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Obama Makes His Case on U.S. Troop Escalation to Afghanistan; U.S. Troops Not Ready for Fast Track Troop Deployment; Obama's Speech Put to a Dial Test by Virginia Focus Group; DOW at 14-Month High; Paratroopers at the Ready; Afghanistan Will Receive 30,000 More Troops; Afghanistan War Affordable; Where In Afghanistan Are The Troops Going
Aired December 2, 2009 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A good Wednesday morning, and thanks very much for being with us on the Most News in the Morning here on CNN. It is December 2nd. I'm John Roberts.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kiran Chetry. Good to have you with us this morning. We have a lot of big stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.
This morning, it's all about the reaction to last night's critical moment for President Obama as well as the country he leads and the fight in Afghanistan. We're live with details of the president's new war plan and also new developments about the mission on the ground.
ROBERTS: How is the president's war plan with rank and file Americans? This morning, we're putting the president's Afghanistan's speech to the dial test. Our Jim Acosta watched as a group in Virginia weighed in and their reactions just might surprise you.
CHETRY: Plus, sorry your name is not on the list. The White House party crashers now admitting to the feds that they were not officially invited to President Obama's first state dinner last Thursday, but a new e-mail chain is shedding a little bit more light on the story.
ROBERTS: We begin this morning with the first day in a new chapter for the war in Afghanistan. This morning a war-weary American public and a divided Congress react to President Obama's historic announcement. One that requires 30,000 new troops but comes with an expiration date, July 2011. And as President Obama spoke to the West Point cadets last night, he addressed the difficulties and dangers that lie ahead and the burdens a wartime president must bear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. So, no. I do not make this decision lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: This morning we're breaking down this story with the kind of coverage that you'll see only on CNN. We have a team of reporters up early and ready to go. They've been to Afghanistan and had the contacts in Washington to help you get your arms around this story.
We begin with White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. And, Suzanne, good morning to you. A lot of people talking about the tone that the president took last night.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You know, this speech really did not have the feel of many of the war speeches I covered under President Bush and it really wasn't meant to. There was very little bluster or bravado with President Obama's call to escalate the war in Afghanistan. And the reason why was this speech was as much about ending the war as it was about ramping it up.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our cause is just. Our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Obama is ordering 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan over just a six-month period. Lightning speed for any military operation.
OBAMA: We'll deploy in the first part of 2010. The fastest possible pace, so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers.
MALVEAUX: The U.S. mission is to go after Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents while training the Afghan security forces to step up and fight for themselves with a clear timeline for U.S. forces to pull out beginning in July of 2011.
OBAMA: After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.
MALVEAUX: The president put the Afghan government and its people on notice.
OBAMA: It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan. The days of providing a blank check are over. MALVEAUX: The price tag for the U.S. military operation this year, the president said, will be $30 billion. Worth the sacrifice, Mr. Obama reminded Americans.
OBAMA: 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.
MALVEAUX: The president's hope is not to leave a messy contracted war behind for his possible successor in 2012 if Mr. Obama only serves one term. But he's taking a page from President Bush's playbook, not to box himself in if things fall apart.
OBAMA: Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly taking into account conditions on the ground.
MALVEAUX: Now judging from the folks I spoke with after the speech, it is really safe to say that he didn't satisfy either side. Those who still support the war and those who oppose it, the president went in knowing this that the challenge of uniting the country around this war, it was one so clear-cut now much more difficult because the country is tired of war. It's polarized and, of course, the enemy is also disbursed -- John, Kiran.
ROBERTS: Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning. Suzanne, thanks so much.
CHETRY: And as Suzanne mentioned now, 30,000 American soldiers are on a fast track to Afghanistan. The president wants them to deploy quickly, by this summer. That means, though, unique challenges like transporting the soldiers to hard to reach places and then also finding a home for them once they get there.
Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is just back from Afghanistan. And, you know, a lot of people are scrambling because of this troop surge strategy and the lightning speed at which he want to get people out there. You also talk about equipment, getting equipment in there and how difficult that's going to be as well.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Kiran and John. Just 12 days ago literally everything that we heard from defense officials and I mean everything, suggested that they were counting on a year-long rollout, you know, to get everything there by the end of next year. There's clearly been a lot of pressure from the administration, possibly President Obama himself to cut that time in half.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Military leaders said it'd be all but impossible to rush new troops to Afghanistan as quickly as they did Iraq.
