Interview with Senator Joe Manchin

Interview with Senator Joe Manchin

By The Situation Room - June 22, 2011

BLITZER: And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Wolf. How are you?


You've caused quite a stir. Let's talk about Afghanistan and troop withdrawal.

The president is getting ready to announce maybe between this year and next year 30,000 U.S. troops will leave. That will leave about 70,000 there, many of them through the end of 2014.

When do you want them home?

MANCHIN: Wolf, I haven't set a timetable, nor did I set a limit. I'd like to see the mission change to counterterrorism. Basically, the war on terror, which was our purpose for going there in the first place, to find the terrorists who did so much harm to so many innocent Americans.

And with that being said, if it's going to be a war on counterterrorism, or a war on terror, 70,000 seems like an awful lot of troops that would be needed for that type of a mission.

BLITZER: When I spoke to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky yesterday, he thought maybe 10,000. Bring home 90,000 of those 100,000 troops, maybe leave in the short term 10,000.

Is that something that is realistic to you as well?

MANCHIN: Well, let's look at it this way, Wolf. Basically, the war on terror, or the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, by all known accounts, there's only 50 to 100 al Qaeda still present there. With the presence we have there, I assure you, they will go to other places in North Africa, if you will, and I think we know that.

So, have we won that war? I believe we've done a heck of a good job there. And by all accounts, the Taliban is anywhere between 5,000 to 30,000 strong, and they're kind of scattered.

So, continue to have a nation-building presence. And that's really what I believe we have, is a nation-building presence. I think it's time to rebuild America. I've got a lot of needs in West Virginia, and we can do an awful lot with a little bit of help and assistance.

BLITZER: Because there's hundreds of billions of dollars at stake right now, this year, next year, the year after.

This is a line that jumped out at me from a story in today's "Wall Street Journal." Let me read it to you. "Congressional officials said they expect roughly 25,000 troops to remain in the country, Afghanistan, after the 2014 handover, focused on assisting Afghanistan security forces and carrying out counterterrorism missions against the Taliban and al Qaeda."

You're a member of the Congress, the U.S. Senate. Have you been told that even after 2014, the U.S. wants to keep 25,000 troops in Afghanistan?

MANCHIN: Not directly. But I think that everything has alluded to that might happened. There will be a presence there. That's the problem that I do have.

Let me tell you the thing that took me over the top, Wolf. When I found out that China was one of the only countries in there extracting minerals such as copper, they have no presence, they have no military presence, they have not contributed to helping law and order preside there, and here they are able to extract and make billions of dollars. That took me kind of over the top to, here we are making the sacrifices, the human sacrifices that we have made, with the financial sacrifices.

I've just said, enough is enough. After 10 years, how long will it take and how long should we be there?

Go back to the war on terror. Let's go find the terrorists that have done us harm and wish to do us harm anywhere they may hide. We've proven with getting Bin Laden we can do that.

BLITZER: Is there a price tag that has been given to you, an estimate of how much, assuming the U.S. maintains tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014, how much additional this is going to cost U.S. taxpayers?

MANCHIN: Well, let me tell you the numbers that I have heard and I have seen and that has been given to me.

We've spent $443 billion to date. We're on track to spend another $85 billion, Wolf. That's almost a trillion dollars.

Now, I can tell you, we can ill-afford that type of expenditure and basically have a country that doesn't have an economy, that does not have an infrastructure and, by all accounts, has a corrupt leader. You can't continue down this road and think that you're going to get success.

BLITZER: You know there's one way that you, a member of the Senate, and your colleagues could stop this. And that would be the power of the purse, voting into law a resolution that would stop the funding for the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan.

MANCHIN: Well, let me tell you, we have a vote coming up on the debt ceiling. I have been the first Democrat to say, I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless there's a long-term plan. And if you don't believe that what we're doing in Afghanistan or our Defense Department is part of that long-term plan, the two are the same as one, to be honest with you.

BLITZER: So what are you saying, unless there's a significant cut in spending in Afghanistan, you won't vote to increase the debt ceiling?

MANCHIN: Well, it's a bigger plan than that, but we have to have more revenue into this country, we have to have people paying their fair share. We have to look at all the different programs, make sure that abuse and fraud and waste is not there, and we have to look at the Defense Department. We have got three areas that we have to bring in as one and fix them, and that's part of it, absolutely.

BLITZER: So will you vote to cut funding for U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

MANCHIN: I will never cut the funding to troops that we have there. I would like to see the mission change and support the mission to the hilt of counterterrorism. But I can tell you one thing, there's an awful lot of savings to be had to bring people back, to bring them back to America, to refocus our efforts in rebuilding America.

BLITZER: Senator Manchin, thanks very much for joining us.

MANCHIN: Thank you, Wolf.


Manchin Resigns From No Labels
Adam O'Neal · November 7, 2014

The Situation Room

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter