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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With General Stanley McChrystal; Americans Arrested in Pakistan

Aired December 9, 2009 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: a new claim from inside of Pakistan that Americans arrested there were planning terrorist acts. Is there a link to five Muslim students reported missing from the Washington, D.C., area? The FBI is investigating right now. And we're getting new information. Stand by.

The president deals with a lot of unfinished business, as he gets ready to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. This hour, Americans are less convinced than ever that he deserves that prestigious honor.

And the top U.S. war commander in Afghanistan goes in-depth about the new troop surge and exit strategy. Stand by for General Stanley McChrystal's one-on-one interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: But we begin with the breaking news, a lot of very serious questions right now about what happened to five Muslim students reported missing from the Washington, D.C., area.

Police in Pakistan and the FBI are investigating all of this right now.

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She has more on the breaking news.

What do we know, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I am afraid to say there's a lot we still don't know.

I can tell you that U.S. officials say they're still investigating, but a Pakistani police official says he is confident that five men arrested in Pakistan were planning terrorist acts, and that they are the same five young people reported missing from Northern Virginia late last month.

One source says that one of those young men left behind a video, and one of them was a student at Howard University here in Washington. The deputy superintendent of police in Sargodha, Pakistan, where the arrests took place, says a preliminary investigation suggests that the men tried to link up with two militant organizations, but were unsuccessful. Now, Pakistani officials tell CNN they arrived in Karachi on November 20, went to Lahore, and then on to Sargodha. The FBI says it is still trying to establish if the men arrested are indeed the missing Americans and if so what exactly they were doing in Pakistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to comment on specifics of the case, but did talk about growing concern about domestic radicalization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's always been a concern. We have been well aware of the threats that we continue to face, along with friends and allies around the world. We know that much of the training and the direction for the terrorists comes from Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Clinton mentioned specifically the case of Najibullah Zazi, who allegedly received bomb-making training in Pakistan, and then came back to the United States, authorities say, to conduct terrorist attacks.

Others have mentioned possible similarities to the young Somali Americans who have left Minneapolis and other American cities to wage jihad in Somalia.

Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the five young men missing from Northern Virginia told their parents in late November that they were going to a local conference, but when their parents tried to call their cell phones and got a foreign- sounding ringtone, the parents became alarmed, and went to CARE. CARE then took the matter to the FBI, which has been investigating.

Hooper would not say if the young men ever discussed training or jihad, but said -- quote -- "Everyone has their worst fears" -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Jeanne, when you say that one of them left behind a video, do we know what was on the video?

MESERVE: No. It was Ibrahim Hooper who told me that that video existed. He refused to characterize it in any way.

Of course, some people are wondering if this was a farewell video, the kind that jihadists sometimes leave behind, but, at this point in time, Wolf, we simply do not know what the contents of the video were.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to be continuing to work this breaking news story. Thanks, Jeanne, very much.

Meanwhile, other important news we're following: some powerful new opposition to a key provision in the Senate's new health care reform compromise. The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association say they're against allowing people 55 years and older to buy into Medicare.

They say it would shift Americans from the private sector into a government program that's chronically underfunded, just one example of the big hurdles still ahead less than 24 hours after senators struck what is being described as a compromise deal.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, broke the story last night.

Dana, what else do we know about the latest in this effort to get health care passed?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we know, Wolf, is that from the White House here to the Senate, Democratic leaders are holding their breath. They're hoping that this deal sticks and provides the breakthrough on health care that they have been looking for, but, right now, that's far from certain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Anxious to move forward on his top priority, the president praised a tentative agreement to drop a public option from the Senate health care bill.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I support this effort, especially since it's aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering costs.

BASH: That's the goal of the deal hammered out in secret by 10 Democrats, five liberals and five moderates. Whether it will hold remains to be seen. One negotiator is already openly reluctant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I am not happy with the possibility that there would not be a public option.

BASH: Instead of a government-run insurance option, which moderates oppose, a government agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would oversee not-for-profit private insurance plans.

Democrat sources tell CNN, if that plan doesn't work, it would trigger a public option, but that could scare away Joe Lieberman, whose vote Democrats likely need. He issued the statement, underscoring his -- quote -- "opposition to a government-run insurance option, including any option with a trigger."

