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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

More U.S. Troops Headed to Afghanistan?; Million-Dollar Congressional Controversy

Aired September 11, 2009 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: John King here.

Anderson has got developments in Afghanistan, new developments tonight. Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, and almost that long since Americans went into Afghanistan, word that Defense Secretary Gates is expected to request more troops for the war.

But, even as he does, a majority of Americans oppose the idea, including the Senate's top Democrat on defense issues, apparently not President Obama, though -- at 9/11 ceremonies, sounding determined.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BELL RINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And, in Lower Manhattan, just like at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, all fell silent, except for the ringing of the bell, the reading the names, the remembering.

The same in Iraq and Afghanistan, too, as troops took time to reflect on just why they're fighting -- more from Anderson on that a bit later tonight.

First, though, those who say we should send more troops to Afghanistan and those who say, enough.

Tom Foreman is "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American troops are facing increasingly hot fire in Afghanistan. And even as he tries to send help, their commander in chief is under assault, too. President Obama again made it clear he wants more military pressure on the Taliban, just as promised in his campaign.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In pursuit of al Qaeda and its extremist allies, we will never falter.

FOREMAN: The president has already been moving 21,000 extra troops into Afghanistan, for a total of 68,000 by this year's end. But even before this latest expected request for more, on Capitol Hill, top players in the president's own party were waving red flags, noting, public support for the war is plummeting, especially among Democrats.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't think there's a great deal of support for sending in the troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress.

FOREMAN: The influential head of the Arms Serviced Committee, Michigan's Carl Levin, is the latest, saying no more American troops until he sees more Afghan soldiers on the lines.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This is an army that is willing to fight and take on the Taliban. What they need is much larger numbers. They need training. They need the equipment. And we have fallen short in providing them with all of that.

FOREMAN (on camera): But, "Keeping Them Honest," we contacted military and foreign affairs analysts at several top think tanks with extensive knowledge of Afghanistan. Some of them are more in favor of the U.S. intervention there, some of them less so. But, regardless, all of them said expecting Afghan security forces to dramatically step up is a tall order, at best.

(voice-over): There are currently only 90,000 Afghan troops -- the widely-agreed-upon goal for security, 240,000. The Cato Institute calls that unrealistic any time soon. The Foreign Policy Research Institute said there is a mismatch between the president's strategy and the resources he has on the battlefield.

The Foreign Policy Initiative says training more Afghans is a good idea, but not a substitute for U.S. forces. And the RAND Corporation says, the bottom line is, we don't have enough troops, U.S. or Afghan.

So, it appears the president is increasingly caught in a vice between growing resistance at home, an advancing enemy on the battlefront, and a political plot that, on this anniversary weekend of 9/11, is ticking loudly.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Let's talk strategy now. Michael Ware is in Kabul. He's been out and about in the country all week, including out on in patrol in Kandahar, where he narrowly survived a close call with a roadside bomb. And, in Boston, senior political analyst David Gergen.

Michael let's start with the news that Defense Secretary Gates is considering sending as many as 3,000 troops in the short term. There are larger troop requests perhaps in the future, but 3,000 troops in the short term to help deal with the threat of roadside bombs.

Would that be enough, Michael, to make a difference in the security situation?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not even close, John. That's a drop in the bucket. America does desperately need more soldiers here. It's right there are not enough Afghan troops, nor international coalition troops, to even put a dent in Taliban war machine.

This is not a war America is ever going to win in the classic military sense. The real intention here is to put military pressure on the Taliban that will then parlay into gains on the political front or the negotiating table. And, right now, America isn't doing that. All it's doing is storing -- stirring the Taliban hornet's nest in Helmand Province.

But there may be a solution on the horizon to fill this troop dividend, this gap, this troop gap. What's happening here on the ground, is American commanders -- and I can tell from you the cabinet level here in Kabul from the Afghan government -- the Afghan government has also become a part of this -- they're looking to learn the lessons of Iraq and bring them to Afghanistan.

There's already an Afghan government pilot program under way to recruit U.S.-backed tribal militias to put them into the fight as a force multiplier to fill the vacuum in areas where American troops cannot fight and to go out and kill the Taliban or deny them terrain, as only the tribes and the veterans of the Afghan wars know how.

This is going to be similar to what we saw with the awakening councils in Iraq, in Anbar, that turned on al Qaeda, killed them, and came on to the American government payroll -- John.

KING: So, David, you heard Michael Ware with the calculation overseas. What about the political calculation here?

