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President Obama Sending 30,000 More Troops to Afghanistan; Where the Troops are Going; Accused Cop Killer Dead

Aired December 1, 2009 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. It is Tuesday, December 1st. World AIDS Day.

Here are top stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The commander-in-chief at West Point tonight to announce one of the defining decisions of his presidency. President Obama will quickly escalate the war in Afghanistan and reveal his plan to get out. Can the American people stomach the growing cost in lives and dollars?

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Countdown to President Obama's big war speech -- in just nine hours, he will explain exactly how he plans to finish the job in Afghanistan.

Let's get straight to White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

And Suzanne, I would imagine at this time the president is putting the finishing touches on tonight's big speech.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's practicing that speech. Obviously, this is going to be a very important moment for the president to sell the war to the American people.

We do know -- I spoke with Robert Gibbs earlier this morning -- that this is really going to be an accelerated timetable for deploying troops. Robert Gibbs said earlier this morning, "The faster we get them in, the faster we get them out." Essentially, that they are going to be emphasizing -- the president -- an exit strategy.

We're talking about a 30,000 additional U.S. troops. Our Ed Henry saying just how quickly it's going to be accelerated, that those troops are going to get in within six months or so. That would be a total of about at least more than 100,000 U.S. troops that will be on the ground in Afghanistan.

This very much mirrors what the president has said before. He says that he does not want to leave this to his successor, assuming perhaps he is talking about at the end of a first term. That would be less than four years. Perhaps if it's two terms, eight years. But clearly, he's going to be emphasizing that this is a clear mission and that this is going to be an accelerated mission. The other thing he's going to talk about is the time frame for troop withdrawal, that it's not going to be exact dates, but as I had mentioned before, the president saying he does not want to leave this for the next leader, for the next U.S. president, that he wants to go ahead and tackle the job of taking on al Qaeda, the Taliban, working with Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as NATO allies to do that.

And the final point here, he is going to emphasize benchmarks for the Afghan government. We've heard a lot about this before, Tony, but essentially calling for Hamid Karzai -- he spoke with him for about an hour last night -- that he needs to reform his government, he needs to provide services for his people, and that he needs to get training for the police and the army up to speed. All of these things he's going to be highlighting tonight, and I can't overemphasize, Tony, really what he's going to be talking about is not just getting in, but how do we get out? This is not a war per se that he's embraced, but it certainly becomes his own war this evening -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux at the White House for us.

Suzanne, appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's check other stories on the CNN wire right now.

The man suspected of gunning down four police officers in Lakewood, Washington, is dead. He was brought down by a lone police officer, ending a massive two-day manhunt.

Authorities say the Seattle officer investigating a suspicious vehicle was approached by Maurice Clemmons. He says the officer recognized Clemmons as the suspect in the police shootings and ordered him to stop, but Clemmons wouldn't.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASST. CHIEF JIM PUGEL, SEATTLE POLICE OPERATIONS: The officer again told him to stop. He wouldn't stop. The officer fired several rounds, took the person into custody. The Seattle Fire Department responded immediately, and all indications are that he is deceased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: South Florida burn victim Michael Brewer is recovering from his first skin graph surgery today. Doctors in Miami say the 15- year-old is in serious but stable condition. Six weeks ago, you'll recall, Brewer was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire. Police have charged three teenagers in that attack.

Health reform debate, round two. The Senate convened last hour to continue debate on the legislation. The fight kicked off yesterday with lawmakers trading partisan jabs, and the heated rhetoric picked up this morning. Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of distorting the numbers, and the Republican leader fired right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The numbers they keep talking about are -- I don't know where they come back, Mr. President. We, as a body, have used for 50 years the Congressional Budget Office. It's bipartisan; that's the way it should be. And we should start talking real numbers, not fake numbers.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The only question now is how we got to a point where we're actually considering spending trillions of dollars on a brand new government entitlement at a time when more than one in 10 Americans is looking for a job and when our debts and deficits are well past -- well past the tipping point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: More boots on the ground in Afghanistan. We expect President Obama to announce he is sending at least 30,000 additional troops, and we want to know where they are heading.

