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Afghanistan Strategy, Budget Pitch Top Week’s News

Columnists Mark Shields and David Brooks mull how President Barack Obama's budget blueprint is faring in Congress and discuss his strategy for growing resources and personnel in Afghanistan.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Gentlemen, it's good to have you both with us.

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    It's good to be with you, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Let's start with the president's rolling out the refined plan on Afghanistan and Pakistan today. David, you're just back from Afghanistan. Have they defined the problem correctly? And is this the right solution?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I think the thing that strikes me is that the president's plan flows very organically from what I was hearing on the ground, not only from the military people, but from aid workers, from U.N. people, from a whole range of people.

    I think there's a rough consensus in the country about what to do, and the president's plan encompasses it. And the two big sides are the military side — we're going to be sending a lot of Marines, especially Marines, but also a Stryker brigade to the south of the country, where the terrorists have essentially had free reign, and that's going to mean a tough summer, with high casualty rates this summer, and probably a five-year commitment. But there's a consensus you have to get the security.

    But the other part of the plan is the civilian side. And we've had this huge military presence and a very small and not-so-effective civilian presence. But there is a consensus we really need to get heavily involved in the country for agriculture, but especially for law and order and governance, to give the local governing institutions some credibility. And this does that, as well.

    So it is nation-building. It is a very big doubling-down. The president sort of tried to mask that over with some moderate rhetoric, but this is a big, long commitment, but it definitely reflects what people in the country think is needed.

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