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's not going to be a brigade a month, because of the infrastructure --
LAWRENCE: That was just before Thanksgiving. Now they've been challenged by the president to deploy 30,000 troops by summer.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We do not have the same kind of transportation access to Afghanistan that we did in Iraq.
LAWRENCE: Five brigades rushed into Iraq in just five months, but they did so over paved highways and had a huge staging area in the Kuwaiti desert. Almost everything has to come into Afghanistan by air. Most of the new forces will come south to places like Camp Wolverine (ph) where construction is already underway to increase its capacity from 1,800 to 5,000 troops.
LT. JOHN CRITCH, U.S. NAVY: Twenty soldiers, there's one toilet. So many soldiers to a shower. There's nowhere -- you know, we're still doing a lot of that right now just to get ready to bring in the massive troops.
LAWRENCE: Housing is so tight at many bases. Defense analysts say most of the new troops will have to live in an expeditionary state.
FREDERICK KAGAN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: That is to say tents and so forth as opposed to hard stand buildings.
LAWRENCE: This is actually President Obama's second surge. Earlier his year, he ordered more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan.
SPC. LUKE ADLER, U.S. ARMY: Logistically we weren't prepared for the surge.
LAWRENCE: Soldiers who were part of that earlier increase say supplies are just catching up with them.
ADLER: But the problem is it's getting there a little bit after the troop surge. It should have been vice versa. It should have been the support first or the same time at least.
LAWRENCE: In fact, a U.S. official is telling us that this six- month goal is, quote, "achievable but more likely it's going to take until late summer to get all the troops there."
CHETRY: One of the big things is you want to make sure that they have the equipment they need, as we just heard from that soldier, the difficulties with getting some of the protective equipment including the new vehicles that are actually resistant to the IEDs.
LAWRENCE: That's right. And that's where not having the ground, the land transportation, is really going to be key because you can transport personnel by plane. It is very hard, as you know, to transport these huge pieces of equipment in great quantities over an air-based delivery system.
CHETRY: Chris Lawrence for us, thanks.
CHETRY: And we're going to be breaking down every aspect of the president's plan this morning. At the top of the hour, we're going to be joined by General David Petraeus, the overall commander of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we're going to be talking to him about the challenge that Chris mentioned, deploying so many troops and equipment so quickly.
At 7:30 Eastern, Senator John McCain joins us and we're going to be talking to him about what he likes and dislikes about the president's plan.
Also for an in-depth look at what's happening in Afghanistan, you can go to CNN.com/Afghanistan. First person accounts on the Web site from the war zone and much more all from the worldwide leader in news, CNN.
ROBERTS: Other stories new this morning, and e-mails that have just surfaced between the White House party crashers and a Pentagon official. Tareq and Michaele Salahi claimed that they missed a voicemail telling them not to come to last Thursday's state dinner. In the exchange the couple says they showed up just in case their invitation went through. They claim that their names were on the invitation list, but the Secret Service and the White House both deny that.
CHETRY: Tiger Woods has paid a $164 fine for careless driving, and now the Florida highway patrol announcing that their investigation of Tiger's 2:00 a.m. crash last week is over. Tiger Woods remains in seclusion this morning and is not planning on playing golf again until January.
ROBERTS: A new home movie of Marilyn Monroe unscripted has surfaced. The quick clip from the '50s shows her acting casually on the couch with friends, smoking and drinking wine. The copyright to the film will be offered on eBay this week by a collector who paid a quarter of a million dollars for it.
CHETRY: Well, still ahead, we're going to hear how viewers and the American public rated Obama's speech last night. The president's speech on the war. We have a focus group.
Our Jim Acosta sat down with a group of people in Virginia to see what they thought of the president's case for a surge in Afghanistan.
Nine minutes past the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. A move that has stunned the auto industry. General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson out after just eight months on the job. Henderson took over in March when the government forced out Rick Wagoner. The Obama administration says this latest change was entirely the board's decision. Ford Chairman Ed Whitacre will take over as interim CEO.
CHETRY: Also new this morning, the Army is ordering a mental evaluation for the man accused in last month's shooting spree at Fort Hood. Hasan's lawyers, Nidal Hasan's lawyers say that the military wants a formal psychiatric review to determine whether Major Hasan can actually stand trial. He's charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder. His lawyer said the exam is premature because his client is still in intensive care and also may face additional charges.