Our Chris Lawrence has some answers from inside the war zone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most of the new combat forces will be sent south to help shrink the huge battle spaces troops are trying to cover in places like Kandahar Province.

CPL. JIMMY PARKER, U.S. ARMY, 11TH INFANTRY: We need the help down here. Even though we're handling it on our own, but we need more forces down here.

LAWRENCE: NATO has nearly 37,000 troops in southern Afghanistan, more than the rest of the country combined. But officials admit it hasn't been enough manpower to remove the Taliban from parts of Helmand province and other areas.

SPC. BRIAN SCHOENBECK, U.S. ARMY, 11TH INFANTRY: More infantry, get another battalion or brigade out here to help us out.

LAWRENCE: A defense official says the U.S. Marines will nearly double their numbers there, with 1,000 expected to deploy in late December and 8,000 more over the next few months. Troops say it will allow them to get to know Afghans in their area, which could encourage more of them to cooperate.

SCHOENBECK: To give us any information if they have anything about where the Taliban are and what they're doing.

LAWRENCE: Roadside bombs kill more troops in Afghanistan than any amount of enemy artillery. And a key mission for new troops would be putting more eyes on Highway One, a road known as IED alley.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

LAWRENCE: The goal is to catch insurgents planting bombs, and then replanting them after route clearance teams go through. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to make sure that the routes stay clear.

LAWRENCE: The Obama administration also emphasizes quickly increasing the size of Afghan forces, nearly 40,000 more soldiers and nearly 70,000 more Afghan police in the next year. That's why the U.S. troop increase will include thousands of additional trainers.

The key will be the trainers' backgrounds and how experienced they are in actual police work. Right now, units like the 82nd Airborne are training Afghan police, but combat paratroopers are no experts in evidence collection or investigations.

MAJ. SCOTT BRANNAN, U.S. ARMY, 82ND AIRBORNE: A lot of the guys don't have that skill set, so we're working now to try to get more law enforcement professionals attached to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Now, the Afghan police and the soldiers all got a pay raise just a couple weeks ago, so in U.S. dollars they're now making about $165 a month. It remains to be seen whether that will help not only with the recruiting, but with the retention, because right now you have got so many officers dropping out of the program, it creates a real problem trying to keep those numbers up to the number they want -- Tony.

HARRIS: Sure.

Hey, ,Chris, we just heard about this accelerated timetable, getting 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan within six months. Last week we didn't think that was possible because of staging issues.

How will this work?

LAWRENCE: It's going to be tough. I mean, you remember, just a couple years ago, the U.S. military was able to move five brigades to Iraq in just five months. But we had that huge staging area there in the Kuwaiti desert.

Just before Thanksgiving, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said we don't have that infrastructure in Afghanistan.

HARRIS: That's right.

LAWRENCE: And Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "We don't have the same kind of transportation access to Afghanistan that we had in Iraq." So almost everything of consequence is going to have to go by air.

So it really remains to be seen. If we're hearing this kind of concern just 10 days ago, how the game has changed in 10 days to where the military will be able to get those numbers into the country so quickly.

HARRIS: I'm sure you'll find out. All right. Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence in New York for us.

Chris, good to see you. Thank you.

And later we will focus on a strategy for winning in Afghanistan. At the bottom of the hour I will talk to an expert on nation and state building who has worked extensively in Afghanistan.

The president will make his Afghanistan strategy speech tonight at 8:00 Eastern Time. CNN's special coverage starts at 7:00 Eastern, and we will of course carry the speech for you live, right here on CNN.

And we would like to make a bit of a personal appeal to you to watch the speech and share your thoughts with us. After the speech tonight, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/Tony, and leave us your thoughts, or you can send us an iReport. That address is CNN.com/ireport. A large portion of tomorrow's newscast will be devoted to your reaction to the president's decision.

A suspect accused of killing four police officers on the run until another policeman stops him cold.

And our Rob Marciano is tracking a storm system that is bringing rain to the Gulf Coast and the Southeast.

We will check in with Rob in just a minute.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INTERIM CHIEF JOHN DIAZ, SEATTLE POLICE: These have been tragic days. And in the last 48 hours, it's been very difficult for the men and women in law enforcement throughout this region and for our community. We had the tragic death of four officers in Lakewood. I give my condolences to Chief Ferrar (ph), to the families of the officers.

