CBS’ Lara Logan sits down with Sen. Barack Obama in Afghanistan. Not a bad get for a reporter who’s had such a rough few weeks…
We’ve got the rough transcript after the jump…
BARACK OBAMA: I believe U.S.– troop levels need to increase and that for, at least, a year, now, have called for– two additional brigades, perhaps three. I think it’s very important that we unify command more effectively to coordinate– our military activities. But military alone is not gonna be enough.// The Afghan government needs to do more. But we have to understand that– the situation is precarious and urgent– here in Afghanistan. And– I believe this has to be central focus, the central front– on our battle against terrorism.
LARA LOGAN: Why does it have to be the central front? What is– what is so critical for you, this is interest here?
BARACK OBAMA: This where– Al-Qaeda can launch attacks. This is where they can plan attacks. They have sanctuary here.
They are gathering huge amounts of money. There’s constantly drug trade in the region. And so that global network– is centered in this area. And I think one of the biggest mistakes we make, strategically– after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by a lot. And despite what– this– the Bush Administration has argued, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we were distracted from– our efforts not only to hunt down Al-Qaeda and the Taliban but, also, to rebuild this country so that people have confidence that we were to here to stay– over the long haul, that we were gonna rebuild roads, provide electricity, improve the quality of life for people. And– now, we have a chance, I think, to correct some of those areas. There’s starting to be a growing consensus that it’s time for us to withdraw some– of our combat troops out of Iraq, deploy them here in Afghanistan. And I think we have to seize that opportunity. Now’s the time for us to do it.//I think it’s important for us to do is to begin planning for those brigades now. If we wait until the next administration, it could be a year before we get those additional troops– on the ground here in the Afghanistan. And I think that would be a mistake. I think the situation is getting urgent enough that we’ve gotta start doing something now.// the United States has to take a regional approach to the problem. It– just as we can’t be myopic and focus only on Iraq– we, also, can’t think that we can solve those security problems here in Afghanistan without engaging the Pakistan government.
LARA LOGAN: And how do you compel Pakistan to act?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that the– the– the U.S. government provides an awful lot of aid to Pakistan– provides a lot of military support to Pakistan. And to send a clear message to Pakistan that this is important,to them as well as to us. That, I think– that message has not been sent.
LARA LOGAN: And– and what circumstances would you authorize your actual U.S. action against targets inside tribal areas?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, when I started– when I– if we had– actionable intelligence against high value Al-Qaeda targets– and the Pakistani government was unwilling to go after those targets that we should. Now, my hope is– is that it doesn’t come to that, that, in fact, the Pakistan government would recognize that if we had Osama Bin Laden in our sights that we should fire– or we should capture him. And-seize this (UNINTELL)
LARA LOGAN: Certain that the (UNINTEL) now? I mean, do you– do you really think if the U.S. forces had Osama Bin Laden in their sights and the Pakistanis said, “No,” that they wouldn’t fire?
BARACK OBAMA: Oh, no, I– I think, actually, this is current doctrine. There was some dispute. I said this last August– both the administration and– some–of my opponents suggested, “Well, you know, you shouldn’t go around saying that.” But I don’t think there’s any doubt that that should be our policy– and will continue to be our policy.
LARA LOGAN: But it is the current policy?
BARACK OBAMA: I– I b– I believe it is the current policy.
LARA LOGAN: So there’s no change, then?
BARACK OBAMA: I don’t think there’s gonna be a change there. I think that– in order for us to be successful, it’s not gonna be enough just to– to engage in– the occasional shot fired. We– we’ve got training camps that are– growing and multiplying.
LARA LOGAN: Would you take out all those training camps?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think that what we would like to see the Pakistani government take out those training camps.
LARA LOGAN: And if they won’t?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think that we’ve gotta work with them so they will.
LARA LOGAN: But would you consider, you know, actual U.S. action?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I will push Pakistan very hard to make sure that we go after those training camps. I think it’s absolutely vital to the security interests for both the United States and Pakistan.
LARA LOGAN: Because you do have a situation suddenly (UNINTEL PHRASE) Osama Bin Laden and all his lieutenants and all the leaders of the Taliban, they’re still there.
BARACK OBAMA: Right, that is–
LARA LOGAN: And they’re inside Pakistan.
BARACK OBAMA: It’s a huge problem. And– and first of all, if we hadn’t taken our eye off the ball, we might’ve caught them before they got into Pakistan and were able to reconstitute themselves. So we made a strategic error. And it’s one that we’re gonna pay for.
And unfortunately the people in Afghanistan have paid for it as well. But– we, now, have an opportunity to correct that problem. And one of the– if you– if you look at what’s happening right now, in Iraq– Prime Minister Maliki has indicated he wants a timetable full withdraw. That is the view of the vast majority of Iraqis as well. We’ve seen a quelling of the violence. We haven’t seen as much political progress that needs to be made. But we’re starting to see– some efforts on the part of the various factions to deal with some of the issues that are out there.
LARA LOGAN: How can they accept those..token efforts
BARACK OBAMA: They– they– they are token efforts (UNINTEL) at best. But if we had a timetable– and they suddenly see an emergency behind– the fact that the American troops are gonna be leaving them then they need to get their act together– then, this is the perfect moment for us to say, “We are gonna shift our resources. We’re gonna get a couple of more brigades here into Afghanistan.
“We’re gonna– not gonna– and it’s not just brigades. We’re, also, gonna be upping our financial aid through Afghanistan. We’re gonna be willing to increase our foreign aid to Pakistan. In exchange, we’re gonna expect– that Pakistan takes much more seriously going after– Al-Qaeda and Taliban based camps– on their side of the borders.
LARA LOGAN: What would be a mission accomplished for you in Afghanistan?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, a mission accomplished would be that we had stabilized Afghanistan, that the– Afghanistan people are es– experiencing raising– life and standards of living, that we have made sure that we are– disabling Al-Qaeda and the Taliban so that they can longer attack Afghanistan. They can no longer engage in attacks against targets of Pakistan. And they can’t– target the United States or it’s allies.
LARA LOGAN: So losing is not an option?
BARACK OBAMA: Losing is not an option when it comes to Al-Qaeda. And it never has been. And that’s why the fact that we engaged in a war of choice when were not yet finished with that task was such a mistake.
LARA LOGAN: Do you believe the war on terror can’t be won if Osama Bin Laden is still alive and if he’s still out there?
BARACK OBAMA: I think there would be enormous symbolic value in us capturing or killing Bin Laden. People that think he’s still a rallying point for– Islamic extremist. But I don’t think that by itself is sufficient. I think that we are going to have to be vigilante in dismantling– these terrorist networks.
LARA LOGAN: There is a perception that you lack experience in world affairs. Is this trip partly aimed at overcoming that perception that, you know, there is doubt among some Americans that you could lead the country at war as commander in chief from day one?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, the– the interesting thing– is that the people who– are very experienced in foreign affairs, I don’t think have those thoughts. The troops that I’ve been meeting with– over the last several days, they don’t seem to have those doubts. So the objective of– of this trip was to have substantive discussions with– people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or– President Sarkozy or others– who– I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to ten years.
And it’s important for me to have a relationship with them– early– that I start listening to them now– getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are– because one of the shifts in foreign policy that I wanna execute as president is– giving the world a clear message that– America intends to continue to show leadership– but our style of leadership– is gonna be less– unilateral– that we’re gonna see our role as building partnerships– around the world– that are mutual interests– to the parties involved. And I think this– gives me a– a head start in that process.
LARA LOGAN: Do you have any doubts?
BARACK OBAMA: Never.
LARA LOGAN: Thank you very much. Thank you so much for your time.