ROBERTS: Know and in truth that what goes around comes around. The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President Bush, forced to do his own quick duck and cover. Muntadher al-Zaidi (ph), he was nearly beaned at a Paris press conference by a man claiming to be an Iraqi journalist in exile. Al-Zaidi became a hero to many in the Arab world after he hurled insults and his size 10s at President Bush last December. He served nine months in prison for his actions.
CHETRY: He ducked, the president ducked. Then the president ducked. Everyone's able to avoid getting actually hit. So, here you go.
Well, President Obama's war plan for Afghanistan is getting plenty of scrutiny this morning from military and political experts, average Americans as well. In fact, our Jim Acosta got some real-time reaction to the prime time speech from a focus group in Virginia who put the president to the dial test. Jim's live now for us in Washington with an A.M. original.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. You know, before the president can win hearts and minds over in Afghanistan, he's going to have to do that here. And we got an indication last night that he may be on his way to doing that.
We asked a northern Virginia polling firm, Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research, to put together a focus group to watch and weigh in on President Obama's war speech. What we got was a surprisingly supportive crowd of all political stripes.
MICHAEL MASLANSKY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, LUNTZ RESEARCH COMPANIES: Any other specific phrases that stood out?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Pollster Michael Maslansky brought together a group of roughly 30 people and split them up into Obama and McCain voters to rate the president's speech. Armed with dial testers, the focus group turned their knobs up for parts of the speech they liked, down for parts they could do without.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might.
ACOSTA: Through much of the speech, the results were positive. McCain voters were actually more supportive than Obama voters. OBAMA: This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and Al Qaeda can operate with impunity.
ACOSTA: When the president responded to critics who say he's taking too long to make up his mind...
OBAMA: There been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war.
ACOSTA: Conservatives were not buying it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you thought he succeeded tonight? Show your hands.
ACOSTA: But after the speech, we heard something we haven't heard much all year. Strong praise from Republicans for Mr. Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the most presidential speech I've ever heard him give.
ACOSTA: And you're a Republican or Democrat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He reminded me and I hope it reminded a lot of people that we are first and foremost Americans.
ACOSTA: And you didn't vote for Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, sir.
ACOSTA: And you are a Republican?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
ACOSTA (on camera): But you really liked the speech?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what? I hope he does well.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Just not all Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He let out a broad kind of a generic strategy which is kind of what he does. He's a good performer laying out a broad strategy but when it gets down to brass tacks, when it gets down to specifics, I didn't hear anything new.
ACOSTA: The biggest doubts came from Democrats.
ACOSTA (on camera): Do you think the president's making a mistake?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In some ways yes, and in some ways no. I -- I think that we need more troops than the 30,000.
MASLANSKY: It was an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
ACOSTA (voice-over): While Michael Maslansky is not sure Mr. Obama responded effectively to his critics...
MASLANSKY: He tried to reject the idea that he delayed his decision.
ACOSTA (on camera): The dithering.
MASLANSKY: The dithering. He said we did not delay any of our decisions. Now, that may be true, it may not. It doesn't matter. The American people believe he's taken too long to make this decision.
ACOSTA: And this focus group believe that?
MASLANSKY: They completely believed it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): He does believe the president succeeded in rallying the nation.
MASLANSKY: The whole speech, except for a few parts, the McCain voters scored higher than the Obama voters. Now, part of that is because it was a fairly hawkish speech. He used history as a foundation for what he was trying to say, but he did not bash the Bush era, and it really resonated with McCain voters.
ACOSTA (on camera): Do you think maybe he bought himself a little time tonight?
MASLANSKY: I do.
ACOSTA: Another surprising take from our focus group, nearly everybody in the room told us they'd support a decision to send even more troops to Afghanistan, a sign there may be some lingering doubts the president has enough forces to finish the job, and that -- that is something, Kiran, we did not see coming.
CHETRY: Yes. And also very interesting about the speech getting scored higher by the McCain voters. That was a -- that was another...
CHETRY: ... interesting aspect of that.
ACOSTA: Without question.
CHETRY: Well, good stuff. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Thank you.
We also want to know what you think about the president's speech and plan for Afghanistan. Head to our showcase, cnn.com/amfix.
ROBERTS: Well, after the latest credit crunch, it looked like people were going to say "Dubai" to all of the games in the stock market, but now the stock market would not be denied. It set a 14- month high now. Will the rally continue? Our Stephanie Elam has got your market preview. She's "Minding Your Business" your business this morning, coming right up.
Seventeen minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: How high will it go?
Stephanie Elam "Minding Your Business" this morning, and the markets shook off the credit crunch in Dubai last week and they're looking pretty good.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Last week, I was here. We were freaking out, like what's going to happen? I was trying to tell everybody this could be just an issue in Dubai.
