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The Takeaway

Afghanistan: From the Headlines to the Frontlines

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hot on the heels of a recently-released report in which Afghanistan commander General McChrystal said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure" without calling up additional troops, President Obama hit the talk show circuit expressing concern about sending more troops. How are these mixed messages playing out for those about to be deployed?

Kristen L. Rouse is a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard and recently found out she would be deployed for a second tour in Afghanistan. Mary Galeti's husband Russell is also soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. They join us with their thoughts on the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. We're also joined by Larry Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information.

"We have a moral obligation to fulfill the promises that we've made to the Afghan people. I think that Afghanistan is a profoundly impoverished nation that has suffered from thirty years of warfare."
—Kristen L. Rouse, first lieutenant in the Army National Guard and soon to deploy for a second tour in Afghanistan, on the U.S. mission there

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The Takeaway

McChrystal Says More Troops Needed in Afghanistan

Monday, September 21, 2009

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has cautioned Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he needs additional troops in Afghanistan by next year or the conflict will “likely result in failure.” The previously-confidential report was sent to Gates on August 30, but was just released last night. To go over the details with us is Eric Schmitt, reporter for our partner, The New York Times.

"What this report does in very stark language is lay out some of the problems and...basically gives his prescription that he needs more forces -- he doesn't say how much, that'll come in a separate document -- and he needs them soon or else the mission in Afghanistan, the eight-year mission there, will likely fail."
—Eric Schmitt, reporter for The New York Times, on Afghanistan commander Admiral McChrystal's report

 

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The Takeaway

Russian Reaction to Scrapped Missile Defense System

Friday, September 18, 2009

President Obama announced yesterday that he is abandoning plans for a missile defense shield. President Bush had slated the shield for development in Poland and the Czech Republic, but the defense scheme became an increasing irritation in U.S.-Russian relations, and President Obama has opted to go a different direction, asking for a mixed land/sea-based system to guard against Iranian missiles. So how is Russia reacting to the news? Olexiy Solohubenko, Russian affairs expert at the BBC, joins us with a look at how the story is being in reported in Russian media.

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The Takeaway

Obama Scraps Bush-Era Missile Plan

Friday, September 18, 2009

Yesterday President Obama announced that he is scrapping the Bush administration's plans for a land-based missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. He's opting instead to focus on a defense system that would intercept shorter-range missiles from Iran. This move has upset Poland and the Czech Republic, but pleased Russia, who was against Bush's plan. Is this an intelligent decision based on new information about Iran's weapons? Or will it empower Russia and Iran at the expense of American allies? We speak to former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who served under President Bush, and to Alexander Cooley, professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy at Barnard College. (Click through for a full interview transcript.)

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The Takeaway

U.S. Abandoning Plans for Eastern Europe Missile Shield

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The United States has decided to abandon contentious plans for a missile defense shield intended to be set up in Poland and the Czech Republic. The move should ease U.S.-Russia relations, as the planned missile shield had been causing a great deal of strife between the former Cold War rivals. BBC correspondent Richard Galpin has the first official Russian reaction on this breaking news story.

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The Takeaway

President to Honor Slain Soldier

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today President Obama will award a posthumous Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Jared Monti. The nation's highest military honor will be given to Monti for his bravery. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2006 when he ran into enemy fire three times trying to rescue an injured comrade. Zachary Barnes served as a medic with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. He knew and served with Sergeant First Class Monti.

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The Takeaway

Admiral Mullen: More Troops Necessary in Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday seeking a second term. Although he repeatedly said that no final decision has been made on future troop numbers in Afghanistan, he was clear that more troops and more time will be necessary in order for a successful military outcome. We speak to Thom Shanker, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times.

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The Takeaway

Is Somalia the Next Afghanistan?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The small East African nation of Somalia is once again becoming a big problem for the United States, this time in the fight against terrorism and al-Qaida. There is enough fear that the nation is becoming a breeding ground for terrorists that the United States launched a preemptive strike yesterday. American troops landed in Somalia and attacked a group of Islamic militants. We're joined this morning by Nick Childs, defense and security correspondent for our partners, the BBC.

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The Takeaway

American Forces Kill Islamic Militant Nabhan

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

American forces have killed one of the most wanted Islamic militants in southern Somalia. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was the ringleader of a Qaeda cell in Kenya. For more details, we talk to Jeffrey Gettleman, who's covering the story for our partner, the New York Times.

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The Takeaway

Iraqi Shoe Thrower Released

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muntazer al-Zaidi, the man jailed for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush, was released from prison yesterday. Hugh Sykes is a foreign correspondent for our partners, the BBC. He speaks to us today about al-Zaidi's release and allegations of torture.

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The Takeaway

Obama Considers U.S. Involvement As Afghan Casualties Mount

Monday, September 14, 2009

Five U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. As President Obama weighs the next steps for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, top members of his party are making their positions clear. The Senate’s top Democrat on military issues, Carl Levin, said on Friday that he does not support sending more troops until more Afghan forces are trained. We'll look at new pressure from lawmakers and how the president might act as we talk to Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former State Department analyst on Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Howard Hart, a retired CIA agent who worked in Afghanistan for several years.

"We lost the initiative in the last two or three years. We have to remember that the Taliban’s strategy has been from the very beginning just to outlast us. And they’re on course on that."
—Marvin Weinbaum, scholar at the Middle East Institute and former State Department analyst on Afghanistan and Pakistan, commenting on the war in Afghanistan.

