Video: Engel on pace of Afghan drawdown
Transcript of: Engel on pace of Afghan drawdown
WILLIAMS: our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel . We have him back here in New York with us for a brief time. And after all, we last saw you in the region Saturday night. So you hear this from President Obama . What do you think, having been a veteran of the region?
RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Well, I think it's very clear that we were all looking what was going to happen in July. People were expecting a fast drawdown or a slow drawdown. And I think the president is indicating that it's going to be a slow drawdown. He -- this is sort of an almost " mission accomplished " speech, if you will, for Afghanistan . And after nearly 10 years, the president is saying, 'We've killed Osama bin Laden . It's time now for the Afghan government to build its own country.' And the drawdown that's going to start in July will be a faster one than many had thought before.
WILLIAMS: And I want to show you what the Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on his farewell tour of the troops in Afghanistan this weekend, talking about how they have weighed so heavily on his mind.
Secretary ROBERT GATES (Secretary of Defense): I think about you every day. I feel your hardship and your sacrifice and your burden, and that of your families, more than you can possibly know. You are, I believe, the best our country has to offer, and you will be in my thoughts and prayers every day for the rest of my life. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: What a...
ENGEL: Very emotional.
WILLIAMS: Yeah. What a...
ENGEL: You don't normally see him like that.
WILLIAMS: What a hard slog this has been. Of course, this news from Iraq today, the kind -- as I said, the kind of news we're not used to hearing. And so many Americans in so many positions of potential harm.
ENGEL: Well, there's still 100,000 troops in Afghanistan , about 50,000 -- just under 50,000 in Iraq . And those troops are effectively waiting to go home. And it's a terrible situation. They were on their bases in eastern Baghdad today. Rocket attacks came in and, according to the US military , these five American troops were killed. And it's Shiite militias that are are in Iraq that want to give the impression that they are winning this war. They want the last American soldier to leave Iraq to be a dead soldier so that they can say that they drove American forces out. And it's going be -- there's going to be a power vacuum. As American troops leave, these Shiite militias that are asserting themselves once again, trying to show that they're strong, are going to probably continue to try and demonstrate their power.
WILLIAMS: Richard Engel , welcome back for the time being . While you're on home leave, we're going to borrow you from time to time for exactly this.
ENGEL: All right.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for being with us tonight.