[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/SHOWBIZ/02/15/kevin.smith.southwest/t1larg.jpg caption="Kevin Smith has battled his weight for years and took to Twitter to talk about being kicked off a flight." width=416 height=234]
AC360° Associate Producer
Today, a NATO airstrike against suspected insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed five civilians, and over the weekend two U.S. rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians. The attacks are part of a major NATO offensive targeting Taliban fighters in the city of Marjah in Helmand Province, a region that is considered a safe haven for the Taliban. It is also a major producer of poppies, which fuel the drug trade.
Military officials say Operation Moshtarak is the largest offensive since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001; it is the first major initiative since President Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to the region. Some 3,000 U.S. Marines are taking part in the operation in Marjah. Troops from Afghanistan, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, and the United Kingdom are also part of the roughly 15,000-strong mission. They expect to battle up to 1,000 Taliban fighters in Marjah. By midday today, at least six large gun battles were being fought across the city.
Tonight we’ll dig deeper on the mission and the strategy in Afghanistan. Experts say winning this latest battle is critical to victory in Afghanistan. But civilian casualties are a sensitive issue and run the risk of eroding support for the NATO-led mission. Do you think these casualties are avoidable? Are they an unfortunate reality in cracking down on the Taliban? What does the operation mean politically for President Obama? We’ll look for answers tonight on 360.
We’ll also take a close look at a subject that’s become a flashpoint in the body mass index wars. Over the weekend, actor/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) was removed from a Southwest Air flight for not fitting “comfortably” in his seat. The euphemism means Southwest determined he was “too fat to fly” on its plane. Smith has reacted to the incident with barbed tweets aimed at the airline’s policy. Southwest responded, "If a customer cannot comfortably lower the armrest and infringes on a portion of another seat, a customer seated adjacent would be very uncomfortable and a timely exit from the aircraft in the event of an emergency might be compromised...”
When I wrote about this issue last spring, many of you spoke out in defense of airlines that enforce size restrictions for passengers. Is that discrimination? Should there be wider, possibly more expensive seating options to accommodate fliers of all sizes? We’re going to hear from both sides of the debate tonight, and we want to know what you think too.
What else are you following today? Let us know and see you at 10 p.m. ET!
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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