Well, guess what? It looks like it's just an issue in the Middle East. It's something that's not here. It doesn't look like a lot of exposure here. That led the markets to have a nice little rally yesterday.
Let's take a look. The DOW -- look at that -- just ticking on up. March 9th was our low of this cycle. That is the lowest peak that we've had, in like a 12-year low, basically. So I can see there, March 9, 6,547. Yesterday we hit 10,471, so it's a gain of more than 1 percent. That now has a gain of 60 for this year so far, since March 9th to now.
So we are -- we haven't seen these numbers since October -- early October of 2008, so quite a run up there. Just in case you're wondering, NASDAQ up 72 percent since that time and S&P 500 up 64 percent -- 72 percent got (ph) Kiran. So really, just really strong numbers that we've seen this year with the market coming back.
If you take a look at all the issues, the containment of this credit issue, also the way they're handling it in Dubai has also changed, and that's also cooling some nerves, so that's helping out as well. We also have a weak dollar, so that boosted commodity prices and helped out. And then pending home sales yesterday, rising for the ninth month in a row in October. So that also helping out the market.
As of now the markets are mixed, the futures are, the DOW slightly higher. NASDAQ and S&P a little bit lower, but that tends to happen after we have a nice run up like we saw yesterday.
ROBERTS: If only we could do something on the job front.
ELAM: Oh, yes. That's right. If we do something about the job front -- and, you know, I should mention too, gold because gold did hit a level it has not seen ever.
CHETRY: This is a record.
ELAM: This is a record. $1,199 an ounce. And if you take a look at it this morning, it's already trading beyond that. So there's still some people who are going to safe havens, going to places like gold because they're still wondering. But the market's taking off.
CHETRY: So the Krugerette (ph) -- what's it called?
CHETRY: The Kruberran that was put in the -- in the Salvation Army has now gone up today?
ROBERTS: Worth even more today (ph). Yes.
ELAM: Today. It's now even (INAUDIBLE).
CHETRY: It's now worth $1,201.
ELAM: So maybe they shouldn't actually do anything with it, just keep waiting until it...
CHETRY: Just hold on to it.
CHETRY: See what happens. Make your money grow.
CHETRY: Stephanie. Thanks.
Well, still ahead, we're talking about the cost of the Afghan war and the troop surge for taxpayers, but also for our soldiers in uniform. We're breaking it down with our expert panel, Chrystia Freeland, managing editor of the "Financial Times." Also, Paul Rykoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Both join us next.
Twenty-two minutes past the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.
The nation news refocusing on the war in Afghanistan, but at Fort Bragg it's issue number one since the very first chute was deployed.
CHETRY: You know, the famed 82nd Airborne, the first -- among the first on the ground in Normandy during President Bush's Iraq surge, and then also again in President Obama's first Afghan surge, and more could get their orders in the next few weeks.
So our David Mattingly is live at Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the reaction to the president's plan. They've certainly been through this before, but what was the reaction, David?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, military families here sat down for the president's speech with two main questions on their mind. They wanted to know what more will you be asking of us and for how long? And they tell me that, for the most part, they got their answers.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): The president's decision to send 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan puts the war there back on the nation's front burner, exactly where it belongs, say these Fort Bragg families.
JESSICA SHOWALTER, ARMY SPOUSE: Hopefully this will bring the country back to the realization that we're fighting two wars, not just one, that Afghanistan has been a war the whole time.
MATTINGLY: These wives and relatives of soldiers tell me how Afghanistan has been a strain on them for years. Long-term separations that grow more difficult with each passing deployment.
MATTINGLY (on camera): Your husband has been deployed how many times?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Did you hear anything tonight that told you your life is going to get easier?
AMY WALLACE, ARMY SPOUSE: Initially, absolutely. But as it starts to soak in a little bit, I had some mixed emotions. I -- I understand this is an enemy that has been at war for thousands of years, and they are very patient and they're very smart.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): And sending more troops means even more Fort Bragg soldiers will go, but the president gave these families something they haven't had before -- a timetable.
MARIBELLE MENO: It's been hard as -- as a military spouse, having to hear deadlines but it's never fulfilled, but, in this case, he -- he gave a strong background for his need to have a deadline, and it was reassuring to hear it.
MATTINGLY: But while encouraged by the president's remarks, no one in this room was ready to relax.
