or anything. Now...
MR. GREGORY: All--Senator, is that fair? All of his military advisers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Petraeus, General McChrystal, they all signed onto the idea...
SEN. McCAIN: They signed onto it...
MR. GREGORY: ...of July. 2011. Well, isn't it their obligation to say...
SEN. McCAIN: It's not their idea.
MR. GREGORY: ...that this is wrong?
SEN. McCAIN: In my view it is.
MR. GREGORY: Well, they didn't do that, though.
SEN. McCAIN: In my view it is. They didn't.
MR. GREGORY: So they were for it.
SEN. McCAIN: They didn't do it. They didn't do it, and they should have because they know better. But the point is that General Petraeus is put in an almost untenable position here. If he says it's "conditions-based," which it should be that, then he is not going directly against the president. But if he says directly what the president said and what you just quoted Vice President Biden say, then obviously he is supporting a strategy that he feels that we all know can't win. So what, what do we need? We need the president just to come out and say, "Look, this is condition-based and condition-based only. We will leave tomorrow if the conditions are--allow for it. But we're not going to set an arbitrary date for withdrawal." That's all he has to say because, believe me, the Taliban are not able to parse difference comments by different people the way that you just described different commentaries.
Of course, there are many analysts who have never taken that seriously the idea that we'll begin pulling many troops out of Afghanistan in a year if conditions on the ground aren't good.
Time magazine columnist and reporter Joe Klein writes in the current Time that those military men agreed to that "because it wasn't really a deadline." he writesL
There was no intention of actually pulling troops from the real Afghan war zones in the south and east in July 2011; the assumption was that if things were going well, some forces would stay for years, in gradually diminishing numbers, doing the patient work of counterinsurgency
Back on MTP, Gregory then hosted a round table on the war, which included a rare national television appearance by Berkeley Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who memorably was the only member of Congress to dissent in the authorization to attack Afghanistan back immediately after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks.
Her take that the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan was generally shouted down by others on the panel, including self-described "left-wing" journalist Sebastian Junger. But to sum up what is currently a dismal situation there, you just needed to watch the last minute of the program with comments by Congresswoman Lee and former Washington Post military reporter Thomas Ricks.
REP. LEE: I'm the daughter of a military officer, and I know the sacrifices these families are making. Our troops have served brilliantly, they're brave, they've done everything we've asked them to do. Let's face it, Congress--if Congress allows it, we're going to have an endless war, so it's time to begin to look at an exit strategy, a timeline, and to begin to safely redeploy our young men and women out of Afghanistan and begin to look at how we ensure our national security.
MR. GREGORY: Twenty seconds, Tom. How does it end?
MR. RICKS: I don't think it does. I think we have landed in the middle of the Middle East, for better or worse, in a way that none of us expected us to. I think the war in Afghanistan was made much worse by the distracting war in Iraq, which never should have happened. But we are dealing with phenomena in the Middle East that's going to be crucial to this country as long as we're dependent on Middle East oil. So the best exit strategy I can think of is emphasize alternative fuels.
Based on the lack or urgency being on a climate change bill in Congress on that, the U.S.'s future in Afghanistan seems like it will last way beyond any fears of John McCain of just another year.