LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Linda Wertheimer. On Wednesday, President Bush said U.S. forces had endured a, quote, "tough month in Afghanistan." So it was. Last month, 28 American soldiers were killed there. That made June the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001. Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists are responsible for much of the rising violence, but coalition forces have also been confronted by trained fighters coming across the border from Pakistan.
We're joined now by Richard Clarke, a consultant on homeland and global security, who was the top counterterrorism adviser to Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, and President Clinton. Welcome, Mr. Clarke.
Mr. RICHARD ALAN CLARKE (Chairman, Good Harbor Consulting): Good to be with you, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: There are 71,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan, and 32,000 of them are Americans. But still, it is increasingly violent. The government is more fragile, more isolated. Is there a way to turn the situation in Afghanistan around at this point?
Mr. CLARKE: There is, but only by sending in more troops and keeping them there for a while. And as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said - Admiral Mullen said the other day - we can't do that right now because our troops are tied down in Iraq.
WERTHEIMER: So how would you assess the risk at this moment to the U.S. and its interests that's posed by an al-Qaeda that's active again, we assume, in Afghanistan?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, I think I have to agree with the National Intelligence Estimate and with the CIA director. Both of which said in the last few months that there is once again an al-Qaeda sanctuary in Pakistan along the Afghan border and that people are being trained there by al-Qaeda to attack Western interests, including the United States.
WERTHEIMER: The U.S. has been increasingly frustrated with the Pakistani government's unwillingness to confront the militants on its border. Can the United States take some kind of action without the assent or cooperation of the Pakistani government?
Mr. CLARKE: Well, the United States has on four occasions this year apparently sent forces across the border to do raids. And on most of these occasions, they have been the Predator unmanned drone firing a missile. But there's only so much the United States can do without the cooperation of the Pakistani government. And frankly, we're not getting that cooperation. There are still elements within Pakistani intelligence who are supporting the Taliban.
WERTHEIMER: Now, this has been an issue in the campaign. And the man we assume is going to be the Democratic nominee has suggested that unilateral action by U.S. forces on the border of Pakistan is something that he'd be thinking about.
Mr. CLARKE: Well, to be fair, Linda, I should tell you that Senator Obama asked me about that before he said it, and I recommended that he have that policy. It's the policy, after all, that the current administration - while they may not admit it - is pursuing. I think any president has to act that way to protect the lives of Americans. But I think what Obama or McCain has to do is to strike a new deal with the Pakistanis. To say to them, if you cooperate in ending this sanctuary for the Taliban, we will help you in more serious ways than we're doing today. But we cannot have a sanctuary for al-Qaeda again. 9/11 should have taught us that.
WERTHEIMER: Richard Clarke heads a homeland and global security consulting firm. Mr. Clarke, thank you very much.
Mr. CLARKE: Thank you, Linda.
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