MATTINGLY (on camera): Do you think that this will bring an end to the war in Afghanistan? Anybody? Nobody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well that's...
MATTINGLY: It's not that simple? MATTINGLY (voice-over): They tell me they've come to believe the problems in Afghanistan and the need for US military involvement may never completely go away.
NICOLE SULLIVAN, ARMY SPOUSE: It's difficult to tell what the enemy's going to do, how things will change dynamically over time. So it's not fair for to us say that based upon the fact that there are 30,000 more troops going to Afghanistan that the war will come to an end.
MATTINGLY: The president's plan to wrap up quickly in Afghanistan was applauded by the families last night. They say that the more boots on the ground to support the troops who are already there, the better -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Dave Mattingly for us this morning at Fort Bragg. Thank you.
ROBERTS: We're coming up on the half hour, and checking top stories this morning.
Iran has released five British sailors who were captured in the Persian Gulf last week when their racing yacht apparently strayed into Iranian waters. Tehran's news agency says the men were let go after interrogators determined the vessel, which was traveling from Bahrain to Dubai, had accidentally drifted into Iranian territory.
It turns out that just one US state, Ohio, has actually complied with new federal guidelines for monitoring sex offenders. The law, adopted three years ago, is designed to keep closer tabs on sex offenders by creating a national registry.
There are some 686,000 registered sex offenders across the country. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says states need to adopt -- states need more money, rather, to adopt the new federal standards.
The court says Baltimore's mayor stole gift cards from his city's program for needy kids and bought an Xbox and a PlayStation 2 for herself. A jury found Democrat Sheila Dixon, Baltimore's first black female mayor, guilty Tuesday of misdemeanor fraud that could lead to her removal from office and up to five years in prison, but she is promising to fight it -- Kiran.
CHETRY: All right. Well, President Obama making it clear that the fight in Afghanistan is, quite, "vital" to our national interests. The president acknowledging this 30,000-strong troop surge does come with a huge price tag.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can't simply afford to ignore the price of these wars. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year. And I'll work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Well, it is a lot of money, and it's a lot on the line for America's military as well who have already been at the fight for eight years.
Here with the "AM Breakdown" this morning is Chrystia Freeland, US Manager Editor the "Financial Times". And also on our DC bureau, Paul Rykoff. He's the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American.
Great have both of you with us, offering different perspectives but on the same thing when it comes to sacrifice, both -- both financially but also with the actual people that we're dealing with here.
But I want to start with you, Chrystia to talk about the fact that we've spent about $1 trillion at least since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started, and the president last night was careful to say we need to start being mindful of the economic cost of war. Have we not been before this?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, U.S. MANAGING EDITOR FOR FINANCIAL TIMES: Well I think it's important to remember that these wars began in a very different economic time. If you think back to 9/11 that was the period when everyone felt that this was going to be the American decade. The American economy was very strong. The tech recession was coming to an end. People felt that this was, this sort of moment of great global prosperity and American prosperity.
You can almost picture it's really, really different now. Not only is unemployment above 10 percent that's a huge number, but there are very, very great concerns about the deficit, partly because of that Iraq war. Not only do people not have work, but the government is looking at reining in its own spending.
CHETRY: And, Paul, the other interesting thing, $30 billion price tag the president referred to yesterday and many of the pundits are talking about is not even including what happens after these veterans come home. We're talking about spending in the $50 billion range for the Veterans Affairs Department and the fact you'll have to care for some of these wounded veterans for the rest of their lives. How does that factor into all of this?
PAUL RIECKHOFF, ARMY INFANTRY OFFICER IN IRAQ 2003-2004: It should factor into it in a big way, unfortunately, the word you didn't hear from the President's word last night was veterans. So our organization is trying to focus the American people and the leaders here in Washington today on focusing on those back end costs. Not just the planes and trucks and weapon systems, but the surgeons, caseworkers, psychologists that will be necessary on the back end to take care of our troops. 800,000 of them have already been there more than once. There's going to be a tremendous human cost from behind this plan. We've got get the American people focused on that and thinking pro-actively how to care for them when they do come home. CHETRY: So a lot of challenges. One of the solutions that have been met with some mixed reaction is one congressman who's talking about a war surtax, anywhere between 1% to 5% that everybody shares in this sacrifice. How realistic is that Chrystia?
