tv Anderson Cooper 360 CNN May 2, 2012 1:00am-2:00am EDT
people about a half an hour ago. he arrived just after nightfall. reporters were sworn to secrecy until air force one touched down at the air base that often comes under taliban mortar fight. he went from there to kabul where he and hamid karzai signed that strategic partnership agreement. it prom is americansupport for afghanistan through 2024. the president -- excuse me, 2014. the president made some brief remark, headed back to bagram for a rally with the troops. the vast majority, about 90,000, are american right now. a short time later, just about half an hour ago, mr. obama spoke to the united states laying out his vision for ending america's longest war. saying afghanistan is where the war began and where it will end.
here's a portion of his address. >> today i signed a historic agreement between the united states and afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries. a future in which afghans are responsible for the security of their nation and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states. a future in which war ends and new chapter begins. ten years ago, the united states and our allies went to war to make sure that al qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated. over the last three years, the tide has turned. we broke the taliban's momentum. we built strong afghan security forces. we devastated al qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of their leaders.
one year ago, from the base here in afghanistan, our troops launched the on race that killed osama bin laden. the goal that i set to defeat al qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is now within our reach. we have begun a transition to afghans responsibility for security. already nearly half of the afghan people live in places where afghan security forces are moving in to the lead. this month, at a nato summit in chicago, our coalition is let a goal for afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. international troops will continue to train, advise and assist the afghans. as we do step forward, our troops will be coming home. last year, we removed 10,000 u.s. troops from afghanistan. another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. after that, reductions will
continue at a steady pace with more and more of our troops coming home. and as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country. as we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm time line. the answer is clear. our goal is not to build a country in america's image or to eradicate every vestige of the taliban. these measures would require many more american lives. our goal is to destroy al qaeda and we are on a path to do that. afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. that requires a clear time line to wind down the war. others will ask why don't we leave immediately? that answer is also clear. we must give afghanistan the
opportunity to stabilize. otherwise, our gains could be lost and al qaeda could establish itself once more. and as commander in chief i refuse to let that happen. we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home. it's time to renew america. an america where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams. a united america. of grit. and resilience. where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown manhattan, and we build our future as one people. as one nation. this time of war began in afghanistan. and this is where it will end. with faith in each other and our eyes fixed on the future. let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace. may god bless our troops and may god bless the united states of america. >> let's get quick reaction on the speech, the politics surrounding the bin laden
anniversary and the reality of what's happening on the ground in afghanistan. with us, ari fleischer, white house press secretary for george w. bush. he's had an inside view to trips like this one. paul begala. he's advising the pro obama super pac right now. and gloria borger, peter bergen and a fascinating read, taking you inside this search. let's get a quick reaction from everybody about this speech. >> i think you have seen the power of incumbency. but i have to add also, i think in the best communist, post-9/11 world both parties are split about foreign policy. there's an ambivalence about fighting and winning and we want everyone to come home. we want our troops home. this is a difficult time in foreign policy. it's hard to see this being a significant issue in the election.
