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Leaders Warn Afghan War ‘Serious and Deteriorating’

With warnings that the situation in Afghanistan is "serious and deteriorating," military leaders say that more troops are needed to regain control.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Finally tonight, coming up with the right strategy and the right number of troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, and to Margaret Warner.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Five months into President Obama's stepped-up campaign in Afghanistan, attacks by the Taliban and its allies are on the rise. American and Afghan casualties are growing, too. More U.S. troops have been killed already this year than in all of 2008. At the same time, polls show declining U.S. public support for the war.

    Now, as the top American commander, General Stanley McChrystal, readies his major strategy review, debate is growing over whether more U.S. troops will be needed.

    Yesterday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen offered a stark assessment on CNN's "State of the Union" with John King.

  • ADM. MIKE MULLEN:

    I think it is serious, and it is deteriorating, and I've said that over the last couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated. Their tactics, just in my recent visits out there and talking with our troops certainly indicate that.

    JOHN KING, anchor, CNN: You have no doubt he'll ask for more troops?

  • ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN:

    No, actually, we're not at a point yet where he's made any decisions about asking for additional troops. His guidance from me and from the secretary of defense was to go out and assess where you are and then tell us what you need. And we'll get to that point.

    And I want to, I guess, assure you or reassure you that he hasn't asked for any additional troops up to this point in time.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Separately, top regional U.S. commanders in Afghanistan told President Obama's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, this weekend that they need more troops.

    For more on this, we go to two experts who've been to Afghanistan this summer. Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute of the Study of War, a Washington think-tank, she was in Afghanistan for four weeks this summer as part of General McChrystal's strategy assessment team. The views she expresses this evening are her own.

    And Thomas Johnson, a research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, he co-authored a piece on foreignpolicy.com this past week entitled, "Afghanistan is Today's Vietnam."

    And welcome to you both.

    Kimberly Kagan, I'll begin with you. Admiral Mullen calling it not just serious, the situation in Afghanistan, but deteriorating. Do you agree with that, and what is the evidence you look to, to tell you that?

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