To appeal to liberals eager to expand government-run insurance, Democratic negotiators included a huge change in Medicare, allowing uninsured Americans ages 55 to 64 to buy into the program. One estimate says four million people could be eligible. Data on how much it would cost to buy into Medicare under this plan is not yet available, but a recent Congressional Budget Office study on 62- to 64-year-olds put premiums at a whopping $7,600 a year, $634 a month.

Yet, under the Democrats' plans now, many 55- to 64-year-olds would ultimately be eligible for government subsidies to pay for coverage. Still, moderate Democrats are wary of adding more strain to already stretched Medicare.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: The national concern is, what is the effect on Medicare and Medicare solvency, since Medicare is already headed toward insolvency?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Democratic leaders were clearly eager to announce this tentative deal to show momentum, but several negotiators, liberals and moderates, Wolf, made clear today they don't think that this is a done deal. They're waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to come back with information determining things like costs and health care affordability.

And we're not expecting to hear from the CBO for about five days, Wolf.

BLITZER: What I hear you saying is, Dana, that there's a long way to go before this is a done deal.

BASH: You got it.

BLITZER: All right, Dana is watching the story for us on the Hill. Thank you.

Just hours from now, President Obama leave the White House, flies to Oslo, Norway, to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. There was a good deal of shock when his win was announced back in October, and questions persist about whether he actually deserves an award given to icons of the peace movement, even as he steps up the war in Afghanistan.

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president will address the notion that, last week, he authorized a 30,000-person increase in our commitment to Afghanistan, and this week accepts a prize for peace.

I will say, Helen, that the president understands, and, again, will also recognize that he doesn't belong in the same discussion as Mandela and Mother Teresa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

In our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Gloria, we asked, has President Obama accomplished enough to deserve the -- deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? Only 19 percent say yes. That's now. But, back in October, when it was first announced, 32 percent thought he deserved it. That number is sinking pretty quickly.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's sinking pretty quickly, Wolf, because events have changed.

You see that this is a president who has ordered 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, and clearly what you're seeing is that people are saying, wait a minute, he's getting the Nobel Peace Prize, but he is a wartime president.

When you break down these numbers and you look at the numbers by party, let's take a look at this. You will see that it's really because he's lost support among his Democrats. You will see that, in October, 56 percent of Democrats thought that he deserved this, he's done enough. Now it's gone down 19 points, independent voters down 10 points. Republicans really never felt that he deserved it at all.

BLITZER: Yes, 5 percent, 6 percent. Actually...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right. It's about the same.

BLITZER: A little bit of an increase, actually, among Republicans.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Although it can't get much lower than that.

Look at this other question we asked. Having said all that, should President Obama actually go to the Nobel award ceremony, which is tomorrow morning? Seventy percent said yes; 27 percent said no.

I guess a lot of folks think it would be a snub if he declined to actually go there.

BORGER: Sure. Sure. They -- they believe that he ought to go there and accept it.

And I think he's -- he's got a tough job, though, Wolf, because he's got to -- he's up there, as -- as Gibbs was saying, with Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King. I'm told that he was looking at the speeches of Mandela and King to see what he should say.

But I was also told by one source that this going to be what -- what he called a very restrained speech, that when the president first got notification of this award, he said, look, this is not a recognition of my own accomplishment, but it's a recognition of America's leadership on behalf of aspirations of the people of all nations.

So, I think we're going to hear that kind of a speech.

BLITZER: And I'm -- I'm hearing he's going to talk about disarmament, end of nuclear -- nuclear bombs...

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... all kinds of things like that.

BORGER: Exactly, and how a wartime president can actually make the case for peace.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.

This important note to our viewers: CNN will have live coverage as President Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize. CNN is there with a special edition of "AMERICAN MORNING." That starts at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. The ceremony begins at 7:00 a.m. Eastern. Get up early. I think you will want to watch it.

Jack Cafferty will be along in our next hour. That's coming up, and after CNN's in-depth interview of the top military commander in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal faces some tough questions about the president's new strategy from CNN's Christiane Amanpour. That interview is coming up.

Also ahead, hackers for hire are probably responsible for the Climategate controversy and new skepticism about global warming. Who may have ordered the theft of those e-mails, and how did they know what to look for?