>> paul begala? >> i think you're right the power of incumbency. but when barack obama took office, there were 32,000 american troops fighting in afghanistan and now there are almost 90,000 and there were 160,000 fighting in iraq and and now a very few. he's put a stamp on the military conduct in the region and he's responsible for every one of the troops he saw today. >> according the president some 68,000 to remain until the end around 2018. gloria borger? >> i think what the president did in going over there was essentially a strategic embrace of afghanistan saying we're not going to dessert you. we are going to be committed to you at least until 2024. and he came with a plan, anderson, and said this is how we're going to make the transits -- transition to the sovereignty of afghanistan, to having its
own troops lead the way quicker than some of us thought in their own defense. and also, talked about interestingly enough a negotiated peace in which he said we would start talking to the taliban. i think that's going to be quite controversial. >> david gergen? >> excellent speech. interesting how much more forceful and how much more of a leader he is on the foreign affairs front than in domestic policy. here's a man who had a plan going back to the campaign. he said he'd try to crush al qaeda and take out bin laden. he's done both. he did it tonight by not taking praise himself, but by giving credit to the troops as he should, even a he extended american's stay in the region. >> you call this an agreement to make an agreement. what do you mean? >> well, you know, this -- according to the senior administration officials i spoke to this afternoon, there's going to be a year when they negotiate
the money for the afghan national security forces and the number of troops on the group. and you know, some of that is conditions based. to get to the forces agreement which is a technical term for longer -- this is what's described as a nonbinding executive agreement. i don't think that really means very much in practice. it's not a treaty. >> more symbolic? >> it's -- but, you know, i don't want to discount the fact this an important milestone on a long process that's been going on for a while. i think this says something big about president obama. he's an anti-war president, came in on that ticket. he tripled the number of troops in afghanistan. now he's saying they're staying for another dozen years. he quadrupled the number of drone attacks, he intervened in libya very quickly. some people thought of him as a negotiator rather than somebody who was very comfortable with the use of force in certain
circumstances. >> so much though of what he talked about tonight depends on the afghan national forces being able to stand up to go on patrol, to have operations. you and i have been out on patrol in helmand province with the afghan troops. i think you and i were on a patrol when we were with afghan troops who stole some corn from local villages and the u.s. military made them give it back. >> i've been on patrol with afghan policemen who were smoking pot. i'm scratching my head of thinking of a significant operation that the afghan military has conducted independently. in iraq, you could point to that, for instance where they went down to basra and did a big military operation in 2007. that is yet to happen with the afghan national security forces. are they getting better? yes. but it's going to be a while. >> peter, also i want to play something that president obama said about al qaeda. let's listen.
>> and one year ago, from the base here in afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed osama bin laden. the goal that i set to defeat al qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild is now within our reach. >> you've written a definitive book about the hunt for bin laden. the president talks about hunting al qaeda. the taliban, not much taliban presence in afghanistan any more. the taliban is still a presence and is able to launch from the capital itself. >> yeah, but i think these are spectacular attacks that don't necessarily mean -- i can't think of a single major city that the taliban have ever held. they can't do a tet offensive on kabul. the relative weakness -- you have the afghan national security forces who are weak and you have the taliban who are stronger than they have been in the past.
you know, if we sort of left tomorrow, the taliban might take over a large chunk of the country. not because they're strong, but because the afghan forces are weak. having the plan with the advisers going forward after 2014 is critical. >> just yesterday, a lot of people didn't know this. and you asked whether the white house was overselling the impact of bin laden's death, hyping it for political gain. what do you think of this trip now? >> well, anderson, whether or not you like president obama, any veteran of the white house would have to -- i think ari would agree with this, would have to admire the professionalism that went into this in the last few days. they had the public relations offensive that built up to the climactic, dramatic motion on television with this trip. all of it has been done partly for substantive reasons and other parts looking towards november.
i have felt as ari felt that they went overboard in their ad on -- going after romney. i thought they were excessive in a lot of this. but it does go with the territory. what i think has been left out of the discussion and peter would be good on this, we have -- we are leaving one era where bin laden was threatening us and now we're moving into a new era that's more dangerous than it looks. pakistan is building 12 nuclear weapons a year. you have al qaeda -- islamic militants are taking more political control of the middle east in places like egypt and so that has all been left out of this. i do think that's a quality of what the white house has said, basically we're now safe when we are not. there is a lot out there in this new world that we really ought to be -- that's where i think the republicans ought to go. what are we going to do about
this new world into we we are emerging? >> gloria, i mean, was this good politics? >> was what -- >> was this trip? >> well, it's interesting. everything is going to be seen as a political move and given the fact that they released the web video on the killing of bin laden and would mitt romney have gone down the same path and they got in a fight, they set themselves up for this trip. but -- so people are going to see it through a political lens. from their point of view, however, let me say that what the president was able to do this evening was to tell the american public that he is winding down or two unpopular wars, iraq, afghanistan. you know, southern out of ten americans want to get out of afghanistan. most of them want to get out tomorrow. and not wait until 2014. so from the president's point of
view, this works. >> we have to take a quick break. we'll have more with our panelists. you mentioned mitt romney. we are anticipating a statement from him. a lot more to talk about in our special coverage. let us know what you think. do you think the u.s. should get out of sooner, what did you think of the president? tweet me now, @anderson cooper. up next, a more fiery message to the troops and new details about how risky conditions on the ground -- well, just how risky they still are.
