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Grim Military Report Stirs Questions on Afghan Strategy

A sober assessment by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan calling conditions on the ground there "serious" have raised new questions about U.S. and NATO strategy against the Taliban. Experts speak with Gwen Ifill about the chances for victory in Afghanistan.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    When President Obama heads to Camp David tomorrow for an extended holiday weekend, he will have with him a report from the Afghanistan commander he put in place in June, General Stanley McChrystal.

    The contents remain confidential, but McChrystal has said his conclusion is that "The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable." The general is expected to ask for additional U.S. troops, even as the rising death toll has fueled public concern about the U.S. role there.

    So, is success in Afghanistan achievable?

    We take up that debate with Andrew Exum, a fellow with the Center for a New American Security. He was part of the initial assessment team that reviewed the situation in Afghanistan for General McChrystal earlier this summer. And Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel in the United States Army, he now teaches international relations and history at Boston University. His latest book is "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism."

    Andrew Exum, as you take stock of what the situation is right now in Afghanistan, is — is it — is success achievable?

  • ANDREW EXUM, Fellow:

    Yes, but.

    Yes, we can accomplish the president's limited aims of keeping Afghanistan an area which is not hospitable towards the types of transnational terror groups that attacked America on 9/11. But it's going to take a lot of effort. It's going to take more resources. It's going to take a much larger Afghan national security forces.

    And I think the question that Dr. Bacevich, and many are asking is, is, is it worth it? Is it worth the investment? The one thing I would say that I served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2004, but I also served in Iraq in 2003.

    And from really 2002 until about 2007, 2008, Iraq precluded any type of serious investment in Afghanistan. So, it's not so much that we have even tried to win in Afghanistan or really build up Afghan national security forces. Really, thus far, we have only committed just enough resources not to lose. We haven't quite made attempts to — to actually win just yet.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, Colonel Bacevich, is there a vested interest that the U.S. has in making this war — success in this war achievable?

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