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tv   MSNBC Live With Tamron Hall  MSNBC  October 15, 2015 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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2017. nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel joins us from turkey. ron allen joins us from the white house. and we have with us military analyst and retired army colonel jack jacobs. richard, let me start with you and talk about the climate right now and what these troops who remain are facing. >> reporter: well, they're facing the taliban, which still is able to mass in large numbers, was still able last month to take over the city of kunduz which is a major city. we also have isis which in some places is challenging the taliban and has managed to take over territory that had been held by the taliban. you have the afghan security forces which are still fighting, but without american intelligence support, without american technology. sometimes without american close air support. they probably would not be able to stay in the fight that they have been to the degree that
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they have been able to right now. so this is clearly a disappointment for the president, a setback for the administration. president obama wanted to wrap up the war in afghanistan with his term in office. but i think the clip you just played a few seconds ago is so revealing. he said he wanted to withdraw, by the end of 2016, to a normal embassy presence with just about 1,000 troops on the ground protecting the embassy, providing some expertise just like happened in iraq. well, we all know what happened in iraq. u.s. troops left iraq, and the country quickly spiraled into a civil war that saw the rise of isis, that saw isis spreading into syria, and those two conflicts merging into one and becoming the most deadly war zones in the world right now. and i don't think the president could have afforded to have another situation like iraq. he couldn't afford to pull out
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all u.s. troops or most of the u.s. troops and see afghanistan also descend into chaos. >> and richard, please stand by. let me bring in colonel jack jacobs. to richard's point, not just the president could not afford to see another iraq, the world could not afford to see that, colonel. but when you look at some of the changes that have been made to this plan that the president had announced what seems like so long ago, the news that we're anticipating today that some 5,000 -- 5,500. troo troops will remain in afghanistan, did you see that coming on the ground there and just the climate right now? >> well, anybody who's spent any time in combat can tell you that it always requires more assets than you think, and certainly more assets than to hold on to the objective once you get it. i think the military establishment has been arguing for a long time that the numbers the president has been talking about are insufficient to
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accomplish the commission. l mission. let me give you one example. the recent attack on the hospital in kunduz, that's a great example. you can't use airstrikes against the enemy unless you have americans on the ground to coordinate the airstrike, people in the air, people in tactical operations centers. that takes a lot of people. you also have to train the people on the ground. >> right. >> the afghans. that takes a long time, too. >> all right, colonel, stand by. i want to turn to our msnbc's brian williams. he joins me live. brian, you heard colonel jack say anyone who's spent time in combat would know you always need more troops than anticipated. and our richard engel really painting a clear picture of the situation on the ground compared to what the president said regarding iraq and not wanting to have that situation in afghanistan. >> well, tamron, that's absolutely right. and given the background you've established so far since you've been on the air, the math is pretty simple. the president started at 10,000.
