HEADLINES -- August 31, 2010 at 10:00 AM ET
5 U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan; Hurricane Earl Now Category 4 Storm
Five U.S. troops were killed by roadside bombs and insurgent fire in southern and eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday. Outside Kabul, a gunman opened fire on a bus transporting Afghan Supreme Court clerks, killing three and wounding 12.
Since Friday, 21 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan.
Taliban insurgents have waged a continuous campaign against government officials and have stepped up attacks in the run-up to Sept. 18 elections for the lower house of parliament, reports the Associated Press. Candidates and their aides have been threatened, kidnapped and killed, and many voters say they plan to stay away from the polls for fear of violence.
In an interview with foreign media, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander of the Afghan war, said:
"Levels of attacks have gone up and that's a manifestation of us increasing our resources substantially and taking away safe havens that the Taliban have been able to establish over the course of the last several years....I don't think anyone disagrees that the footprint of the Taliban has spread."
Petraeus also said that the overall strategy against the Taliban was reaching its "final stages," with the number of U.S. and NATO troops set to peak at 150,000 in the coming days.
The New York Times, citing Pentagon and NATO officials, reports that Petraeus has completed new guidelines for turning some security duties over to Afghan forces in the months ahead:
"The emphasis in his plan would be on shifting troops to train Afghan security forces to accelerate the pace at which local police officers and soldiers could successfully take over, allowing even more of the alliance force to depart. But some remaining foreign troops could move into areas near their current operations where militants remain active."
The security transition guidelines acknowledge, however, that Afghan forces are "nowhere near ready to take over the mission across the country."
Obama to Address Nation on Iraq
President Obama is set to deliver a primetime address Tuesday night about the end of U.S. combat missions in Iraq. Before he does that, the president will visit troops at Fort Bliss, Texas, to thank the military for its service in a war that's lasted more than seven years and claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 U.S. service members, hundreds of coalition forces and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
You can read about the political ramifications of the president's address over at The Morning Line. And be sure to tune in at 8 p.m. EDT for the NewsHour's coverage of President Obama's address from the Oval Office, including the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks.
Here's a small roundup of what others are saying Tuesday about President Obama and Iraq:
"Why do we need a speech marking the end of the combat mission in Iraq? It's because we're going to need, according to Obama, to understand the future of the war in Afghanistan and the interconnectedness of foreign and domestic policy in a way that reflects what Obama was able to do in Iraq."
"Historians will sort out the details of what went wrong in Iraq, but already it's possible to point to a key reason: American troops and diplomats entered the country with little understanding of its ethnic and sectarian divisions and of the deep societal scars left by decades of repressive rule by Saddam."
"Under U.S. tutelage, Iraqi security forces have built enough capacity to keep a modicum of order in most of the country. No, we didn't lose, but we can't claim victory, either....That will be the epitaph of the war in Afghanistan, too."
"I hope he spares a few extra minutes to assess the impact of seven years of war on American society--and American foreign policy....Aside from the very real blood and the very real money spent in Iraq, there were also other casualties, some of them hard to count and classify."
""America's imperial moment did not last long. And now, seven years later, the US is criticised for just about everything that happens here. Opinion is evenly divided between those who are glad to see the Americans go, and those who criticise them for leaving too soon and potentially laying Iraq open to fresh sectarian violence....America, it seems, cannot do anything right -- not even getting out."
Hurricane Earl Heading for U.S. Coast
Hurricane Earl, now a Category 4 storm, is making its way toward to U.S. coast after battering islands across the northeastern Caribbean with rain and winds that damaged homes and toppled power lines. Earl is forecast to brush the East Coast late Thursday, before curving back out to sea, potentially swiping New England or far-eastern Canada, reports the AP.
There's more tracking information from NOAA here.