Warnings dire from leaked report

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

MARCO WERMAN: Richard Fontaine with John McCain's foreign policy advisor during the senator's 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Fontaine is now senior fellow at the Washington based center for a new American security. Richard Fontaine, as we just heard, getting international forces behind a troop surge, seems quite unlikely. How is the debate for more troops playing out here in the U.S.?

RICHARD FONTAINE: Well, there's a couple of aspects to it. The first as the President annunciated during his various talk show appearances over the weekend, is that he seems to be having the desire to go back and revisit the original tenants of the strategy that he released in March, which was a counter-insurgency strategy that would essentially require more U.S. troops. There's some second thoughts about the deployment of additional troops among those who look at what's happened in the Afghan national presidential elections that took place recently. And on the other side, that's balanced by the reading of the commanders in the field and many military analysts who say that unless we get more troops in Afghanistan and get them in there in fairly short order, then we're unlikely to be successful there.

WERMAN: And do you find that there's any common ground shaping up between Republicans and Democrats who are looking at you know, possible one in four vote in the recent election in Afghanistan as fraudulent and saying, why should we be in a country where they can't even pull off an election properly?

FONTAINE: There's definitely the potential for common ground between Republicans and Democrats on strategy in Afghanistan and I do think that despite a few misgivings, probably on both sides in March, you saw a great deal of common ground, particularly among legislators to support the president in the rollout of his new strategy and the resources for that. Now as you said, the presidential election is giving folks some reason to pause and wonder about the government and the governance in Afghanistan but one of the things that I think you do see still a great deal of consensus about is that failure in Afghanistan, despite the kind of troubles that we've seen at the political and governance levels in Afghanistan, would be a potential catastrophe for the United States and I think that that's a fairly wide held view on both the Republican and the Democratic sides.

WERMAN: The U.S. effort in Afghanistan has faced a number of obstacles in recent months. You mentioned the flaws in the election, rise in U.S. casualties, of course. What do you think the President needs to do to get American and Afghan support in what will be an argument why more troops, any troops, should be in Afghanistan?

FONTAINE: Well, there's a couple of things. The first, I think, is he needs to be comfortable himself and the administration needs to be comfortable itself with the way ahead in terms of strategy and then the way ahead in terms of the number of troops that will be deployed. We saw over the weekend, administration officials thinking through the various approaches. But once they've settled or hopefully recommitted to the strategy that the President outlined in March, then that will be something that will be intrinsic to presidential and administration leadership on this issue to explain to the American people why, although there are no guarantees of success, this is the best possible strategy and what the stakes are for the American people. The other aspect of this is one that gets that governance in Afghanistan. And as the UN election monitoring mission comes back, our election mission comes back with invalidating ballots and so on, there's going to be some very tricky diplomacy that comes to bear in trying to both work with the government that is in place following this election, while preserving our principals in terms of having the kind of governance in Afghanistan that has legitimacy among the Afghan people and among Americans.

WERMAN: Richard Fontaine, Senior Fellow at the Washington based center for a New American Security. Thank you.

FONTAINE: Thank you very much.