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The Takeaway

Next Steps for U.S. in Afghanistan

Friday, September 04, 2009

Recently, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen said that the situation in Afghanistan was "deteriorating," but just yesterday, during a press conference at the Pentagon, Mullen said the U.S. would "regain the initiative."

To give us an idea of how turning the situation around might be possible, we turn to retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who taught Military Strategy and Military Operations at the National War College.

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The Takeaway

NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Draws Fire

Friday, September 04, 2009

A NATO aircraft has attacked two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. The local governor said at least ninety people were killed, most of them Taliban militants, but other local officials and eyewitnesses say many of the dead were civilians. The attack comes at a sensitive time for the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, as discussion turns to how deeply international forces should commit themselves and what their priorities should be in-country.

Chris Morris, correspondent for the BBC, is watching the fallout from this airstrike very closely from Kabul, and joins us from there.

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The Takeaway

Contractors and 'Trigger Pullers' Head to Afghanistan

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Obama administration reportedly plans to add 14,000 combat troops to those already in Afghanistan. The plan is to swap out military clerical workers and other support staff for so-called “trigger pullers” – combat troops that will serve on the front lines of the fight against the Taliban. Picking up the clerical slack? Private contractors. There are more than 68,000 private contractors already working in Afghanistan, which is more than the number of American troops in the country. This news comes hot on the heels of reports that members of ArmorGroup North America, the private security firm that guards the U.S. embassy in Kabul, were engaged in lewd and deviant behavior while off duty.

To find out what this increase in private contractors means and who monitors their work, we speak with Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and with Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade organization for military contractors.

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The Takeaway

Senator Russ Feingold on Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, states that the situation in Afghanistan is "deteriorating" ... and signs of this decline have been showing up more and more clearly. Despite the massive military operation in Afghanistan's Helmand province and a heavy military presence throughout the nation, violence continues to increase.  Just yesterday, a suicide bomber east of Kabul, in Laghman province, killed a top intelligence officer and 23 others.

While U.S., Afghan and NATO coalition forces continue fighting Taliban members, the difficulties have led American military commanders in Afghanistan to make a case for more troops. But Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) sits on the Senate's Foreign Services and Intelligence Committees and has been calling for the opposite – and he's not alone. There are calls from both the left and the right to start making plans to reduce the boots on the ground.

"I am making sure I get inoculated from all illnesses by going to town meetings."
—Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc) on how he is preparing for a resurgence of H1N1

Click through for a transcript of our conversation with Sen. Feingold.

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The Takeaway

Marking the 70th Anniversary of World War II

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

World War II leaders will join together today for ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the conflict in Europe. Among the leaders are German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. 

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The Takeaway

Afghanistan: Is the Current Strategy Working?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

America's top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, submitted a strategic review yesterday to General David Petraeus and to NATO. A version of that report will land on the desk of President Obama soon. While the full text of the report hasn't been made public, what has come out is a glimpse of the general's assessment: that the current strategy in Afghanistan is not working. With us is Richard Kemp, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan. He is author of the book "Attack State Red."

There's another school of thought that we don't hear from often: instead of a military surge, what is needed is a political surge. Fotini Christia joins the conversation -- she's an assistant professor of political science at MIT and recently returned from Afghanistan.

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The Takeaway

Troops' Families Speak About the War in Afghanistan

Friday, August 28, 2009

44 American servicemembers have died in Afghanistan so far in August, tying with July as the deadliest month yet for U.S. troops in that conflict. The increase in violence has reignited debate about the U.S. role in the country. We speak to some familly members of the troops stationed there about their take on sending their loved ones off to this war. 

Mary Galeti is from Cleveland, Ohio. Her husband, Russell, is a first lieutenant with the Ohio National Guard. He is currently training with NATO forces in Hungary, but will be deployed to Afghanistan in January. Kim Clark is from Erie, Pennsylvania. Her son Daniel is a Marine in an artillery unit near Helmand Province in Afghanistan. And Larry Syverson is from Richmond, Virginia. His son Branden is a sergeant in the Army's 5th brigade, 2nd infantry, near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"Quite honestly I think it’s the forgotten war… With Iraq there was this universal experience, at least, that everyone who was serving in some capacity had done Iraq. And with Afghanistan it’s just less talked about. There’s less connection."
— Mary Galeti, whose husband is training in Hungary right now ahead of his deployment to Afghanistan

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The Takeaway

Situation in Aghanistan 'Deterioriating'

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says that the situation in Afghanistan is "deteriorating," that's not a good sign. That's exactly what Admiral Mike Mullen said on Sunday, unfortunately, going on to say that the Taliban has gotten "more sophisticated." For a military analysis of America's loosening grip on stability in Afghanistan, we talk with retired U.S. Army Colonel Paul Hughes. He is currently the senior program officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

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The Takeaway

Is Iraq Ready for Faster U.S. Troop Withdrawal?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Almost 100 people were killed yesterday as coordinated bomb attacks swept Baghdad. The truck bombs and mortar fire flattened buildings, collapsed highways, and left city residents stunned at the sudden increase in violence. The attacks came just as Iraqis consider a vote on whether to accelerate U.S. troop withdrawal. Today we discuss how the situation in Iraq is evolving with New York Times Baghdad correspondent Sam Dagher and Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman. Noah Feldman served as an advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003.

For more, read Sam Dagher's article, 2 Blasts Expose Security Flaws in Heart of Iraq, in the New York Times.

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