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President Obama Unveils Afghanistan Strategy; Interview With Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Aired December 1, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: President Obama's new plan to fight the war in Afghanistan and, he says, finish it soon. He is sending more troops, 30,000, but it's a commitment with an expiration date, July 2011, a year-and-a-half to fight the Taliban, build up Afghan governance and security forces, and then try to get out.

He made his case at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, about an hour north of New York's ground zero, where the war began more than eight years ago.

We have extensive coverage in the hour ahead from our reporters who have been there for years, our political analysts on the heat this is already taking, Dick Cheney blasting the president today, liberal Democrats already opposing any additional troop commitment.

But, first, some of the key moments, in case you missed the speech, President Obama tonight, in his own words.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years, it has moved backwards. There's no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population.

Our new commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short, the status quo is not sustainable.

Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period.

This review is now complete. And as commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan. I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.

This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.

These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

It's easy to forget that, when this war began, we were united, bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again.


COOPER: That was President Obama tonight.

You heard him defend the length of time it took him to come up with a new war plan, the president invoking his visit to Dover Air Force Base during that time, where the remains of America's war dead come home. He witnessed the return of 18 of our fallen.

More than 800 American men and women have died in the Afghan theater since the war began -- Mr. Obama also speaking tonight of how polarized Americans have become over this war. The question now, of course, did he change any minds tonight? Did he change your mind?

Because, in addition to the 18-month clock he started tonight, there's about a half-dozen more clocks ticking, a budget clock, a military morale clock, and, as always, a political clock.

I want to get a quick read tonight on some test reaction on all of it from CNN experts and correspondents, a lot of whom have gotten the answers firsthand, spending a lot of time on the ground over the years, a lot of them recently back from Afghanistan, starting with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, what jumped out at you tonight?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he obviously put the troops on the ground. He has put this deadline of 18 months to start withdrawing them.

Experts on the ground told us today that the last thing people on the ground there need and in the region is the notion of an exit strategy, because they want to see promises kept, security delivered, and some kind of stability and development laid, so that Afghanistan can, in fact, stand on its own two feet.

COOPER: Senator international correspondent Nic Robertson, was it a mistake for the president to -- to kind of put a timeline on this? Does that signal to our enemies when the U.S. wants to get out?


The Taliban have all time in the world. They have said that from the beginning. They have their own strategy. They will be deciding now when to put in place their own surges, midterm elections for the upcoming presidential election. They will have their surges. They will watch where they deploy to. They will make their own movements. They will change their own strategy. And they will wait those 18 months, and -- and be ready to step forward when troops step back.

COOPER: Michael Ware, you have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. You lived in Kandahar. What did you think of the president's speech?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, maybe I expected too much. I found it disappointing.

Apart from, you know, confirming the fact that he is sending extra troops, the rest was just rhetoric. I mean, we have heard it all before: Let's pull together. Let's hit Pakistan with a wet piece of lettuce. Let's take a new...


WARE: You know, let's take a new -- new path forward.

I mean, obviously, we're not going to give away the details in the president's speech, but I thought it lacked the substance I was hoping to hear.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, national security analyst, you've spent a lot of time on the ground in Pakistan. We were just there together in September. What did you think? What did you hear tonight?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, you know, the -- if we're talking about the withdrawal in 18 months, there is a huge kind of caveat to that, which is, it's conditions-based.

Right now, there are 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Only one is actually controlled by the Afghan police and Afghan military, which is Kabul Province, the capital. So, you know, when it comes to this 18- month decision, you know, it could be that only two provinces are handed over. It could be 10. Who knows? It's a very, very big caveat. It's not that there's going to be a big drawdown come July 2011, I don't think.

COOPER: Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent, you were just there with us in -- in September. Casualties are going to increase. There's no -- no getting around it.


I didn't expect him to talk about the increased medical capabilities out there, but obviously -- that is obviously something that is going to be necessary. The hospitals there, the biggest trauma hospitals, are already running at full capacity.

Add to that that you're -- you're really -- most of the medevacs are by chopper. So, you need more choppers. You need more personnel to transport these patients back. And just the nature of these injuries, Anderson -- you saw them as well -- I mean, they're just very, very difficult to treat.

The medical infrastructure is not good, even at its baseline.

COOPER: We are going to have more with our panelists in just a moment, a lot more throughout this hour.

Let us know what you think. Join the live chat, the discussion going on now at I will try to log on shortly.

Up next: opposition from the left. Congressman Dennis Kucinich joins us live -- opposition, too, from Dick Cheney, former vice president. Was it appropriate for the former vice president to blast President Obama today in a new interview? Well, you're going to hear what he said coming up.