It's been a very difficult time for everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: To say the least.

A two-day ordeal ends with the death of an accused cop killer in Washington State. Authorities say Maurice Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer on routine patrol.

CNN's Dan Simon is following developments for us, and he is live from Seattle.

And Dan, if you would, describe how the end came for Maurice Clemmons.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, first of all, a bit surprising how this all unfolded. After all, over the last 48 hours, you've had swarms of police officers and SWAT teams on the lookout for this guy, Maurice Clemmons. And at the end of the day, you had a single police officer on routine patrol, notices what he thought was a stolen vehicle, called in the license plate, confirmed it was in fact stolen.

Moments later, he sees what he thinks is the suspect, Maurice Clemmons, asks him to basically put up his hands. Clemmons refuses, makes sort of a motion a little bit towards the officer, walks in a counterclockwise direction from where the stolen car was.

At that point, Clemmons doesn't stop. The officer takes out his weapon, fires several rounds, and kills Maurice Clemmons on the spot -- Tony.

HARRIS: And Dan, I'm curious, did police believe they were actually beginning to close in on Clemmons? I understand yesterday there was a lot of activity and several family members of Clemmons had actually been called in for questioning. Did they feel as though they were closing in on him?

SIMON: You know, they thought they had him cornered at one point in a Seattle home. It turned out that home was empty.

As I mentioned, police had really been looking for him over the last 48 hours, since this all unfolded Sunday morning. They believed that Maurice Clemmons was injured. They subsequently confirmed that.

One of the officers was able to fire a round during that confrontation at the coffee shop, got Maurice Clemmons in the torso. There was actually some blood found in a vehicle driven by Clemmons in a pickup truck.

HARRIS: I see.

SIMON: And they believe because he was seriously injured that he had to have gotten some help. And at this point, police have arrested about four or five individuals, families and friends of Maurice Clemmons, whom they think aided and abetted him over the last couple of days -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK.

Dan Simon for us in Seattle.

Dan, appreciate it. Thank you.

Once again, the president will make his Afghanistan strategy speech tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And we would like to make a bit of a personal appeal to you to watch the speech and share your thoughts with us. It is that important a decision for all of us.

After the president's speaks go, to CNN.com/Tony and leave us a comment there. Tell us what you thought of the speech and the new strategy. Then watch for your comments on the air in the CNN NEWSROOM tomorrow between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Checking our top stories now.

President Obama prepares to announce his new strategy for Afghanistan. He wants 30,000 troops on the ground in six months. The president meets with members of Congress before delivering his speech to the nation.

Watch it live, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

The polls are open in Atlanta today. Voters picking between Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed for mayor in a tight runoff. Some say race will likely play a role. If Norwood is elected, she'll be the city's first white mayor in 35 years.

The White House party crashers insist they're not party crashers. Tareq and Michaele Salahi say the media's characterization of them has devastated their lives. They say evidence will show they were invited once it is public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAELE SALAHI, ALLEGED WHITE HOUSE PARTY CRASHER: We were invited, not crashers. And there isn't anyone that would have the audacity or the poor behavior to do that.

TAREQ SALAHI, ALLEGED WHITE HOUSE PARTY CRASHER: We're working closely with the Secret Service and their internal investigation.

M. SALAHI: Respect everything they do.

T. SALAHI: We're respecting their timeline and we're working with their timeline. And we want to get through that process.

We've been very candid with them. We've turned over documentation to them and we'll continue to work with the U.S. Secret Service completely all the way through this process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, the House Homeland Security Committee wants the Salahis and the Secret Service director to testify this Thursday.

So blame the recession. Many new college graduates don't have a job, but they do have plenty of debt.

Let's talk to Personal finance Editor Gerri Willis. And Gerri, what does this new report you're about to share with us on debt really tell us?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, it's a new report, as you say, from the Project on Student Debt. They found college seniors, Tony, ,who graduated in 2008 carry an average of over $23,000 in debt from student loans into the real world, and unemployment among college graduates ages 20 to 24 shot up from 7.6 percent in the third quarter of 2008 to 10.6 percent a year later.

