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FROM THIS EPISODE

NATO's latest strategy in Afghanistan is to forget trying for a military victory and to concentrate on "reintegration" and "reconciliation."  We talk with the deputy to General Stanley McCrystal and others about what that means and how it might be accomplished. Also, President Obama's new $3.8 trillion budget, and an update White House plans for repealing 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'

Banner image: Members of the International Security Assistance Force talk with village elders during a shura. Photo: French Ministry of Defense

Producers:
Christian Bordal
Gary Scott
Frances Anderton

Reporter's Notebook Congress Takes Up 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' 5 MIN, 24 SEC

In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama repeated his long-standing promise to repeal the current policy on gays in the military. At a congressional hearing tomorrow, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs, will announce plans for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. In the meantime, they won't take action to discharge service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by somebody else. Eli Lake is senior reporter on national security for the Washington Times.

Main Topic Time to Negotiate Peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan? 37 MIN, 46 SEC

Even the generals concede they can't win a military victory against the Taliban with just 18 months left until US combat forces begin to withdraw. Their best hope is to persuade low-ranking fighters to switch sides and then to negotiate with Taliban leaders who renounce violence and agree to share power. But that won't happen, they say, unless the insurgency can be weakened first, and that won't be easy. They've have become so strong that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the Security Council that a "deteriorating” situation could become "irreversible.” We talk with NATO's second-ranking commander and others about military realities, the Karzai government, the Taliban and al Qaeda. What about Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the influence of this year's mid-term elections in the US?

Guests:
Nick Parker, Deputy Commander, International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
Sarah Chayes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (@CarnegieEndow)
Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani journalist
Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution (@VFelbabBrown)

Descent into Chaos

Ahmed Rashid

Making News Big Numbers and the White House Budget 7 MIN, 47 SEC

Introducing his $3.8 trillion budget today, President Obama first said he inherited a massive deficit run up by the Bush Administration. Then he laid out what he called a plan that's "more efficient and more effective.”  While welcoming new ideas from either party, he rejected outright "the same old grandstanding when the cameras are on and the same irresponsible budget policies when the cameras are off.” Michael Scherer is White House correspondent for Time magazine.

Guests:
Michael Scherer, Time Magazine (@michaelscherer)

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