And, later, more on the challenges on the ground, very hostile ground for any outsider, soon to be home to 100,000 American troops.

Before we take a break, though, a moment from our recent trip to Helmand Province during the big push there back in September.


COOPER: Somebody threw some sort of a homemade flare, they think, at U.S. forces. So, now they're going to investigate his compound.




COOPER: What is so strange when you're on patrol is, even if the soldiers don't make contact with -- with the enemy, even if you don't see any enemy fighters, you know that they were here.

On a lot of the trees, you find these, these cross marks or -- or horizontal slashes. They're reference points, helping enemy fighters figure out where to fire rockets that will hit the forward operating base.


COOPER: That was in 2006, when we were out with the 10th Mountain Division on the eastern border, on the Pakistan border inside Afghanistan, very remote locations three years ago on the anniversary of 9/11.

Now those remote locations being downplayed in favor of holding and securing towns and cities in Taliban-dominated area, that change not drawing much criticism, nor is the troop escalation. The new timeline, though, already coming under fire as too cut-and-dry, or perhaps cut-and-run -- some very "Raw Politics."

Listen to what -- former Vice President Cheney, who laced into President Obama during an interview with today. And bear in mind this was before the commander in chief even spoke tonight.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's talk about exit strategies and how soon we can get out, instead of talk about how we win.

And those folks watch enough of that will begin to move away from what I would describe as the U.S. position, and they will be gin to look for ways to accommodate their enemies.


COOPER: Joining us now, perhaps the anti-Cheney, Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who voted in favor of the war, but now opposes escalating it.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

Are the security of the United States and safety of the American people at stake in Afghanistan, as the president said tonight?


And, for that reason, the United States should get out of Afghanistan, stop the escalation. Congress needs to do its role and stop funding. And it's really unfortunate that Vice President Cheney, who has a sorry record of leading us into a war based on lies, should be given the kind of platform that enables him to slander President Obama, at the very time that, if we had a just society, Mr. Cheney would be in the dock.

COOPER: How can you say, though, that the security of the United States is not at threat in Afghanistan? The president said tonight, just in the last couple months, people have been apprehended in the United States who came from the Afghan-Pakistan region.

KUCINICH: Well, that doesn't mean that we don't have a strategy to deal in Afghanistan, to have -- have training of their -- of their troops, to deal with the corruption in their central government, to do something about the drug prevalence that feeds 90 -- you know, 90 percent of the drug production in opium coming from Afghanistan.

Those are all issues that we should deal with. That doesn't mean there's no issue there. But to try to say that the long-term security of the United States is linked to an escalation in Afghanistan belies the fact that al Qaeda's been routed, that the Taliban is a homegrown insurgency, and that the occupation fuels the insurgency.

I mean, the more question we get in there, the deeper we're going to get into it. And it's not going to help our security here at home; it's going to undermine it.

COOPER: So, do you want -- not want any U.S. combat forces inside Afghanistan?

KUCINICH: That's right. I -- we should have -- we should have gotten out of there after...

COOPER: So, how do you effect change on the ground? If -- if the Taliban then move from Helmand Province, move up further north, as they already are, move further west?

KUCINICH: Well, at some point, we're going to have to deal with the Taliban. You know, it's not as -- it's not as though we can stay there forever.

You know, this...


COOPER: You mean politically deal with the Taliban?

KUCINICH: You -- you deal with it politically by -- by having -- by having the United States recognize that the Taliban will eventually be displaced by a loya jirga process at the town council level.

You know, before the Taliban...

COOPER: The Taliban ran -- ran the country, and they were only displaced, not by a loya jirga. They were displaced by the United States forces.

KUCINICH: They were displaced by U.S. forces. But the fact of the matter is, the people of Afghanistan aren't ready to let the Taliban dominate them. The only reason why they closed ranks behind the Taliban is because the United States is there.

It's like we -- we have created strength for the Taliban by our increased presence.

COOPER: But -- but plenty of people opposed the Taliban, but they ran the country for years. And there was no sign of them being overthrown by the Afghan people until foreign forces invaded.

KUCINICH: It's not -- it's not up to the United States to be able to choose the government of any other country. And every time we try to do that, we end up in a mess.

That's what happened in -- in Iraq. That's what's happening in Afghanistan. That's what happened in Vietnam. And that's what's going to happen any time that we get into empire-building. We have -- we have got to realize that we have limitations in the use of power.

And there also is a thing -- you want to talk about nation- building. How about building bridges and water systems and sewer systems in the United States? How about putting millions of Americans back to work? How about saving millions of homes? How about helping 47 million people get health care?