Now, you have Speaker Pelosi, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Arms Services Committee, saying, I'm not sure about sending more troops, and a time when we also know in the polls that the American people are increasingly opposed. Does the president have a choice here?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a perilous choice, John. He's going to have a choice and he's going to have to make a very tough one. And, this time, he cannot split the difference. He can't sort of come down, well, I will satisfy people with sort of plan B, which is sort of halfway in, not halfway out. He has either got to go in full and big, or he probably has to pull back some. And, you know, if -- if he pulls back some, he's going to satisfy a great majority of American people who have turned against this war, his own Democratic base, which has turned against the war.

But others will say, those are not red flags flying up there. Those are white flags flying up there on -- on Capitol Hill among Democrats, and you have got to stay in, you have got to defeat the Taliban, and, especially, you have got to make sure the al Qaeda doesn't become a -- you know, a resurgent force.

But I can't emphasize enough, John, this is not one -- you know, there is a temptation -- temptation in every White House to say, well, let's split the difference. But, in this situation, if you -- if you just go in meddling, you are you're neither going to win, nor are you going to lose. You're just going to stretch out a bad situation.

So, if you're going to do it, you have got to do it fully. And that probably is going to require a new strategic review.

KING: And, Michael Ware, forget...

WARE: Is it Peter or David Gergen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David Gergen.

KING: Michael, forget the commanders and forget the military calculation. If you walked into the marketplace in any Afghan city and asked an everyday member of the populace, "What do you want from the United States?" what would they say?

WARE: They want you to go home. But they don't want you to leave the wreck that is currently Afghanistan.

First and foremost, the Afghan villager, the ordinary Afghan citizen in a busy capital street like this just wants a life, John. They want security. They want to know that they can go to their village and grow their crops and do their business, whatever it might be, without fear of interference from either coalition bombs, nor the Taliban coming to them at night, demanding they take care of Taliban wounded, offer shelter, hide weapons, let their soldiers, fighters hide among their population, while the Americans surge.

They also want a government. And they don't have one. I mean, this state is in -- this country is in a state of national political limbo. They don't even know who the president is, after last month's presidential election was bogged down in corruption allegations.

And no matter who comes in, be it the -- the incumbent, President Hamid Karzai, or his challenger, to the Afghan people, it's one bunch of crooks and their warlord cronies vs. another bunch of crooks and their warlord cronies.

They want a lot more from America, and they want it quick, and then they want you out -- John. KING: All right, Michael Ware in Afghanistan -- Michael, thank you.

And, David, please stick around.

Up next: the threat of disciplinary action against the congressman who shouted "You lie" at the president, but also a geyser of campaign cash for him and his previously unknown opponent -- opponent -- both angles ahead.

And, as always, let us know what you think. Just go to AC360.com and check in on the live chat now under way.

And, later, Anderson with the Marines in Afghanistan -- their thoughts about the war at a crucial point on a solemn day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Their sacrifice is stunning to witness. With time, with more troops, with more money, more aid, progress is possible. But the window is short. After eight years here, no one says, we're winning. No one ever says it will soon end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Two words, $1.7 million plus -- the words, "You lie," shouted by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson during President Obama's speech to Congress Wednesday night. Since then, his opponent, Rob Miller, has raised more than a million dollars. And Congressman Wilson, he's now earned about $700,000, big money on both sides. And that's not all.

More from Joe Johns.

Hey, Joe, is this thing dying down or gaining steam?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: No, this thing has actually picked up steam. It looks like the story of the Republican congressman who lashed out at the president isn't going away, at least any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now, Congressman Wilson's shout-out accusing the president of lying during a speech to Congress looks at least like a partial advantage for Democrats in health care reform. And the Democrats are going with it. They're now threatening to slap Wilson's wrist, and expected to bring a resolution to the floor as early as next week admonishing Wilson for his conduct if he doesn't give a speech apologizing on the House floor -- John.

KING: And, every time you look, Joe, all this money flying around, campaign cash being raised. The numbers keep changing. Give us the 48-hour money chase update.

JOHNS: Well, look, Wilson may be sorry, but he's not that sorry. It's the American way. Wilson is using this uproar, of course, to raise money for that next reelection, claiming he is under attack by Washington liberals. And Republicans say he has raised more than $700,000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: It was wrong. And I apologized to the president shortly afterwards. And he has acknowledged my sincerity.

This occurred after a month of town hall meetings and deeply emotional conversations I had with constituents.

I need your help now. If you agree with me that the government- run health plan is bad medicine for America, then I ask for your support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, Joe, a fair amount of people agreeing with Congressman Wilson. What about his Democratic challenger? Last night, he had about $200,000 in 24 hours. Where are we now?