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we did not choose this war. this war came to us on 9/11. and there are a whole bunch of folks here who signed up after 9/11. we don't go looking for a fight. but when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do. >> president obama tonight at bagram air base ten and a half years after al qaeda attacked and american forces drove them out a year to the day after navy s.e.a.l.s shot and killed osama bin laden. mr. obama working without a
teleprompter, looking energized speaking to the troops. he thanked them for their service. >> when the final chapter of this war is written, historians will look back and say not only was this the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, but all of you also represented the values of america in an exemplary way. i could not be prouder of you. and i want you to understand i know it's still tough. i know the battle's not yet over. some of your buddies are going to get injured. some of your buddies may get killed. and there's going to be heart break and pain and difficulty
ahead. but there's a light on the horizon. because of the sacrifices you've made. not only were we able to blunt the taliban momentum, not only were we able to drive al qaeda out of afghanistan, but slowly and systematically we've been able to decimate the ranks of al qaeda. and a year ago we were finally able to bring osama bin laden to justice. >> this trip not only a surprise, but a race to get the president in and out of the war zone as quickly as possible. bagram has been a major target. so is the area surrounding the presidential palace in kabul. which came under heavy rocket attack a couple of weeks ago. which explains why president obama did not linger there today.
for more on the tight security around the trip and all trips, we're joined by nick paton walsh and john king. nick, it does not get much riskier for a president on the ground. what kind of security measures went into this visit, particularly considering the attacks we saw in kabul just weeks ago. >> initially i would say the afghan media broke this about 6:00 local time. u.s. and afghan officials tried to clarify that. we heard from one official that everybody in the presidential palace was sent home around noon but still there were attempts to keep this under wraps. the path he took, pretty much as safe as you can imagine. flying into bagram. a base occasionally attacked. but protected capability of air force one. then the helicopter ride into the capital. and the motorcade into the presidential palace. we saw a city in lock down. little air traffic. we normally hear many
helicopters buzzing low over the city during the evening. but nothing really until about an hour before we heard news of the president's arrival. suggesting that the rumors of a very important person arriving could be true. >> you see dawn breaking there. significant because the president wanted to get in and out under the cover of darkness. and the president has left afghanistan. john, you know what it's like to travel with the president like this. you went to baghdad with president bush. from being on air force one, what is that like? >> it's a dicey ride in. perhaps they're overstaying the -- overstating the risk, but they want to be extra cautious with the president. you showed the pictures of this president's visit. it's a 747. has the united states stamped on the side. that big flag on the back. they advised president bush when i took that trip six years ago next month to baghdad, they advised the same thing to president obama. they rather have them take a
plane that doesn't look any different. he wanted to take this to send a signal. president bush wanted to do that. i was recruited and just left the white house beat six years ago. they white house said would you do this on a secret basis. tell as few people as possible within the news organization. when you get on the plane, they tell you turn off all electronic devices, shut off the televisions, shut off the clocks. they don't want anyone to see that plane coming in because of the risk of a mortar fire or rocket propelled grenade or something like that. the way out is dicier. everyone knows the president is on the ground. everyone's seen the pictures of air force one. they know it's the 747. in the case of the trip i took and this trip today. when i left baghdad six years ago, closed all the window, shut everything down. they don't want an electronic signal off that airplane that somebody could track to fire a missile at. air force one is like revving the car with your foot on the brake and gun the gas and a 747 going up at 45 or more of an angle. you feel the gs. they got that plane up and out as fast as they could. >> nick, you're on the ground in
kabul. are afghan forces in control? do you see u.s. forces, international forces or mostly just afghan forces on the streets? >> to be honest in kabul it's very much an afghan controlled city. you occasionally see u.s. vehicles going around. but they maintain a low position. the question is how good a job are they doing. i think you heard much of president obama's speech extolling the virtues of the afghan security force, which to be honest on the ground as you heard peter say is very patchy. i've seen american soldiers regularly express deep frustration of lack of professionalism of the afghan security forces. but because of this expedited timeline, we're told on a regular basis how good the security forces are and how they can keep the insurgency in check. how they can keep that insurgency in check.
