HARI SREENIVASAN: Defense Secretary Robert Gates sought to reassure U.S. troops in Iraq today amid the new focus on Afghanistan. At a town hall meeting at the Kirkuk Air Base, he told soldiers and airmen their mission remains critical. He also said, what happened in Iraq could be a model for the U.S. surge in Afghanistan.
ROBERT GATES, U.S. Secretary of Defense: It is going to be a while. And it’s going to be a tough fight, particularly in the next — in the next 12 to 18 months. And, frankly, I think it will look a lot like the surge here in the first six or eight months. And the first six or eight months of 2007 were pretty tough here. But then I think, in the longer term, it is going to get a lot better
HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama also had more to say about setting a timetable of July 2011 for starting a troop drawdown in Afghanistan. He told the CBS program “60 Minutes” he wants Afghans to realize they are not — quote — “a permanent protectorate of the United States.”
A U.S. drone aircraft attack apparently killed a senior al-Qaida operative in Pakistan this week. A number of news organizations reported the strike today. CBS News cited local Pakistani media as saying the victim was the number-three official in al-Qaida.
There’s word the Blackwater security firm helped the CIA to seize suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Washington Post and The New York Times reported today that private guards were involved in snatch-and-grab raids from 2004 to 2006. It was unclear if that involvement would have been strictly legal. But a spokesman for the company, now called Xe Services denied the allegations.
A draft agreement was unveiled today at a U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. It came as street protests began and police rounded up dozens of demonstrators.
We have a report from Julian Rush of Independent Television News.
JULIAN RUSH: This was the first confrontation between police and demonstrators. The Danes have stepped up security at their borders and are expecting more to arrive next week, when the world’s leaders come here.
The talks themselves, though, did make a step forward with the release of a draft for the agreement those leaders are expecting to sign next week. But it is far from complete. On the two key issues of emissions cuts by rich countries and financial help for the poor, there’s either blank spaces or options left to be decided later.
ED MILIBAND, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, United Kingdom: Narrowing down is what we need to do at this stage. The task remains very urgent. And we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is big emissions cuts, and proper finance for developing countries, and a proper system of verification leading to a legal treaty.
JULIAN RUSH: The choices in the draft mean a final agreement could be ambitious or very weak.
So, it says the world should reduce global emissions by anything from a weaker 50 percent to an ambitious 95 percent by 2050, developed countries’ share of that, anything from 75 percent to over 95 percent, with a wide range of interim targets for 2020.
But there are huge gaps, too — on the crucial issue of money for poor countries, nothing. With gaps like that, it means there’s still a lot to play for, before there’s something world leaders can sign up to here next week.
European leaders, though, did reach agreement in Brussels on how much money they will give towards a $10 billion fast-start fund for immediate help for poor countries. The draft agreement and the money have revived hopes a deal is possible in Copenhagen, but time is melting away, with little sign anyone’s prepared to compromise yet.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. envoy to the talks called the draft a constructive text.
In economic news, retail sales were up more than expected last month. The Commerce Department announced an increase of well over 1 percent for November. And Wall Street was mostly higher in response. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 65 points, to close at 10471. But the Nasdaq lost half-a-point, to close at 2190. For the week, the Dow gained nearly 1 percent. The Nasdaq was down a fraction.
Also today, oil prices finished below $70 a barrel for the first time in two months.
Actor Gene Barry has died at a rest home in Los Angeles. His family gave no cause of death. His career included a number of roles on Broadway and in Hollywood. But he gained fame on TV as Bat Masterson in the 1950s Western program. Later, he starred in other TV series, “Burke’s Law” and “The Name of the Game.” Gene Barry was 90 years old.
Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the broadcast with a look at what you will find tonight on our Web site, but, for now, back to Jim.