JOHNS: That number is way up from last night. The Democratic challenger is Rob Miller. His campaign said tonight he raised over $1 million. And this is the same guy who lost to Wilson last time around by something like 10 percentage point, maybe. So, it's still too early to say, but it could be a tougher race for Wilson than last time around.

The campaign says that money came from 25,000 individuals, for what it's worth, John.

KING: Joe, stick us with -- plenty of "Raw Politics" to talk about here.

And, for that, let's bring back senior political analyst David Gergen for the conversation.

David, is this about Congressman Wilson and his opponent, Mr. Miller, or is it more about the polarization of American politics?

GERGEN: It's much more about the polarization.

And this -- you just sort of feel like this is one of the brawls that happens in a bar. Somebody's slugs somebody, and everybody else jumps into it, and, suddenly, you have got this brawl.

I -- in the beginning, I agree with Joe. I think it did give an advantage to the Democrats. They -- the Congressman was clearly out of line. He had to apologize.

But I must tell you that I have been surprised that, yesterday, Nancy Pelosi, the number-one Democrat in the House, said, enough is enough. Let's move on. Let's get back to health care and the substance -- substantive issues.

Today, the number-two and three Democrats said, no, we think to think about sanctions against for this fellow unless he publicly apologizes. That gives him an opening to be on television this weekend, on Sunday, be on talk shows. And it keeps alive -- I'm not sure it now works in favor of the Democrats.

I think they want to get back to substance. They have got a -- still got a fight ahead.

KING: Still have a fight ahead.

Now, Congressman Wilson himself apologized. He said he crossed the line. A, I guess, David, do we expect more stunts like this, if it's a stunt, or do you think it was just an error on his part, now that both parties are sort of gauging, what next?

GERGEN: I take him at his word that it was spontaneous, and he -- you know, he made a terrible mistake.

But now that he said he apologized, you -- let's leave -- two other consequences will come up, one helping the Democrats. Democrats here in Massachusetts are now saying, well, because of Joe Wilson, we have got to change our minds and now go have an interim appointment for Teddy Kennedy' seat, as if threat two things are related.

But, back in Washington, the Senate Finance Committee, you know, they were moving today to try to close down any possibility of giving health care to -- insurance to illegal immigrants, you know, the very issue -- and it's clearly in response to Joe Wilson.

You know, so I -- I think that, from the point of view of the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi had it right the first time. They might be better to move on and try to keep the country focused on why health care reform is so essential, from their perspective.

KING: And, yet, Joe, as you noted, some Democrats do want Congressman Wilson to go to the floor of the House and apologize, or else they say maybe they will formally admonish him. Any sense tonight of how likely Congressman Wilson is to accept that advice, to go to the floor and apologize?

JOHNS: From what we hear, he has no plans to go out there and say anything more about this thing.

You know, when you think about it, he has apologized a bunch of times. He apologized in a statement that he put out. Then he apologized in a phone call, we're told, to the White House, apologized during an ambush that happened outside his office just yesterday. And he sort of apologized even in that campaign finance video, right before he asked for money.

So, the question is, how many more times does he have to apologize? And it's a very good point that -- that David Gergen makes, and that, is gosh, aren't they getting off the track of health care reform by trying to make this guy go out there and say it one more time in front of the House?

KING: And, so, David, game it out. Where does it go from here? In a sense, you say the speaker had it right the first time. Some of her deputies want to milk this out. Who takes control of this one?

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: Well, you know, it's almost a contest of who -- who's going to send more money, as if that has something to do with the ultimate outcome of health care fight.

And I think we're all sort of agog at this, at the way it's been revised. I think Joe was right. The thing seemed to be quieting down, and, then, suddenly, it exploded again day. And I -- I think it will play out next week. He won't apologize. He's going to be -- you know, he's going to be regarded as a hero by many on the right.

He will get a lot of airtime. And they may sanction him. But I think -- you know what? I think, in his district, a very Republican district, it probably strengthens his hand in the long run in the national election. So, again, I think it's better to close this thing down with the apologies they have got and move on.

But how does it play out? It plays out as a -- as a great story for -- for us.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: And...

GERGEN: We're all sort of sitting here: Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: And, to that point, Joe, the right, not just Congressman Wilson, but the right seems somewhat energized by this.

JOHNS: Well, certainly.

It's funny. If you talk to the congressional leaders, on the one hand, they will say, well, look, he's already apologized, so give the guy a break. On the other hand, they say there is a sentiment out there, a lot of frustration with the Democrats in this sense, that they're sort of ramming this thing down the throats of Republicans.