I mean, these are the focus -- you know, things that we should start to focus on. It seems that America is losing its way in the world. You know, we should start studying history about what happened with the Roman Empire and study history on what happened with the Bush administration leading us into a war based on lies, and keep -- and keeping us in a war after -- you know, that's based on the false pretext that, somehow, al Qaeda is still -- had a longtime presence in Afghanistan.

COOPER: This new escalation is going to cost billions and billions of dollars just in this year alone. That money has to come from Congress. Congress has to approve that. What's going to happen when the president comes with that -- with that request?

KUCINICH: Well, Congress does have a responsibility. Congress should reject any more money for war. Congress should start focusing on things here at home. But, you know...

COOPER: But, realistically, you think the president can get this passed?

KUCINICH: I think the president will have a lot of support in the Congress, you know, realistically, unless Congress starts to pay attention to what's being said back in our communities, where people are desperate for jobs, trying to protect their wage levels, worried about their investments, their savings, their retirement security.

I mean, this is about rebuilding America. That's what we should be talking about. Thirteen trillion dollars for Wall Street, money for Wall Street, money for war, where is the money for work in -- in America?

COOPER: Congressman Kucinich, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much, sir.

KUCINICH: Thank you very much.

COOPER: We have got a lot to talk about with our panel, who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. We're going to continue the conversation.

Senior political analyst David Gergen is here.

David, your thoughts on the speech and what -- what Congressman Kucinich said and Vice President Dick Cheney as well.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I would like to move off Dennis Kucinich. Let's just move on. The -- look, I think the speech was carefully crafted and very well-calibrated. It was a speech that was intended to please -- have something that would please everyone.

But, by its very nature, it then also had something that would displease everyone. And people and response are focused -- is focusing on what they don't like about it. And it's -- it's what happened to our society. And it's a reason, I think, his plea for unity at the end of the speech, which I thought was one of the best pieces of it, it's not being heard.

COOPER: By trying to please everyone in a political sense, doesn't he open himself up to criticism that that is no way to run a military campaign?

GERGEN: Exactly. I think that the -- I think it's seeking a golden mean, which is in his DNA.

COOPER: It's very much what President Obama has always said he does...


GERGEN: That's right.

COOPER: ... trying to find the middle path.

GERGEN: That's right.

And -- in a -- in a war, that is often not the best policy. If you really want to rally people, one way or the other, you get -- you get in or your get out. And if you're for getting in, you go in to win. If you're getting out, you get out cleanly. But if you go halfway, you leave a lot of people displeased, as they are tonight.

COOPER: Chris Lawrence, you're just back from Afghanistan. You spent a lot of time in those forward operating bases, where we were in, in September, very difficult terrain very difficult conditions for the Marines and the soldiers who are there now.

What did you hear tonight that -- that surprised you or -- or concerned you?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The one thing that really jumped out at me was when the president said that he wants to train competent Afghan security forces.

Riding with some of these troops and going to some of these police stations, one station, police officers so high, eyes were rolling in the back of their head. At another station, they have got a new police chief, because the last guy was hiding the Taliban right at the police station.

In a third station, the police officers are scared to leave their police station because they get shot at when they go out. Combine that with the fact that so many of these officers are dying or, more often, just quit, that these troops are repeating the same training classes two, three, four times.

And a lot of these men are illiterate, which means you can't just give them a manual and say, take this home and study it. When anyone talks about training 40,000 more Afghan police, I would say go out there with some of these troops and see how hard it is to train 40.

COOPER: Does that matter, though, Fareed, that -- that they're illiterate? I mean, the Afghans were great fighters against the Soviets. Why is everyone saying, well, it's so hard to train these troops?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, and it raises the broader issue, which is, how should we array an anti-Taliban force?

COOPER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Should...


COOPER: Are we trying to train them in a conventional sense?

ZAKARIA: Right. Are we trying to play the wrong game?

I mean, maybe what we should be trying to do is to find these very smart, ruthless, illiterate fighters in tribal militias, pay them, rent them.

COOPER: Which is essentially what we did in Afghanistan -- in Iraq for the surge.

ZAKARIA: It's exactly what we did in -- in Iraq. And maybe there's a way of cobbling together a kind of alliance of these groups and finding a way to -- to make that work.

I think that, in many ways, the counterinsurgency strategy that General Petraeus and General McChrystal have outlined is a -- is a strategy that is essentially about very expansive nation-building ideas, you know, a centralized army, a centralized bureaucrat system, a centralized court system.

Afghanistan is the third poorest country in the world. If we apply that kind of nation-building template...

COOPER: Because, no matter what they call it -- and, on the ground, they call it, you know, promoting governance in -- in small villages and stuff -- it is nation-building. I mean, they don't want to use that word...