Now, that's the highest this decade and above the national average of 10.2 percent. Unemployment and student loan debt, that is bad news -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes, that's a bad combination.

What can these young people do, Gerri, just to hang in there, to hang on?

WILLIS: Well, what you can do if you're unemployed, you can defer student loan payments for up to six months. Of course, you have to be actively looking for work to qualify for these deferments.

While you're on the job hunt, consider jobs in public service government or the nonprofit world. If you hold a job in public service and make payments on your student loans each month for 10 years, the government then will forgive the remainder of your debt once the 10 years are up.

Look, the government's definition of public service job may be broader than your own, so you definitely want to check it out.

HARRIS: Yes. And Gerri, it seems one answer to this debt dilemma -- I don't know how realistic it is -- is to avoid it.

WILLIS: Well, that's true. You know, look, regardless of your job status, Tony, you can look for what's called an income-based repayment plan.

If your income is low enough, one of these plans could allow you to reduce your monthly loan payments based on income. One of these plans may also forgive any remaining debt you have if after 25 years you're still making payments and still owe money. You can ask your individual lender about your eligibility for these IBRs.

We can tell that you private loans and parent PLUS loans are not eligible. Check out IBRInfo.org for more info.

And finally, of course, Tony, as you were saying, the best way to avoid debt dilemma is to stay out of major debt in the first place. Here's how you do it. Make these comparisons.

Look at this. The average amount of debt carried by students graduating from private, for-profit four-year schools last year was over $33,000. Ninety-six percent, almost all of these students at those schools when they left, they had debt. Now, compare that to just over $20,000 of debt for public schools and only 62 percent of public school students graduating into debt. So, one shortcut you can make if you're thinking about going to college next year, two years from now, is go to the public schools, because they are typically cheaper, usually, and typically these people are graduating with less debt into the real world.

HARRIS: Well said.

All right, Gerri. As always, great tips. Thank you.

Well, tonight's the night we hear from the president about his plan for the war in Afghanistan. We still want to hear from you. Here's what some of you are saying on the phone lines.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CALLER: Hi. My name is Eleanor (ph), and I'm calling from Silver Spring, Maryland. And I just think the war has to end.

This seems like an endless war. It seems like another Vietnam, a war that I protested when I was very young. And here I am not so young protesting this war as well.

CALLER: Hi. My name is John (ph) from Florida.

I think President Obama should have sent the troops in when General McChrystal asked for them. I think he wasted pleasantly of time, too much time while we had boys there on the ground doing a job that needed more men there to do.

And I believe that when all the people say we need to be out, we don't be out of that region -- we won't ever be out of that region. There's too much interest there.

Thank you for your time.

CALLER: Yes. My name is Bill from Florida.

When is the president going to realize that war materials cost money? The Taliban is getting their money from Afghanistan, the sale of heroin. Burn down the poppy fields and plant corn.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARRIS: Wow. OK.

You can still voice your comments. Just give us a call. There's the number -- 1-877-742-5760. You can also leave us a comment on the blog. Go to CNN.com/Tony or send us an iReport. That address, CNN.com/ireport.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: President Obama's long-awaited war strategy speech is now just hours away. He is expected to announce 30,000 more troops for Afghanistan, and they are to be on the ground in six months.

The U.S. faces several wars within the war.

Our Michael Ware explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These American soldiers fight for their lives in Afghanistan besieged repeatedly by Taliban assaults, roadside bombs and ambush, with the American death toll ever rising. But for America to ultimately win in Afghanistan, it must overcome more than just the Taliban insurgents, for Afghanistan is a war being waged within many wars. Some overt, some not.

It is a battlefield for a host of competing interests, a proxy war between Pakistan and India, competition for influence from Iran and even China. Rivalries waged not just with bombs and bullets, but with billions in aid and reconstruction projects, with spies and with trade. And the United States is mired in the middle of them all.

Among Americans adversaries foremost is the Afghan Taliban. Ousted from government in 2001 by the U.S. invasion, it's fighters and commanders have been launching their attacks for eight years from safe havens just across the Pakistani border from valleys like this.