But, if you look on his Twitter page, on his Facebook -- I'm talking about Joe Wilson now -- and other places, you see people writing things like, "Joe, you're an American hero" and so on. And -- and that comes from the heartland. That comes from out in that conservative district in South Carolina, where he comes from.

So -- so, he's certainly gotten some support. And there are people out there who think he has nothing to apologize for in the first place.

KING: We will watch this one as it plays out. There is a big health care debate. There's a big debate about troops in Afghanistan, but this little drama has captured some attention.

Joe Johns, David Gergen, thanks so much for time on a Friday night.

And this program note: you and the cost of health care. Doctors make mistakes. It happens. The question is what to do about it. One side says taking doctors to court is the only way of keeping them honest. The other says that is precisely what has caused doctors to practice defensive medicine, and that's raising prices for everyone.

And now the president is talking about it in his new plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So -- so -- so I'm proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a battle in the fight over fixing health care. And we will take you inside that battle, separating fact from fiction, cutting through the noise over medical malpractice -- a 360 special series all next week.

Up next: Want a million dollars? Got your attention? Good. That's the point. We will tell you how to collect in connection with a major art heist involving some of the most iconic images around.

And, later, the Afghan attack that left four Marines dead -- a war correspondent was there caught in the battle. His view of the fighting "Up Close," in his own words -- ahead on A.C. 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Coming up: the war in Afghanistan eight years after the 9/11 attacks. Anderson Cooper and Peter Bergen go inside the battle zone.

First, though, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Health care critics descending on Washington this weekend -- mobilized by the FreedomWorks organization, protesters will march in the capital tomorrow in opposition to proposed health care reform. Now, organizers predict crowds in the tens of thousands, but do admit they have no idea what the final count will be.

A shooting spree near Flint, Michigan, leaves two dead. A local anti-abortion activist was killed in a drive-by shooting this morning while protesting in front of Owosso High School. The gunman then drove to a local business, where he shot and killed the owner. Police arrested a 33-year-old suspect who they say planned to kill a third man.

Five actresses and a cameraman from the CW's "The Vampire Diaries" are facing disorderly conduct charges in Georgia, after the women dangled from a bridge and flashed drivers on Interstate 75. It happened late last month. The actresses told authorities they were just filming for an episode that aired last night. They were released after that arrest in August.

And a $1 million reward now being offered following a major California art heist. The collection includes pieces by renowned artist Andy Warhol. It was stolen from the home of a West Los Angeles businessman, Richard Weisman. The artwork includes 10 original Warhols. They were produced between 1977 and 1979. One of them actually predicts -- depicts, rather, the owner, John, Richard Weisman, the rest of them, famous athletes from the time.

KING: Who we talking about? What famous athletes?

HILL: Well, there are a number of them. Muhammad Ali is one of them, O.J. Simpson among them, Pele as well, Dorothy Hamill, Chris Evert, Jack Nicklaus, 10 in all.

And, apparently, "The L.A. Times" actually said recently Weisman told the paper that he commissioned them. Around this time, of course, Warhol had a lot of work coming out. Apparently, these do exist in other colors, these same portraits. That is actually Richard Weisman right there, the portrait that you're seeing, the man whose -- whose home was apparently robbed.

They probably sold at the time when they were commissioned for about $25,000 apiece.

KING: Wow. So, the Warhols are gone. Anything else missing?

HILL: Apparently not.

According to the police, a domestic employee showed up at the home on September 3. She noticed they were gone from the dining room, and left. Now, the homeowner had been gone already for, apparently, a day. She called the police from next door. A number of papers, including "The L.A. Times," are saying tonight that nothing else was out of place, nothing else had been touched.

And, apparently, there was some other very expensive artwork there. So, interesting to see, when they finally catch this art thief, why this person was after those particular prints.

KING: A Warhol/sports fan.

HILL: Mmm, apparently.

KING: The search is on.

Erica Hill, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Deadly serious stuff when we come back -- off to Afghanistan when 360 continues. We're taking you closer to battle than most people come and still survive. Sadly, four Marines did not. And you will hear how they were set up, ambushed, and how the rest of the unit fought their way free, in the words of a reporter who nearly lost his life.

And, later, Anderson and Peter Bergen on where things go from here in a war President Obama calls vital eight years after the 9/11 attacks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the mission in Afghanistan may have changed, but, for our troops, the dangerous has not. August was the deadliest month for Americans serving in that war.

And, earlier this week, we learned that four U.S. Marines were killed in an ambush in Kunar Province.

Jonathan Landay is a correspondent for McClatchy newspapers. He was with the troops when they came under attack. Landay tells us what happened in his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN LANDAY, MCCLATCHY PRINT JOURNALIST: We began moving up into this valley at the head of which this village sits, the village of Ganjgal.