FREELAND: Well, it's a very clever political gambit, particularly if you happen to not be a sportive of the surge. Because it's a way of making explicit to people, this particular tax you're going to have to pay this particular amount of money to go to the war in Afghanistan and I think if you're not very enthusiastic about the surge that is a great way to frame it. Is that likely to go through? I think probably not, and I do think that something interesting about how the President has framed this particular surge is trying to give something to both sides, very characteristic of Obama. So on the one hand a surge, but on the other hand a clear deadline.
CHETRY: And Paul, I want to ask you about the congressman's plan, again as Chrystia said as for people who are not in favor of the surge or the war in general. This is sort of a clever way to put a price tag on what each person pays. But he has been saying that what we don't have is a shared sacrifice, meaning we were just looking at the people who have been deployed six times, and in David Mattingly's piece at some bases around the country and others far removed from the sacrifice of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How is that reconciled?
RIECKHOFF: It really hasn't been. A tremendous burden on our military, especially the military families. We're really not a country at war. Military family, at war and the most part other folks are living life uncorrupted. Another key factor that must be considered, is the VA Health Care Budget, right now is 62 days late. As the President talked about resourcing the war, Congress is still not passed a VA budget. If we're serious about supporting the troops and veterans and our families we have to put our money where our mouth is here in Washington.
CHETRY: And how does this affect other initiatives? The stimulus? Helping in job creation and, of course, the big looming health care reform debate that still is not resolved but very expensive if it indeed is passed.
FREELAND: Well I think what it could do is make both additional spending and in the future budget cuts more difficult. It makes spending more difficult, because the President said this is an under $30 billion. Happen he didn't say, this will bring American troop level to about 100,000 in Afghanistan. And sort of the back of the envelope calculations, the white house sees $1 million per soldier per year. So that's 100 billion dollars.
That's a lot of money. That makes additional spending much more difficult, particularly given that you have this huge debt and deficit and the constraint and the White House talking about how, you know what? Next year we have to focus on spending less money. It leaves much less money for everything else. And that's where to paul's point, you're going to have particularly the part of America that's not engaged in the war, if we don't start to see even a year into this some real effects of the surge. People saying, why are we spending $100 billion in Afghanistan had I don't have a job here in America.
CHETRY: A lot of good points from both of you, Chrystia Freeland and Paul Rieckhoff. Thanks for joining us this morning.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you.
ROBERTS: So the troop will soon be on their way, but where are they going? They'll be going where the Taliban is. And we'll show you on the Magic Wall exactly where they will be going coming right up. It's 35 1/2 minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Coming up now it's 49 minutes after the hour. 30,000 American forces will be headed to Afghanistan. Some of the first brigades may arrive by Christmas. And where are they going to be going? Let's look first of all using the Magic Wall at what the state of play is in Afghanistan currently. You see in the northern part of the country these are all the flags in the NATO countries who have offered a commitment to Afghanistan. But if you look here through the southern area of the country and out to the west, it is predominantly American forces around the area of Kabul and against the frontier area of Pakistan here.
Some Canadian troops British troops, American troops out in this far of provinces as well. Why are they focused in this area? Let's show you another overlay here. This is the reason why. We'll get rid of that one. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of Taliban forces.
So, you see up here in Nuristan province, the northeast of the country all the way through the southern area, through Patikasabul Condahar and into Farah province, that's a very high concentration of Taliban. An area where there's been so many problem, opium growing area, Michael Ware was telling us last night, Kandahar, the second city of Afghanistan literally under siege and you do have a concentration, too, around the capital city of Kabul.
Now, there's a big problem here in addition to what's going on in Afghanistan, and that's what's going on across the border in Pakistan. These are the so-called tribal areas in the northwestern part of Pakistan. You probably are familiar with the names. South Waziristan and North Wazirstan, Kibar Province on into this area, too, is Suate and Bunir where they had all the problems in Pakistan earlier this year.
Pakistani Army has gone into this area fighting the Taliban but the concern among some Pakistani officials is that as American forces come into this area here and Kandahar and reinforce in the north and east, tall ban fighting in Afghanistan might just decide to move across the border, and it's very easy.
Just to give you an idea of how porous that area is, here's a Google Earth satellite shot at the Torah Borah area. This is where Osama Bin Laden was holed up in the fall of 2001, this is an area where the senate report says, the United States and northern alliance have been cornered. Didn't pursue it enough to actually get him an, of course, he escaped through many escape routes.
Because of the high peaks in the valleys it's easy for fighters to just filter back across the border. It they're in Afghanistan under pressure a concern the Pakistani officials, Pakistani military that they just might filter back across the border. Lay and wait until July of 2011 until American forces draw down and then make their way back across the border. That's where the American forces will be going.
