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Gen. Wesley K. Clark (ret.) on CNN Larry King Live Debating Pete Hegseth about Afghanistan

Gen. Clark on CNN Larry King Live on Monday, November 2 where he debated Pete Hegseth about Afghanistan.

CNN, November 2, 2009

CNN LARRY KING LIVE (See link for transcript and here for YouTube clips of the broadcast)

Will Obama Send More Troops to Afghanistan?; H1N1 Discussion

Aired November 2, 2009 - 21:00 ET

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: "General Clark, do you listen to your general?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: You bet you. When the commander on the ground says he needs more troops to do the mission and you're the commander in chief, you better listen to him. It may be that you need to carefully consider what the mission is. But we don't want to get pushed out of Afghanistan by battlefield defeats. However, Larry, the real problem here is that the enemy's not just in Afghanistan. It's in Pakistan. And maybe that's the headquarters for the enemy.

And so we have to be concerned not only with Afghanistan but with Pakistan. And for Pakistan, if that's where al Qaeda is, that's really the heart of where our strategy should be focused. You know, you mentioned Vietnam. I think back to my experience. I was a company commander over there. I came home on a stretcher in 1970. I got shot by a guy in an ambush in a base camp. Basically there were three major lessons I took from Vietnam and from 30 years of reflecting on it.

Number one is that when you put your troops in, you take more casualties. We had a million troops in Vietnam, 550,000 Americans, almost 500,000 from the republic of Vietnam army. Plus another million in uniform that were part of the local militia. And the more troops, the more casualties. Secondly, that if you complain about the quality of the government, you're never going to solve this problem. We got rid of the government in Vietnam. We changed it, we still had problems. And to the end we complained that there was too much corruption.

So, that's endemic. They're not going to meet our standards. And third, the enemy wasn't in Vietnam. And we waited too long to realize that we had to go outside Vietnam. I hope we don't make that mistake in Afghanistan...

KING: General Clark, are you saying you would leave Afghanistan? What are you saying?

CLARK: I'd put troops in there right now to try to do something. But ultimately we're not going to create a government and a society that meets our standards in Afghanistan. And when you think about the United States Army and young people like captains and lieutenants going back there on fourth and fifth and sixth tours, and you look at what it does to the military, what it does to the country, how it distorts our efforts in so many other areas, we need to define what success is over there, we need to put in the necessary resources, we need to get to success as soon as possible.

Now, we could have a long discussion of whether Afghanistan is more like Vietnam or Iraq. I hope that Pete's right, but on the other hand, in Iraq, we had Iraqis fighting each other. That's not actually the case in Afghanistan. They're pretty much -- there's an insurgency and it's directed against us. That's a big difference and that's the way it was in Vietnam. And so, when you secure these cities have you have in there is.

KING: Let me get a break.

CLARK: Go ahead, Larry. We'll continue afterwards...

CLARK: One more thing I'd like to add, Larry.

KING: I'd like to just go back to one thing here.

CLARK: The enemy we went after out is in Pakistan.

KING: Quickly, General.

CLARK: The enemies in Pakistan, we spent at least talking about Afghanistan. The Pakistanis have got to go get out al Qaeda in Pakistan. And we've got to give ...

KING: All right. Let me get a break...

KING: We love to involve our audience. Let's get another call for this panel. Arlington, Virginia. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Yes. I mean, is Obama afraid to make a decision? I'm here in Arlington, Virginia, to bury my son tomorrow, Lance Corporal David Baker who was killed two weeks ago. Tomorrow in Afghanistan, we need to send more troops. Is Obama -- why doesn't he listen to the people he hires? Why doesn't he listen?

KING: General Clark, do you want to respond?

CLARK: I think he will send more troops. But I also think he has to go through the full process of making sure the strategy's right, the mission's right and we know exactly what we have to do to succeed there. And that's really the review he didn't have when he first took office. He's doing it now. And I think he has to do it...

KING: General Clark, quickly, what do you think he's going to do?

CLARK: Put in more troops, probably not everything General McChrystal has asked for. Put pressure on the Pakistanis to do more, probably not enough pressure, give them some assistance and hope he can find some measure of progress in the effort there.

KING: Thank you all very much..."

END TRANSCRIPT

Burkle Center for International Relations