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THE SITUATION ROOM
: U.S. General Killed in Afghanistan; Interview with Rear Admiral John Kirby; Egypt's Role in Mideast Cease-Fire; Interview with Nasser Judeh; Interview with Nachman Shai; Would 2014 Contender Cut Aid to Israel?
Aired August 5, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- U.S. general killed. A gunman said to be an Afghan soldier opens fire at a military academy near Kabul. Fifteen other troops are wounded.
Insider attack -- dozens of coalition troops have been killed by their Afghan allies in recent years.
Are Americans safe working alongside Afghan soldiers?
And cease-fire holding -- the rockets and the air strikes have stopped.
Israeli troops are now out of Gaza.
Can their neighbors help Israel and Hamas build on this very fragile truce?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. A U.S. general is gunned down in Afghanistan, as a war that's winding down claims its highest ranking American casualty. The shocking and bloody rampage at an officer training center near Kabul apparently carried out by an Afghan soldier. Some 15 coalition troops were wounded, including a German general.
Our correspondents and guests are standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a difficult day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, also at the Pentagon. The most senior U.S. officer killed since 9/11, and a significant casualty toll, as well.
And it began with what was a routine visit to the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, where Afghan senior military officers are trained. This was a senior delegation involving more than one coalition general. And they were met with a brazen attack.
An Afghan soldier, who I'm told had completed an arduous seven step vetting process, opening fire with a Russian made light machine gun, killed the general. He wounded at least 15 others, including eight Americans and a German general. And some of those wounded are seriously wounded. The attacker then killed as forces responded.
The attack raising hard questions not only about the vetting process, but also the upcoming handover of security in Afghanistan from U.S. and coalition forces to Afghan forces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're months away from the U.S. handing over security responsibility for Afghanistan to Afghan forces like these.
SCIUTTO: Does this undermine your confidence in their ability to take over that role?
JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Afghan National Security Forces continue to perform at a very strong level of competence and confidence and warfare capability. They have had a good year securing not one, but two national elections. (END VIDEO TAPE)
SCIUTTO: Generals of this rank would normally travel with a security detail. And the military has been deploying so-called Guardian Angels in response to this threat of so-called green on blue attacks and instituted other changes, as well, allowing, for example, U.S. forces to carry their own weapons into Afghan ministries to possibly protect themselves.
And while these steps and others have greatly reduced this kind of attacks, they have not eliminated them.
As Admiral Kirby was telling us today, Wolf, Afghanistan is still very much a battlefield.
But in a measure of the trust that he says is still strong between U.S. and Afghan forces, later today, after this attack, U.S. forces went out into the field on operations with air forces at their side.
BLITZER: Yes, there's still about 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as we speak right now.
Jim Sciutto reporting.
You'd think there would be very tight security when high-ranking military officers visit a facility like this.
Let's get more from Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, you've been to Afghan Army training camps. You've seen what's going on and you've done some checking.
What is going on over there?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, Afghan and U.S. troops -- coalition troops -- work side by side, from the smallest military bases to these more major facilities like this training facility. They are often on training ranges with live ammunition. We have been there. We have seen it. There has to be a measure of trust involved between both sides.
And this, at times, has been very difficult to come by, as a number of these attacks, the so-called green on blue, Afghan soldiers -- those in Afghan uniforms, if they're really soldiers or not, Taliban sympathizers in Afghan uniforms, all of this whole mix of people attacking U.S. and coalition troops. It's been a major problem. They've been able to get a handle on it and bring those very difficult statistics down by these additional security measures.
But today, what we see is it just wasn't enough. If there is a determined attacker, U.S. general -- the most junior private first class, all the security in the world, attackers do still get through -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It still is very shocking, though, that a general, Barbara, a general has been killed along these lines. That doesn't happen very often at all.
STARR: It does not, Wolf. And I'll tell you, I think that people just don't expect to see this. They think of the generals as being surrounded by security. But I can tell you -- and I'm sure Jim Sciutto and everyone who has been to Afghanistan as a reporter would agree with me -- we often see generals actually pushing their security back just a little bit, shedding their helmet, shedding their vests. I've been with several of them over the years, where we've gone walking into towns and villages and there is no apparent security. They are pushed back because, many times, these generals, they want to show, number one, the trust involved. I think you can see me there a few years ago on one of these walkabouts. They want to show the trust that they have for the Afghan people. And they also, very importantly, want to be with their troops. Many of these generals have felt very strongly over the years, they don't want to be shielded, they want to be out there.