COOPER: ... but what we're doing in Afghanistan is nation- building.

ZAKARIA: And what we think of when we think of nation-building is, we think of nation-building long modern bureaucratic structures with institutions and such.

What we perhaps should be thinking more about is just creating order, creating some kind of political stability with allies who are anti-Taliban, anti-al Qaeda.

COOPER: Kandahar is not going to become a shining city on a hill; we just need it under control?

ZAKARIA: But the key here, Anderson, is, this is actually something that Obama does talk about in the speech. I mean, we have all focused on how the speech is about the surge, about the buildup.

But, if you read the speech, it's really about the limitation of the goal. The goal is al Qaeda. He never mentions the Taliban when talking about the core mission, doesn't talk about nation-building, doesn't talk about drugs much, doesn't talk about...


COOPER: In fact, you had Robert Gibbs, I believe, earlier today saying on another -- on television, this is not nation-building.

ZAKARIA: Right. This is -- this is almost a scaling-back. He's -- what I think he is trying to do -- it's a very difficult balance -- and I think David is right, that he is looking for a mean -- is to say, we need to be here. We need to chase these guys around, because they're bad people who want to do bad things to us.

But our -- there are limits to our interests and our involvement. We are not going to be there -- no, this is not World War II. This is not a battle to the end.

COOPER: Joe Johns, I seem to remember Condoleezza Rice a couple years ago saying, you know, we're not going to have the -- the 82nd Airborne escorting Afghan kids going to school. But, essentially, I mean, we're -- we're coming close to that, in terms of trying to maintain order in these villages.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Sure. And it's a tough sell.

I mean, I have been talking to a lot of people on the Hill tonight in the -- among the congressional leadership. And I really get the impression that people are looking at this thing, saying, I wasn't really for this before I heard the president's speech, and I'm not for it now, particularly on the president's left.

It's a tough sell. And the other thing that has happened here is, the president took 90 days to make a decision, and the decision essentially was not to send 10,000 troops that had originally been requested. So, now we're going to go into a season of hearings on Capitol Hill, with people on the left grumbling, as they have been for -- for weeks.

COOPER: Right.

JOHNS: They're tired of war. And that's the bottom line. On the right, the president doesn't have quite as much trouble.

COOPER: We have got a huge team of correspondents, all of them who have spent an awful time over the last several years in Afghanistan. We are going to talk to them extensively throughout this hour.

More ahead on what the troops are now facing and how the addition of 30,000 additional forces will help and perhaps also complicate things, no doubt about that.

Also tonight, our trip to Helmand Province this past September and what life looks like on the ground for the Marines now, how Marines live, how they relax, how they handle the necessities of life that we take for granted back here at home day after dusty day.


COOPER: In a few moments, John King is at the magic wall showing us where these 30,000 new troops are coming from in America and where they're going to end up in Afghanistan.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the manhunt we covered live last night ended early this morning, when a Seattle police officer shot and killed the man suspected of gunning down four other officers on Sunday. Police say Maurice Clemmons was carrying a gun taken from one of the slain officers.

Tiger Woods will not face criminal charges in connection with a car wreck near his Florida home early Friday morning. But the Florida Highway Patrol has issued the golf icon a careless driving citation. That carries a fine of $164 and four points on his driving record.

Stocks rallying today, as worries about Dubai's debt problems eased and gold hit a record high -- the Dow closing just short of a 14-month high, after adding nearly 127 points, while the Nasdaq gained 31, the S&P 500 up 13.

And a home movie of Marilyn Monroe has surfaced. The short clip of the .16-millimeter silent film shows the actress, as you can see here, sitting with friends, smoking. The footage was reportedly shot in the late '50s in an apartment in New Jersey, Anderson.

COOPER: When I saw the police announcing $164 charge against Tiger Woods, I thought it was like Dr. Evil saying, "$164."

HILL: "A million dollars," yes.

COOPER: All right.

Just ahead: the challenges that U.S. forces are going to face in Afghanistan. John King, Michael Ware will join us from the magic wall and map out the fight on the ground.

Plus, our team of correspondents who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan over the years, we will talk to them ahead.


COOPER: Thirty thousand more troops for Afghanistan puts real pressure on an already stretched military. Tonight, we want to take a quick, closer look at the troops, where exactly they are going to be going in Afghanistan.

Let's bring in John King, who is at the magic wall with Michael Ware -- John.


And as we zoom in on Afghanistan, let's first remember it is in perhaps the world's most volatile neighborhood here. Now, let's come in a little bit closer and we will underscore the challenge the president outlined tonight.

Here is Afghanistan. And I want to draw a quick line just to help as we go forward here. Just going to draw this line through here. And, as we go forward, you will understand the significance of why.