And new punishment for a security breach by employees who are supposed to be keeping all of us safe at airports.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're only minutes away from Christiane Amanpour's interview with General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan. Stand by. You will see it, you will hear it here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Meanwhile, it sparked an international guessing game of whodunit. We have been following the story of those hacked e-mails from some environmental researchers. Global warming critics claim there's evidence, hard evidence, they say, that scientists falsified data to exaggerate the threat of global warming.

Aside from those e-mails themselves, was the electronic theft done by people bent on undermining the science of global warming?

Let's go to our international security correspondent, Paula Newton, in London. She's working the story for us.

What do we know about this, Paula?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 13 years of e-mail, someone knew to cherry-pick for the right thing. Security experts say this was a sophisticated operation. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON (voice-over): Like its namesake, Watergate, so-called Climategate started with a break-in. This one was a cyber-theft. IT security experts say hackers for hire likely broke into the e-mail of climate researchers in rural England, and they knew what they were looking for. Keywords like trick were as valuable as jewels.

AUDUN JOSANG, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SECURITY EXPERT: With the high stakes involved in the global climate debate, it was -- it had to happen that some climate research institute's e-mails had to be hacked.

NEWTON: At security monitoring centers like this one in Britain, they're seeing new threats to key data at risk every time those involved use the Internet.

(on camera): Now, what everyone wants to know is, how did they get their hands on those e-mails?

Neal Watkins from Symantec, how did they do it?

NEAL WATKINS, SYMANTEC: So, they got in via the Internet, by via e-mail, by spam, via the Web (INAUDIBLE) and infrastructure. Once they're in, they walk the network.

NEWTON (voice-over): The spam launches a spy program that scours any files and e-mails, and it can use a server anywhere in the world. Last year, Symantec deterred 1.6 million break-ins, more than in the previous 17 years combined.

WATKINS: You can see the top attacked countries, so, USA, China and Russia.

NEWTON: Links to Russia are being investigated in this break-in, but servers are rotated all over the world to cover tracks.

(on camera): Without anyone ever knowing they were there?

WATKINS: Silent, silent attacks, that's what happening today.

NEWTON (voice-over): Those hacking threats are so damaging, even NATO and Interpol are monitoring. And in this so-called Climategate affair, the mystery continues. Who did it?

With the help of Scotland Yard, local police say they're investigating, but add, "Major investigations of this nature are, of necessity, very detailed, and, as a consequence, can take time to reach a conclusion."

But security experts say the leak could have involved a naive insider, a malicious insider, or a complete break-in from the outside. Climate change skeptics say, no matter how the e-mails were hacked, the researchers had something to hide.

And U.S. Senator John Barrasso says he's headed to Copenhagen to find out what it is. SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: The skepticism continues. The suspicion continues, and these e-mails add to it. And at a time when there's the amount of unemployment there is in the United States, people do not want to make an investment in a way that is going to hurt jobs.

NEWTON: Environmental campaigner Richard Littlemore acknowledges the e-mails have emboldened those who deny the danger of climate change.

RICHARD LITTLEMORE, CO-AUTHOR, "CLIMATE COVER-UP": They're being frighteningly and remarkably successful, this at a time when the Arctic ice shelf is collapsing for the first time in recorded history.

NEWTON: The e-mails were not state secrets. The broad consensus among scientists that the Earth is warming and human behavior plays a significant role remains, but given the amount of energy devoted to the e-mails, the episode has taught us this. Hacking is criminal, and it can also be influential.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: In fact, in this whole climate debate, it's been a game- changer. And IT experts tell me, Wolf, to keep an eye out for this. You're talking about the Olympics, the World Cup, G20s. People will start to target this data more and more. They already are -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula Newton, what a story. Thanks very much for reporting it. Good work.

So, what's the real truth behind global warming science? We are going to have a debate later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Two experts on the atmosphere, on climate science will be joining us. Stand by for that. They will also be reacting to the former Vice President Al Gore's interview with CNN earlier today. So, we will have an important debate on global warming.