And it can be a very difficult situation. There have been times behind-the-scenes where some of these generals have been told, you know, you've got to wear your gear, you've got to wear your helmet, you've got to wear your vest. But a lot of them really feel very strongly that one of the most important things they can do with the Afghan security forces is establish that bond of trust and be on an equal footing with them.
Wolf, what we see today is that from a high-ranking U.S. Army general to what we have seen over the years, perhaps the most junior soldier marine, sailor, airman, the price that is being paid, the sacrifices that military families make. They know and they come from all ranks -- Wolf. BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Barbara, thanks very much.
Let's stay with this story and get an update now from the Pentagon press secretary.
Joining us on the phone is Rear Admiral John Kirby.
John, thanks very much for joining us.
I know you've been investigating. It's preliminary.
But give us the bottom line, be how did this happen?
KIRBY: Well, we're still trying to figure all that out, Wolf. As you just said, we are still investigating this.
But what I can tell you is that this was a routine visit to the military academy out there in Kabul to look at various improvements that have been made to the training and to the school itself. And somewhere in the context of this routine visit -- and it wasn't just American troops that were on this visit. It was a coalition visit by other staff officers from the international security force there.
But in the midst of this visit, obviously, a person that we believe was an Afghan soldier opened fire and hit many with, you know, with his weapon. Tragically, this one individual died. But there were upwards of 15 who were hit and wounded.
BLITZER: Was this a high-ranking or low ranking Afghan soldier who killed this general and wounded the others?
KIRBY: I don't believe it was a very high-ranking Afghan soldier, Wolf. But again, we're still trying to figure all this out and piece it together.
BLITZER: Who killed him?
KIRBY: He was -- he was -- he was killed by security forces that were on the scene. I don't exactly know who was responsible for actually killing the individual. But there were security forces there present. And took care of it that way.
BLITZER: How worried -- how worried should those 30,000 U.S. troops who are still in Afghanistan right now be that other Afghan troops may be infiltrated by Taliban, al Qaeda, who knows what, that these people who are pretending to be their allies are really their enemies?
KIRBY: I'll tell you, this is an insider threat -- we refer to it as the insider threat. It's one that we've been focused on for quite some time.
As you might recall, just a couple of years ago, it had gotten to a pretty high degree over there. And I staff and coalition and U.S. forces really took a hard look at this threat, on how to mitigate it. You you can't eliminate it. It's difficult to make it go away completely.
But you can mitigate it. You can -- you can try to buy down that risk through some procedures that we put in place. And largely, they have worked. And this is not been much of a story over the last couple of years, because we've been working at this so hard.
And I would also add that the Afghans have been helping us do this, as well, our Afghan partners.
But it is a threat you can't completely eliminate. It's something we're always mindful of.
And I would say, you know, that our indications are -- our U.S. soldiers over there, they know how important these partnered operations are. They're proud of the progress that Afghan forces have made, particularly over the last year. And we don't see that this is going to diminish in any way, or degrade, either the partnership that we've been building or Afghan confidence in the field.
BLITZER: Explain that Guardian Angel program that was put into effect a couple of years ago.
And did this dead U.S. general have a Guardian Angel?
KIRBY: Well, I would -- we -- we're hesitant to talk about too much of the details of the Guardian Angel program. There is a program in place where we have we have security forces that are standing by and ready and may not always be visible, may not always be apparent, to deal with these kinds of threats, whether they're insider threats or they're coming from Taliban insurgents outright. And they're on scene and ready.
And, again, I don't know exactly how it came that this assailant was killed, but I can tell you that certainly that program was in effect for this visit.
BLITZER: I know you've been withholding the name of the general pending notification of his family.
Has that already occurred?
Can you tell us his name?
KIRBY: I'm not going to be able to release the name right now, Wolf. I can tell you the family notification process is being worked today. And I think it's important and we all want to make sure that we keep the family in our thoughts and prayers, and that we give them the space a little bit and the privacy that they're going to need today.
BLITZER: The Associated Press has named the general, I don't know if you're familiar with that. We're not doing that yet, but I just wanted to let you know, the AP has named the general. They put it out on the wire.