Some of the lay of the land, concerns for the future, and potentially, again, Kiran that some of these fighters might filter back across the border and wait out the U.S. military. John McCain is worried about that. We'll be talking to him coming up very soon on the Most News In The Morning.
CHETRY: Yes and we'll also be hearing from General Petraeus as well in just about 20 minutes. So we look forward to that. John thanks. Still ahead checking in with Rob Marciano. A big storm down south marching north. He's tracking extreme weather from Atlanta. Right now it's 42 minutes past the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. There's a look at New York City right now where it is 40 degrees, but it's going to go up to 55, partly cloudy today, and right now, we fast forward through the stories we're following today on CNN for you. At 9:00 Eastern, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Chief Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all headed to Capitol Hill.
We are going to be speaking to the senate and House about President Obama's strategy in Afghanistan. Also at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, former President George W. Bush is the keynote speaker in a motivational seminar in San Antonio, Texas. Other speakers at the nearly nine-hour event include former Secretary Of State Colin Powell and also Tony Parker, the local boy of the San Antonio Spurs.
At 8:00 p.m. Eastern, a sure sign the holidays are here. It's time to light the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center. The 76- foot Norway spruce from Eastern Connecticut will be lit up with more than 30,000 bulbs. Should be gorgeous, talking as we are talking with Stephanie Elam. She said I'd rather sit around and watch it in the comfort of my own home than stand out there and freeze, but, hey.
ROBERTS: They had that thing wrapped up and scuffled in for the last couple of weeks, just hanging the lights and all the bulbs and everything on it, but really is a beautiful tree. I used to live in the apartment building right across the street, and look down. I didn't even need to put Christmas tree in the apartment building because it was right there.
CHETRY: You had your own Christmas tree out the window.
ROBERTS: Rob Marciano is tracking the extreme weather across the country today, and for the folks who are going to the tree-lighting ceremony, how will the weather be today, Rob?
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It should be all right today at least the start. Later on today, we got a pretty big storm impressing very much so, John and Kiran, across much of Southeast, Southeastern third the country, and it's all beginning to spread up towards the North and East, and as it does so, it's going to strengthen not only as far as rain goes, but as far as wind is concerned as well.
The rain shield itself up to Raleigh will be heading through Richmond. D.C. will get it before day's end and eventually through Philadelphia and New York. The backside of this thing is cold. Some reports just North and West of Dallas of some snow. Right now in Denton, Texas, it's 36 and running. That, my friends, is miserable.
So, there you center the low, it's going to ride up the Appalachians Mountains, the southeastern quadrant of the storm is rough. We do have a tornado watch. It's in effect until 11:00 Eastern time right across the Florida panhandle. No warnings out as of right now, but certainly a strong line of thunderstorms are rolling down I-10 as we speak.
Again, the backside of this is going to certainly be cold and the front side will be windy. High wind watches actually are posted, the New York metropolitan area for tonight and tomorrow morning. Not very cold for you folks. I think most of the cold air will stay West; 34 degrees in Minneapolis, 44 degrees in Chicago, and 55 degrees expected in D.C. with rain arriving there later on this afternoon.
It will be a stormy night there in the Big Apple, so hope they get the tree lit before nightfall. I think those ornaments and the lights will be blowing around a good bit, I think, tomorrow morning. John and Kiran back up to you.
ROBERTS: Rob, thanks.
CHETRY: They got to wait until it gets dark for the lighting, but you know, bring your umbrellas if you're going.
MARCIANO: Yes, do that.
CHETRY: Rob, thanks.
ROBERTS: Said there'll be a traditional tree lighting ceremony tonight, but this is definitely not your grandmother's holiday window display; not by a long shot.
CHETRY: No. It's one New York City store that's really drawing big crowds this holiday season for its window undressing. It's more peep show than winter wonderland. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The traditional Santa in the window is known for his red outfit, but changing outfits is what the women in this window are known for.
UNKNOWN MALE: Unbelievable, but they should do it on every corner.
MOOS: Here at the corner of 38th and 5th Avenue, they're changing their clothes at night. Their changing their clothes...
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Whoa.
MOOS: During the day.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: When we change, as soon as the shirt comes off, the crowd triples.
MOOS: They are this season's hit holiday windows. Spectators are sparse at the department store windows across the street, but here there's a constant crowd, mostly male pressing up against the glass.
UNKNOWN MALE: What could be more Christmas than two beautiful women.
