By CNN Senior State Department Producer Elise Labott
The Taliban could make a comeback and take over Afghanistan again, the country's President Hamid Karzai warned Monday at an international conference on Afghanistan's future.
"If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001," Karzai said.
There has been progress in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in the wake of the hijacked plane attacks on the United States, he said.
But, he warned, "Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant Afghanistan is far from being achieved."
Karzai chaired the meeting in Bonn, Germany, aimed at discussing the state of affairs in Afghanistan and pushing for international contributions and support.
By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy
GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman offered differing views Tuesday nighton how a president should reach decisions about matters such as U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Romney made it clear he believes a president should listen to his commanders on the ground when making such a decision. "The commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground," Romney said during Tuesday night's CNN Republican presidential debate.
Huntsman said just listening to the commanders on the ground would be a mistake for a president.
"I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn't serve our interests very well. The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals on the ground."
While they differed on how much influence the generals on the ground should have, they both implied that the president's military advisers speak with one voice on these matters. That's not always the case.
In December of 2009, President Barack Obama was mulling over how many "surge" troops to send to Afghanistan. Shortly before he made his decision, CNN sources said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was recommending 40,000 more troops. Obama decided to send 30,000.
Last summer when Obama was trying to decide how many U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan, then-Gen. David Patraeus, McChrystal's replacement in Afghanistan, was recommending, according to sources, pulling out 5,000 troops. Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates was looking at a 10,000-troop pullout. Obama decided to pullout 33,000 by the end of next summer.
After the president's announcement, Petraeus admitted the number was higher than he thought should be removed. "The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation, if you will, in terms of the timeline than what we had recommended," Petraeus said last June.
Even Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought the president's withdrawal plans were more bold than he wanted to see. "What I can tell you is, the president's decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept," Mullen said.
Had President Obama listened to just his commanders in Afghanistan, as Romney seemed to indicate, the nature of the war in Afghanistan could have looked very different over then next year.
Editor’s note: This analysis is part of Security Clearance blog’s “Debate Preps” series. On November 22, CNN, along with AEI and The Heritage Foundation, will host a Republican candidate debate focused on national security topics. In the run-up to the debate, Security Clearance asked both the sponsoring conservative think tanks to look at the key foreign policy issues and tell us what they want to hear candidates address.
By AEI's Frederick Kagan, Special to CNN
What do we need to achieve in Afghanistan in order to protect the security of the United States and its allies?
That core question should shape any discussion of our strategy in Afghanistan or the resources we devote to executing it. But that question is too often obscured.
Many say that pursuing any kind of “success” in Afghanistan, the supposed “graveyard of empires,” is sheer folly. Others say that is has become irrelevant, and that the death of Osama bin Laden has deprived the war in Afghanistan of continued meaning.
These facile assertions produce more palatable answers, but do not answer the core question. Presidents and candidates for president owe
Americans a clear and cogent answer, at least, as well as an explanation for how their proposed strategy that they lay out will accomplish the requirements for American security. FULL POST
By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
The Taliban is weakened but the ability of insurgents to hide across the border in Pakistan is the greatest threat to success in Afghanistan, according to the latest Pentagon evaluation of the war, released this week.
"The insurgency's safe havens in Pakistan, as well as the limited capacity of the Afghan government, remain the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable, stable Afghanistan," according to the "Report on Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan," a congressionally mandated evaluation of the war's progress that is provided twice a year.
By CNN Political Unit
As the war in Afghanistan passes the ten-year mark, a new national survey indicates that support for the conflict has dropped to an all time low as a growing number of Americans express concern that the situation in the central Asian country has turned into another Vietnam.
According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Friday, only 34% of the public says they support the war in Afghanistan, one point less than the previous low of 35%, with 63% opposed to the conflict.
"But that opposition is not a reflection of the original decision to get involved in Afghanistan a decade ago," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "It's what Afghanistan has turned into in the subsequent decade that has soured Americans on the war effort there."
By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Leon Panetta's New Year's Eve toast will be one that has been 10 years in the making. The Pentagon is confirming that a California restaurateur friend of Panetta's will open a bottle of wine with an estimated value of $10,000-$15,000, and the secretary of defense will be one of several friends toasting Panetta's CIA-run mission to get Osama Bin Laden.
Monterey, California, restaurateur Ted Balestreri made a bet with Panetta while Panetta was CIA director that if he ever "got" bin Laden, Balestreri would open the oldest bottle of wine in his restaurant.
The secretary told his friend "you're on," according to Douglas Wilson, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
Wilson said so many Panetta friends are likely to be together New Year's Eve that each will get only a small sip of the expensive wine. FULL POST
By Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr
Amid the 1200-page military investigation into the crash in Wardak province in August are photos of the helicopter. These are the first photos released by the military of the crash that killed 38 on board, including 22 Navy SEALS. It was the biggest loss of life in a single day for the U.S. in the ten years of fighting in Afghanistan.
According to the report, the SEALS had been called in to reinforce other troops already in combat. Just before landing, Taliban fighters hiding in a building fired rocket propelled grenades. The rear blades were hit. The helicopter crashed in seconds.
The report concludes there was no wrongdoing. But the mission may not have been optimally planned, and changes are being instituted for future missions. Investigators found that three hours into the combat operations the Taliban had key advantages. Those advantages made the helicopter, flying in to help the embattled troops, more vulnerable. FULL POST
By CNN Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes
Hundreds of veterans and their families and anti-war protesters marched to Washington's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Friday afternoon, marking ten years since the start of the American invasion of Afghanistan.
"Ten long years that we have engaged in war, dropping bombs, killing people, spending trillions of dollars," said event organizer Michael McPhearson of United for Peace and Justice. "We are not listening to Dr. King's words."
Demonstrators carried signs saying "Fund jobs, not war!" and "Wars are poor chisels for peaceful tomorrows."
Other speakers included three women from Afghanistan, members of a group called Afghans for Peace.
If Pakistan prosecutes one of the men who helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden, what does it say about the state of relations between Washington and Islamabad? Nothing good, according to national security experts contacted by CNN's Alan Silverleib.
But the bad blood should not be that surprising.
"Never have we had an ally with whom we've agreed on so little over such a long period of time," American Enterprise Institute's Michael Rubin told CNN, noting U.S.-Pakistani ties dating back to the Eisenhower era. "The bin Laden raid was simply the icing on the cake."
But "any doubt Pakistan wasn't knee deep in the bin Laden mess has now been put to rest," Rubin argued. "The fact that they're prosecuting the doctor shows that given a choice between the United States and al Qaeda, Pakistan would rather be an ally with the latter," he said.
By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy
Editor's note: This is the final installment of a five-part series on 10th anniversary of the start of the US war in Afghanistan. The series tracks key moments from the past decade.
The war in Afghanistan officially began for the U.S. military on October 7, 2001, 10 years ago Friday. In his speech to the nation that day, President George W. Bush said, "This military action is a part of our campaign against terrorism."
One major success in that campaign came, finally, nearly 10 years later, on May 1, 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs stormed Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and shot him dead.
In his speech announcing bin Laden's death, President Barack Obama was more blunt about the reason for the war.
"We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda - an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies."
But was the secret mission that killed bin Laden really a major turning point in what has become America's longest war ever or just a symbolic victory?