Does that impact your decision still to withhold the name? KIRBY: Well, we have a policy in the Defense Department that even once we know that the families have been notified, we wait 24 hours as a grieving period before before we release the name. So we are not -- the Defense Department will not be releasing the name right now.
BLITZER: For 24 hours.
Without naming him, without telling us his name, can you tell us something about him, background, experience?
I'm sure you've probably looked a little bit into it.
KIRBY: Well, yes, a very experienced officer, been in the Army, commissioned as an officer since 1980. Various operational tours, a lot of staff tours, as well. An expert in infrastructure improvement, logistics, that kind of thing. And he was a leader there in the training command in Afghanistan, the command that's responsible for training Afghan forces.
So, again, perfectly (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Do you know how long he had been in Afghanistan this current tour?
KIRBY: I do not know that, Wolf, no.
BLITZER: What about the conditions of the wounded?
How seriously are they wounded?
KIRBY: We -- the wounded are not all United States soldiers. There are some U.S. soldiers. I'm told that some off the wounded were seriously wounded. There's, of course, separate minor injuries.
But what we're being told is that none of the serious -- none of the seriously wounded are life-threatening.
BLITZER: I assume that based on this incident, you're going to be taking another look at security for U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and maybe drawing some new conclusions, making some new recommendations. Normally, that would happen, right?
KIRBY: Well, we always will learn something from the investigation, Wolf. And if we need to make changes, we certainly will. That's why we do these investigations. It's important to constantly keep looking at our security posture.
But I would also say, you know, more broadly, the security in Afghanistan is always a top concern. It is a war zone, a combat zone and we take security and safety very seriously.
BLITZER: And you're still planning on withdrawing all but about 10,000 of those U.S. troops before the end of this year, right?
KIRBY: That's right, Wolf. There's going to be no change to the force posture progress and planning that we've been doing. The thing that we have said consistently, though, is, you know, in order to be able to keep any presence there after the end of this year, we do need a bilateral security agreement. We're waiting for the electoral process to -- the audit of the votes to conclude so that a winner can be named and we can move forward with that with the new president of Afghanistan.
BLITZER: I'll be speaking this hour with one man who wants to be the new president of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister of Afghanistan.
We'll get his thoughts on what happened.
All right, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the spokesman for the Pentagon.
Thanks very much, John, for joining us.
Up next, could the Taliban be behind the killing of this U.S. general?
Could it be al Qaeda?
I'll speak with our own expert, Peter Bergen.
We'll also get the latest from Kabul.
And in the heart of a residential area, a Hamas rocket firing gets caught on camera.
Can the current truce put an end to such launches?
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news. A United States general is killed in Afghanistan in a bloody rampage, apparently carried out by an Afghan soldier.
Joining us now, our CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Nathan Hodge. He's on the phone from
Nathan, I know you've been trying to figure out exactly what happened. What are you learning?
NATHAN HODGE, REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL" (via phone): Well, we learned at midday today at an Afghan training facility that probably is best described as equivalent to an Afghan West Point that an Afghan soldier, we're told by U.S. military officials opened fire during what the military calls leader engagement. That's basically a meeting between coalition officers and their Afghan counterparts. A very routine sort of meeting. And opened fire with a light machine gun, causing the death of one U.S. two-star general and injuring 14 other coalition troops, including a German brigadier general.
So we found this out and have been trying to piece together the details. And it was very difficult at first, because the coalition very often is quite protected when an incident of this magnitude occurs. There's always the sensitivity around the notification of the next of kin and, of course, there's always a lot of delicacy around this issue of what the military calls green on blue incidents.
Seriously undermines trust between Afghans and their allied counterparts in recent months and years. It's a problem the military says they've gotten a fix on, but they can't prevent every situation like this from happening
BLITZER: Peter, as you know, a Taliban spokesman praised the gunman in a statement but didn't take responsibility for killing this U.S. general and wounding these other U.S. and coalition troops. Who do you believe might be behind an operation like this?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well it doesn't -- it's not a given that it's a Taliban operation. You know, sometimes these attacks happen because of some kind of personal dispute. You know, there's -- somebody's been -- feels they've been dissed by U.S. or NATO officers.
