Video: Petraeus: Extremist groups want to be ‘transnational’

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    >>> and today, president obama is meeting today with his national security team on pakistan and afghanistan . a key participant in those meetings in general david petraeus . only days ago, the general was in pakistan dealing with officials there just as faisal shahzad 's bomb plot was unfolding. i sat down the general petraeus to talk about the suspect , the plot and terror groups that may have launched it.

    >> this target of these operations indeed has been the pakistani taliban , this organization that the individual at least who carried out the attack claims to have had links with. again, their operations are very significant because they've gone in and are holding these areas now. they're of limited means. they have even got a lot of short sticks and a lot of hornets nests if you will. they have carried out impressive operations and we are trying to support them. we're not doing the operations . they're the ones on the ground fighting and sustaining losses. the extremists would like to be not just active in pakistan , but elsewhere. al- qaeda is foremost among them. the organization that carried out the mumbai attack, another organization with transactional goals and activities. and it may be that the pakistani taliban has these. mehsud has claimed credit for several of these. again, that's in character for extremists groups because the way they generate resources , get recruits, is indeed by successful, high-profile operations . used to seeing that as well with the al- qaeda on the arabian peninsula .

    >> but this would be the first time they have struck at the american home land through this suspect if it turns out this is the case.

    >> many of them would like to carry out operations elsewhere. it's part of their ideology in fact.

    >> for all of that success and our support to the pakistanis in these operations , have we stirred the hornet's nest and are we radicalizing others like this suspect in the times square case? is that one of the downsides of it?

    >> you have to look at it on balance. i think certainly, there will be groups that use what we do, where ever we do it and whatever we do, frankly, that will find some way to try to stir up emotions. we just have to be cognizant of it.

    >> in terms of pakistani like this man here who is a u.s. citizen , yet goes back, gets some training and some have suggested to me that this could be a case with a new kind of terrorist . not deeply embedded, not trusted by them. he's got a u.s. passport , but they give him a little training and send him back on the hopes he can get lucky or smart and do some damage . this is a new generation of terrorists.

    >> well rk i think we have to note that the extremist elements out there, they are learning an adaptive organizations. in the counterinsurgency manual, there's an admonition you must learn, the side that does it the fastest is the one that typically prevails, so we have to be constantly thinking of what is next. you had the planes flying into buildings, what is the next initiative going to be and certainly, this is among those. there has been an outreach through cyber space , why some of us have said that we can't allow cyber space to be uncontested. we have to be active there as well while still ensuring the rights and freedoms of americans .

    >> should americans get accustomed to the fact that someoone of these attacks is going to work? is this the new reality?

    >> i think the new reality has been. it's not new. we have to stay vigilant and get systems, processes and procedures that can identify these individuals before they can carry out an attack and then to react quickly if something is attempted.

    >> is there a certain amount of blowback for the pakistani operations and what we're doing in afghanistan . is there some blowback where the drone attacks, the increased pace, creates anger and you end up with more radicals on the ground?

    >> first of all, we don't talk about the source of the explosions in the tribal areas. there have been officials who have noted the significant number of leaders who have been killed in the federally administered tribal areas . it has put enormous pressure on the organizations, as you might imagine. we saw that yes, osama bin laden is still alive. apparently, presumably in that area, but it took him three or four weeks just to get out a single congratulations in the wake of the attempted detroit airline bombing. now, is there blowback? look, the enemy will fight back. when ever you threaten an enemy, his safe havens in particular, he is going to fight back and he will use any means to do that including information operations . including trying to do to us what to a degree what we try to do to him.

    >> when this whole event in times square was unfolding, you were in pakistan and afghanistan . you were talking to your military count part. what cooperation were we getting from them?

    >> it is improved. we have sought to show a sustained commitment. we have recognized the impressive campaign that the pakistani military has carried out in swath valley and these other areas of their country where the pakistani taliban was threatening the pakistani governens. we have provided substantial, additional financial -- really compensation for what they're doing to keep our lines of communication going into afghanistan , but also to provide them additional equipment, some training, sharing of intelligence and all the rest of this. a number of us have worked quite hard. admiral mullen, general mcchrystal and i and others have worked quite hard to build these relationships, noting that there's history here. that in several times in the past, we have walked away from pakistan .