You likely remember him as Andy on the hit TV show "Family Ties," but he's not a child actor anymore. He's 28 years old, and he's now accused of beating a friend with a broken wooden stool.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Deb, what's going on?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's not a friendly invitation; it's a subpoena for the couple the White House accuses of crashing the state dinner. A House panel votes to subpoena Michaele and Tareq Salahi to testify to Congress on January 20 of next year. The vote by the House Homeland Security Committee was 26-3.

Amid this effort to get the couple to talk, we may not hear much from them. Their lawyer says they plan to invoke the Fifth Amendment. Also, the Transportation Security Administration punishes five employees, putting them on administrative leave. The reason? Well, their involvement in the embarrassing revelation that sensitive information about airport screening was posted on the Internet. Senators pressed Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano today.

She says the guidelines, though revealing, were out of date, and that passenger security was never, never at risk. Napolitano says an internal review is under way.

And, across the Midwest, it is not even winter yet, but the first major storm is so bad, people are digging from underneath blankets of snow -- carefully, of course. They're navigating ice-slicked roads and bundling up against bone-chilling winds. As a result, many schools are canceling classes and many airlines are canceling flights, causing delays. New England is bracing to see the storm next. One expert says, by the time this massive system leaves Maine tomorrow, it will have hit the majority of the country.

And Sanford, Governor Sanford, it looks as though South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will not be kicked out of office for disappearing to see his Argentine lover over the summer. A panel of state lawmakers today defeated the move to impeach the two-term Republican. They determined that Sanford's misleading statements about his trip to Argentina and his use of state aircraft did not amount to serious misconduct. Lawmakers may still slap Sanford with an official reprimand.

And remember the 1980s TV show "Family Ties"? Well, a former cast member face a new assault charge in Colorado. Police say 28- year-old Brian Bonsall repeatedly hit his friend with a broken stool. He already had been scheduled to appear in court today for an alleged violation of his probation in the 2007 assault of his girlfriend.

Bonsall played Andy, the youngest member of the Keaton family and the brother of Alex, the character played by Michael J. Fox.

Certainly, a chapter in where are they now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and not a good chapter, I should say, as well. Thanks, Deb, very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news: five people arrested in Pakistan who were reported missing from here in the United States. Police believe they were planning terrorist attacks. We are going to have the latest. Stand by.

And it's rare for the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan to do TV interviews, but General Stanley McChrystal gives one to CNN. He's sitting down with our own Christiane Amanpour to talk about the president's new strategy for Afghanistan and how he plans to implement it. You will see the interview live. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Al Gore says forget claims that hacked e-mails poke holes in global warming. For proof the Earth is warming, Gore says look at the melting mountain glaciers, the record storms, giant fires and dying trees. Many people, though, are questioning the science. We are going to have a debate coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM between two experts on the atmosphere and climate.

Also, before you drink your next glass of tap water, you will want to hear what's being said about the water millions of you are drinking and plans to ensure our water safety.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The president's top military commander in Afghanistan getting ready to sit down with CNN's Christiane Amanpour for an interview, a wide-ranging interview on what's going on in Afghanistan, this after the president this week announced his new strategy, including the deployment of 30,000 additional troops over the next six months, also a target date of July 2011, when those troops will start coming back home -- the president of the United States being firm in his strategy on Afghanistan.

Now we will hear from General McChrystal.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

General Stanley McChrystal is the U.S. ISAF NATO commander tasked with implementing President Barack Obama's strategy for Afghanistan. He's here in Washington right now testifying. He has been telling congressmen and senators how he plans with 30,000 new troops and an 18-month transition deadline to achieve success there.

He joins us now for a rare in-depth interview.

General McChrystal, thank you for joining us.

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: Thanks, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: I've heard people say that the U.S. -- the international effort has been eight one-year wars. What is wrong with the way you've been fighting this war over the last eight years?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think as we go forward, what we really need to do is get consistency and constant focus. I think that what we have to do is focus on the strategic partnership with Afghanistan for the long term. Don't think in terms of six months, 18 months, or a year, but the fact that the president and our other leadership has guaranteed Afghanistan that we are there with them as partners. And it's consistency that's key.

AMANPOUR: But you've talked about not just refining the mission, but completely changing the way you think, the way you act, the way you operate.

What do you mean?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think that's important. The most important aspect is the Afghan people must under that we are operating on their behalf, we are partnering with them, we are working to protect them. And in our actions, that we respect them. And so, our mission is to support the government of Afghanistan's development, specifically in the security world -- it's the Afghan national security forces, the army and police -- so that we can build the capacity for them to protect their own sovereignty and their own people as time goes forward.

AMANPOUR: The strategy that you were given in March, was it overambitious, or did you overly, ambitiously interpret it? Because the new strategy is considerably different.

MCCHRYSTAL: I think the strategy that the president laid out to begin to reverse the Taliban momentum and begin to provide additional support for Afghan national security forces is pretty consistent. I think the process that we went through over the last months has been very valuable because it educated everyone to a greater degree and helped us refine our focus a bit. But I think we are still about helping the Afghans secure themselves and over time build their own nation.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that you can do what you have to do -- you said in the summertime that you needed at least 12 months to get this done, otherwise the mission is going to fail. Do you think now that you can achieve this mission?

MCCHRYSTAL: Yes, I do.

AMANPOUR: You have all the resources you need?

MCCHRYSTAL: Well, we have all the resources programmed. They will begin to flow in, but I absolutely do. I'm confident we can.

AMANPOUR: I saw you testifying. I listened and watched the testimony on Capitol Hill, and at one point congressmen, senators were asking you, what is the mission? Is it to defeat the Taliban? Is it to degrade them? What actually is the mission?

MCCHRYSTAL: There are really two parts to it. If we think in terms of al Qaeda, it is to prevent the ability of al Qaeda or other international terrorists from coming into Afghanistan and using it for safe havens. Because as most people know, many of the 9/11 hijackers, in fact, were trained in camps inside Afghanistan.

The other part of the mission is in support of Afghanistan itself. It is to provide time and space for the government of Afghanistan to develop security capability, governance capability, begin development that allows them to protect their own sovereignty.

AMANPOUR: Right. But in terms of the war fighting -- because you've got now 30,000 new troops coming in, there was 21,000 already deployed under President Obama -- you also said that the south is going to be your initial focus, the heartland of the Taliban. You're going to be in amongst the population.

What does that mean in terms of fighting? Are you going to be fighting to get in there, fighting to keep the Taliban out, killing Taliban?

MCCHRYSTAL: At the end of the day, the insurgency needs access to the population to be effective. They need to be able to coerce the population, to tax the population, to recruit from the population, and to prevent the government from extending its governance into those areas.

So what we are going to do and what we have already started doing -- and you see in a number of areas, Garmsir, Nawa, and other areas -- where we provide security, we deny the insurgents the ability to operate and threaten the population. That lets them move on with their lives.

AMANPOUR: But how? I mean, are you going to draw in the Taliban? What are we going to see on the ground?

MCCHRYSTAL: What you'll see is areas that become increasingly secure. We will work with Afghan partners to establish security zones. And gradually, those security zones will grow in size, and as they connect to each other, they provide the ability for an Afghan farmer, for example, to raise crops in the central Helmand River Valley, and then to move with full security up to the markets of his choice. It might be Lashkar Gar, it might be Kandahar.

When you push the insurgents out, you deny them their ability. I am much less worried about killing insurgents, Taliban, than I am about securing the people.

AMANPOUR: But are you concerned about defeating the insurgency?

MCCHRYSTAL: That's how you defeat the insurgency. If you take away from them the opportunity to accomplish their mission, which is to get at the population, they are prevented from being successful. Over time, they become irrelevant, and they in fact are defeated.

AMANPOUR: What do you -- you spend a lot of time thinking about the inside of the head of the enemy, the terrorists, the insurgents, however you call them. What do you assess their position right now? Are they getting tired? Is the momentum -- can you change it in a reasonable time?

What do you assess their status to be?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think it's an interesting question because I think it is two different schizophrenic ideas. On the one hand, they've been able to rise violence in the last few years. It's steadily gone up. And there's been a crisis in the people of confidence of the government's ability to secure them.

So, I think that at the senior leadership of the insurgency, there's a tremendous amount of optimism and confidence. And we see that in some of their comments. AMANPOUR: Because they're winning?