In this case, you know, clearly there wasn't some kind of personal long-standing personal relationship. It was a target of opportunity. But it's not, you know -- it's an open question whether the Taliban actually were behind this and the fact that they, in their statement, they didn't necessarily take direct, you know, responsibility for this means that it could be just an aggrieved individual. Because we've seen a lot of that.
BLITZER: And somebody who just worked his way into the Afghan military planning to do this all along just to get inside, get access and kill an American general?
BERGEN: I mean, you know, that's possible. But I mean, there have been 74 of these incidents over the past, you know, several years. They really peaked in 2012 when there were 36. The -- the military really has got control over them, and this year, there have only been three.
But you know, the range of reasons why this happened. A lot of them are Taliban attacks. But some of them are just somebody with a personal beef who feels that he hasn't been treated fairly or properly by the coalition. That's -- that's also a common reason, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nathan, how tense is the situation in Afghanistan right now? There's still, as I said, about 30,000 U.S. troops there. It will go down to 10,000. Then supposedly all of whom will be out by 2016.
HODGE: Right, Wolf. Afghanistan's in the middle of a very delicate political transition. Afghans have gone to the polls twice already this year to pick a successor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But the only thing that's been missing from this election has been hanging chads.
There was supposed to be an inauguration of the new president this past weekend, but the election has become hung up in an audit of all of the ballot boxes.
As the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah the former foreign minister, and former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani, have engaged in a protracted dispute over the tallying of these votes and which votes are legitimate and which ones should be thrown out.
But the clock is ticking. Both candidates have said that they would sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow 10,000 U.S. troops to remain here. But if is there no president picked, and there is no deal, it really does remain to be seen whether or not there would be, in fact, a residual U.S. military presence.
BLITZER: I'll be speaking exclusively with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. That's coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll get his take on what happened in the shooting -- the killing of this U.S. general.
All right. Nathan Hodge, "The Wall Street Journal"; Peter Bergen. Thanks, guys, very much.
Coming up, one of the biggest threats to the Gaza cease-fire. A Hamas rocket team all caught on camera. We'll show you what happened.
Plus the return of the key power broker. Egypt has a new attitude. So what's the new end game?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: All right. CNN can now confirm the identity of the United States general who was shot dead in Afghanistan today. Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are able now to identify the general who was killed. He was Major General Harold J. Green. He was the deputy commanding general of the combined security transition command for Afghanistan.
That is video of him there speaking at a previous event. Previously, he was involved in acquisition reform in the Pentagon.
He's a 34-year-old veteran of the military. Originally from upstate New York. And earlier in the day, we were not reporting his name or his rank, because family notification had not been completed. We are told now that his family has been notified.
Again, this is the major general killed in this attack earlier today. The most senior American officer killed in action, killed since 9/11 in fact when a three-star general was killed in the attack on the Pentagon, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, 34-year veteran. He's not 34 years old.
SCIUTTO: He's not 34. A 34-year veteran of the U.S. military.
BLITZER: He's got a distinguished career. And obviously, we're saddened to hear -- hear that he was shot and killed by this -- apparently by this Afghan soldier.
SCIUTTO: No question. You talk to military officials. And of course, it's true that any loss is a great loss, from a private right on up to a major general and higher. But of course, this is someone with a long experience in the military and a significant event for the military to lose such a senior commander.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto. And our deepest, deepest condolences to his family.
Also just in, the Gaza truce is holding. An Israeli delegation has now arrived in Cairo for talks of a lasting cease-fire, all of this according to senior Egyptian officials. The officials expect indirect negotiations to begin tomorrow, with Egypt acting as an intermediary between Israeli and Palestinian representatives.
Once again, Egypt is playing a key role in trying to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas. This time, though, there is a major difference. Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's working the story -- Elise.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, Egypt wasn't only a pivotal player in securing the cease-fire, but it's also going to be having a central role in making sure it lasts.
BLITZER: All right. So obviously, your report that you had prepared is not -- not yet ready. But let's talk a little bit about it, because there's a new government in Egypt, the new president, El-Sisi, very different than the man he deposed and put in jail, Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood saw Hamas as basically an ally. But the new government in Egypt sees it as a threat.