And, by the time we started moving up there, it is dawn. So, everything could be seen. As the first units of the Afghan army reached the outskirts of the village with their Marine trainers, this prearranged ambush was triggered off. And it was a prearranged ambush.

It was -- it was a trap. It began as kind of like this snap of a couple of bullets, but, within a few seconds, built into this intense storm of -- of gunfire. The American officers that I was with began calling for air support and artillery fire. And the decision was, we had to get out of there.

I was with some incredibly brave men. Captain Swenson and Lieutenant Fabayo exposed themselves to this massive volume of incoming fire, while the rest of us bolted back.

So, I basically sort of put my legs -- sprung -- you know, coiled my legs underneath me, and just sprang, and ran for the place where I believed the rest of my group was. When I got there, I saw Captain Swenson kind of with one hand on his sergeant's -- on -- on the field dressing on his sergeant's neck, trying to stop the blood, and with the other, his walkie-talkie in his hand, trying to coordinate by that time, the arrival of two helicopter gunships.

With the arrival of the helicopter gunships, that really quieted down the incoming gunfire. The insurgents were unwilling to expose themselves. But there were the guys who were still up there.

That was sort of the first thought, the most important thought to get up there and, if -- if they were alive, to get them out of there, if they were dead, to retrieve their bodies.

These men that I was with -- was with, who do this every day, really need recognition for what they did that day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And let's echo that point. Whatever you think of the war, four men who gave their lives serving our country.

As we said earlier, the mission in Afghanistan is more complicated than before. And more challenging. Anderson and security analyst Peter Bergen were in Kandahar earlier to talk about a war that most Americans would like to see end.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Peter, we're at Kandahar, which is the birthplace, really, of the Taliban. And it's the anniversary of 9/11, eight years really since the war on terror began. And it began here in Afghanistan. The mission now, though, is completely different from what it was back in 2001.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, back in 2001, it was to overthrow the Taliban, get rid of al Qaeda, and a lot of, obviously, that happened.

One thing that's striking being here is I first came here in '99. This was an al Qaeda base. This was, you know, the center of Taliban power. And now, you know, you got 9,000 people on this base. You've got a Pizza Hut, a Burger King. You know, in a way, it shows how much bin Laden lost. I mean, he really not only used this country as a base, but he kind of controlled the Taliban to a large degree. That's all gone.

COOPER: But people in Washington talk about al Qaeda and this mission as, you know, hunting down al Qaeda. But on the ground, we haven't heard any Marines talking about al Qaeda this week.

BERGEN: Yes. Certainly in Helmand where we were, I mean, al Qaeda is a non-issue. If you go to the east of Afghanistan, it's still an issue. But -- but not only that, of course, the drone program in Pakistan has decimated al Qaeda and the Taliban. So...

COOPER: There's been an uptick in the use of drones and also the success of drones?

BERGEN: Yes. Half the leadership of the militants in Pakistan's tribal areas have been killed in the last year or so. So that's good news. I mean, you know, it means the likelihood of an attack on the United States right now, in my view, from al Qaeda is actually very low.

COOPER: No one here, though, talks here of -- no one will say, well, the U.S. is winning here on the ground.

BERGEN: Yes.

COOPER: Militarily.

BERGEN: Yes. And the Taliban isn't winning either. And they're not losing, which in an insurgency is important. Because they're waiting the United States out.

COOPER: Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, says that time is not on our side and that there's a 12- to 18- month window. When he says that, is he -- is he talking about politics back home or the situation on the ground here?

BERGEN: I think he's talking about the politics back home. I mean, the situation here is, you know, we saw with the Marines and, you know, the 13th district in Helmand, where only one is now controlled by the Taliban. It seems our ability to roll back the Taliban from areas is pretty high.

You know, the question is, is there political will to hold those areas, to build them? That's all very long term.

COOPER: By the end of the year, they expect 68,000 troops. President Obama ordered 21,000 more troops. But it's likely -- I mean, spending time on the ground, I can't imagine them not asking for more forces. Because they can't go into all the areas they'd like to.

BERGEN: Well, I mean, I think you can perform triage. I mean, only 10 percent of this country, you fly over it. It's a lot of desert and mountains. I mean, only 10 percent of this country is really inhabited. So it's a matter of protecting the population in these areas. You don't have to protect, you know, vast deserts where no one's living.

COOPER: But that's the key, that is the strategy: protect the population?

BERGEN: Right.

COOPER: And that -- that changes what the mission is. I mean, it's not about just hunting down the Taliban. It's protecting the population. BERGEN: I mean, I thought one of the most interesting exchanges we had was we went into a village, and one of the village elders was asked, you know, are you happy about the American presence here?

