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Afghanistan Strategy Troublesome to Some Lawmakers

Ahead of President Barack Obama's address to the nation, Gwen Ifill speaks with policymakers to gauge reaction to the president's Afghanistan strategy that calls for deploying 30,000 additional troops.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    President Obama faced a critical moment today on his new Afghan war strategy, after a three-month review. He planned to address the nation tonight from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

    Gwen Ifill has our lead story report.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The president is expected to announce tonight that he's sending 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan, with the first contingent on their way by Christmas. Those first Marines are bound for Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold.

    Marine Captain Andrew Terrell is there now.

  • CAPT. ANDREW TERRELL:

    We're going to change the dynamic in the area by bringing more forces in here, expanding our influence, and making this area secure enough where people feel comfortable to move back into this part of the town.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The president is also expected to ask NATO allies for at least 5,000 additional soldiers. That would bring the total number of foreign troops in Afghanistan to almost 150,000, including 100,000 Americans.

    Tonight's address will include a plan for U.S. forces to begin leaving Afghanistan before the president's first term ends.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described the exit strategy this morning.

  • ROBERT GIBBS:

    We're not going to be there forever, and this can't be open-ended. We have to talk about transitioning our forces out and putting forward the Afghans to provide their own security and stability.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Many of the new American units will focus on building Afghan security. The NATO command will train Afghan soldiers and police, with the goal of having 230,000 in place by next October.

    On the streets of Kabul today, some said that is the right focus.

  • NAZIR AHMAD:

    Increasing foreign troops in Afghanistan will not change anything. It will remain the same as usual. It would be better to strengthen the Afghan people, national army and police, because every country is rebuilt by its own people.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai was briefed on the new U.S. plan in an hour-long videoconference with President Obama.

    But Mr. Obama must also persuade U.S. lawmakers that the wider Afghan effort is worth it. And it was clear today that could be a tough sell, especially in the president's own party.

  • Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern:

  • REP. JIM MCGOVERN, D-Mass.:

    I want to first commend the president for thinking long and hard about — about this issue. And that kind of deliberation is a welcome change from the previous administration. Unfortunately, if the reports are true, I believe he has reached the wrong conclusion.

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