US Sen. Carl Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Michigan Democrat recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was the guest speaker at the July 13 Monitor breakfast in Washington. On the Pentagon's survey of active-duty troops and reservists concerning their feelings about serving with gays if the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is abandoned:
"It is a very good idea to get the attitude of the troops on things, providing it is clearly understood that it is just a question to help guide decisionmakers … because the military is not a democracy."
"The Haqqani network and their fighters coming over from Pakistan to Afghanistan is the greatest threat – at least external threat – to Afghanistan.... Can more be done? It has to be done by Pakistan unless it is going to be done by a [US] drone attack on [the Haqqani] headquarters."
On whether President Obama was wise to set a date for beginning to reduce US forces in Afghanistan:
"The setting of that date is the action-forcing mechanism, which is critically important to letting the Afghan leaders know what their responsibility is.... It is essential that the president not waver from what he has done, in terms of the support of the American public."
"Everything we heard [while visiting] in Afghanistan [is that] this has not created a problem.... I think there would have been a significant problem, frankly, had this change been made without Petraeus being there."
On shifting more responsibility for Afghanistan's security to the Afghans:
"Afghans taking the lead is the worst nightmare for the Taliban."
On Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele calling Afghanistan a war of Obama's choosing:
"I am glad Michael Steele is there. I wouldn't want to say anything which in any way could be taken or used as a reason to remove him…. As to that particular statement of his, this is not President Obama's war, it is our war. It is a mission which needs to succeed and can succeed…."