MCCHRYSTAL: On the other hand, they perceive success in areas. On the other hand we see also a tremendous amount of angst, because at the lower levels, they have been forced out a number of areas. The increasing security that we create shows the Afghan people a better way and that the Taliban can be pushed out.

Their fighters are tired. We see a number that have already made extensive overtures to reintegrate back into the government. So I think we've got an insurgency that is sitting safely in what they consider are safe havens.

They are trying to exhort their forces who are closer to the fight, but the forces are having a tremendous problem right now and tremendous weakening. And so I think that they're finding that a problem.

AMANPOUR: At what point -- because you've said that they have the momentum, Admiral Mullen has said that they have the momentum -- at what point do you need to break that momentum to be able to secure success? Is it three months? Is it four, five, six?

MCCHRYSTAL: I don't think there's a date on the calendar, but I think we're already turning that momentum. I think the momentum is in the minds of people.

The output -- or the effect of a counterinsurgency campaign must be to change the perceptions of the people, to increase their confidence in the future. When we change the momentum, when the people perceive that things are getting better, that security is increasing, then the insurgency is put in a very difficult position, because they are losing that sense of momentum.

AMANPOUR: You've talked about the people, you said it will be the Afghan people who decide who wins and who loses.

We'll discuss that right after a break. We'll be back with General McChrystal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some call for a more dramatic and open-ended escalation of our war effort, what that would commit us to a nation-building project of up to a decade. I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost and what we need to achieve to secure our interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was President Obama during his speech announcing the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan.

And we're joined again by General Stanley McChrystal, who has to implement that strategy.

General, we've been talking about it's the people who are going to decide. It's them who are going to say who wins and who loses. And you have said that the greatest risk is to lose the support of the people, that the people, if they're against us, we cannot win, we have to have their support.

Can you have their support without giving them the basics of a life, of a dignified life, development?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think we can have their support. I think the most important thing that they desire now is security, and then some basic governance that allows them to shape their future.

I don't think they want us to build their nation. I think they want us to give them the opportunity to grow their own security capacity and their own governance capacity so they can do it.

AMANPOUR: Why do you think Americans are so queasy about the term "nation-building"? Because, frankly, the March speech that President Obama laid out was about nation-building. Your report was about how one needed to have nation-building.

Now, you can call it anything, state, nation-building, security building, stability building. But isn't that vital to successes?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think it is, but I also think it's ultimately an Afghan responsibility. They are going to need a lot of assistance and partnership from the international community. And I think we need to offer that to them, but we also need to remember that the responsibility ultimately allies with Afghans. We must enable them, but not do it for them.

AMANPOUR: You know, a lot of cynics have said the 82nd Airborne does not escort children to kindergarten. That was, in fact, Condoleezza Rice, before she became national security adviser, secretary of state.

But we're going to show some pictures now of your own soldiers in Afghanistan who we followed as they built an open school. And one of the colonels on the ground who since rotated out told me that, look, the only way you break the cycle of revenge in the future and fighting is not necessarily through hearts and minds, but by delivering hope and faith. That if we build them a school, they have the evidence right there that their life is going to be OK, or give them some electricity. And that, in turn, might develop a generation 20 years from now who will feel the effects of that.

Would you agree that your soldiers feel proud and actually like doing that job?

MCCHRYSTAL: Absolutely. I watch agricultural development teams that are out helping Afghan farmers do things better. I watch us help build roads. I watch all of these things, and I think our force is now extraordinarily mature in understanding the real way to success here is through the Afghan people. AMANPOUR: And let's say we just take the hard reality of security for the United States in the region. Nobody wants to nation- build, maybe, but they say we want our security to defeat al Qaeda and to defeat the Taliban. Well, many American generals and soldiers, many Afghan officials have told me that, in fact, stability and security comes with stability and development for the Afghan people.

So what is the risk of you continuing to fight and not doing nation-building, let's say?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think that as we provide security, there must be nation-building that occurs, but it occurs under Afghan lead with international assistance. It cannot be a product delivered. It must be a process enabled for the Afghans.

AMANPOUR: Does it concern you that so many of these civilians are trying to come in, but many of them are holed up in Kabul, can't really go out of their compounds? How long is it going to take to secure the environment enough to allow the so-called civilian surge to operate?

