Nightly News   |  August 06, 2011

Retired general dissects impact of crash

NBC's Lester Holt talks to retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey about how much of a psychological impact Saturday's helicopter crash might have on U.S. troops and the Taliban.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: We're joined now by retired Army four- star general and decorated combat veteran Barry McCaffrey . General , for all the weight carried by special operations troops in this war, it's easy to forget this is still a relatively small community. Aside from the deep personal loss over these brave men, will this affect the US war tempo?

General BARRY McCAFFREY, Retired (NBC News Military Analyst): Well, probably not, Lester . You know, to remind all of our viewers, we've had 15,000 killed and wounded in Afghanistan . This is a big operation. The casualties have increased each year and the special operations community has carried a tremendous burden of that combat operation. A lot of these Ranger Sergeants , Delta Force , SEALs , 160th Aviation are on their fourth, fifth, sixth combat tours. It's a -- it's a tremendous struggle for them to keep this up, but I think they'll continue.

HOLT: And we've, of course, been covering the slow drawdown of forces in Afghanistan . Will units like the Rangers , SEALs and Delta Force , will they be among the last to leave?

Gen. McCAFFREY: Yeah, I would think so. I think the absolutely last out will be trainers that'll be trying to develop the Afghan army and police right up until the very end. But clearly what we're facing is a political challenge here in the United States in which increasingly there is little support for this war, maybe two-thirds of the American people . It's a $10 billion a month operation. We've got 100,000 troops still on the ground. It's a very tough dilemma to support this operation going forward.

HOLT: Last question, how much of a psychological victory is this for the Taliban ?

Gen. McCAFFREY: Well, I think they'll try and make a lot of it, but you know, we've got to remind ourselves that in fact in the last year, there have been significant tactical successes against the Taliban . They are not winning. Security is spreading, roads are opening, schools are opening. The question is one of time. What will it look like in 2014 ?

HOLT: General Barry McCaffrey , our thanks to you for joining us tonight.