LABOTT: That's right. I mean, the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was very close in position to Israel who sees -- views Hamas as a terrorist organization, as a regional threat. And this is because they're akin to the Muslim Brotherhood, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they see this as part and parcel of the whole regional threat of Islamists in the region. And this is really part of this whole regional shift, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. I think your report is ready. So let's go to the tape right now.
LABOTT (voice-over): Palestinians digging through the rubble that is now Gaza look to Egypt to help open the territory they have come to see as a prison.
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, MEMBER, PALESTINIAN PARLIAMENT: We need the human passage that links us to world. We need to give our people in Gaza some hope.
LABOTT: Egypt has traditionally been the center of gravity in moments of diplomatic crisis. President Hosni Mubarak served as a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians. The military government that followed him after the revolution brokered the deal that released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas had a friend in former President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim
Brotherhood who opened the border between Egypt and Gaza and along with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in 2012.
But things have changed since then. Like Israel, Egypt's current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, views Hamas as a terrorist group and a regional threat. Isolating the group politically, sealing off the Rafah crossing with Gaza, and destroying tunnels between the borders to stop Hamas from smuggling weapons.
The reason both -- and the reason both Egypt and Israel have put restrictions on the border is because we don't want Hamas to do that. As long as Hamas doesn't want to invest in the people of Gaza but wants to invest in its terrorist war machine, of course those restrictions have to stay in place.
LABOTT: With Monday's cease-fire Egypt once again assumed its role as Mideast power broker. When talks resume in Cairo on a long-term truce, Egypt hold the key to helping ease the blockade of Gaza while helping to deny Hamas the ability to rearm and attack Israel.
DAVID SCHENKER, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: Egypt is not just a negotiator. I mean, Hamas has spelled out, their leading demand is an end to the siege, what they call the siege of Gaza. And they're looking to Egypt to open up the Rafah border crossing. So Egypt is in fact a party to this cease-fire negotiation. If you want this to endure, then Egypt is going to have to pony up something.
LABOTT: And Egypt blamed the failure of last week's cease-fire on the decision by Secretary of State John Kerry to bring Qatar and Turkey into the diplomacy.
But despite Egypt's role in the current crisis, Wolf, everyone agrees that if and when those peace talks would start up again, the U.S. has this indispensable role as the major broker of any type of peace deal. But clearly we're as far as away from that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's just make sure the cease-fire holds.
LABOTT: That's right.
BLITZER: In the short term. And the parties can move on to potentially something more enduring.
Elise, thanks very much.
Jordan certainly has been watching the situation between Israel and Gaza with concern and grappling with an influx of refugees from Syria, from Iraq, from all sorts of places. It's also facing its own potential threat from jihadists coming into Jordan from Iraq. Including ISIS elements.
Joining us now live is the foreign minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh. Foreign Minister, thanks very much for joining us. First of all, give
me your analysis because you know the region, you know the players. Do you think this cease-fire will hold and can it be expanded to deal with some of the humanitarian problems facing the Palestinians in Gaza?
NASSER JUDEH, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, good to be with you, Wolf. I think that the idea is to see the next 48 to 72 hours. This is a humanitarian truce as it was called. And I'm quite encouraged by the fact as are so many of us here that the delegations now are in place in Cairo to negotiate what will hopefully be a permanent cease- fire, but more importantly, I think, we have to have a smooth transition to serious talks on making sure that this never happens again.
This is Gaza, forgive the analogy, but season four or season five. We've seen this before. We saw it in 2004. We saw it in 2008, 2009. We saw it in 2012 and we're seeing it this year in 2014. We just have to make sure that this doesn't happen again by addressing the root cause which is that of Israeli conflict.
Now the problem is that regardless of the blame game that's taking place right now and it usually does happen after every Gaza escalation, at the end of the day it's the people of Gaza who are suffering from the siege, from a disastrous humanitarian situation, civilian deaths, destruction. I think we all have to collectively think about how we can rescue them from this.
BLITZER: The whole region seems to be on fire right now, Foreign Minister. Look what's going on in Libya. What a total disaster. In Syria, we almost are ignoring 150,000 Syrians have been killed over the course of the last three years. And there have been so many more injured and so many millions of refugees internally, externally, so many of them have fled to Jordan.
In Iraq, it looks like a total disaster with the U.S. out of Iraq right now. The ISIS forces are taking power in all sorts of areas. Jordan is still a stable place. But how worried are you about what's going on in your neighborhood right now?
