Pres. Obama's inner circle is on the offensive trying to get Congress and the American people on board with the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
The commander-in-chief revealed last night in a speech at West Point that he's ordering an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan over the next six months. He also wants to start bringing home U.S. forces in July 2011, just a year-and-a-half from now.
Most Republicans are backing the plan, but several Democrats are questioning Pres. Obama's decision.
The new strategy was debated on Capitol Hill today when Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with two key committees.
A key exchange between Secretary Clinton and Rep. Gary Ackerman, (D) New York, gives a good sense of the emotions at play.
"I'm trying to think this thing through. I think the best I come up with is that we have a shack that is on fire, but it is located next to the dynamite factory and the question that I think I know the answer to but my constituents keep asking - Is it worth risking the lives of those who respond to the fire in a place that may or may not hold a lot of value in and of itself? And what is going to be the result and what would happen if we don't respond?"
"I guess the question I will ask is this, as of 8 o'clock last night do we have a new war or do we have an old war under new ownership," Ackerman added.
Secretary Clinton responded to the questions.
"I think it is fair to say that if the president could have concluded that this was an old war that could be wound down and walked away from, that would certainly have been an easier choice. He is, as we all are, well aware of the political and economic and the loss of young men and women that this decision presages, but the dynamite factory is there and unfortunately it's been stocked with even more dynamite in last couple years and therefore we feel we have to address it," she said.
Meanwhile, General Stanley McChrystal, who requested the extra troops, briefed U.S. forces in Afghanistan on the new war strategy.
"If you think about where we are now, even though it's eight years, this is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. I think it is the end of the beginning. I think everything changes right now," he said as he channeled the words of Sir Winston Churchill during World War Two.
Tonight on 360°, you'll hear from the Gen. McChrystal's boss, Gen. David Petraeus – who is the chief of U.S. Central Command. We've also gathered our team of reporters who've been to Afghanistan to dive into whether the war plan makes sense.
Join us for this story and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. See you then!
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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