    >> coming up, general petraeus on

By Host, Andrea Mitchell Reports
MSNBC
TRANSCRIPT

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: This target of these — operations, indeed, has been the Pakistani Taliban, this organization that — the individual, at least, who you carried out the attack claims to — have had links with. Again, their operations are very significant. Because they have gone in and they're holding these areas now. Now there are limited means, they have indeed even got a lot of short sticks and a lot of hornets' nests if you will.

They've got to consolidate some of these gains. But they have carried out impressive operations. And we, of course, are trying to support them. We're not doing the operation. They're the ones that are — that are on the ground, fighting and sustaining significant losses.  

The extremists in many cases would like to be transnational organizations, not just active in Pakistan, but indeed active elsewhere. Al-QaIda, of course, is foremost among them. Lashkar-e-Taiba, who carried out the Mumbai attack, another organization with — transnational goals and activities. And it may be that the Pakistani Taliban has some of these as well. Hakimullah Mehsud has claimed, at various times, credit for some of these once wrong. But again, that — that's in character, if you will, for extremist groups.

Because the way they — they generate resources and the way they get recruits — the way they can proselytize — is, indeed, by successful, high profile — operations. You've seen that as well with the al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula, on the (UNINTEL PHRASE) American.

ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST, ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS: But this would be the first time that they have struck at the American homeland through this surrogate, through this suspect, if it turns out that this is the case.

PETRAEUS: Many of them would like to — carry out operations elsewhere. It's part of their ideology, in fact.

MITCHELL:  For all that success and our support to the Pakistanis in these operations, have we stirred the hornets' nest and are we radicalizing others potentially like this suspect in the Times Square case? Is that one of the downsides of it?

PETRAEUS:  I think you have to look at, you know, on balance, if you will. And I think certainly there will be groups that will use what we do wherever we do it and whatever we do, frankly. They will find some way to try to stir up — emotions— against our actions. And we just have to be cognizant of it.   

MITCHELL: In terms of Pakistanis like this man here, who is a U.S. citizen, yet goes back, gets some training, and-- some have suggested, some high U.S. officials have suggested to me that this could be a case with a new kind of terrorist, or a more recent kind. He's not deeply embedded. He's not trusted by them. He's got a U.S. passport. They don't know if he's a plant. But they give him a little bit of training and send him back on the hopes that maybe he can get lucky or smart and do some damage. This is a new generation of terror.
 
PETRAEUS: Well, I think we have to note that the extremist elements that are out there —have —they are learning in adaptive organizations. In fact, in the counterinsurgency manual,  there's an admonition that you must learn and adapt. And be the side that does that the fastest is the one that typically prevails. So we have to constantly be thinking of what is next.

And there's been a lot of thought about that. But, you know, you had the planes flown into tall buildings. What is the next initiative going to be? And certainly this is among those. There has been an outreach through cyberspace. It's one reason that some of us have said we have to be — we can't allow cyberspace, which is a battlefield, just like a ground battlefield to be uncontested space. We have to be active there as well, while certainly still insuring that the — rights and freedoms — of Americans, to be sure.  

MITCHELL: Should Americans get accustomed to the fact that somebody at some point is gonna punch through? That one of these attacks is gonna work? Is this the new reality?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think the new reality has been. It's not new. (LAUGH) The reality is that we have to stay vigilant. And we must continue to get systems and processes and procedures that can identify these individuals, ideally of course, before they can carry out an attack. And then, indeed, to react very quickly if, indeed, something is attempted.

MITCHELL: Is there a certain amount of blow back because of American support for the Pakistani operations, and what we're doing, of course in Afghanistan? Is there some blow back where the drone attack, the increased pace, create anger and you end up with more radicals on the ground?

PETRAEUS: Well, first thing, you know, we don't talk about the source of these explosions in the--

MITCHELL: Right.

PETRAEUS: Federally Administered Tribal Areas. There have been some officials who have noted, the significant number of  senior extremist leaders who have been killed  in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. It has put enormous pressureon these different organizations, as you might imagine. We saw that yes, Osama bin Laden is still alive. Apparently, presumably in that area. But it took him three or four weeks just to get out a simple message of congratulations in the wake of the attempted Detroit airline bombing.