>> we've also seen by afghan security forces against u.s. personnel and forces. stay safe. john king, thank you very much. more now with peter bergen. joining also is fran townsend and major general james "spider" marks. fran, strategically, as you look at this agreement that's been signed, how significant is it? >> it is sort of a rhetorical commitment to the afghans. and it is significant he went there to sign it. >> he could have done this via electronically. >> that's right. but it makes sense that he wanted to go there as evidence of his commitment to afghanistan. i will tell you the most important part is will it get funded by congress and what will troop levels be. he talked about once you get to the 68,000 in september, there will be a steady drawdown through 2014 until we're out of afghanistan.
but that timetable has to be recommended and the numbers will have to be recommended by u.s. generals on the ground and what will that look like and what is the afghan force ability to fill that vacuum. >> there's also the question about what other international forces will still be there and willing to stay. there's a nato meeting coming up. there's going to be talking about nato funding for this international force. we've seen a number over the years the role international forces have been to play. there are strict rules of engagement for some of the various forces. >> some countries have pulled out. the australians who aren't part of nato pulled out. i think at the nato summit on may 20th in chicago, if nato is going to survive as an idea, it's got to make the afghan thing plausibly work. and i think $4 billion is what's required to fund the afghan national security forces. in the grand scheme, that's not a great deal of money. $500 million has been promised by the afghans. i'm sure at chicago there will be some agreement for some level of the money from the french or
the british that the president will be able to say yes we have people who are willing to spend -- to finance this. we've been spending $100 billion a year in afghanistan right now. $4 billion is a small amount. >> a lot of americans hearing that are going to think that's a huge amount of money. to those who say look at corruption in afghanistan and where does this money go and this is a poor country. how come it cost billions and billions of dollars to fund a military? >> well, as a factual matter it costs about a 50th. for an american soldier and an afghan soldier, the cost is about a 50th less. so from a cost point of view, it makes sense. on the morning of september 11, america lost $5 billion in the course of three hours in terms of the impact it had on the american economy. from a pure cost benefit analysis, probably worth spending a fair amount of money in afghanistan to prevent that.
>> general marks, do you think there was reason to have increasing confidence in the afghan army or police force? >> we have no other choice. we have to have confidence in what they can achieve. you look at where they started and where they are and there's a long road ahead of reaching of professionalism that's required in each policemen, and in the security force and certainly as the military as well. >> would you trust them if you're on patrol with them? >> i'd trust but verify. i have no choice but to have that afghan soldier next to me. that's the mission. i have to verify he is capable of doing what he needs to be. i'd sleep probably like a lot of guys with one eye open. it's where you start from and what the expectations are and can we get there from today. and clearly we have until 2014 to improve that status and then beyond -- i think the numbers are significant because that
sells locally. that sells in the united states. that's where the audience needs to understand it. but within those numbers, it's very important that we get into some level of details. and that's intelligence and that's special ops guys and training forces to ensure they can continue to grow. >> this may be a dumb question. i've been on patrols with afghan forces and with our forces on the ground who i have huge respect for. but how come -- i mean, the afghans did a pretty good job against the soviets fighting the soviets. how come they need all this military training? are we trying to get them to a level -- clearly we're trying to get them to a level they've never had before, but haven't they been able to defend themselves and fight wars? the taliban seems capable of conducting strikes without having a huge foreign force spending billions of dollars training them. >> true. first of all, the soviets presented themselves in different formations than how the united states is training them to present themselves.
the soviets had large formations and the mujahideen could do a good job of going after those. and the soviets decided not to go. the soviets did not transition into a counterinsurgency. in terms of recruiting the taliban. it's an incredible differentiator of what we're asking a u.s. soldier to do and a taliban soldier to do. if you could ideologically get that taliban recruit to sign up, the only task you're asking him to do is sacrifice his life and carry something into some crowded village. >> it's easier to do than try to provide security for a village or trying to be a police officer in a town. fran, do you have confidence in the afghan forces? >> i think the key they're not raising questions in is corruption. not only have dealt with the corruption but the weakness of the karzai government there.