Though Pakistan is technically an American ally, it suits Pakistan's strategic interest to allow these Afghan fighters to shelter along its borders. For there are two Talibans; one Afghan fighting the Americans and one Pakistani an entirely different Taliban, it's aim to overthrow the Pakistani government.

The Pakistani military has taken the fight to the homegrown Taliban, but does little to disrupt the Afghan Taliban. Why? The answer put simply is because of India. For decades Pakistan and India have been bitter rivals, fighting wars and arguing over disputing borders. For both, Afghanistan is just yet another battlefield in which to fight.

India backs the Afghan government and the forces that had fought against the Taliban. Meanwhile, elements in the Pakistani government has at least support the Afghans fighting against that same Afghan government. This carnage perhaps the most obvious sign of that friction. It's the Indian embassy in Kabul ravaged by a massive bombing last year. A bombing U.S. intelligence claims was helped by Pakistan's spy agency.

Then, there is Iran. Willing to help anyone who would fight against America. Its role adding another layer to an already complicated battleground.

This Afghan Army general commands all Afghan forces in the country's south and he says the Iranians are supplying the Taliban. Unfortunately, he says, we find many weapons and explosives with Iranian markings. And he claims, we have much evidence that small pockets of Afghan insurgents are being trained in Iran and deployed to fight against U.S. troops.

As President Obama unveils his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, he must contend with all of this, an ever stronger Taliban, his nuclear-armed allies India and Pakistan vying with each other, as well as the subtle hand of Iran, none of which bodes for a quick or easy victory in what has become Obama's war.

Michael Ware, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: We're hearing from you on the president's Afghanistan strategy through your iReports. Brooke Baldwin has those for us.

And Brooke, I got to tell you. I've been really heartened. Our viewers are fully engaged in this debate. What are you getting?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're engaged, they're educated. It's amazing listening.

You know, it's amazing looking at CNN's global resources and covering the story of Afghanistan, but then tapping in our resources thanks to you, the iReport. And you know what? We hearing from people that say, yes, this idea a fast infusion from Afghanistan is precisely what the country needs. You know, I think as the administration says, knocking back the Taliban. Some say no, it's a gamble.

Check this out, if I could explain this, you can send us an iReport. Famous last words as the screen goes totally berserk. Forget that. Let's go to the tape. Both of these people have a direct message to President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NINO, CNN IREPORTER: This iReport is for our president, Barack Obama.

Excuse me, Mr. Obama, what happened to that change you promised the American people? You know that campaign slogan you had of "yes, we can"?

Mr. President, we the people had hope and saw light at the end of the tunnel with you in office. Instead, we the people got the same old song and dance routine from every politician that runs for office.

Why do you continue this war in Afghanistan, Mr. President? What do you and your generals see there? There's nothing there.

JOHN LUKE, CNN IREPORTER: I believe it's high time for the president to decide to send more troops to Afghanistan and rotate the troops that are there. The troops that are there need rest. There's been too much time in the sand for them. It's important to take care of the mission, take care of the people, lead by example, and take responsibility for his actions.

President Obama, it is time to send more troops to Afghanistan, please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: OK. So this floor crew is amazing, Tony. So if we can tilt over. When in doubt, reboot. Take a look. We make it happen like that for you here at CNN.

OK, so take a look, obviously this is a CNN iReport page on your URL just type that in, and then check out the assignment. Obviously, today is Afghanistan. And we're asking obviously, what do you think about adding more troops to Afghanistan. And then beyond that, you can click on this and you can also watch all of these different people, all their different views weigh in. Weigh in. We'll be monitoring these, of course, throughout the day here on CNN. And take a listen today and tomorrow after the big announcement.

HARRIS: Absolutely, Brooke, appreciate it. Thank you.

You want it done, just let us know. We'll get it done for you. All right, you've got plenty of questions on Afghanistan and we've got answers for you. E-mail your questions at mailtothechief@cnn.com or tweet us at kyracnn.

In our 1:00 p.m. hour, the president's national security chief of staff Denis McDonough will join Kyra Phillips and answer your questions.

The president will make the Afghanistan strategy speech tonight at 8:00 Eastern time. Special coverage start at 7:00 Eastern. We will, of course, carry the speech live for you right here on CNN.