And, Michael, you jump in as we do this.


KING: First, let's take a look at where the troops are now in Afghanistan. And you see the American flags and the British flags down in this region, most of the NATO flags up...

WARE: Yes.

Notice all the American flags, Aussie flag, British flags here, and the NATO-European flags at the north. Now let's go to the next item, and you will see why.

KING: I can you show right here. The darker the province -- right.

WARE: This is where the fighting is. This is where it isn't.

KING: But the darker the province, the stronger the Taliban.

WARE: Right, the darker the province, more Taliban influence or control.

This is where the NATO troops are. This is the bulk of the fight. And indeed, even on this map, I would argue that you could make Kandahar as dark as Helmand. Perhaps Zabul. Perhaps Parteeka. Even perhaps Horst.

I mean the Taliban's control is even worse than it looks here, especially at night in the villages. American patrol come at day. But by night, guess who's in charge? KING: And if you send 30,000 troops, most of them highlighted in here, what is the impact even if things go very well? I want to bring in the neighboring region here, because what happens in Afghanistan will effect what happens in the border region in Pakistan.

WARE: Absolutely. As we know, Pakistan's role in this great Afghan game, as you may want to call it, is they're giving sanctuary to those who are killing the American soldiers and attacking the U.S. government.

Now up here there's Pakistani Taliban which is different to the Afghan Taliban. There's al Qaeda. There's the Hisbee Islami (ph) and Gobedain Hikmatia (ph). But these sanctuaries, these safe zones for the fighters stretch all the way down. Indeed, even down here in the major city of Quetta in Pakistan, the leadership there is known there. It's called the Quetta Sura. They're the ones running the war from here.

So the problem stretches all along. And I would suspect the bulk of the 30,000 troops going there are going to be going to this region. Right now this is where the fight is. Right here in Helmand province where Anderson was.

See, the problem is, America's bitten off a very small piece of a large apple. To the Taliban, this is all one operating area. But we're trying to do it bit by bit by bit. And they're just simply running rings around us.

KING: Anderson, as you can see, and you know it from your time, there again, most of the concentration will be down in here. Some NATO forces up here. And one of the big questions we will answer in the coming days is will the NATO allies put up real numbers or will they send modest, symbolic contributions, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Mike and John, stick by that wall for a second. I want to bring in also our panel of correspondents and analysts who've been going to Afghanistan, risking their own lives for years to get us the facts on the ground. Christiane Amanpour, what did the Afghan people want and expect?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Afghan people, we've been talking about they've been illiterate, they've been poor, all of this. The Afghan people they say, "Yes, we're illiterate. But we want to be literate. We want to educate our children. And we need your help for that."

The Afghan people say, "Yes, we're dying. We don't have the right medical care. But we want it. And we need your help for that. And then we'll be able to do it."

They say, "Yes, we have a corrupt government. But we want good governance. And we want to be able to succeed."

COOPER: This is why there are Americans who say this sounds like a bottomless pit of need. AMANPOUR: It's not a bottomless pit of need. The good news is that the majority of the Afghan people do not see this as an occupation.

COOPER: They support --

AMANPOUR: Absolutely. They can see the difference between what the British did 100 years ago and what the Soviets did in the 1980s. They know the United States came not to occupy and defeat and destroy, but to help and liberate and put them along the lines of progress.

The good news is that most of the Afghans do want these forces of progress. They want a decent government. They want a decent life. They want to be able to educate their children.

COOPER: You also made the point earlier that the Taliban was overthrown in a very short amount of time, by a very small number of troops.

AMANPOUR: That's absolutely correct. When the United States and allies and the northern alliance on the ground at that time after 9/11 came in and fought within seven weeks. The Taliban and the power cities and al Qaeda were thrown out. And then we all know history showed that the eye was taken off the ball. And they came back. So now it's a question of taking this moment and really starting to see if we can have one last chance to do it properly. The people of Afghanistan want it. Every single person we talk to, first thing they want is security. The second thing they want is good governance and an economically viable future.

COOPER: And Nic, as you know, the last time I was in villages in September, the first question they say to the Marines is how long are you guys staying? And the Marines on the ground say, "Well, we can't tell; we don't know exactly." They now say, "Well, President Obama says we're staying for another year and a half." I mean, how is that going to play?

ROBERTSON: It's not going to play very well. There's already a trust deficit between the Afghan population, their government, and what the international community and the United States in particular is trying to do.

Christiane is absolutely right. The Afghans want these things. They've been looking for them since we came in in numbers in December 2001. They've been looking for that. But it hasn't been coming. They wanted the warlords tore disarmed.

COOPER: They're on the fence right now?

