Candidate: Sen. McCain
Question: Should more troops be sent to Afghanistan?
LEHRER: Afghanistan, Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: First of all, I won't repeat the mistake that I regret enormously, and that is, after we were able to help the Afghan freedom fighters and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, we basically washed our hands of the region.
And the result over time was the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a lot of the difficulties we are facing today. So we can't ignore those lessons of history.
Now, on this issue of aiding Pakistan, if you're going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you'd better be prepared to pull the trigger.
I'm not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I'm not prepared to threaten it, as Senator Obama apparently wants to do, as he has said that he would announce military strikes into Pakistan.
We've got to get the support of the people of -- of Pakistan. He said that he would launch military strikes into Pakistan.
Now, you don't do that. You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government.
Now, the new president of Pakistan, Kardari (sic), has got his hands full. And this area on the border has not been governed since the days of Alexander the Great.
I've been to Waziristan. I can see how tough that terrain is. It's ruled by a handful of tribes.
And, yes, Senator Obama calls for more troops, but what he doesn't understand, it's got to be a new strategy, the same strategy that he condemned in Iraq. It's going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.
And we're going to have to help the Pakistanis go into these areas and obtain the allegiance of the people. And it's going to be tough. They've intermarried with al Qaeda and the Taliban. And it's going to be tough. But we have to get the cooperation of the people in those areas.
And the Pakistanis are going to have to understand that that bombing in the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was a signal from the terrorists that they don't want that government to cooperate with us in combating the Taliban and jihadist elements.
So we've got a lot of work to do in Afghanistan. But I'm confident, now that General Petraeus is in the new position of command, that we will employ a strategy which not only means additional troops -- and, by the way, there have been 20,000 additional troops, from 32,000 to 53,000, and there needs to be more.
So it's not just the addition of troops that matters. It's a strategy that will succeed. And Pakistan is a very important element in this. And I know how to work with him. And I guarantee you I would not publicly state that I'm going to attack them.