And we'd like to make a personal appeal of you to watch the speech and share your thoughts with us. After the speech tonight, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/tony and leave us your thoughts there or send us just an iReport. That's address is CNN.com/ireport. A large portion of our newscast tomorrow will be devoted to your reaction to the president's decision.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: One thing appears clear, the U.S. cannot win in Afghanistan through war alone. President Obama's plan must include political components. Let's do this. Let's turn to an expert on nation and state building for her insights. Clare Lockhart, CEO of Institute for State Effectiveness, joining me now from Kansas City, Missouri.

And Clare, great to talk to you. Thanks for your time.

CLARE LOCKHART, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR STATE EFFECTIVENESS: Pleasure to be here.

HARRIS: Thanks for your time. As a bit of a predicate to our talk here, do you agree with the president's decision to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in the order of about 30,000, 34,000?

LOCKHART: I do. General McChrystal's assessment of the conditions in Afghanistan was, in my view, exactly the right one. He understood what was going on on the ground and he shifted strategy in a dramatic way. He's saying we've got to protect the population and we've got to invest in training Afghan security forces so they can provide for their own security going forward. And it's these two things that will create the condition for exit, for transition and exit of American troops.

So those troops are necessary to bridge the security, to protect the population and to invest in training.

HARRIS: Bridge to security; I haven't heard that construction before. Thirty to 35,000 additional U.S. troops bringing the number of U.S. troops to about 100,000 certainly by the end of the year, and the total number of coalition troops on the ground to about 150,000. Is that enough for now or, Clare, is it enough to get the job done?

LOCKHART: It is enough for now if there's a political strategy and an economic strategy that really focuses on helping the Afghans build up the capacity so that they can run their own country.

And I think what we're going to hear from President Obama this evening, what I hope what we're going to hear, is that broader political strategy that recognizes that the U.S. and its allies are not there to occupy the country. They are there to help stabilize the country and set the conditions so that Afghanistan can provide for its own security. And I think we need to hear more detail, either in this speech or in the coming weeks how the civilian part of the strategy is going to work.

HARRIS: I've got to tell you, I want to get back to that point in a moment, but the idea of the troop surge that we're going to see over the next six months for U.S. forces, you know the view of many skeptics is that the escalation is just not going to work because Afghanistan is just too broad, too widespread for the clear hold-and- build strategy as we have heard it articulated. What's your view of that criticism?

LOCKHART: I think the escalation is necessary because of the deterioration on the ground. I don't think anyone is arguing that it's just a rapid pullout is necessary or possible.

If we look back over the last eight years, the first four years, 2001 to 2005, actually saw an incredible amount of stability created. In fact, in 2005 people were talking about bringing troops home cause the country was stable. The deterioration happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008 as the Taliban began to come back. And I believe the troop surge is necessary to create the minimum degree of stability that's going to allow the Afghan forces to begin to take over.

So it is necessary and it's sufficient if that force can be targeted in particular areas to hold cities and parts of the country. Not to try to hold all 34 provinces at once, but to sequence it in the right way. HARRIS: Clare, can the Karzai -- look, you've spent so much time on the ground there, can the Karzai government be trusted or will corruption and ineffectiveness be allowed to undermine the best efforts of the coalition?

LOCKHART: Certainly over the last three, four years, we've seen the deterioration in trust. The loss of trust between the Afghan citizens and their government and the loss of trust between the government and the international group supporting that government. So it has reached a point of crisis and the key task for that government going forward is to rebuild that trust.

Now we've heard words from President Karzai and colleagues around him that they are committed to rooting out corruption. The test is going to be whether they take the actions to follow up. And I think in a way we need to decrease the spotlight on the person of Karzai; no one person runs any country. It's going to be about what team of people does he pick to run the cabinet with him, who are the governors, the district officials, the heads of education departments, hospitals. It's about the whole civil service, the whole system, and how they commit to putting in places services for Afghan people.

HARRIS: Clare Lockhart; Clare, it's good to hear your views on this. We appreciate your time. Thank you.

LOCKHART: Thank you.

HARRIS: Checking our top stories now, 30,000 more U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan within six months. That's part of the announcement we expect to hear from President Obama tonight. You can watch his speech live at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.

