FROM Lawrence Korb
The candidates, up close and personal but light on policy Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were in the same place, but not at the same time. Even so, it's being called a preview of the formal debates to come. The topic was National Security, but NBC's Matt Lauer is taking heat for dwelling on Clinton's e-mails and failing to call Trump on misrepresentations. That's renewed debate about coverage of the campaign, with reporters accused of giving minor issues "false equivalence" with major ones. We hear what the candidates said that was new about national security. Did anything happen that might change voters' minds one way or the other?
America's Longest War Is Going to Continue With NATO troops pulling out of Afghanistan, attacks by the Taliban are increasing, and American soldiers will stay until the end of next year. The White House was divided, but President Obama approved an expanded mission, which will also include jets, bombers and drones. Newly elected President Ashraf Ghani wants the American presence, but he’s been unable to form a government. Yesterday he fired the entire cabinet. The Taliban is taking advantage of political instability. Today, police officers and others were killed in several incidents across the country.
The Return of the Jihadi and Rethinking Our Failed War on Terror “The US has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria.” That’s according to today’s New York Times, which reports that the intended target is the ultra-extremist Islamic State, which now holds much of Iraq and an entire province in Syria. The US is planning airstrikes in Syria—not targeting the Assad regime, but the Islamic State, considered a terrorist threat to American interests.
Kerry, Military Advisors and the US's Role in Stopping ISIS in Iraq This weekend the militant Islamic group ISIS captured two major border crossings and 4 cities in the north and west of Iraq. Last week as the insurgency intensified, President Obama offered military advisors to help the struggling Iraqi military, but no boots on the ground. Today Secretary of State John Kerry assured Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the US support in Iraq will be “intense and sustained.” After a two-hour meeting with the Prime Minister, Secretary Kerry spoke to the press in Baghdad, repeating calls for the Iraqi leadership to immediately form a more inclusive government. The President may yet order air strikes to help beat back ISIS, which has taken over a large amount of Iraqi territory in a very short time.
Afghan Hostility to US Presence Endangers Mission Green berets reportedly are talking to Afghan villagers after the alleged killings of at least 16 people, including nine children, by an American soldier. The Taliban has threatened reprisals, and tensions are very high, with President Karzai calling the incident "unforgiveable." In the US, a recent poll shows 60 percent find the war no longer worth fighting, but political leaders are divided. We hear from Kabul and Washington. Can trust be restored? Is the withdrawal strategy likely to change?
Iraq: After American Soldiers Are Gone Out of 170,0000 US troops that have been to Iraq in the past nine years, 6000 are left. In three weeks, they'll be gone too, leaving the world's largest embassy guarded by 16,000 private contractors and a very uncertain legacy. Tomorrow, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, President Obama will give thanks for the sacrifices that have been made for what he once called "a dumb war." Yesterday, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at his side, the President spoke about the immediate future. We hear some disturbing assessments of what the future might bring.
Iraq: After American Soldiers Are Gone Republican candidates are roasting President Obama for leaving Iraq too soon, but it was George W. Bush who negotiated withdrawal by the end of this year. Out of 170,000 US troops that have been to Iraq in the past nine years, 4500 Americans died and 32,000 were wounded. In three weeks, the 6000 that are left will be gone too. The dollar cost was $823 billion. Tomorrow, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the President will give thanks for the sacrifices that have been made for what he once called "a dumb war." Have both administrations been more concerned about domestic politics than policy in the Middle East? Did the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi civilians mean US troops had to go? Can Iraq's armed forces keep the peace? Is Prime Minister Maliki another strong man?
The Death of Moammar Gadhafi The dictator who terrorized Libya for 42 years was killed today, shot while trying to escape rebel forces in his hometown of Sirte. Since rebel forces deposed Moammar Gadhafi two months ago, he’s been on the run. Today, al Jazeera TV aired gruesome footage of armed men dragging a wounded, bloody person said to be Gadhafi. A separate clip showed his half-naked corpse, apparently shot in the head. When the Transitional National Council confirmed that he was dead, Libyans danced in the streets. We hear reaction from Tripoli, Tunesia, Qattar and Washington, DC.
