Army specialist returns home after a year in Afghanistan to find a huge transformation in his wife. She lost 100lbs.
Thomas & Mary Beth Smedinghoff, parents of slain State Dept. worker of Anne, on her dedication and work in Afghanistan.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's surprise visit to Kabul, Afghanistan.
(CNN) - In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama will announce that by this time next year, 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will have returned home, according to sources with knowledge of the president's speech.
The move will reduce the number of U.S. forces in the country by half.
A Washington Post poll out Tuesday morning shows that 80% of registered voters support the president's policy to end the war in Afghanistan.
The White House has been considering a range of troop levels to remain in Afghanistan once the combat mission officially ends at the end of 2014, from as many as 15,000 troops to none at all.
This morning on "Starting Point," CNN's Jake Tapper breaks the news of President Obama's expected announcement in this evening's State of the Union address.
READ MORE: Obama to announce 34,000 troops to come home
Tonight on CNN, newly minted CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper takes a look back at one of the deadliest days of the war in Afghanistan.
It's a story told through the eyes of one of America's bravest: Army Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha. The CNN documentary, "An American Hero" premieres tonight at 10pm Eastern, just days before Romesha will be awarded with the Medal of Honor by President Obama.
This morning on "Starting Point," Tapper explains Romesha's story.
Sergeant Romesha led the defense of a Taliban attack on Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009.
“It's like a fighter going into the boxing ring, you know,” Romesha tells Tapper in an interview from the documentary. “If you think you're going to lose before you even step into the ring, you've already lost. You're there to win, you're there to fight, AND you're there to, you know - your brothers to your left and right are depending on you, so you don't have that in you.”
On Starting Point, Tapper says, “It's the kind of thing where every time they opened a door to run out to deliver ammunition, a sniper would pick one of them off. There were five guys trapped in a humvee for hours, three men trapped in the mortar pit for hours. The first guy killed was running to a machine gun in the corner of the camp to return fire - killed. It was the deadliest day for the U.S. in Afghanistan that year.”
Check out a preview of the documentary in the clip above.
Breaking news this morning out of Afghanistan – A man wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on U.S. troops, killing three soldiers in the country's southern Helmand province.
On Wednesday there was another deadly attack where a suicide bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan left four Americans dead, including an aid worker and senior members of an army brigade.
– CNN's Chris Lawrence reports
On this Memorial Day, Gen. Martin Dempsey discusses honoring our fallen servicemen and women, the progress in Afghanistan and the ever deteriorating situation in Syria.
“This is a day where we memorialize our dead,” Dempsey says. “I drive to work everyday past Arlington Cemetery and there’s 260,000 small American flags planted at each of these gravesites today. So, I just want to make sure they know we will never forget.”
With almost 2,000 U.S troops killed in the war in Afghanistan, Dempsey believes that success will come when “the Afghan security forces are capable of maintaining stability inside of their own country and that the central government of Afghanistanis able to provide governance.”
Speaking on Sen. John McCain’s concerns that the plan of withdrawal in Afghanistan will pose a security threat, Dempsey believes there is some validity to his fears.
“Well, I think they’re somewhat valid because there are multiple faces of the Taliban,” he says. “I think there are probably Taliban who will never reconcile. I will say the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we entered into with Afghanistan should give pause to the Taliban that they just can’t simply wait us out.”
With the situation in Syria growing more deadly each day, with 108 peopled killed in the town of Houla-49 of which were children-Dempsey says that “the military option should be considered” but he would like to see the international community come up with ways to increase the pressure on Al-Assad to “do the right thing and step aside.”
The war in Afghanistan is at the center of the NATO Summit in Chicago, but intertwined are issues with the economy and Pakistan.
“I think this whole summit is characterized by how does NATO operate in an age of austerity when defense budgets are tight,” says Damon Wilson, former top aid to the NATO Secretary General and current Vice President of the Atlantic Council.
President Obama might not have a lot of trouble rallying support for his exit strategy since Wilson says it includes transferring power to Afghan soldiers, which will result in cheaper roles for the other countries involved.
However, Pakistan is making some of Obama’s plans difficult. The country refused to open supply lines into Afghanistan, and President Asif Ali Zardari’s invitation to the summit came at the last minute.
Wilson acknowledges the strained relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. on Starting Point this morning, but says Zardari’s presence at the summit is meaningful.
Regarding the participation of Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai at the summit, Wilson says that he has been "saying all the right things" and explains that the White House is pleased with his attitude.
Marcus Lutrell was the "sole survivor" when a Navy SEAL team was ambushed in Afghanistan. That's the day three seals were killed when their rescue helicopter was downed by an RPG, killing eight more Navy SEALS and eight U.S. Army operations aviators. Less than a year later, Lutrell went back to war, this time in Iraq.
Lutrell talks about the journey in his new book "Service: A Navy SEAL at War" and joins Soledad with his dog Mr. Rigby to explain why he chose to go back to war.
Lots of questions this morning about the purpose of President Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan. Right after Air Force One went wheels up, the Taliban exploded a car bomb in Kabul that killed seven people. That was a fairly tough reminder that there's a long way to go in Afghanistan.
The new agreement between President Obama and the Afghan President Hamid Karzai is called the strategic partnership agreement that promises American support for Afghanistan through 2024, 10 years after the last American combat forces are scheduled to leave the country.
Some felt the speech fell a little short, including "The New York Times" in an editorial this morning. They wrote the speech was frustratingly short on specifics.
This morning on "Starting Point," Soledad talks with Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY). She asked him if President Obama made the right case in his speech, and what our purpose in Afghanistan should be.
"I think it's important to know, for instance, will the U.S. have the right to go from Afghanistan into Pakistan to launch drone attacks for instance? Or if we see al Qaeda operations forming in Pakistan, do we have the right to preempt them? That to me is very important," King says.
"Otherwise, I believe you could see al Qaeda forming right outside of the Afghanistan border and whatever troops we have left in Afghanistan in 2014, 2015, 2016, will not be adequate to match up against them. So, that's one issue."
Soledad also asks him to respond to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's claim from her interview that 14 different plots against New York City have been thwarted since 9/11.
"I think it's largely because of the infrastructure, the international anti-terrorism infrastructure that was put in place after 9/11 by President Bush. There's much more cooperation with our allies. We have the Patriot Act. We have many layers of defense. And quite frankly, I agree with Jose Rodriguez. I think a lot of the information that we obtained from Guantanamo and from the interrogations was extremely helpful in stopping attacks against this country," King says.
King also says he thinks the investigation into the Secret Service scandal in Colombia has been very thorough.
"In a way the Secret Service has ducked a bullet. What happened here really goes against all of the principles of the Secret Service because it was disclosed and there was no long-term security matter involved here, it gives the Secret Service the opportunity to clear up what has happened and do all accounts to make sure it never happens again, or at least minimizes it, to make it very difficult for that to happen again and get the signal out there to all Secret Service members that this conduct will not be tolerated.
See more from the interview below.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) says anti-terror policies and enhanced interrogation helped thwart further attacks in the U.S.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) says he thinks the investigation into the Secret Service scandal has been very thorough.