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Public Views Shifting on War in Afghanistan

Jeffrey Brown speaks with editorial page editors about the public's view on the war in Afghanistan and increasing doubts over sending more troops.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The prospect of expanding the American presence in Afghanistan ran into new opposition today. It came as the nation marked the anniversary of 9/11, the event that triggered the war in Afghanistan.

    Ray Suarez has our lead story report.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The war in Afghanistan loomed over ceremonies at the Pentagon, marking the attacks of eight years ago today. President Obama paid tribute to all those who died on 9/11 and to more than 800 Americans killed to date in Afghanistan. And he said America's commitment to the fight has not wavered.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still. In defense of our nation, we will never waver; in pursuit of al-Qaida and its extremist allies, we will never falter.

    Let us renew our commitment to all those who serve in our defense: our courageous men and women in uniform and their families and all those who protect us here at home. Mindful that the work of protecting America is never finished, we will do everything in our power to keep America safe.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    But not long after Mr. Obama spoke, the Senate's leading Democrat on military issues formally came out against increasing American troop numbers in Afghanistan. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said the U.S. has "lost the initiative."

  • SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-Mich.:

    We should increase and accelerate our efforts to support the Afghan security forces in their efforts to become self-sufficient in delivering security to their nation before we consider whether to increase U.S. combat forces above the levels already planned for the next few months.

    We need a surge of Afghan security forces. Our support of their surge will show our commitment to the success of a mission that is clearly in our national security interest, without creating a bigger U.S. military footprint that provides propaganda fodder for the Taliban.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    A day earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned any call for more troops would get a tough reception in the House, as well.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., speaker of the House: I don't think there's a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Currently, the U.S. has 62,000 troops in Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that force will number 68,000, as part of a surge the president ordered earlier this year.

    But the American commander, General Stanley McChrystal, and other military leaders have warned the war is not going well. And McChrystal is expected to recommend adding thousands more soldiers and Marines.

    President Obama's election opponent last year, Republican Senator John McCain, lent his support today to another troop surge. He said the U.S. cannot wait.

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