>> that gets to a soldier's willingness to fight for a government. and if they're building a mcmansion in kabul, the foot soldier isn't going to want to fight for that person. >> that's exactly right. so we haven't very effectively dealt with the corruption problem up until now. that was true in the bush administration. it's true in the obama administration. partly because we don't want to talk about it. until we address this directly with the karzai government, we're not going to solve it. the timeline now is getting shorter and shorter. >> there are allegations about members of hamid karzai's family involved in corruption as well. more with the panel coming up. coming up senator john mccain weighing in on the trip to afghanistan. whether he sees it as the president spiking the football in the end zone. [ male announcer ] this is coach parker... whose non-stop day starts with back pain...
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duck and cover here at the embassy. not a drill. avoid the area. now, witnesses telling cnn he heard a long bang and it was shortly after president obama's surprise visit had ended. he was on the ground only a matter of hour, spending time with u.s. troops at bagram air base. after signing the strategic partnership agreement with hamid karzai. it came on the anniversary of the death of osama bin laden. we are monitoring the situation in afghanistan very closely for you. now, getting some more information coming into me now that we are getting word that the taliban is claiming responsibility for these attacks. that's according to the reuters news agency. those explosions heard in afghanistan are now being claimed by the taliban according to reuters. we continue to work to get you more details and we'll bring them to you as soon as we get
them. secretary of state hillary clinton has landed in beijing to talk to the chinese government. they're questioning the whereabouts of a chinese activist who escaped house arrest and may be at the u.s. embassy in beijing. the united nations today accused both sides of violating a cease-fire agreement in syria. the chief u.n. peacekeeper said the syrian regime continues to deploy heavy weapons in cities. this video purportedly shows tanks today. opposition activists said at least 43 people were killed across the country. separately, 12 syrian soldiers reportedly died in clashes with military defectors. and an fbi sting has led to the arrest of five men who allegedly conspired to blow up a bridge near cleveland. authorities say at least three of the suspects are self-proclaimed anarchists. and the occupy movement staged may day demonstrations from l.a. to new york today. may day is a day of workers protest around the world.
workers gathered for marches and demonstrations in countries including greece, turkey and spain. we'll be right back. ♪ [ piano chords ] [ man announcing ] what we created here. what we achieved here. what we learned here. and what we pioneered here. all goes here. the one. the accord. smarter thinking from honda.
president obama heading home tonight from afghanistan. we touched on this at the top coming when it does and where it does, it is inevitable there is a political component to the trip. at this point in the election cycle, mr. obama left washington with republicans including mitt romney criticizing his decision to run a campaign ad on the web about the killing of osama bin laden. not much, though, in the way of
partisan talk about tonight's trip. john mccain called it a good thing. here's what senator mccain said to dana bash. >> what do you think about the president's surprise secretive trip to afghanistan? >> i think it's a good thing. i think it's always good when the president goes to where young men and women are in harm's way. and i think that many of us who have been involved in afghanistan are very supportive of the strategic partnership agreement which i'm sure he'll be talking about. and we think the agreement is good. we obviously would like to know the details. >> now, senator, you have been very outspoken, very critical of what the president did recently politically with an ad boasting about getting osama bin laden and hitting mitt romney for it. do you think this trip is also part of his political campaign? >> no, i can't accuse the president of that. a lot of people both here in congress including senator