MCCHRYSTAL: It varies location to location. In the case of many of our civilians, they're out immediately with the soldiers in harm's way, conducting the kind of things that would make everybody proud. We've still got to continue to enable nongovernmental organizations even to a greater degree, and other organizations as well.

AMANPOUR: General McChrystal, we have to go to another break.

When we come back, we're going to talk about the Karzai government, an indispensable partner, and also reconciliation with the Taliban.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: Afghanistan is a sovereign country. It has a sovereign government. It's not an occupied country.

And no foreign power can go beyond the legitimate presence in Afghanistan to undermine the Afghan government and to work directly with those that they wish to work. This has to be forgotten and this has to be taken very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was President Karzai telling me that the U.S. plan to go around him, do an end run around him, if he cannot or will not seek good governance and crack down on corruption, that they should rethink that strategy.

Joining me again is General Stanley McChrystal.

You have said that as much of a threat in Afghanistan as the insurgency is, bad governance and corruption. You heard what President Karzai said.

Will you still try to go around him, go to the provincial district level if things just don't work at the central government level?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think we're all working for the same objective. President Karzai and the government in Kabul, and at the provincial and district level, and even the most local levels are trying to provide the Afghan people with an opportunity. So I think we're really talking about partnership, but we're talking about shared responsibility. So when we see things aren't working, I think candor and looking for solutions is really the way through this.

AMANPOUR: And how do you envision it now? There's sort of like a start-over moment right now. How do you envision working with the Karzai government and whether it will fulfill its obligations in this regard?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think it's on every level. I enjoy -- in my particular job, I enjoy a very close relationship with a number of the ministers that are in the security around Ministers Wardak, Minister Atmar, Director Saleh (ph) and other individuals. So, what we do is, on a daily basis, we come up with combined objectives. Together, we establish plans on the way forward, strategies, how forces will be employed, how other activities will occur.

And I think that's key, because it gets back to what I talked about, shared responsibility. This isn't a coalition war at the end of which we will deliver a product to the Afghans. It's an Afghan effort that we must support.

AMANPOUR: One of the things you've talked about is building relationships, even with the Taliban who want to come in from the cold. But I've been told there is no mechanism to allow them to come in. There's no amnesty infrastructure.

Some of them are killed even if they come in. Some of them are arrested or put on lists of blocked personalities.

What are you going to do to make it easier for these people to come in? And do you think they will?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think they will, Christiane. I've talked with President Karzai on a number of occasions on this, and I think he is absolutely in the same mindset that I am on it.

We need to offer an opportunity for fighters and lower-level commanders in the Taliban to make the decision to come back into Afghan society under the government of Afghanistan's constitutional control. But they need to be able to come back with respect, they need to be able to come back with an opportunity for reasonable life, protected from their former comrades.

AMANPOUR: But he tells me, President Karzai, that the allies are not on board, that the U.S. and other NATO allies are not on board with this. And even in the negotiations and reach out, potentially, to Mullah Omar, as yet the international community is not on board.

MCCHRYSTAL: At the most senior levels, reconciliation, that would really be a government of Afghanistan responsibility. We would support -- ISAF would support, as appropriate, but I think at reintegration, on bringing fighters and lower-level commanders again, I think we're absolutely in sync with President Karzai's intent.

AMANPOUR: What happens if Osama bin Laden is not captured or killed? What happens? What is the effect on this is insurgency and on extremism worldwide?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think that al Qaeda will continue to be made less and less relevant around the world. Their ideology is bankrupt. It takes a while for that to be proven. But I think it is being proven. Their organization is being weakened.

I do think it's important that Osama bin Laden be brought to justice in some way. Not as complete closure, but as a step toward closure.

AMANPOUR: Do you think you can defeat the insurgency, the Taliban, the al Qaeda-ism unless he is brought to justice, or killed or capture?

MCCHRYSTAL: I believe over time, it's important that, around the world, but particularly inside Pakistan and inside Afghanistan, the counterinsurgent effort to go against extremism be maintained consistently. I think that we will find Osama bin Laden brought to justice at some point, but I think it will -- I think it will be defeated en route, regardless of when he is.

AMANPOUR: We've got to go to another break. And we're going to talk about Pakistan when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

We're joined again by General Stanley McChrystal.

