McCain and Kerry Answer Critical Questions

As the United States enters a ninth year of war in Afghanistan, and President Obama plans a new strategy, Katie Couric asked two key Senators, two war veterans, to look down the road ahead. Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry were asked the same ten Critical Questions.

Katie Couric: What has been the biggest problem with U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to date?

John Kerry: Well, we're entering the ninth year of a war that has been almost every year the same as before. We've had a strategy without an appropriate focus on the problems in Afghanistan. It's been a strategy for eight years focused on Iraq. Afghanistan has suffered for the lack of resources, lack of strategy, lack of coordination, corruption of government and all of that now we have to try to undo in a very short span of time.

John McCain: I think it has been insufficient resources and the right strategy. Some of it dictated by the practical aspects that we had to succeed in Iraq in order to - to not fail in Afghanistan.

CBS News Special Report: The Road Ahead

Couric: What does success in Afghanistan look like?

McCain: It looks like a country that - is no longer and cannot be a base for attacks by extremist religious organizations on the United States of America and our allies. It's a country that has a secure population so that the economic and political and other aspects of their life can grow and they can live in an environment of security.

Kerry: Success is having a sufficiently stable governance situation where al Qaeda is not capable of creating a sanctuary from which to plot an attack against the United states and where it will not destabilize Pakistan. Pakistan is frankly the center of our strategic focus and in many ways is more important than Afghanistan, per se though Afghanistan is important in achieving the goal of Pakistan.

Couric: Are there limits to U.S. power and what it can accomplish?

Kerry:There are very clear limits to U.S. power. And they're probably even more clear limits today than in many times in the past. This is a new era of American foreign policy - a time where we need consensus. We need other nations to be at our side. And we simply can't do this alone.

McCain: I think there are definite limits to U.S. power and what it can accomplish. I think the reason why we didn't do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention either rightly or wrongly was on Iraq. But I certainly am confident that the strategy devised by General McChrystal and General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen - can and will succeed with sufficient number of troops and expanded Afghan military and all of the - kinds of strategy that provide a secure environment for the people.
  • Katie Couric

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