The Death of Moammar Gadhafi Since rebel forces deposed Moammar Gadhafi two months ago, he's been on the run. Today, al Jazeera TV aired gruesome footage of armed men dragging a wounded and bloody person said to be Gadhafi in his hometown of Sirte. Although much of the world has already recognized the Transitional National Council as Libya's new government, even with the death today of the mercurial leader, Libya is not a unified country. What's next for an oil-rich nation divided by tribal and sectarian rivalries, where the potential outcomes range from democracy to civil war?
Iraq: That 'Other' War As the US prepares to send 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan, Iraq has seen a dramatic decrease in violence. But politics is another matter. Today, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi was given a few more days to approve or veto a new election law that is crucial to the benchmarks established for US withdrawal.
Iraq: That 'Other' War As the US prepares to send 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan, Iraq has seen a dramatic decrease in violence, less today than at any time since the US-led invasion of 2003. All 120,000 American troops are out of the cities, replaced by Iraqi forces. Complete US withdrawal is supposed to be paved by elections early next year, but powerful ethnic differences — all too familiar -- have caused it to be delayed. Today, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi was given a few more days to approve or veto a new election law that is crucial to the benchmarks established for withdrawal. Could the inability to form a stable government mean a return of violence? Would American troops be pressed back into action? What would that mean for President Obama's plan to increase forces in Afghanistan?
At War with the Enemy and with Ourselves Little is known about what triggered yesterday's deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood military base. The suspected shooter is an Army psychiatrist who had complained of harassment for being a Muslim and was reportedly desperately trying to avoid upcoming deployment to a war zone. The case of Major Nidal Malik Hassan has raised questions about the military's ability to deal with mental health issues. Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress was Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration.
US Troop Withdrawal to Test Iraq's Stability Next Tuesday is the official deadline for US combat troops to withdraw from Iraq's towns and cities. At Iraq's request, the American presence already is being pulled back. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki calls the withdrawal a "great victory" for the Iraqi people. But many Iraqi people have other ideas. A new wave of bombings has now killed more than 200 people in the past two days. Has sectarian violence already resumed between Shiites and Sunnis? Will the Kurds rebel against a central government dominated by Arabs? Will Iran intervene, in part to divert attention away from its own problems?
Russia's Attack on Georgia and the US Occupation of Iraq Russia claims it has started its pullback from Georgia, but its troops and tanks remain near the capital city. Sounding conciliatory in his latest televised speech, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called for negotiations to prevent "the definitive estrangement of our two countries." It was his attack on the rebellious province of South Ossettia that provoked Russia's overwhelming response. We hear from the scene and debate whether, after invading Iraq, the US is using a double standard when it condemns Russia's action across its own, international border.
Iraq, Afghanistan the the Presidential Candidates With a new poll showing Americans split down the middle on what to do in Iraq, John McCain and Barack Obama went point-counterpoint today on Iraq, Afghanistan and America's role in the world. Obama defended his timetable for troop withdrawal, listing the strain on the military, the worsening situation in Afghanistan and the failure of Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences as proof that the surge did not accomplish what it was supposed to. McCain had a scornful rejoinder , accusing Obama of losing one war while trying to win another. Has Obama adjusted his policies because the surge has reduced violence? Is McCain pursuing "victory" in an unwinnable war? We ask those questions and get some perspective from an Iraqi point of view.
Will the Senate write a healthcare bill in secret? While Democrats and Republicans argue White House relations with Russia, another question is being decided behind closed doors: who gets help buying health insurance and who doesn't? We hear how the pros and cons are being shrouded in secrecy.
What is Trump's plan for Middle East peace? On his first foreign tour, President Trump has promised "peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Are there any details for re-starting talks that have been stalled for the past three years?
Is the threat from Russia missing from the Russia meddling probe? There's much being made about the Trump administration's possible ties with Russia. But the bottom line is Russia's effort to influence American democracy. Do the President and his aides care enough to take action before voters go back to the polls?
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.