And he said, "Well, you're a very strong force, and the Taliban is a very strong force. And basically, I don't really care, you know, either way. It's just whoever has got the biggest guns is the person I'm going to deal with."

You've got to try and change that guy's mind so that he is convinced the United States is going to stay, the Taliban aren't going to come back. That isn't going to happen in a year.

COOPER: And that doesn't jive well with American politics at home where there's growing disenchantment with the war.

BERGEN: Not at all. You know, I mean, you could imagine right now CNN is saying 57 percent of Americans is against the war. That number could go up to 75 percent by the end of this year, if more -- large numbers of American body bags keep going back home, which is likely the case.

COOPER: And we've seen the last two months have been the deadliest months for U.S. forces in the eight years of this war so far. It's not clear what's on track for this month, for the month of September.

But with Marines and troops pushing out and taking more foot patrols, trying to interact more, I mean, it's a horrible thing to expect. But when you have more interaction like that, the risk is higher.

BERGEN: Yes, I mean, I thought one of the most astonishing things we learned this week is that 80 percent of the casualties are caused by IEDs.

COOPER: In Helmand province.

BERGEN: In Helmand province. If you go back to World War II, only 3 percent of American soldiers have been killed by mines. In Vietnam, it went up to 10 percent. In Iraq, it was 50 percent. So you know, if you -- you just don't know when this is going to hit you. I mean, there's no front line. And, you know, you can be killed or wounded severely by an IED anywhere in this country.

COOPER: All right. Peter, thanks for dropping by. Appreciate it.

BERGEN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Anderson and Peter there. A sober assessment from Kandahar. It's worth noting, Peter Bergen, one of the few journalists who have actually met Osama bin Laden. Log onto AC360.com to read about Peter's encounter and the search for the al Qaeda leader.

Next on 360, Anderson has a Marine's eye view of life on the front lines in Afghanistan. It's rarely pretty. But as you'll see, it's a job the Marines feel honored to be doing.

And later, an Ivy League mystery. Days before her wedding, a Yale grad student disappears. What happened to her? That story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There are 62,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and they're spread out across the country. Anderson spent part of the week with Marines at one military outpost, Patrol Base Jaker. It's in Helmand province. Here's Anderson's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Patrol Base Jaker may not be much to look at, but for the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment, it's become a home.

(on camera) You may have heard stories of U.S. forces living overseas on huge bases that have all the comforts of home: movie theaters, convenient stores, fast-food restaurants. Patrol Base Jaker is nothing like that.

There are about 50 Marines here at any given time, and the conditions they face are extremely difficult.

(voice-over) Temperatures here can reach 120 degrees, but there's no air conditioning in tents, no respite from the heat and dust.

(on camera) First thing you notice when you get into Camp Jaker is this dust. The Marines call it moon dust. It's a fine powder that coats everything and gets everywhere: into weapons, in clothing, even food. There's nothing you can do about it.

How do you deal with the dust?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is what it is, I think. You can't beat it, so you just go with it.

COOPER: You just give into it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you surrender.

COOPER (voice-over): Nothing seems to bother Sergeant Riley Saborski (ph). He's had to deal with a lot more than just dust.

(on camera) You've been hit by two IEDs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two IEDs. Yes.

COOPER: Does that make you very lucky or very unlucky?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd go with lucky.

COOPER (voice-over): Lance Corporal James Steven wasn't feeling quite so lucky. When we met him, he was burning excrement, a dreaded assignment, especially in the heat.

(on camera) Of all the jobs, this is probably the worst one here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I mean, the smelliest one.

COOPER: The smelliest...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it stinks.

COOPER: Did you -- did you anger somebody and they assigned you this? Or...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I was just coming over...

COOPER: You were at the wrong place at the wrong time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, wrong place in the wrong time.

COOPER (voice-over): Around the clock, patrols come in and out. Marines move supplies. There's constant movement at Jaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's do your work and that's it. Do your job, that's it. Go to bed, wake up, do your job.

COOPER (on camera): That's what it's like, 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no Burger King. No coffee (ph).

COOPER (voice-over): There is food, of course. But it's all prepackaged, meals ready to eat.

As for leisure activities, a few old weights and a sledge hammer is the gym. For golfers, the whole place is a sand trap.

There is no privacy here, no place to simply take a break.

(on camera) The bathroom facilities here are primitive to say the least. There are pipes in the ground which are -- well, it's obvious what the pipes are for. And the toilets, there's four of them. They're communal.