MOOS: In bathrobes.
UNKNOWN MALE: In bathrobes.
MOOS: Brushing each others hair, jumping on the couch, kissing the mirror, tossing their hair. They're actually promoting a clothing line, XOXO, but once you step in this window -- I'm feeling very overdressed.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: You are.
MOOS: Yes. Take it off.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: Sure.
MOOS: They are under instructions not to interact with the crowd.
HELEN TRAASAVIK, MODEL: No, I don't make eye contact, but I see them in the corner of my eyes. We can cheat by looking in the mirror.
MOOS: The show goes both ways, looking in and looking out.
TRAASAVIK: They write notes and press it up to the window.
MOOS: What kind of note?
TRAASAVIK: I've got 3 of that.
MOOS: Pretty sure, they're not like the letters to Santa in Macy's windows. See he they preen. Santa doesn't get requests like this.
Put on the shoes? That would be the high heels, and when Helen zipped up nicki (ph), brakes squealed.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: They have the nicest legs I think I've ever seen. I wish I had a pair.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: I think it's too much. It belongs inside a studio, not the storefront.
MOOS: Some onlookers think the glass is one way.
CAROL POWLEY, XOXO CREATIVE DIRECTOR: All these guys can't conceptualize that the women are ignoring them, so it must be a special glass.
UNKNOWN MALE: Looks like they can't see from the other side.
MOOS: She dropped something.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: And you bend over.
MOOS: Is that it? They want to you bend over, really?
Don't be naughty. It's not nice. This is the season for windows that feature holiday trains. One good caboose deserves another. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CHETRY: My favorite line was, they can't conceptualize that they were ignoring them. It must be one-way glass. (LAUGHING) There you go.
ROBERTS: It's at least a different take on the Christmas season.
CHETRY: Merry Christmas and then do some shopping.
Still ahead, we're going to be fact checking some of the campaign promises that President Obama made about Afghanistan. We'll be right back. Fifty-one minutes past the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Fifty- three minutes past the hour.
It's now his war, as a candidate and then as Commander in Chief, President Obama called the Afghanistan a war worth fighting. Now, he's made the biggest commitment of U.S. troops in years, so is this what his supporters voted for? Jessica Yellin, keeping him honest this morning.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, you may recall that during the campaign, then Senator Obama was biting in his criticism of President Bush's so-called war on terror, and he vowed that if elected, he would pursue al Qaeda differently, so we decided to take a look at some of candidate Obama's promises regarding the war in Afghanistan.
YELLIN (voice-over): Remember how then-candidate Barack Obama talked about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
OBAMA: We're not going to be hoodwinked.
YELLIN: He charged the Bush administration took America into the wrong fight.
OBAMA: The central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was.
YELLIN: Over and over he vowed if elected, he'd refocus on Afghanistan.
OBAMA: We have seen Afghanistan worsen, deteriorate.
We didn't keep our eye on the ball in Afghanistan.
Where we should have been focused on in the first place.
YELLIN: And the President's make going on that one. Also on the campaign trail he said this --
OBAMA: I would send at least two or three additional brigades to Afghanistan.
YELLIN: Check. He followed through within a month of taking office ordering two more brigades sent to Afghanistan, and now, he is upping the commitment. Then, he said NATO allies must send more troops to Afghanistan and ease restrictions that shield many of them from counterinsurgency work.
OBAMA: We also need to make sure that the rules and engagement for those troops are such where they can carry some of the load in terms of fighting.
YELLIN: Now, progress is limited. Britain and Italy plan to send more troops, but as of now, France And Germany do not, and so far, there's no indication NATO troops will share more of the load. Then, he promised --
OBAMA: I will focus on training Afghan security forces.
YELLIN: Now, he's making good on the promise. The President will be sending more trainers to Afghanistan, but the jury is out on whether the Afghan army and police forces are up to the task.
YELLIN (on-camera): During the campaign, then candidate Obama also repeatedly vowed to define the clear exit strategy for Afghanistan. Now, the White House says U.S. troops will begin leaving that country in July of 2011. The big question, is that a promise the President can keep? -- John, Kiran.
ROBERTS: Jessica Yellin for us this morning. Jessica, thanks so much.
We're now four minutes to the top of the hour. We'll making back in the next hour at the Most News in the Morning. We'll be talking with General David Petraeus. He is head of the central command about the new plans to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. As well, Senator McCain will be joining us. Here are the top stories coming your way in just 90 seconds. Stay with us.