Now, is there blow back? Look, the enemy will fight back. Whenever you threaten an enemy when you threaten his sanctuary or safe havens in particular, he is going to fight back. And he will use any means to do that, including information operations. Including, trying to do to us what, to a degree, we tried to do to him.

MITCHELL: When this whole event in Times Square was unfolding, you were in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And you were talking to your military counterpart, General Kayani. What cooperation were we getting from them? 

PETRAEUS: Well, I think that cooperation has improved. Certainly we have sought to show a sustained substantial commitment. We have recognized  the impressive campaign that the Pakistani military has carried out  in Swat Valley and  in these other areas of their country where the Pakistani Taliban was threatening the (UNINTEL) of Pakistani governance. We have provided, substantial additional financial really, compensation for what they're doing to keep our lines of communication going into Afghanistan.

But also to provide them additional equipment, some training sharing of intelligence, and all the rest of this. And a number of us have worked quite hard. Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs; General McChrystal and I and others have all worked quite hard to build these relationships, noting that there's history here. And several times in the past, we have walked away from Pakistan.

We think we can. It's way out in the future. It's July 2011. That's a substantial period in this additional forced posture that we'll have there  before that time. But really, I think it's important to remember what was intended with that July 2011 date. Because when President Obama spoke at West Point, announced his policy, he was sending two very important messages.

One was the message of additional commitment, of course. About 30,000 more U.S. forces, double and tripling the number of civilians, additional funding, authorization of additional Afghan forces, more NATO forces. But there was also the message of urgency. And that complements this other message. This "we've got to get on with it" message. And it wasn't, I don't think, at all just domestic public audience that was a target of this. This is for individuals, perhaps in Kabul, perhaps some of us in uniform.

I remember him looking down at the table and saying, "Tell me again why we can't deploy these forces more rapidly?" And we figured out how to compress the deployment time frame, indeed. So when that date comes and that's the point at which, as he said, there will be a conditions-based transition of tasks that begins to Afghan forces and officials in the beginning, of his words, responsible drawn down of our forces.

MITCHELL: There was a recent U.S. Army survey of Kandahar residents. It was found that a majority of the residents in Kandahar trusted the Taliban more than the Afghan government. How do you get beyond that?

PETRAEUS: Well,  a component of a counterinsurgency campaign has to be the local government gaining a sense of legitimacy with the people. And the way you get beyond that, of course, is by demonstrating greater integrity, by improving  life for the people, by holding out the prospect that life, indeed, will be better under the Afghan government than under, perhaps, some kind of Taliban rule. So all of those sort of common sense ideas, but very difficult in practice given the complexities of the southern part of Afghanistan in particular.

MITCHELL: There's a recent article by Joe Klein in Time Magazine. And after being in the field, he said, and this is Joe Klein reported, that General McChrystal's optimism about the situation in Kandahar was, quote, "near delusion in contrast to the way it's experienced by the troops and the civilian workers on the ground."

PETRAEUS: Well first of all, the General McChrystal I know is  not given to wild optimism. He's given to realism, as, in fact, you heard me say that, you know, I'm not an optimist nor a pessimist, I'm a realist. And in fact, when I was in Kandahar just a few days ago, I gave a press release and stated as he  has also stated, that it will get harder before it gets easier.

When you take away the enemy's sanctuaries and safe havens they're going to fight back. They've already started that. Indeed, we have already long since commenced-- the operations in Kandahar, this expansion of security. Indeed, we probably shouldn't have even used the word "operation" because it implies some kind of D Day event that will kick this off. This is not going to be an operation like Fellujah, where you start at one side of the city and fight your way to the other and clear it of insurgents.

Rather, it's going to be an expanding tide, if you will, of rising tide of security. Whereas the additional U.S. forces, additional Afghan forces deploy, they can gradually expand the  security bubble that is so important to this establishment of then governance that can be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people.

MITCHELL: There's been so much tension in the past between President Karzai and some officials here, including a rather tense meeting with President Obama. President Karzai is coming next week, of course. Has he the ability to prove, to the satisfaction of the military and the civilian administration here, can he prove that with his own brother being accused of corruption, that his ministries and his government can weed out corruption and handle the handover, if we actually presume that it can take place?

