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The boss's take on the current situation in Afghanistan (full transcript of the panel discussion after the jump):
KRISTOL: I was at a dinner this week with about a dozen experts on Afghanistan, most of whom have been there for quite some time and quite recently, bipartisan group, all of them supportive of the effort, but many very close to the Obama administration, and the non-governmental organizations and the like, and I was amazed by the consensus on two things. One, the time line. We are paying a much bigger price for the time line over there than a lot of us thought we would when Obama announced... WALLACE: The time when we begin pulling troops out in July of 2011.
KRISTOL: We understand that we could pull them out very slowly, and Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton sort of walked it back after President Obama announced it. Over there it sounded like the U.S. is getting out, and everyone's got to hedge and cut their deals.
I think the single best thing the president personally could do now is explicitly say, "Look, we hope to begin drawing down then, but we are here to stay." He needs to...
KRISTOL: No, he has not gone on national television once and discussed Afghanistan since this December speech. And you could look pretty hard in his -- for a more than occasional reference to Afghanistan from the White House. And half the White House senior staff, incidentally, are briefing on background that, you know, Karzai's horrible and we have to get out.
The second thing is diplomatically, politically, we're not doing our job over there. The military is doing a good job. General McChrystal's right to say let's get it right rather than doing it quickly. And I think on the whole that General McChrystal certainly knows what he's doing.
The diplomatic effort -- and this is coming from people who are sympathetic, who are on the soft power side of things, who are, you know, from liberal non-governmental organizations -- is that our effort has been bad. It's not just that we lack a reliable partner there.
Richard Holbrooke, the senior diplomat who's in charge of it -- everyone agrees that it's been a fiasco. He's not -- he can't set foot there because Karzai doesn't get along with him. Ambassador Eikenberry doesn't get along with General McChrystal. He doesn't get along either -- Eikenberry, that is -- with Karzai. All the burden has fallen on the military.
When you pick up the newspapers this morning, there's a story about how the military is trying to work out the diplomacy with the Afghan government. The military's trying to work out what happens in Kandahar. Where are our civilian and diplomatic assets? They've really been wanting. And that is where the White House can play a role.
I ask well, what is the White House doing about this. Well, they're very distant. They assume that this -- Holbrooke and Eikenberry know what they're doing. They need to be serious about resourcing and supervising the diplomatic and civilian side of the effort. General McChrystal has got the military side, I think, under control.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: I do think that it will happen more slowly than we had originally anticipated, and so I think it will take a number of months for this to play out. And I think it's more important we get it right than we get it fast.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, during a briefing this week saying the offensive to drive the Taliban out of Kandahar is going to be significantly delayed.