JUDEH: Well, we'd have to be totally naive not to be worried about what's happening in the region. But as you said, we're, thank God, and have always been a safe haven, a safe and stable secure country. In a few years, we'll celebrate, God willing, 100 years of contemporary modern Jordan. And his majesty the king is the guarantor of the constitution and dialogue and the reform process. So we're extremely comfortable inside but extremely worried about the region.
We've been warning for many years that the rise of extremism and the turbulent events in Iraq and in Syria and we warned a few months ago that there's an explosive situation into occupied Palestinian territories and it has exploded. But again, how do we address the root causes of the problem?
You mentioned that Jordan in your report earlier or in your introduction, you mentioned that Jordan is threatened by jihadists and ISIS. Jordan is not threatened but Jordan is looking at how the region in its entirety is suffering from instability and potential instability if this continues.
BLITZER: Is Prime Minister Netanyahu right when he lumps Hamas in together with al Qaeda and ISIS, and Boko Haram, and all these other fanatic groups out there, these extreme terrorist organizations?
JUDEH: I missed the first part of the question. I heard Boko Haram. Boko Haram is in West Africa.
BLITZER: I know. The question is, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu right when he lumps Hamas in with these other terrorist groups like al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram?
JUDEH: Wolf, what's happening today and forgive me for calling a spade a spade. Like I mentioned earlier, Gaza season four or season five, every time we see the same thing, it's the same script. A few rockets are lobbed at Israel. Israel retaliates with the full force of its military. Thousands of civilian deaths. Has that made Israel more secure? Has that made Gaza better than it was? Has that made the region safer? No. And so it's time for all of us to sit and collectively think how we address the root causes again and how we come out of this mess that we see recurring every couple of years.
We can't have that continue. I mean, these images of women, children and the elderly being killed, 18, 20 members of the same family every other day. This can't be sustainable and again, bombing schools is not going to bring security to the region. I think it has serious political and negotiations that will bring about into reality an independent viable Palestinian state and security for all the countries in the region and all the peoples in the region including Israel.
BLITZER: All right. We've got to go. But very quickly, is -- are you just blaming Israel or is the other party part of the problem, as well?
JUDEH: Wolf, I was very careful in saying that the time for the blame game is not now. We have a dire straits situation. We have the region in its entirety as you pointed out and as I totally agree suffering from many factors of instability. The blame game is not now. Now we have to address the situation that we're currently facing.
We have to make sure that these negotiations will take place in Cairo will address how to achieve a permanent cease-fire, how to make the smooth transition into political talks that will bring about independence for the Palestinians and security for the entire region and how we go about the reconstruction of Gaza. And this is something that his majesty the king particularly in Jordan, we're all very, very concerned about.
BLITZER: Of course. And if -- if all the region was like Jordan, it would be a very peaceful wonderful place as we all know.
The foreign minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh, joining us from Amman, thanks very, very much.
The Israeli military is now saying, quote, "mission accomplished." So what comes next? Is there any lasting hope for a lasting peace? I'll ask a prominent member of Israel's opposition Labor Party.
And later, is the 2016 presidential candidate changing his position when it comes to U.S. aid for Israel?
BLITZER: With a fragile cease-fire holding more than 16 hours now, the Israeli military says its troops are now out of Gaza. Some stings up with a tweet that said, quote, "mission accomplished". The Israeli government says it's ready for talks with Egyptian officials and Palestinian delegation. Israeli delegation has now arrived in Cairo.
Let's get the view from a member of the Israeli Knesset, Nachman Shai. He's joining us. He's a leader of the opposition Labor Party. He's a former spokesman of the IDF.
Dr. Shai, thanks for joining us. The specific Israeli military tweet said mission accomplished. We have destroyed Hamas's tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel. All of Israel is now safer. Do you agree with that or is that a little premature to declare mission accomplished?
NACHMAN SHAI, ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER: It's premature. It's a little bit exaggerated. I would wait for a while and also I would say that I'm not sure that we accomplished the mission. I think that we have to do much more. And if you ask me the next phase in this mission is to build new relations between us and the Palestinians.