ROBERTSON: Well, you know, they're hiding behind the fence. I don't think they're really on it. I mean, in places we see them getting out of the villages because the fight is coming back there.

It's going to take a lot to convince them that we really are going to help. McChrystal said the war is going to be won when the Afghan people think it's won. And clearly we're not into nation building. But it comes back partly to winning hearts and minds. If you want them to come onto your side of the fence, you've got to rebuild that trust deficit.

COOPER: Let's talk about strategy, though. The strategy, which is the counterinsurgent strategy. To clear an area of Taliban, hold it and try to build governance in that region. That requires a lot of troops. That's why the -- did we hear anything tonight about any kind of change in strategy? Now they're saying, "Well, we're going to be looking at sort of, you know, taking over Kandahar and trying to hold large population centers. Marines are running around in Helmand province very small population centers right now."

BERGEN: When the president spoke, he didn't get into details. But we know 9,000 Marines are going to go into Helmand, supplementing 11,000 who are there. Kandahar City is the center of gravity for the Taliban. It's their de facto capital. It's been very under- resourced, 2,500 Canadians there. That's a city of, you know, a million plus people.

That is obviously going to be a big target for the operations in the future, securing the Kabul to Kandahar road politically and economically. The most important road in the country right now is Suicidal Drive from those people who want to take it. And that's a benchmark you can observe in a year and something that would be very useful for the Afghan people.

COOPER: Fareed Zakaria, you were at the White House today along with several others. You had lunch with President Obama. He has really been looking into the minutia of this policy. I mean, that's what he's been spending a lot of time doing, correct?

ZAKARIA: He's been looking into the minutia. He's very well informed on it. He can talk about Pashtun areas and Kashik areas. He'd give Michael Ware a run for his money on that map. But I think...

COOPER: He's not wearing pajamas like Michael Ware.

ZAKARIA: I couldn't tell you. No, but I actually think what he spent a lot of time focusing on is a bigger issue. Which is what are the strategic states here for the United States? Because you know, we give ourselves the challenge. How do we stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban? That's a huge challenge. It's one we could do if provided the resources and time. But the question is, is that in the national interests of the United States?

What he has focused in on is the idea that disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda is the core national security interest of the United States. And I think in that sense, this is a limitation of what have been previous conceptions of we were in Afghanistan. Certainly a limitation from Bush.

President Bush talked often about the need to establish a viable functioning democracy, a flourishing economy. Obama doesn't talk about a lot of that. It really is focused on dismantling al Qaeda. COOPER: Well, Michael Ware, can they then do what they did in Iraq? Can they either co-opt Taliban, those 10-dollar-a-day Taliban the ones who aren't hard core ideologues, and can they just start to buy off people? Pay thugs, you know, to form militias and control small amounts of territory?

WARE: Anderson, there certainly is some room for that. And I can tell you now that, from when I was there back in September, the American military is already investigating this option.

Indeed, a pilot program was underway, at that time being run by the president's brother in Kandahar. They're calling it the local national protectors' program.

Now it will be a lot more complicated than Iraq. It will be a lot bloodier. It will be a lot messier. Expect a lot of human rights to go out the window.

But once you give power to these men, and I sat with them in Kandahar, if they say, "There will be no Taliban in my district," then there will be no Taliban in their district. And if they show up, they won't just kill their wife and their father and mother. They'll probably kill their goats, their dogs and everything. There is an option that needs to be explored.

COOPER: We're going to talk more with Chris Lawrence and Joe Johns and Sanjay Gupta and Roland Martin, as well. More with our panel coming up.

We also want to take you on the ground with the Marines in Afghanistan. We're there now. We recently spent a week with them, saw firsthand why training a new Afghan army is more difficult than it may seem. We went out with some Afghan soldiers. They ended up stealing from the people they were supposed to be protecting. We'll show you how that happened.

Also, we'll show what you it's really like on an isolated Marine base in Helmand province. The incredibly difficult conditions our Marines are dealing with every single day.



WARE (voice-over): This is one night, one police patrol in Afghanistan. A hidden Taliban roadside bomb, an IED, is about to hit this Afghan police gun truck. A CNN camera man and I are riding in it.

By some miracle, it detonates a heartbeat too soon. Otherwise, we'd all be dead. Instead, gravel rains over us.

(on camera) Are you all right?


COOPER: Michael Ware in a very close call in Kandahar with an IED. That happened recently.

Targeting the enemy, protecting civilians, and training Afghan forces. Those are the marching orders that the additional 30,000 troops are going to be heading to the war. But as we saw firsthand in Afghanistan in September when we spent a week embedded with Marines in Helmand province, training Afghan forces is a lot more difficult than it might sound. Here's what happened on one patrol we went out on. It's my "360 Dispatch."


