Hayden: Early Afghan withdrawal undercuts goals

(CBS News) The former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency said Tuesday that the U.S. must continue its present course in Afghanistan, despite growing protests over the shooting deaths of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a U.S. soldier.

About a thousand students in east Afghanistan gathered Tuesday to voice their anger, burning an effigy of President Obama and chanting "Death to America." The protesters at a university in Jalalabad city demanded that the U.S. soldier believed responsible face a public trial in Afghanistan.

They also called for American troops to leave Afghanistan now, describing them as "tyrants" and "crusaders," reports CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark.

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Yesterday both the Obama administration and NATO said that the shooting incident would not force a speed-up of the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. and ISAF forces from Afghanistan.

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However, The New York Times reports that there are discussions within the administration to bring some U.S. troops home sooner.

On "CBS This Morning," retired Gen. Michael Hayden said that the administration must not allow the shooting incident to alter its present course.

"I recall a fishing trip I was on with my grandfather many years ago," Hayden said. "He warned me never to make big decisions when you're tired, when you're angry, or when you're sad. And I think all three of those things apply right now. I think we need to let this settle, stick with the strategy and choose our options carefully as we go forward."

Hayden told Charlie Rose there must be continuity in American interest and support of the Afghans over the long term, especially given signs of a resurgence of the Taliban: "I think one very important thing, Charlie, that we've got to keep in mind is, as we do this hand-off, our Afghan allies cannot perceive that we are leaving them behind. We've done that once before. We've left them to their own devices. That can't happen."

Hayden said he believed the current trajectory for withdrawal of forces was already too quick. "We've deployed fewer forces in the surge than were originally called for, we're pulling the surge forces out earlier than we had anticipated, and now there's some talk of moving that 2014 hand-off date back towards 2013. All of that sends signals to the Afghans that we're leaving; it undercuts the confidence they're going to need in our long-term presence there."

The surge forces, Hayden said, have been in country for "one full fighting season" and will be leaving before the end of the second fighting season. "Let me be very harsh here ... They are being pulled back based upon the North American timetable, not a South Asian timetable," he said.

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Hayden said there were three things that have to happen in order to win the war in Afghanistan: "One of those was end the safe haven; second was to increase Afghan government capacity; and the third at the time was to push down the drug trade, which was poisoning everything."

"And most of those three goals have not been met," said Rose.

"Oh, that's correct. That's right."

"So therefore, why should we be in Afghanistan?"

"Well, we should be in Afghanistan for our own self-interest," replied Hayden. "We were attacked from Afghanistan. I firmly believe that if we leave that area, it turns into chaos. It becomes another ungoverned area, an ungoverned area within which the al Qaeda feels very comfortable."

"But you see no possibility under the present circumstances for the mission to succeed," said Rose.

"No, I didn't say that," said Hayden. "I would think that anyone who knows how to point to Afghanistan on the map knows that this is going to be a long project, that it's going to take a very long period of time. Keep in mind, we are trying to negotiate a presence there in the strategic framework agreement post-2014."

To watch the complete report and interview with Gen. Hayden click on the video player above.

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