MSNBC's Joe Scarborough left no doubts on where he stands on the conflict in Afghanistan Monday – but he also pressed liberal Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to stand up to President Obama on the issue of troop withdrawal. "It's distressing to me to see how this war continues," Scarborough complained, noting that the deadline for troop withdrawal has been pushed back to 2014 and possibly even further.
He then asked Sen. Durbin point-blank, "When are you and other progressives in the Senate going to start pushing back on the administration, on the generals, and say 'Enough is enough. We can't waste $2 billion a week on a war without end'?"
Scarborough further clarified his opposition to continuing the war long-term, and wondered if President Obama wants to stay in Afghanistan merely to appease Republicans on national defense. "It seems like the President is just buying time because he doesn't want the Republicans to call him weak on defense," he speculated.
"I think Afghanistan and Pakistan and that whole part of the world literally broke Richard Holbrooke's heart," lamented Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal. She agreed with Scarborough that there is no exit strategy from Afghanistan, and any plan will be difficult to execute for the long-term.
Durbin asserted that he and fellow Democrats are aiming for the July deadline to begin bringing troops home from Afghanistan, but Scarborough continued to press him from Durbin's left. "Will you hold the President accountable if he does not withdraw a significant number of troops in 2011?" he asked Durbin.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on December 20 at 7:11 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Senator Durbin, I want to ask you about Afghanistan. It's distressing to me to see how this war continues, goes on and on. We've been fighting it for almost a decade, 2011 got pushed to 2014. We had a NATO conference where the administration official said "Well don't worry about that 2014 deadline, it's going to be pushed beyond that." When are you and other progressives in the Senate going to start pushing back on the administration, on the generals, and say "Enough is enough. We can't waste $2 billion a week on a war without end"?
Sen. DICK DURBIN (D-Ill.) And not to mention the lives that we've lost, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Most importantly, yes.
DURBIN: Yes, most importantly. Well the President's told us, by July of next year we're going to start bringing our combat troops home. Many of us believe that that is a realistic timeline to shift responsibilities to the Afghans. You know, we're not going to stay there until this is a peaceful, civilized, developed country. It is the kind of thing that's not within our grasp for control. We can't send in enough soldiers to do it. And many of us believe that that July deadline is critically important.
SCARBOROUGH: Will you hold the President accountable if he does not withdraw a significant number of troops in 2011?
DURBIN: The President gave his word, and I believe he should stand by it.
SCARBOROUGH: Peggy, Afghanistan is so depressing to me because I've yet to talk to a foreign policy expert, including Richard Holbrooke, off-the-record, that didn't know this was a losing proposition. And yet it seems like the President is just buying time because he doesn't want the Republicans to call him weak on defense.
PEGGY NOONAN: And that's an old theme in American foreign policy, as you know. I mean it's 75 years old. Look, I think Afghanistan and Pakistan and that whole part of the world literally broke Richard Holbrooke's heart. There's a sense of "No way out," there's a sense of "How can we do this?" there's a sense of "Can we turn Afghanistan around without turning its government around? Can we turn its government around? Can we make Kharzai different? Can we make their culture different?" The biggest thing I think we have learned, or I think among the big things in the last ten years, is that the minute you commit U.S. troops anywhere in the world, from that moment there are fifteen reasons those troops can never leave. And it's something we always have to remember in the future. The minute you go someplace, you can't get out. You better watch out where you go.
SCARBOROUGH: Better have an exit strategy out before you send the first troop in, and we've been there for a decade, and we've never had an exit strategy. Never.