What we did in Gaza was just to destroy most of the enemy facilities which is fine. The Hamas facilities. But the next step is to renew the negotiation between us and the Palestinians. That should be diplomatic step that Israel should take right now. BLITZER: Do you have confidence that the government of Prime Minister
Netanyahu and you're in the opposition will do that because there is an opportunity in Cairo starting right now to begin a dialogue with the Palestinian leadership.
SHAI: I'm not sure the government is ready to do that but we in the opposition and I will do everything we can do using public opinion in Israel to force the government to move forward. I think that this is half of the job only. We want to live peacefully with the Palestinians, not just to fight with them. Even if we won this battle and I believe we did, that's not enough. We have to think about tomorrow, Wolf. We have to think about tomorrow.
BLITZER: Is it smart for Israel to start reopening Gaza and let some of that what the Palestinians are calling the siege, go away as part of the deal now?
SHAI: We are working on a certain deal with the -- with the Palestinians. We believe that Abu Mazen should be involved in that in order to -- if possible to bring the Palestinian Authority back to Gaza. Gaza was taken from them by -- by the Hamas by force. We'll do everything to isolate the Hamas. I think that Egypt stands in the same position as us. And not only Egypt but some of the major Arab countries.
There is a certain new coalition now in the Middle East that may be very helpful. That again help us very much in order to plan for the future. There may be a regional new order coming in if the Israeli government will be ready to cooperate.
BLITZER: Let's hope that that works. Nachman Shai, joining us from Jerusalem, thank you very, very much.
Right at the top of the hour we have new details about today's shocking attack that killed the highest ranking U.S. military officer since 9/11.
But up next, does a top contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination really want to cut U.S. money for Israel?
BLITZER: A prominent contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is trying to clarify his stand on U.S. aid for Israel.
CNN's Dana Bash reports.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There may be a temporary cease-fire in the Mideast, but that hasn't stopped the volatile situation from spilling on to the U.S. 2016 presidential field.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I spent the last three months trying to end aid to Hamas.
BASH: For the second straight day, likely GOP White House hopeful Rand Paul had to answer questions about his support for Israel, a virtual requirement for Republican candidates.
PAUL: Ultimately for Israel, it would be even better if they were completely independent. But I haven't proposed targeting or eliminating any aid to Israel.
BASH: Paul is now denying he ever proposed cutting aid to Israel. But in 2011, when Paul first came to the Senate, the Tea Party darling released his own budget, which did cut all U.S. foreign aid, including to Israel. Here he is with Wolf at the time.
PAUL: We just can't do it anymore. The debt is all consuming and it threatens our well-being as a country.
BLITZER: All right. So just to be precise, end all foreign aid, including the foreign aid to Israel as well, is that right?
PAUL: Yes. BASH: Paul aides explain that contradiction by telling CNN yes, his
proposal for across-the-board cuts included cuts for Israel but wasn't meant to single out Israel for the chopping block. They point to more recent proposals for $5 billion in foreign assistance which his aides now say was intended for Israel.
PAUL: The headline saying Rand Paul wants to end aid to Israel, it's just not true.
BASH: To understand why all this could be a big political problem for Paul, take a look at CNN's latest polling on where voters are on aid to Israel. Sixty-four percent of all voters support either maintaining or increasing U.S. aid to Israel. But that number jumps to 76 percent when it comes to just Republicans. GOP voters Paul would need to get the Republican presidential nomination.
BASH: Paul insists that his position on Israel is the same as its prime minister, Netanyahu, who says he aspires to wean Israel off U.S. assistance for survival. The problem for Paul is that it feeds into the image that he is already being criticized for, especially by people who might run against him, like Rick Perry, and that, Wolf, is that he's a knee-jerk isolationist. And that of course is a term that bristles at. He says his position is a lot more complicated.
BLITZER: And I invite Senator Paul to join us and we'll discuss some of these issues here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Dana, thanks very much.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: At the top of the hour, an urgent mystery, who is the new leaker exposing U.S. secrets? This is a story you'll see first right here on CNN.
Plus, a distinguished U.S. general shot dead today in Afghanistan. We have much more information about this general. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news. We now know the identity of an American general shot dead at a military training facility in Afghanistan by a man in uniform thought to be an ally.
We're learning new details about how this happened.
And why U.S. forces in Afghanistan may be in grave danger right now. Experts fear more deadly insider attacks.