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he had pledged to go to 1,000. and it looks like that number's going to be adjusted back up to 5,000. it couldn't be a dicier time in that part of the world. and certain members of congress, during this campaign, of course, it's easy to say grandiose things during the campaign have advocated for new trap troops ground in different countries. much easier said than done. here's the president. >> good morning. last december, more than 13 years after our nation was attacked by al qaeda on 9/11, america's combat mission in afghanistan came to a responsible end. that milestone was achieved thanks to the courage and the skill of our military, our
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intelligence, and civilian personnel. they served there with extraordinary skill and valor, and it's worth remembering especially the more than 2,200 american patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in afghanistan. i visited our troops in afghanistan last year to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation. i told them they could take great pride in the progress that they helped achieve. they struck devastating blows against the al qaeda leadership in the tribal regions, delivered justice to osama bin laden, prevented terrorist attacks, and saved american lives. they pushed the taliban back so the afghan people could reclaim their communities. send their daughters to school. and improve their lives. our troops trained afghan forces so they could take the lead for their own security. and protect afghans as they voted in historic elections leading to the first democratic transfer of power in their
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country's history. today, the american forces no longer patrol afghan villages or valleys. our troops are not engaged in major ground combat against the taliban. those missions now belong to afghans. who are fully responsible for securing their country. but as i've said before, while america's combat mission in afghanistan may be over, our commitment to afghanistan and its people endures. as commander in chief, i will not allow afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again. our forces therefore remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions. training afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al qaeda. of course, compared to the 100,000 troops we once had in
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afghanistan, today fewer than 10,000 remain in support of these very focused missions. i meet regularly with my national security team including commanders in afghanistan to continually assess honestly the situation on the ground. to determine where our strategy is working and where we may need greater flexibility. i've insisted consistently that our strategy focus on the development of a sustainable afghan capacity and self-sufficiency. and when we've needed additional forces to advance that goal, where we've needed to make adjustments in terms of our timetables, then we've made those adjustments. today i want to update the american people on our efforts. since taking the lead for security earlier this year, afghan forces have continued to step up. this has been the first fighting season where afghans have largely been on their own. and they are fightingor their
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country bravely and tenaciously. afghan forces continue to hold most urban areas. and when the taliban has made gains, as in kunduz, afghan forces backed by coalition support have been able to push them back. they say it comes at a heavy price. this year alone thousands of afghan troops and police have lost their lives, as have many afghan civilians. at the same time, afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be. they are developing critical capabilities. intelligence, logistics, aviation, command and control. and meanwhile, the taliban has made gains, particularly in rural areas and can still launch deadly attacks in cities including kabul. much of this was predictable. we understood that as we transitioned, that the taliban would try to exploit some of our
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movements out of particular areas and that it would take time for afghan security forces to strengthen. pressure from pakistan has resulted in more al qaeda coming into afghanistan, and we've seen the emergence of an isil presence. the bottom line is in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile. and in some places, there's risk of deterioration. fortunately, in president ghani and chief executive abdullah, there is a national unity government that supports a strong partnership with the united states. during their visit earlier this year, president ghani and i agreed to continue our counterterrorism cooperation. and he has asked for continued support as afghan forces grow stronger. following consultations with my entire national security team as well as our international partners and members of congress, president ghani and
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chief executive abdullah, i'm therefore announcing the following steps which i am convinced offer the best possibility for lasting progress in afghanistan. first, i've decided to maintain our current posture of 9,800 troops in afghanistan through most of next year, 2016. their mission will not change. our troops will continue to pursue those two narrow tasks that i outlined earlier. training afghan forces and going after al qaeda. but maintaining our current posture through most of next year rather than a more rapid drawdown will allow us to sustain our efforts to train and assist afghan forces as they grow stronger. not only during this fighting season but into the next one. second, i've decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in kabul by the end of 2016, we will
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maintain 5,500 troops at a small number of bases including at bagram, jalalbad and kandahar. our mission will not change. our focus will be on training afghans and counterterrorism operations. but these bases will give us the presence and the reach our forces require to achieve their mission. in this sense, afghanistan is a key piece of the network of counterterrorism partnerships that we feed from south asia to africa to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland. third, we will work with allies and partners to align the steps i'm announcing today with their own presence in afghanistan after 2016. in afghanistan, we are part of a coalition and our nato allies and partners can continue to
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play an indispensable role in helping afghanistan strengthen its force forces including respect for human rights. and finally, because governance and development remain the foundation force and stability in afghanistan, we pill continue to support president ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms. new provincial governors have been appointed, and president ghani is working to combat corruption, strengthen institutions, and uphold rule of law. as i told president ghani and chief executive abdullah yesterday, efforts that deliver progress and justice for the afghan people will continue to have the strong support of the united states. and we cannot separate the importance of governance with the issues of security. the more effective these reforms happen, the better off the security situation's going to be.