While the country braces for the possibility of sending more troops to Afghanistan, we're reminded of the tragedy of war. A funeral held for Lance Corporal Nicholas Hand in Kansas yesterday. The 20=year-old Marine died after coming under small arms fire in Helmand Province. It was his first tour in Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Wall Street is kicking off the new month with triple digit gains. Investors are buying stocks partly because a new report shows that more Americans are buying houses. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details.

And, Susan, we've had -- look -- quite a few upbeat housing reports recently. Thank you very much.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and the suggestion is that the worst is over. We certainly can deduce that from a series of encouraging reports including this morning's, Tony, which shows that pending home sales jumped nearly 4 percent from last month to the highest level in more than three years and they are up 32 percent from the same time a year ago. Not only that, this index has risen the past nine months. All of this from the National Association of Realtors. Pending home sales are a good sign of future home sales. Why? Because it takes about 60 days from the contract to the closing. And basically, realtors, this realtors group, says that housing prices and conditions should improve and get much healthier by mid-2010, which is next year. And that affects so many other industries. Construction spending, for instance, rose in October. That was first increase in six months.

So what we're seeing is people buying stocks as well. We've got a nice triple-digit rally the first day of December. The Dow up 120 points, Nasdaq is up better than 1 percent as well. And yet another record for gold -- $1,200 an ounce.

HARRIS: Wow. Dubai? What about Dubai? Dubai who?

LISOVICZ: That's so yesterday. That's so yesterday.

HARRIS: Yes. Dubai stocks.

Good to see you. Thanks, Susan. See you next hour.

This holiday season some people are rejoicing with their new temp jobs. Just logon to CNNMoney.com and read how seasonal jobs saved Christmas.

And here's what we're working on for the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, Jill Dougherty has the second part in her story looking at the critical role civilians will be playing in Afghanistan and how the U.S. is training them.

And Josh Levs is checking in on President Obama's campaign promises regarding the war. Which ones has he kept and which still need some work?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: When the president sends more troops to Afghanistan, they will be following in the footsteps of tens of thousands who have faced tremendous dangers in this war, and exhibited acts of real heroism. Our Josh Levs is here to show you how you can learn all about the war and remember the fallen -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony, let's do big picture on the numbers first. We've got a screen here for you. The U.S. has about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, some serving with NATO's International Security Force; NATO nations have another 45,000 troops there.

And the best way to get a sense of what troops are doing is on this page right here. It's my favorite page we have at CNN.com. Let's zoom way in. What we do here is we give you so many facts -- and that's the biggest reason I want you to see it. Let's zoom down, every time you see a bunch of words that's another separate story that gives you another piece of reality of this war.

We also talk you through history and how things got to be this way. This looks at what happened to the troops. This right here looks at Afghanistan as the crossroads of history, the different periods and how things got to be the way they are today.

And we also have this, I want to show a clip from this now. This is a new blog we've created for our reporters, "Afghanistan Crossroads," and they're sending us videos and photos from the scene.

I'm going to show you a clip from our producer Jonathan Wald who took a trip to Torkham (ph), which can be a very dangerous journey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN WALD, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): And beyond the stunning surface of the landscape lies something more sinister. The road is regularly attacked by militants. The deep, narrow gorge surrounded by Shia mountainsides is a natural place for ambushes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: All right. Take a look at that, you can see more and more little pieces of after Afghanistan, the kinds of dangers that people face.

And speaking of dangers, we should take a moment to look at how many U.S. troops have been dying. Let's take a look at these latest numbers. This year, 300 U.S. troops and 185 coalition soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

And probably the most important thing I can show you on the screen right now is this. This "Remembering the Fallen," it's all at the link I was just telling you about. U.S. and NATO casualties, look at this, as I scroll down, the photo, the name, the story for every single coalition soldier that has died in Afghanistan throughout the entire war from the very beginning.

I posted a link to all of this from at the blog, you can see the screen here, it's at CNN.com/josh. It's also up at Facebook and Twitter, everything I showed you. I desperately urge you to take a look at that as we await the president's announcement -- Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, that really brings it home, the faces, the pictures, the names, a little bit of the stories.

LEVS: Everyone, everyone right there.