lindsay graham and lieberman worked on the strategic partnership agreement. it's important we send the message to friends and enemies alike that the united states has a long-term commitment to afghanistan. >> so this is not spiking the football in the end zone as he said? >> no. i don't view it as that. i wish the president would explain more often to the american people why afghanistan and it's important that afghanistan not return to a base for attacks on the united states of america. >> dana joins me now. much different tone than we heard from senator mccain. a lot of that having to do with the fact the president is overseas. a lot of republican, a lot of democratic people do not want to criticize a sitting president when they're overseas. >> it's thought of an old school tradition, but people like john mccain certainly keep it. but in this particular case, i've gotten no statements from republicans at all since the president has spoken. i think it's primarily the fact
he is in a war zone speaking in front of troops. but also because what you've heard from republicans, the criticism that you've heard from them on afghanistan is that the president doesn't talk enough about this war. in fact the last time he gave a major speech about it was in june 2011. almost a year ago. so it's hard for these republicans to say you shouldn't go talk about it. you shouldn't go over there when they've been saying talk about it more. the other thing particularly senators like john mccain and lindsay graham, they've been pushing the president to go forward with this strategic partnership agreement because they are very concerned about pulling combat troops out at the end of 2014. at least this makes clear to everybody in the region that there will be a u.s. presence on the ground for a pretty long time. >> thank you, dana. let's bring in david gergen and gloria borger. gloria, we heard from senator mccain. does it surprise you that the views on the war are different that senator mccain did not criticize president obama today? >> yeah, i wasn't actually
country sided -- because as dana pointed out he's kind of old school on that. also he really supports this strategic agreement because he is a part of the republican party that wants to see a long-term commitment in afghanistan. i think one of the reasons you haven't heard from other republicans is actually -- and you know this, anderson. there's division within the republican party. i mean, more than a majority of republicans oppose the war in afghanistan. so republicans want to get out of afghanistan. and so the president went over there to announce that he's winding down in afghanistan. and if you're a republican, you know, that's kind of not a bad thing. because republicans are very fiscally conscious and at a time when the economy is not good at home, there are more and more questions about whether the money that we're spending over there is cost effective. >> it is interesting we've reached a point where this war is unpopular among democrats and republicans as well.
>> it is interesting that we have that. and people do want the war to end. but, anderson, i would caution that i think president obama and whether it's president romney or not, can move forward with keeping troops on the ground as long as the casualty numbers are low. and it's not terribly expensive. we after all have kept troops in korea now for almost 60 years as -- at the dmz, as you well know and at other parts of the world. they've been in the sinai for a long time. and the public has gone along with that. the presence in afghanistan in a volatile area of the world with pakistan next door can be really helpful for american foreign policy. i would imagine this will be something on which there will be bipartisan agreements. yes, some people will complain, but as long as the casualties are down, it's not too expensive. >> some liberal democrats, though, may complain about it even if it's only in a training role. but as you know, this strategic
agreement doesn't require that the united states do anything. it allows us to do that. >> the president talked about a training role and a counterterrorism role. that's undefined. there's a lot of different activities that can take place under a counterterrorism role. >> on purpose. >> yeah. it's really important that a democratic president has made a commitment to afghanistan for another 12 years. if this had been a republican, it might -- you know, and a democrat were elected, you might see that unravel. but if mitt romney were to become president, he's going to keep that agreement and so will barack obama for the next several years. i think the united states is -- even though there's going to be quibbling on the sides, i think the united states is very, very likely now to have a presence there for the foreseeable future. >> i'm sorry. we've got to leave it there. david gergen, gloria borger. appreciate it. president obama's visit and his speech from bagram air base is fueling talk tonight. more with ari fleischer, paul begala, peter bergen. that's next.
