COMMENTS: Incoherence in Afghanistan

ABC's Jim Sciutto filed from Kabul; CBS' Mandy Clark from Bagram AFB; and NBC's Jim Maceda from Kandahar. The three did not hear the same speech. ABC's Sciutto described its "ambitious goal" as "convincing the vast majority of Taliban fighters to stop fighting." NBC's Maceda heard "clear talk about defeating the Taliban by protecting the people." CBS' Clark described the new strategy as calling for "talks with Taliban members who are willing to lay down their arms."

So what does the Pentagon say? CBS' David Martin reported that the new strategy does not mean Defeat the Taliban: "The objective is simply to weaken the Taliban and strengthen the Afghans so they can take over the fight." Martin added that Barack Obama's strategy "lowers the bar for what US troops must accomplish before they can come home."

What about al-Qaeda, a threat that went unmentioned by the Afghan-based correspondents? CBS anchor Katie Couric called in a pair of inside-the-Beltway experts, Nathaniel Fick of the Center for New American Security and Matthew Hoh, who resigned his diplomatic post in Afghanistan in a policy protest. Fick argued that "the most hospitable place in the world" for al-Qaeda to set up training bases for large-scale operations is the "border region" of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hoh countered that "the presence of large amounts of American ground troops in Afghanistan does not have any effect on al-Qaeda's operations."


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