Round Table: Afghanistan's Political Breakdown

"Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer assembled a round table of CBS News correspondents for the traditional year-end show.
"Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer assembled a round table of CBS News correspondents for the traditional year-end show.

The drawdown in Afghanistan that President Barack Obama has promised to begin in July 2011 will happen gradually if at all because of a complete political break down in Kabul, CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

For 2010's year-in-review show, host Bob Schieffer assembled a round table of correspondents, a CBS News tradition. Schieffer spoke to Logan about President Obama's number one foreign policy concern. "Do you see a major drawdown of troops come summer or will it be a gradual drawdown?" he asked.

"It will be a gradual drawdown if any at all. It'd probably be more symbolic and political than anything else," Logan said. "General David Petraeus … he is hamstrung by the fact that there's a complete political break down in Afghanistan - within the Afghan government and also between the U.S. embassy and the Afghan government.

"There's very little diplomacy that is going on there. That is the number one problem in Afghanistan now. It's not military, it's political," she added.

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With the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, Schieffer asked Congress correspondent Nancy Cordes what the GOP's agenda is. "Once you get past Afghanistan, what do you think is going to be the major focus on Capitol Hill this year? The Republicans are saying the number one objective is to repeal health care. Do you think that's even possible?"

"Keep in mind in two years there's going to be another big election, and Democrats stand to lose even more seats in the Senate," Cordes said. "They could end up in the minority."

Investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson pointed out that the Republicans taking over the House means that there's going to be a whole new set of committee chairs. One of the issues that will be affected by this power shift is immigration. Rep. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., will have the power to subpoena the Obama administration when he takes over the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"I don't know if people understand what a significant power shift it is when the chair people of these committees, these very important powerful committees turn over from Democrat to Republican or vice versa," Attkisson said.

But Cordes said she didn't get the sense that the Republicans have a definite game plan yet.

"Aside from health care, Republicans haven't really set their agenda in the House. We've asked them aside from that what else are you planning to do? What are your priorities?"

The round table agreed that one of the biggest priorities for Congress and the Obama administration is to cut spending. Schieffer asked chief White House correspondent Chip Reid if the president has hinted at anything specific that he will propose in the coming year.

"The last thing this president wants to do is apply a kind of anti-stimulus that will offset the spending that he has put through," Reid told Schieffer. "When he talks about calling the Republicans' bluff on cutting spending, it is going to be long term - Medicare and Medicaid, things like that. I think he will be serious about it. But I don't think you'll see dramatic cuts in domestic spending in the short term."

Cordes noted that the deficit commission in November released a draft proposal for spending cuts. "It got shoved aside and ignored because everyone was so focused on tax cuts because time was running out. I think in the new year, Congress is going to revisit that," Cordes said.

Logan said defense spending is an area that needs to be looked at seriously.
"One thing that I am hearing is that the budget pressure on the military right now is the most intense it has been in the longest time," she said, pointing out that the army no longer needs billions of dollars worth of advanced fighter jets.

But she also noted that winning the war will take much more than combat skills.

"The U.S. cannot save Afghanistan without dealing with Pakistan. The president keeps saying that, every administration says that, but they don't really take the action that is needed to change what is happening on the ground in that region. And that is without question going to be the biggest problem he has to deal with."