December 1st, 2009
11:55 PM ET

How President Obama decided on the Afghanistan strategy

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Peter Bergen | BIO
CNN National Security Analyst

Three senior administration officials outlined on Tuesday some of the concepts and processes that went into President Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan.

Between September 13 and November 23 the president chaired 10 meetings of his national security team to deliberate over the new strategy.

The president agreed with the ground commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment from the summer that the key goal of the strategy was to reverse the momentum of the Taliban in the next 12 months. He selected from the menu of troop deployment options the one that got American boots on the ground in the most rapid manner.

There are six objectives those forces will try to accomplish.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Peter Bergen
December 1st, 2009
11:50 PM ET

The ravages of war

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

This week we will be talking a lot about Afghanistan and the impact of the President’s speech. Having spent a fair amount of time there, including a trip just a couple of months ago, I am always reminded of the human impact of any conflict. I am reminded there are consequences to all those booms and explosions we see on television. I am reminded of the horrific injuries I saw due to IED explosions where young men and women are robbed of their legs, and their lives. I am also reminded of the remarkable sacrifice the doctors, nurses, medics and all the medical personnel make every single day out there. They truly risk their lives to save the lives of others.

Medicine and the military are embraced in an awkward dance and no where is that more true than in Afghanistan. Because of the terrain, most of the med evac missions are carried out by chopper. They typically have 20 minutes to fly to the patients, 20 minutes to stabilize and treat, and 20 minutes to get the patients to more medical care. It is one golden hour. Right now, even as I write this, these medics are sleeping in forward operating bases just behind the front line troops – with their boots on, and eyes half open in dusty desert tents waiting to get the call. Waiting for a chance to save their fellow soldiers who got the call before them.

Truth of the matter, nearly three-fourths of the time, the call they get is to take care of an Afghan local or soldier. In fact, if you look at the breakdown of operations performed at the coalition force run Kandahar Role III, the largest trauma hospital in the country, most are performed on Afghan patients. The local medical system in Afghanistan lacks the infrastructure to take care of most of these sorts of injuries. There is only one vascular surgeon in the country, two neurosurgeons and really no ability to perform cardiac surgery. It made me wonder what will happen to patients with trauma a year from now or in five or ten years.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Afghanistan • Sanjay Gupta
December 1st, 2009
11:38 PM ET

Can Obama rally the country on Afghanistan?

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David Gergen | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

In his Afghanistan speech tonight, Barack Obama will face one of the toughest tests of any president in modern times.

Presidents usually seek public support for sending U.S. combat troops into action just after another country has attacked us or threatened our national interest – think FDR after Pearl Harbor, Harry Truman after the invasion of South Korea, John Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis, George H.W. Bush embarking on the Persian Gulf war, George W. Bush after 9/11 and even his decision to invade Iraq. In each case, vital interests seemed at stake, presidents acted decisively and Americans rallied ’round the flag.

But in this case, Obama is asking the public to support an escalation in a war that has already gone on so long that Americans have lost sight of why it is important and are intensely divided over whether we should spend more blood and treasure. The cold reality is that the U.S. government has done a horrible job persuading the American people that the Afghan war matters.

While the President deserves credit for engaging in serious deliberations before acting, his pause for reflection has also gone on so long – 94 days from the day of the McChrystal request to the day of his public response – that he has also sent a clear signal of inner doubts and uncertainty about next steps.


December 1st, 2009
10:40 PM ET

Sound Off: Your comments 12/1/09

Editor's Note: We heard from many of you about the panel we had on last night to discuss President Obama’s speech about the new strategy in Afghanistan. The various panel members were referred to as “the voice of reason,” “intelligent” and unbelievably talented. While some of you do not know if sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good idea or not, they appreciated the informative, extended, impartial coverage the panel gave.

Finally some enlightening comments on the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. The panel following the President's speech gave in depth insight into what is going on the ground and what obstacles the U.S. faces. Well done –

Fareed Zakaria is the voice of reason. Please keep him (and others like him) as part of the panel discussions for things like President Obama's speech tonight. We need more intelligent and insightful voices and less political voices. Thank you for separating the political commentators from the news reporters. Thank you for not being Fox News.