COOPER (voice-over): It is, at first, an odd sight: U.S. Marines on patrol with the ANA, the Afghan National Army, and their U.S. Army advisers.

(on camera) What's the purpose of a combined patrol like this?

1ST LT. ZACHARY BENNETT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The mentorship is the key piece. He's showing the people that it's not just us. It's the ANA; it's their own government, as well. Now, we weren't here. We didn't come here as an invading force.

COOPER (voice-over): Assisting the Afghan National Army, however, is a slow and often frustrating experience for U.S. forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

COOPER: It's not just the language barrier, which leaves both forces dependent on a limited number of interpreters. Afghan soldiers often lack training and discipline.

Today First Lieutenant Zachary Bennett is bringing a new Afghan army lieutenant to a village to meet with elders. An IED went off here just the other day, killing one Afghan soldier.

(on camera) So the Taliban are still around here?

BENNETT: Yes, they are. It's just a matter of, you know, they come at night. They come in during the day when the Marines are not around. If you ask the villagers, for the most part, they're going to tell you, "I've never seen any Taliban or the Taliban have been gone since you guys got here."

COOPER (voice-over): Prayers are called as the patrol enters the village. Few people are on the streets, other than kids. One man, however, approaches Lieutenant Bennett with information. We agreed to obscure his face for his own protection.

He tells Lieutenant Bennett that the Taliban were here just yesterday. Two men were on a motorcycle looking for places to plant IEDs.

(on camera) Do you trust the Marines?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)


COOPER (voice-over): "Yes," he says. "But if the Taliban spies knew I was talking to you, they'd kill me."

(on camera) So there are spies around here?

(voice-over): The Taliban comes to the village, he says. They talk first to the children about who gave information to the Marines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got eyes on him?


COOPER: The meeting is suddenly cut short when Lieutenant Bennett gets a call on his radio.

(on camera) What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone threw a flare, they're saying. We're going to start pushing this way.



COOPER (voice-over): This may be a joint patrol, but the Marines instantly take charge of the situation.

(on camera) Somebody threw some sort of a homemade flare at them, at U.S. forces. So now they're trying to investigate this copout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold the cordon. Don't let anyone out of the village for the time being.

Just knock on the door.

COOPER: To the Marines, it's a sensitive situation. They don't want to do anything to alienate the local population. At the same time they want to investigate that guy's house. So they do a quick search. They didn't find anything, and now they're moving on.

(voice-over) Lieutenant Bennett reports the incident. He thinks it may just be someone trying to distract the patrol.

BENNETT: I'm letting them know that we're going to stay on their side. not that we're going to stay here permanently, but we're going to stay as long as it takes to to work the ANA and take a national security forces stand on their own two feet. But it's not going to be next week.


COOPER: Not going to be next week. Certainly not. The challenges of training the Afghan army are real. So can they be trusted to take over the military operation? What about the question of the Afghan government? We'll talk to reporters all of whom have been there, coming up.

We'll also show you the conditions our Marines are facing every single day, what their lives are like on a remote base. It's our "Shot" of the day.


COOPER: Welcome back to 360. We're taking a close look at President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan. Will it work? That's the bottom line question. And what are the potential pitfalls and what a wait. The 30,000 new troops are going to be deployed after the first of the year.

Some of tonight's panelists have been to the war zone as recently as September. A lot of our reporters have spent a lot of time there over during the years.

Joining us, around us here on the set. Chris Lawrence, you just returned from Afghanistan. Spent a lot of the time there on patrol. The thing that I learned on patrol in September is how much of our policy depends on how American troops, Marines and soldiers interact with Afghan civilians on the ground.

That -- you know, you can go out on patrol. The one I was out, we just showed you Zachary Bennett, a Marine, young Marine lieutenant. He totally got it. You know, he wanted his soldiers, his Marines to go in with a certain kind of attitude, a certain kind of respect for the locals. Some folks who have just been there maybe don't have that same nuanced approach.

McChrystal has pointed out that is key for success on the ground.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think you hit it. Some of the folks who are new there don't get that nuance.

We talked to some of the younger soldiers. They're on their first deployment in Afghanistan. I know President Obama is saying, "Yes, we've got to work together. We've got to make these joint patrols."

The thing about that is some of the American troops don't necessarily want to have these joint patrols. Some of the young soldiers don't trust the Afghan forces. They are nervous around these Afghan forces. So you've got to take that into account. It's a great goal to have. But the reality on the ground is they is not that level of trust going back and forth yet.

COOPER: And Sanjay, as you well know from going out on patrol, with more troops going, the kind of patrols that we've been going out on, that we've been seeing, it's foot patrols. It is a lot of interaction with civilians.