(voice-over) Up in the guard tower, Tim Myers (ph) admits he often gets frustrated. But being here, being a Marine, is a dream come true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to do it since I was a little kid.

COOPER (on camera): Do you feel like you're doing something good here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COOPER (voice-over): Despite all the hardships of life on a small combat outpost, there is a feeling of accomplishment, and the bonds of brotherhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As weird as it sounds, this place is actually a nice home.

COOPER (on camera): What do you like about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About here?

COOPER: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Anderson Cooper reporting from Camp Jaker.

Up next, a Yale grad student disappears just days before her wedding. Was it a crime or a case of cold feet? We have new details tonight.

Also ahead, what you haven't seen from Anderson's trip to the battle zone in Afghanistan. His reporter's notebook coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight, an unfolding mystery at one of the country's elite universities. And a disturbing one. A Yale graduate student about to be married is missing. Her disappearance has stunned family and friends. It also has police searching for answers.

Randi Kaye has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On this Ivy League campus, among the gothic archways and majestic halls, ominous signs that something is very wrong. There are bloodhounds, crime scene investigators sifting through garbage, and this, a haunting surveillance picture of a bride-to-be student who vanished without a trace.

ALAN WILLIAMS, YALE STUDENT: Everyone is sort of shocked by it. Everyone is in disbelief that something like this could happen.

KAYE: But it did happen. Annie Le, 24 years old and pursuing a doctorate at Yale University School of Medicine, was last seen Tuesday morning outside a research facility. This snapshot from the building security camera shows Le entering, but no one ever saw her leave.

DEBBIE APUZZO, CO-WORKER: She left her pocketbook, her cell phone, everything in the lab.

KAYE: Evidence and perhaps clues that Le, who was just 4'11" and 90 pounds, may have met foul play. (on camera) Le disappeared just five days before her wedding. She was supposed to marry Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky this Sunday. Her family has reportedly canceled the wedding.

Authorities say her fiance is not a suspect and is helping in the search.

(voice-over) Dogs were brought in again tonight to search the building where lee disappeared. And as campus police, local law enforcement and the FBI look for Le, colleagues and classmates paint a picture of an energetic scholar known for her smile and laugh.

WILLIAMS: She was just a very, very cool person, very down to earth. You know, always willing to help someone out.

TONY DEVILLE, HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: Focused, disciplined, well rounded, vibrant and actually this teacher's favorite student of all time.

KAYE: In a bizarre twist, Le's disappearance comes seven months after she wrote an article for a magazine on personal security, titled "Crime and Safety in New Haven." Le offers tips to reduce the chances of being robbed or mugged.

She writes, "Pay attention to where you are and avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim." Good advice. But it may not have been enough to protect Annie Le.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Randi, as police try to solve this, anything else strange happen at the building where the student disappeared that day that might offer a clue?

KAYE: Something really bizarre, John. The fire alarm was actually pulled that day, not long after Annie Le entered the building. Now she wasn't spotted in the crowd as everybody filed out. But maybe if she was harmed, whoever did it pulled the alarm possibly to create a disturbance.

Now authorities, of course, are examining Le's computer and checking the blueprints of the building. The building is 120,000 square feet. So it's a big job.

But this really is so strange. She didn't have any medical problems, we're told. She didn't have any access to a vehicle. So apparently, John, she either left on foot or someone took her.

Authorities now offering $10,000 reward money. Hopefully, they'll learn something soon. But for now, her Sunday wedding has been canceled.

KING: OK. Randy Kaye once again for us. Randi, thank you.

To read more about this deepening mystery, go to AC360.com and find out what a Yale co-worker of Annie said about her colleague.

Next on 360, the question of gender for a gold medal winner. The fastest woman in the world, some believe she's hiding her true sex. And a new report only adds to the controversy. That story ahead.

And later, Anderson in the battle zone, a personal journey reflecting his time along the front lines. Anderson's reporter's notebook coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Still ahead, Anderson's reporter's notebook. A look back at his week in Afghanistan, a long, hard war set in motion eight years ago today.

First, though, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: John, the Space Shuttle Discovery landing in California tonight. After stormy weather prevented a return to the Florida home base, mission control ordered the crew to touch down this evening at NASA's backup landing site, which is, of course, Edwards Air Force Base.

The Discovery's latest trip to the International Space Station spanned 14 days and more than 5 million miles.

The Obama administration now open to direct talks with North Korea. The dramatic policy shift announced today meant to bring the reclusive regime back to the six-nation talks it pulled out of in April. Those talks, of course, are aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Gender questions continue to plague South African runner Caster Semanaya. Australian and British newspapers reporting gender tests show the 18-year-old is actually a hermaphrodite. But a spokesman for the International Governing Body for Athletes is urging caution here, insisting the results have not yet been examined by experts.