PETRAEUS: Well, he has committed to do that. In fact, Ambassador Holbrooke and I met with him three weeks ago, I think it was, in Kabul. I talked to him by phone when I was in Kandahar about four days ago. He has committed in particular to two very key concepts. These are inclusivity and transparency. And those are very, very important. I think you'll hear those echoed when he comes here. This is a very important visit.   

MITCHELL: Do you have to work around his brother, who is the powerful, you know, figure in Kandahar as we approach this militarily?  

PETRAEUS: Well, interestingly, I talked to Ahmed Wali Karzai when I was in Kandahar a few nights-

MITCHELL: Did you, now?

PETRAEUS: -ago as well. I did. And we had a good conversation. The topics of inclusivity and transparency came up--

MITCHELL: How about--

PETRAEUS: several times.

MITCHELL: corruption and the drug--

PETRAEUS: So, well I have to say, by the way, and General McChrystal has said this on the record as well. We have asked the intelligence committee other lay down and show us where you say that he's involved in this or that so again, we can confront this. And let's lay this out. And I must say, there has not been anything that would rise to the level of evidence. There's certainly a lot of hearsay. And again, this has to be taken very seriously. Because it is the perception of the Afghan people. Perceptions are reality. But again, we had a very, very candid conversation. And he has pledged, you know, full support for what the Afghan government and the coalition is trying to do. Let's see how it goes forward.

MITCHELL: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York at the UN-- blaming the U.S. for everything, denying everything. Is Iran what keeps you up at night?

PETRAEUS:  You know, people ask me periodically what is it that keep you know, is it Iraq or Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen? And I actually tend to say that more often than not, it is Iran.

MITCHELL:  Now, with all of your travels and having just come back from Pakistan and Afghanistan, you also found time not too long ago to go to New Hampshire. Is there a future for General Petraeus?

PETRAEUS:  No. There is not. And I fun to find out this is the college that I actually did political  debates. But no, there's not I'm from New Hampshire, actually. And  I mean, we just happened to go up there.

MITCHELL: Finally, I just want to ask you about the pressure on the military. There is so much toxicity in our political culture right now. You've been  the victim, the target, of a lot. You've experienced it. How difficult is it to ignore all of the noise out there? You know--

PETRAEUS: I think you have to shut it out.

MITCHELL:  you're running two wars and you're—

PETRAEUS: I think you have to shut that out. I think we have to try to be strictly apolitical. It's the reason I stopped voting some years ago. I think it was in 2002 was the last time that I cast a vote. And again, we have to work very hard at providing our best professional military advice and not worry about how that might be received on Capitol Hill or anywhere else. Our job, I think what the president wants from us, is again our military advice, not our political advice or some other component of that. That's his job. He knows it. And that's what he asks for from us, is again, just tell me about it. What your views are in uniform.

MITCHELL: One of the most difficult  politically charged issues is Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Admiral Mullen in  the rest of you have been very clear about the commitment to changing the policy. But the study, why does it take so long to study this review?

PETRAEUS: Well, they're going around to every different post, camp, and station or every as many as they can. In fact, they were just down in Tampa the other day.

MITCHELL: How do you feel about it? Do you think-

PETRAEUS: they are—

MITCHELL: it's going to diminish the ability of armed of U.S. armed forces to be —

PETRAEUS: Well, that's why we're doin' this study. Again, I have said on the record to Congress that I think it is time to consider a change to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But it should be done-- only after this study is complete. Because that has to inform the way forward. The study is going to look at what would the likely impact be on cohesion, morale, readinessand so forth.  

MITCHELL: And what would you say to those Americans who feel that the military is dragging its feet on this?  

PETRAEUS:  That this takes time. There is no reason to rush to failure if the-- on this, if you will. In other words, if someone were to rush into this, not have the policies thought through, not have the views of the force-- already clearly laid out and not be able, therefore, to anticipate what might be required to inform a policy decision. So I  again, I think this is a very prudentway forward.

Andrea Mitchell Reports airs Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET on msnbc.

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