Our Marines are incredibly exposed, and our soldiers are incredibly exposed to IEDs. And you see the results of that in the hospitals.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those are the most horrific injuries of all.

But you know, to Christiane's point earlier, there is a real desire for medical training in Afghanistan. They've had it, really, since the late '80s. The medical infrastructure just sort of fell apart at that point.

They have are about 11 physicians for every 100,000 people.

But right now you also have, like, these residency training programs. The coalition forces going in and training doctors. As you might imagine, it's a long process.

In the interim, even with the coalition forces out there, they are very, very busy. I think we were talking about this earlier. They try to centralize some of the forces to try to cut transit times down. They take medical, some of those precious commodities on the battlefield, and move them forward so they can take care of injuries more quickly. It's all about time. But there is this awkward dance between medicine and the military that is ongoing out there.

COOPER: Roland Martin, some folks here tonight have expressed disappointment with President Obama's speech. This is not a one-night speech. This is something that we're going to be hearing a lot from the president's advisers, certainly, if not the president over the next days and weeks, basically trying to sell this policy not only to the American people but also to Congress.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He has to sell it to the American people first, so they can understand and say this is why it matters to me. Earlier on, Christiane was talking about the issue of literacy in terms of in Afghanistan, where the signs are. While I was hearing that, I was thinking about what I've gone through in Greensboro, North Carolina, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago. People saying the exact same thing. Dropout rates.

Americans right now are 10.2 percent unemployment rate. They're saying, "You know what? I don't give a damn about anybody else. What are you, Mr. President, going to do for me?"

And so he had to hone in on how you felt, keeping you safe after 9/11. He kept coming back to that theme. Here's what he said because it was important: I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, our interests. And I must weigh all the challenges that our nation faces.

That was -- that was an economic line he was talking about. He is sensitive to that. He has to get them to buy in and get safe first. Then all that is secondary to that particular.

COOPER: The thing we did not hear a lot in the speech tonight about was Pakistan.

ZAKARIA: You know, if you think about the comparisons people have made to Iraq, there are some legitimate ones and there are some not so legitimate ones. The one big difference in Afghanistan which complicates it enormously is that you have this regional power that has historically-supported many of the militias that have destabilized Afghanistan. That still supports some militias and some terrorist groups. What do you do about that?

Michael Ware pointed out the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. The people who are waging war in Afghanistan against U.S. forces are all in a city called Quetta. They are called the Quetta Shura. Shura means council. The people now think many of them are in Karachi.

Al Qaeda is almost entirely, its leadership, in Pakistan. So we don't have an easy strategy. Now, I actually brought this up with the president at the luncheon. He said, "Look, the problem is we don't have an easy option in Pakistan. We can't just go in there. It's a sovereign nation. We have to work with them. We have to cooperate."

But that's -- it's a policy that is in some substantial part based on the good well of the Pakistani military and a Pakistani government that is in severe crisis.

If I were to point to one weak spot in the overall strategy, that's it. Not that it's clear that President Obama can do anything about it. But fundamentally, it's very difficult to solve this without dealing with Pakistan.

COOPER: Up next, if you think the Marines are living on big comfy bases in Afghanistan, you've got to see some of our "Shot" tonight. We'll take you inside one control base and show you how far the Marines are from the comforts of home.

We'll also tell you the key moments from the president's speech coming up at the top of this hour. We'll have more from our panelists as our life coverage continues.


COOPER: For tonight's "Shot," what life is like for some of the Marines now in Afghanistan: We spent a week in September at Patrol Base Jaker in Helmand Province.

Erica, conditions, as you know, are extreme, comforts few, and everything is coated in a thick layer of dust that never quite goes away. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): As for leisure activities, a few old weights and a sledgehammer is the gym.

For golfers, the whole place is a sand trap.

There is no privacy here, no place to simply take a break.

(on camera) The bathroom facilities here are primitive, to say the least. There are pipes in the ground which are -- well, it's obvious what the pipes are for. And then the toilets, there's four of them. They're communal.


COOPER: And, Erica, there you go.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A whole new appreciation for what they do.

COOPER: Yes, that is certainly true.

You can submit all your "Shot" suggestions at We should also tell you that you should watch Christiane Amanpour's show on Sunday and also Fareed Zakaria's show, "GPS", on this Sunday, as well, at 1 and at 2.

Coming up next on 360, President Obama in his own words, laying out his new strategy for Afghanistan at West Point tonight. We'll show you the key moments of his speech. And then we're going to hear from our reporters and analysts who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan about conditions on the ground and what may happen in the coming months.

Stay tuned. We're live.