Semanaya crushed her rivals for the women's 800-meter gold medal at the World Athletics Championship in Berlin last month.

And a record night for Derek Jeter. Had all the guys, the Yankees fans, anyway, in the studio very excited. He broke the record set by Lou Gehrig for the most hits by a New York Yankee, Jeter scoring his 2,722nd hit tonight. Happened in the third inning of the Yankees home game against Baltimore -- John.

KING: Surprise, surprise. A big Red Sox fan right here, but I tip my hat. The guy's a pros, and he plays the game to win it.

HILL: Clearly, John King is a professional.

KING: I don't know about that.

You've got to tip your hat to the Yankees every now and then. All right. Here we go. Here's the important stuff, our "Beat 360" winners. You know the drill. Our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show off our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture we post on the blog every day.

Tonight's picture's a fun one, Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, joking with the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, on the floor of the House chamber before President Obama's big speech on health-care reform earlier this week.

Our staff winner, Friday night, is Kay. Her caption: "Yes, you ARE smart enough! And people DO like you!"

(SOUND EFFECT: FOGHORN)

HILL: Channeling his inner Stuart Smalley. I love it.

KING: Not too bad.

Our viewer -- that is a bad buzz. Our viewer winner, though, is Terry from Atlanta. Her caption: "I'm Erica Hill's No. 1 fan, not you, Senator."

HILL: Terry from Atlanta, I heart you.

KING: I thought I was Erica Hill's No. 1 fan.

HILL: If you all want to duke it out, go for it. We'll see the results on Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION".

KING: No violence here. Terry, your "Beat 360" T-shirt and a signed note from Erica Hill, I would think, after that, on the way.

HILL: A must-add.

KING: Up next, a special and very serious "Shot of the Day." Anderson's reporter's notebook from his trip to Afghanistan.

Coming up at the top of the hour, a 360 special, "Inside the Battle Zone."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We leave tonight with Anderson's reporter's notebook. Close to the combat, on patrol with the troops, Anderson reflects on a remarkable week in Afghanistan, nearly eight years into a difficult war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Coming to Helmand province, they warn you about the heat and dust. Nobody tells you, though, it can feel like the other side of the moon. There's a barrenness here, a loneliness. Guard towers and sandbags, long patrols. It's easy to feel cut off.

In Washington, they talk about al Qaeda, but that's not what this mission is about. The Marines are trying to get the Afghans off the fence, convince them their government works for them. For years, though, there's been little evidence it does.

The Afghan governor of the district greeted us when we landed. The Marines take him out, get him to interact with his own people. Few here are sure what side to support. There is so much corruption, it's hard to see what the Afghan government does.

The Marines move forward, however. Given little they make due with what they have. Every day they're out there on foot, not hiding in Humvees. They interact; they talk. It is not yet obvious to what end.

Their service, their sacrifice is stunning to witness. With time, with more troops, with more money, more aid, progress is possible. But the window is short. After eight years here, no one says we're winning. No one ever says it will soon end.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Helmand province, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A long, hard week for Anderson and his crew. Great work. Important story in Afghanistan.

Coming up at the top of the hour, a 360 special. Anderson, Sanjay Gupta, Peter Bergen, Michael Ware and the troops, "Inside the Battle Zone."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Good evening from Afghanistan. This is a special edition of 360, "Inside the Battle Zone" on this, the eighth anniversary of 9/11.

Right now the war here in Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. There are more American troops here than ever. More American troops are getting killed here than ever before. July and August, the deadliest months for U.S. Forces since the war began.

Eight years ago, just after the September 11 attacks, that's when this war began. The goal then was to find Osama bin Laden and drive out his protectors, the Taliban. Bin Laden is still at large. The Taliban have regained a foothold, a strong foothold in this country.

Now the battle more than ever includes winning hearts and minds of the civilian population here in Afghanistan, to get them off the fence and turn against the Taliban.

Tonight, you'll see how dangerous this mission has become, as Michael Ware discovered firsthand with his brush with an IED.

We'll show you what a battle looks like and feels like through the eyes of Marines as they prepare Afghan forces to take control of their country's security and future. Plus, the civilian toll. You'll meet a little boy who was near death when 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta met him. Tonight what does Malik's future hold? We'll show you the doctors, the American doctors who saved his life.

All ahead on this 360 special, "Inside the Battle Zone."

We begin with the new strategy here in Helmand province: clear, hold and build. That's what the Marines are calling it. The move into an area. They clear it of Taliban.