You know, there are many prominent voices here in the United States who say forget about Afghanistan, it's Pakistan that's the main country in our national interest. Many who question whether Afghanistan still has a central role fighting back terror and extremism.

What do you say? Can Pakistan be safe, for example, if Afghanistan falls to the Taliban?

MCCHRYSTAL: I don't believe it can. I think Afghanistan is critical to stability in the future security of Pakistan. And I think the government of Pakistan understands that as well.

AMANPOUR: And do you think that if you don't get -- I don't want to say your act together, but get this fight done, the Taliban could take over Afghanistan again? MCCHRYSTAL: I think it's very important that we get this effort right and we defeat the Taliban. And that...

AMANPOUR: Is there a risk that the Taliban could again be in control of Afghanistan?

MCCHRYSTAL: I believe that there is a risk that the insurgency could cause Afghanistan to be unstable to the point that it would be a real risk to the region.

AMANPOUR: And if they did, would al Qaeda come back?

MCCHRYSTAL: Absolutely. I believe that they would.

AMANPOUR: Why is there so queasy an attitude to the word "defeat"? I mean, isn't a military meant to defeat its enemy?

MCCHRYSTAL: It is interesting, because in military definition, "defeat" does not mean eradicate or wipe out an enemy. It means to prevent them from being able to accomplish their mission.

That, in fact, is what we are trying to do with the Taliban. To the degree to which we can, degrade their capability, prevent them from access to the population, and increase Afghanistan's ability to protect its own sovereignty, we have defeated the Taliban from being an existential threat to Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: And on that note, part of your strategy -- I mean, the key pillar -- is getting up Afghanistan's forces, military and police. Are you really going to do it in the time that you've been given to do?

You say you want 400,000 army and police. Is that possible with an 18-month transition deadline? I mean, already, you've said already that it will take four years, the British are saying it will take four years. In fact, Bob Ainsworth, the British defense secretary, says he cannot support the Obama timeline.

Can you do it?

MCCHRYSTAL: In terms of creating a more capable ANSF (ph), we will work as hard as we can to grow it as fast as we can, both in size and developing it. Whether it makes it in four years or slightly more than four years is less important than the fact it keeps getting stronger as we go and takes capacity away from the Taliban.

AMANPOUR: How can you do it given all the problems that you've already talked about on Congress and many other people have, the illiteracy factor, the fact that there will be many desertions, the fact that we hear now from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the Taliban are paying their militia more than the Afghan government is paying its army?

MCCHRYSTAL: Sure. The government of Afghanistan just increased the pay of Afghan National Army and Afghan national police significantly. They still are a little less than we think are paid to many of the Taliban fighters, but I think that they don't all fight for money.

I think the real key is that we can grow the capacity, because Afghans want to defend Afghanistan. The army is a particularly well- respected entity, and they provide a sense of national identity that's key. So I think it won't be easy, but building any institution like this is a challenge, and I just think we'll stay at it.

AMANPOUR: And the police are known to be quite a disaster. I mean, there's a lot of desertions, a lot of corruption linked to drug trade and all sorts of things.

MCCHRYSTAL: We haven't worked with the police as long as we have the army. There certainly has not been the level of effort that the army has received. We already see some progress in areas where we are focused, and they have areas where they are very effective.

One thing I want to remind everyone, though, is the Afghan national police die at a higher rate than any other force on the battlefield, so they are dying for their country.

AMANPOUR: To those people here and around the world who say that this is not worth it anymore, what do you say?

MCCHRYSTAL: I believe that it is. I believe that as I go around and I see in the face of Afghans what they want for the future, I believe it's worth it.

AMANPOUR: And in America's security interest?

MCCHRYSTAL: Absolutely. Many of the countries in the 43 nations in our coalition have had to be helped in the past. Our Korean partners and others all have been helped by other members in the international community, and now they are in Afghanistan helping the Afghans.

AMANPOUR: General McChrystal, thank you very much, indeed.

This ends the live portion of this broadcast. And we will have more of our interview with General McChrystal after we end this live portion, and all of this will be on CNN over the weekend in our hour- long broadcast.

Thank you, General, very much for joining us.

And thank you for watching.

MCCHRYSTAL: Thanks.