HARRIS: All right, Josh, thank you.

The president will make his Afghanistan strategy announcement tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. CNN special coverage starts at 7:00 Eastern and we will carry the speech live for you right here on CNN.

And we would like to make a personal appeal for you to watch the speech and share your thoughts with us. After the speech go to my blog at CNN.com/tony and leave us your thoughts. Or send us an iReport, that address is CNN.com/ireport. And once again, a large portion of our newscast tomorrow, we are blocking it out right now even as we speak, will be devoted to your reaction to the president's decision.

And we are listening to you as well today. Here's what some of you are saying on the phone lines.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CALLER: Trisha in Phoenix.

President Obama should not send any more troops into Afghanistan. Putting an end to al Qaeda is more of a pipedream than a reality. And I think he just wants to be the hero war president as opposed to the war president. He wants to finish the job that George W. started, just like George W. wanted to finish the job that his father started.

Get out!

CALLER: Hi, my name is Howard and I'm from Texas.

My point is this -- I don't think the president knows what he's doing.

CALLER: Good morning, this is Brother David, a U.S. veteran, 20 years in the military.

I believe that we should send more troops. Don't know let them know how much more we are sending, and that way take catch them off guard. (INAUDIBLE) get out of that war, that war is not ours. It was on the Bush administration, and Obama has nothing to do with it, but he is going to make it better.

God bless the troops of the United States and everyone across the world.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARRIS: And you can still voice your comments, just give us a call. There's the number on the screen for you, 1-877-742-5760. You can also leave a comment on the blog. Go to CNN.com/tony and send us an iReport as well, that address CNN.com/ireport.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: When President Obama outlines his strategy for Afghanistan tonight, he will do it at the U.S. military academy at West Point. About 70 West Point grads have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the president's decision weighs heavily on the surrounding community.

The story now from CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before you get to West Point, you first have to drive through the town of Highland Falls, population 4,000. The mayor runs a liquor store here just outside the gates of the U.S. military academy, known to locals as "The Point." His son graduated last May, as second lieutenant in the U.S. infantry, putting him on the front lines should he be deployed.

(on camera): One day if he calls you up and says, hey, dad, guess what, they're sending me. What do you say? What do you think?

MAYOR JOSEPH D'ONOFRIO, HIGHLAND FALLS, NEW YORK: Well, well...

FEYERICK: You must have thought of that.

D'ONOFRIO: I think of -- to be honest with you, I'd think of my wife, because she's going to have a hard time.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Like many in town, the mayor won't talk publicly about his view on the war or the anticipated troop buildup in Afghanistan, only that he supports the cadets.

D'ONOFRIO: No matter who the commander in chief is, they respect and they admire him and they obey -- and I don't want to say obey, but I guess that's what it is. They follow his -- what he says the mission is, that's their mission.

FEYERICK (on camera): And clearly when they start, they know what they're getting into.

D'ONOFRIO: Exactly. They know.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Some 70 West Point graduates have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 when the global war on terrorism began. People in town often recognize the faces of the dead or wounded.

(on camera): You live with this concern.

KEVIN DUMAIN, WEST POINT TRUE VALUE: I read it. I live with it. I'm here. I see it. I see it firsthand.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Kevin Dumain runs the True Value hardware store. His 15-year-old son has talked about applying to West Point, making Dumain especially aware of the ramifications the president's new strategy may have not only on the geopolitical landscape, but on his own hometown.

(on camera): If the American involvement continues, it could ultimately affect your son and he's aware of that.

DUMAIN: Big time. He told me he might want to go to West Point.

FEYERICK: And so what does that mean to you as a father?

DUMAIN: If he wants to go, he should go. But I wouldn't want him to go.

FEYERICK (voice-over): In a town where everyone seems to know each other and where cadets often stop in the Vasily's Souvenir Shop to buy an Army T-shirt, people here say fighting terrorism is important.

Still, they wonder how long it will take and who will come back.

MIKE PERLMAN, VASILY'S SOUVENIR SHOP: My opinion would be I'd like to end it as quickly as possible with a positive end to it, if that's at all possible, so whatever that would take. But I certainly would not want to send 30,000 troops there and have it linger on.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Highland Falls, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)