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i tell you what i can spend. i do my best to make it work. i'm back on the road safely. and i saved you money on brakes. that's personal pricing. joining us again, ari fleischer and paul begala and peter bergen and retired army major james "spider" marks. i hate to talk about politics on day like this, but do you anticipate tomorrow hearing more about the trip from the left and the right, because the left has been pretty silent as well. >> you know, no, that's right,
anderson, it's a sign of how split the parties are about the military entanglements. no, we're in an election, an economy, and when the killing of bin laden riveted the nation we shifted back over a not long amount of time. i think the bigger substantive issue in afghanistan is the place is still a mess. you know, the president said tonight that in the last three years the tide has turned. again, since he became president he said. the tide has turned. i don't think anything has turned. afghanistan was a mess. it is a mess. when we are there or not, they're going to go on fighting. the war doesn't end, it's a question of whether we're going to be involved in it or not. i'm fine no longer being involved in it. we didn't set out on september 11 to stay there forever, so the troops have to come home. i'm glad they're coming home soon. but nobody should think what the president is doing means that it willa land of peace. it won't. >> has the tide turned against
both taliban and al qaeda? >> as a factual matter you're more likely to be killed in washington, d.c. than by the civilians in afghanistan right now. and the civil war, that destroyed kabul killed hundreds of thousands. think about the rule of the taliban. afghans let's leave aside our own personal view, afghans overwhelmingly continue to have a view that their lives are getting better. this is a company without phone service and now one in three has a cell phone. now there are two million girls in school after not having girls in school. and now, you know, in 2009, they had 22% gdp growth rate, admittedly from a low point. we know what's wrong with the place, afghanistan, it's shared by a lot of afghanss themselves. the one thing they were concerned about we'd head for the exits.
i think today will reassure them we have a long-term presence there and most want that. they don't want permanent bases. they don't want to be occupied. no one does. but they want to feel the united states and the allies isn't headed for the exits. >> in terms of what the military is doing on the ground, i mean, no one has really used the termination building. under the bush administration or the obama administration, but i has been a lot of nation building. >> absolutely. that's not what the united states went into afghanistan to accomplish. but it ended up being what we accomplished and what in partnership with the afghan nation we will continue to accomplish with our partners, and clearly this is an example of mission creep at its finest. we did that quite rapidly in 2001 right before christmas. the taliban departed and then we departed in essence we departed in terms of having a presence
that could do something about a resurgence of the taliban. we missed that. we diverted our attention to iraq. clearly we have been able to accomplish quite a bit in afghanistan. we also have a commitment to continue that effort through 2014 and now beyond. >> paul begala, in terms of the president's base though, committing to stay in afghanistan for another 12 years essentially, that's not a message some in the president's base want to hear. >> well, not just the president's base. ari is right, both parties are war weary. if you look at the cnn polls, voters don't want to get out in 2014, but they want to get out tomorrow. i do admire -- john mccain is old school. i admire they're not criticizing the president on foreign soil. they won't criticize him much about this, because they don't have a better alternative and they want this to be barack obama's war.
he is responsible for this now. i think they're happy about that. the president is saying i want a rebalance. not invade, conquer and occupy huge countries but project the power in a more nimble way and rebuild america back home. that's what he said when he first formulated it at west point. he said i want to rebuild the united states. >> it's impossible to talk about afghanistan and not talk about pakistan. there's negotiation -- i mean, the relationship with pakistan is frayed right now to say the least. >> yeah. 2011 was sort of the worst year in the relationship. there are some kind of positive trends in pakistan that tend to get overlooked in the discussions too. we'll see the first civilian government fulfill its term. either first or the 2nd. that's another election at the end of this year or beginning of next year. you could then foresee a period for the first time in pakistani history where you have a civilian government for a decade. they're not all for a coup.
it was an independent press. there was an arab spring in pakistan before there was one in the arab world where they got rid of president musharraf. and they're doing cases against both the military and the civilian government. these are institutions important to pakistan's future. what pakistan hasn't had yet is good leadership. hopefully a leader will come up. >> peter bergen, i appreciate you being here. his new book takes you inside the hunt for osama bin laden. thank you all. we'll be right back. an accident doesn't have to slow you down. with better car replacement available only with liberty mutual auto insurance, if your car's totaled, we give you the money for a car one model year newer.
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a suicide car bomb exploded in kabul shortly after president obama's surprise visit ended. now reuters is reporting that the taliban is claiming responsibility. some new details to bring you. monicapy nell of boise, idaho, told cnn that her husband, a contractor in kabul, told her by phone a couple of explosions broke the windows in his compound. she said he told her he and his colleagues were quote under attack and they ran to bunkers. her husband told her many rooms at the compound were destroyed and then he hung up. more details on this story. we'll bring them to you as they come in to you. thank you for watching "360". good evening, i'm erin burnett. breaking news, the president on a surprise visit to kabul. he announced he's handing off