September 29, 2009

September 28, 2009 CNN

MALVEAUX: Joining me now, Senator Kit Bond. He is the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Republican.

Thank you, Senator, for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BOND: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: You have been a very big supporter of General McChrystal coming before Congress to testify to explain what should happen next, including the addition of U.S. troops.

But, you know, we have heard from the president, have talked to White House aides, who say, look, we need to make sure we get the strategy right, instead of rushing it. Why the rush?

BOND: First, General McChrystal was sent over by the president to develop a comprehensive plan, which he did, which I read in detail last weekend. He has a plan. But he has not been able to talk to the president -- only once in 70 days.

Now, I think it's baffling that the president has time to travel to Copenhagen, to be on "Letterman" and every channel, except the Food Network, and, yet, he doesn't have time to talk with and listen to his top general.

MALVEAUX: Well, Senator, one thing that -- that we have heard from the president and we have heard from secretary of defense, Robert Gates, on "STATE OF THE UNION," he explains that this is a process, that this takes time.

I want you to take a listen to what he said on -- just yesterday.


GATES: I would like to remember -- remind people that that the debate within the Bush administration over the surge took about three months, from October to December 2006. It's very important that we get this right.


MALVEAUX: White House aides tell me that they -- that the president, he is talking -- while he may have talked to McChrystal from time to time, there are going to be more meetings, but he is talking with Secretary Gates regularly. He's talking with all of the members of the Defense team, and that is what they are telling them here.

BOND: I don't believe that. General McChrystal has a comprehensive plan. They have had it for many weeks. The president spends time doing other things. General McChrystal has said that the next nine to 12 months are critical. And even Secretary Gates has said that we must make the decision to get troops over there now.

If we don't have the right strategy or we delay too long, then the Taliban will come back in from Pakistan, to Afghanistan in large numbers, with their al Qaeda friends, and they will reestablish control over a country which was the launching pad for the 9/11 attacks in the United States. And it's time they get busy. There is a plan. If the president doesn't want to hear it -- Secretary Gates has said, we're not sending in the plan.

If he doesn't want to hear it, the people in Congress, folks like me, want to hear it, and I think the people of America have a right to know it.

MALVEAUX: But Secretary Gates says that it's not like a vacuum, like they are not doing anything here. They -- they are actually trying to figure out whether or not more U.S. troops would help in a different kind of strategy.

Here's what he said. I want you to take a listen to what he said.


GATES: Having the wrong strategy would put even more soldiers at risk. So, I think it's important to get the strategy right. And then we can make the resources decision.


MALVEAUX: Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? I mean, you're on the Senate Intelligence Committee, but, clearly, he's -- you know, this is a Republican who has a lot of experience in this area, and he says they still have a process to go through.

BOND: I think they have gone through the process.

And one of the key elements in any war is to listen to the commanders on the ground. Now I have heard a lot of different ideas from people who aren't there, maybe haven't even been there. Everybody's got an armchair view.

But General McChrystal has the -- not only the information from his top commanders under him in Afghanistan, the intelligence community, the State Department. He has come together with a very comprehensive plan. Let's be talking about that plan. Let's be talking about the resources we need and make a decision, because time is not on our side in Afghanistan.

General McChrystal says we have to act, and we must act quickly. And I -- I believe that Secretary Gates who has been told to -- he's going to wait a while. I don't think we have got a while to wait.

MALVEAUX: Well, Senator...

BOND: I think we -- I think the president needs to start paying attention, discuss the -- discuss the plan openly with Congress. And, if somebody who isn't a commander on the ground has a better view, I would be very surprised, because one of the...

MALVEAUX: Senator, I -- if I...

BOND: ... one of the key elements is to listen to your commander on the ground.

MALVEAUX: If I may interrupt very quickly, you mentioned the fact that he's going to Copenhagen to -- for the -- for the Olympics to pitch Chicago for the Olympics.

BOND: Right.

MALVEAUX: In all fairness, it's a trip that's only 18 hours. He's got a lot on his plate. He seems to be handling quite a bit of that.

Why -- why -- you know, why slam him for Copenhagen, then, when it could bring some real -- U.S. some dollars to this to this country, to that city that's in desperate need of it?

BOND: He's got a lot of responsibilities, but his number-one responsibility is as commander in chief, to keep our country safe.

There's a plan lying out there that ought to be considered quickly and acted on. If somebody wants to override the views of the commander on the ground and all the people he has to listen to, let's hear it now.

I have heard nothing but some spotty things, well, we might do this, we might do that.


BOND: I want to know who has got a better plan than General McChrystal. Right now, that's the plan on the ground. He told General McChrystal, we cannot afford to lose it.

MALVEAUX: Senator...

BOND: We have not put resources and troops in that we need.

MALVEAUX: OK. We're going to have to leave it there.

Thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BOND: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Want to clear up that the president is not going to be on the Food Network. Just a -- just a clarification.

Can you help us out?

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