December 3rd, 2009
08:30 PM ET

What's the role of Pakistan?

When President Obama took to the world stage to detail U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, he hammered home a key foreign policy principle: Success in Afghanistan is "inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan."

The United States says Pakistan looms large because Taliban and al Qaeda militants operating in Afghanistan also have had a presence in Pakistan's northwestern region near the Afghan border and have threatened the governments and troops in both countries.

But how will the country help the U.S.? CNN correspondent Reza Saya in Pakistan examines.

December 3rd, 2009
07:06 PM ET

Your View: Will Obama's plan work?

Since Tuesday night, the strategy debate's been on - Reader Stanley Scott writes, "I do not agree with the President on this one because he has been misinformed. This war does not require more troops to achieve stability in Afghanistan." While Carol writes, "Yes, it will work if we ever give this President a chance. He is smart and honest and has the best interest of this country at heart."

Even before President Obama formally announced his plan for Afghanistan, the debate over whether it was the correct strategy was well under way.  Obama said the plan has three objectives: Denying al Qaeda a safe haven; reversing the Taliban's momentum; and strengthening the Afghan government.

What do you think? Will the plan work? Does the strategy have the correct objectives?

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Filed under: Decision: Afghanistan • Your View
December 3rd, 2009
07:05 PM ET

NATO allies mull resources for Afghan transition

Update: December 4, 7:32 a.m. ET: Non-U.S. nations operating under the NATO command in Afghanistan have promised to send 7,000 more troops to Afghanistan, NATO's secretary-general said Friday.

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss fresh troop contributions for Afghanistan, NATO allies are already discussing how to hand the country back to Afghanistan.

In the wake of President Obama's announcement that the U.S. will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, NATO spokesman James Appathurai says the alliance already has commitments from other members for at least 5,000 troops. Other officials from NATO and ISAF put the figure closer to 7,000 based on promises made in private, but not yet announced. FULL POST

December 3rd, 2009
05:20 PM ET

Gates: U.S. could transfer some security now

The first areas to be transferred to Afghan security in July 2011 - the date set in President Obama's strategy - will probably be in the least contested areas, “some of which perhaps could happen now,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday. He was speaking at the second day of Congressional hearings on Obama's Afghanistan plan, which he outlined Tuesday night.

"I think something that is important to clarify is that this is going to be a gradual process of transition, and it will probably - the transition to Afghan security responsibility - will start presumably in the least contested areas, some of which perhaps could happen now," Gates said.

A Pentagon spokesman said some of the western and northern Afghanistan provinces have good security, but that the plan is to start transferring authority in summer 2011.

The day before, Gates had noted the administration will conduct "a thorough review" of the Afghan strategy in December 2010. "If it appears that the strategy's not working, and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011, then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself," Gates said.

More from the congressional hearings

December 3rd, 2009
01:41 PM ET

Around the Web: Reaction to Obama’s speech, take two

A round-up of news and commentaries from CNN as well as other media and Web sites.

When President Obama announced plans Tuesday to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, it appeared to be a major escalation of the war in that country.

But, foreign affairs analyst Fareed Zakaria says that the United States may in fact be "scaling down" the goals of the military operation.

In an interview with CNN, Zakaria gave the new plan a good chance of succeeding in achieving its more limited objectives.

“I think a surge like this can work in the tactical sense of giving us an upper hand, of putting the Taliban on the defense. But ultimately it's not going to turn Afghanistan into France,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fawaz A. Gerges - a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London University – took issue with Obama’s goal of beginning to withdraw U.S. troops in 2011.  

“If Obama thinks he will be able to transfer security to an Afghan central authority in two years, he will be in for a rude awakening. That tall order requires more than a decade of nation- and institution-building,” he writes.

Thomas Ricks, the author of two books on the Iraq war and a veteran military affairs reporter, has reaction from U.S. Gen. David Petraeus to the president’s speech at his blog at Foreign Policy magazine.

“I agree with General McChrystal that the situation in Afghanistan is "serious," but the mission is "doable." Needless to say, the tasks there are and will remain exceedingly challenging, complex, frustrating, and downright difficult,” he said.

And, finally, over the Council on Foreign Relations, five experts assess the president’s new Afghanistan strategy.

“Mr. Obama is working to persuade the American people that our interests in Afghanistan are worth sacrificing for, while he places a ceiling on what the United States is prepared to do and for how long,” writes Richard N. Hass, the president of CFR. “Therein lies the dilemma, and like all dilemmas, it can only be managed, not resolved.”

December 3rd, 2009
12:48 PM ET

Uncle Sam is getting picky

Despite two wars, President Obama's 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan and the Army's goal to swell its ranks by 15,000 this fiscal year, potential recruits are finding that it's a lot tougher to sign up, according to

"Military recruiting is through the roof," said Mackenzie Eaglen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. "In fact, they're turning people away."

The dismal job market has put the armed forces in an enviable position. Unemployment is at a 26-year high of 10.2%, and the U.S. economy has lost 7.3 million jobs since the start of 2008. This has prompted many Americans to consider the military for work, despite the prospect of armed combat in Afghanistan or Iraq.

"It's just like any industry, when there's a glut of employees vying for a certain number of jobs, the employer can be a little bit more choosey," said Army spokesman Wayne Hall, a civilian at the Pentagon. "That's just the nature of supply and demand."

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Filed under: Troops
December 3rd, 2009
09:13 AM ET

Logistical problems could plague U.S. troop surge

Thirty thousand more troops by the summer. It's a daunting challenge laid out by President Obama, and it's now having the U.S. military scrambling to get it done.

Obama said Tuesday night the additional 30,000 troops would begin deploying early next year at "the fastest pace possible."

But before Obama's address, military leaders said it would be all but impossible to rush new troops to Afghanistan as quickly as they did Iraq.

A lot of it is going to be dictated by conditions on the ground: Can they build the new bases, the new roads, new infrastructure to handle this influx of troops?

Read the full story

December 3rd, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Stand by … to stand by

It’s not always a glamorous life: Part of CNN’s team in Kabul waits for a plane to Kandahar. And waits. And waits. Some fog, a few delays, a cancellation, a nap and 14.5 hours later, the team finally boards the plane. Watch the video they filmed for CNN International’s Back|Story.