The President’s speech was measured and correct in all aspects. Tactically, follow the Marines and spend more time in each village. By pass the Af. gov. put money in the hands of the people.


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
December 1st, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 12/01/09

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Tonight on 360°, Pres. Obama's decision on Afghanistan. He's adding an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to the region and wants to start getting all American forces back home in July 2011. We've got the raw politics and the raw numbers. We'll talk about the new strategy with an impressive panel of experts. And we want to hear from you.

Want to know more about our coverage tonight? Read EVENING BUZZ

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
December 1st, 2009
07:33 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Pres. Obama's New Afghanistan Strategy

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Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Pres. Obama says the war in Afghanistan is not lost. But he says for several years it has "moved backwards." He has a new strategy that he hopes will change that course.

The commander-in-chief announced tonight at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York he is deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in the first part of 2010.

Pres. Obama is also seeking more support from NATO allies.

The boost will mean about 100,000 U.S. troops will be in the region, along with about 45,000 NATO troops.

Pres. Obama is ordering the Pentagon to have the new troops in Afghanistan within six months. Pres. Obama said the additional forces "will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."

Pres. Obama's Senior Adviser David Axelrod discussed the new approach this evening on CNN's "The Situation Room".

"We feel that the sooner that we get in there we can stop the momentum of the Taliban, train up Afghan troops and begin to transfer authority or responsibility for the security there, and that's - that's our goal," said Axelrod.

A Pentagon official admits the six month timeline to get the new troops on the ground is "very aggressive". Though, the official is confident the military can get the job done.

What do you think of Pres. Obama's decision? Share your thoughts below.

Adding 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan could be a political liability for Pres. Obama. Already some members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, are voicing their concerns over the Afghan war strategy.

"At a time of great economic crisis here in the United States, I would respectfully suggest that rather than nation-building in Afghanistan we should do a little more nation-building here at home," said Rep. Jim McGovern, (D) Massachusetts, at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

"I am here today because of my concern that we are about to wear out and break the military," said Rep. Walter Jones, (R) North Carolina, at the same event.

Since the war in Afghanistan began following the September 11th terrorist attacks more than 900 Americans have been killed in the region.

We'll have all the angles on Pres. Obama's speech tonight on 360°. We hope you can join us for our special coverage. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
December 1st, 2009
05:22 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/01/09

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 01: Michaele and Tareq Salahi leave the Halcyon House in Georgetown on December 1, 2009 in Washington, DC. The couple are under investigation for allegedly crashing a White House state dinner for the visiting Indian prime minister. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.


Jack Gray

“Mr. Chairman, I spoke to Mrs. Salahi and she is emphatic that she did not crash Tiger Woods’ pants.”


Samantha, Boston, Mass.

"Hillary does her impression of Howie Mandel after Anderson goes for a hand shake."

_________________________________________________________________________________ Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 1st, 2009
05:18 PM ET

Photo Gallery: On patrol with Marines in Helmand Province

Tim Hetherington
Getty Images for CNN

October was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war in 2001. Roadside bombs are now the biggest threat to U.S. forces in the region. In September, Anderson reported from the front lines of the war against the Taliban and went out on patrol with Marines in Helmand Province.

Take a look at this photo gallery.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Anderson Cooper • Military • Taliban
December 1st, 2009
05:05 PM ET

Interactive: U.S. Troop levels in Afghanistan


The United States has steadily increased its military presence in Afghanistan during this decade. Go here to learn more about the increase in the deployment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2003.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
December 1st, 2009
05:01 PM ET

Video: Far from home in Helmand

Editor’s Note: Tonight, President Obama will outline the new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan. He reportedly will announce the decision to increase the number of the troops in the theater by more than 30,000. News of the plan has already met skepticism with Obama’s own party. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Ware reported from Afghanistan earlier this fall about how troops are battling insurgents in the region. Watch their reports and tune in tonight for full coverage of President Obama’s announcement at 7 p.m. ET.

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

Filed under: Afghanistan • Anderson Cooper
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