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we also discussed american support of an afghan-led reconciliation process. by now it should be clear to the taliban and all who oppose afghanistan's progress, the only real way to achieve the full drawdown of u.s. troops from afghanistan is through a lasting political settlement with the afghan government. and likewise, sanctuaries for the taliban and other terrorists must end. next week i'll host prime minister sharif of pakistan, and i will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that afghans deserve. in closing, i want to speak directly to those whose lives are most directly affected by decisions i'm announcing today. to the afghan people who have suffered so much, americans'
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commitment to you and to a secure, stable and unified afghanistan, that remains firm. our two nations have forged a strategic partnership for the long term. and as you defend and build your country, today is a reminder that the united states keeps our commitments. and to our men and women in uniform, i know this means that some of you will rotate back into afghanistan. with the end of our combat mission, this is not like 2010 when nearly 500 americans were killed and many more were injured. but still, afghanistan remains dangerous. 25 brave americans have given their lives there this year. i do not send you into harm's way lightly. it's the most solemn decision that i make. i know the wages of war and the wounded warriors i visit in the hospital and in the grief of gold star families.
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but as your commander in chief, i believe this mission is vital to our national security interests in preventing terrorist attacks against our citizens and our nation. and to the american people. i know that many of you have grown weary of this conflict. as you are well aware, i do not support the idea of endless war. and i have repeatedly argued against marching into open-ended military conflicts that do not serve our core security interests. yet given what's at stake in afghanistan and the opportunity for a stable and committed ally that can partner with us in preventing the emergence of future threats and the fact that we have an international coalition, i am firmly convinced that we should make this extra effort. in the afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants
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our help, and the majority of the afghan people share our goals. we have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation. every single day afghan forces are out there fighting and dying to protect their country. they're not looking for us to do it for them. i'm speaking of the afghan army cadet who grew up seeing bombings and attacks on innocent civilians who said because of this, i took the decision to join the army to try and save innocent people's lives. or the police officer trained to defuse explosives. i know it's dangerous work, he says, but i've always had a dream of wearing the uniform of afghanistan, serving my people and defending my country. or the afghan commando, a hardened veteran of many missions who said if i start telling you the stories of my life, i might start crying. he serves, he said, because the faster we bring peace, the
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faster we can bring education, and the stronger our unity will grow. only if these things happen will afghanistan be able to stand up for itself. my fellow americans, after so many years of war, afghanistan will not be a perfect place. it's a poor country that will have to work hard on its development. there will continue to be contested areas. but afghans like these are standing up for their country. if they were to fail, it would endanger the security of us all. and we've made enormous investment in a stable afghanistan. afghans are making difficult but genuine progress. this modest but meaningful extension of our presence while sticking to our current narrow missions can make a real
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difference. it's the right thing to do. may god bless our troops and all who keep us safe, and may god continue to bless the united states of america. >> mr. president -- >> let's see if the president's going to take a question here. >> this decision's not disappointing. continually my goal has been to make sure that we give every opportunity for afghanistan to succeed while we're still making sure that we're meeting our core missions. and as i've continually said, my approach is to assess the situation on the ground, figure out what's working, figure out what's not working, make adjustments where necessary. this isn't the first time those adjustments have been made. this won't probably be the last. what i'm encouraged by is the fact that we have a government
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that is serious about trying to deliver security and the prospects of a better life for the afghan people. we have a clear majority of the afghans who want to partner with us and the international community to achieve those goals. we have a bilateral security arrangement that ensures that our troops can operate in ways that protect them while still achieving their mission. and we've always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any reemergence of active al qaeda networks or other networks that might do us harm. so this is consistent with the overall vision that we've had. and, frankly, we anticipated, as we were drawing down troops, that there would be times where we might need to slow things down or fill gaps in afghan capacity.
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and this is a reflection of that. and it's a dangerous area. so part of what we're constantly trying to balance is making sure that afghans are out there, they're doing what they need to do, but that we are giving them a chance to succeed and that we're making sure that our force posture in the area for conducting those narrow missions that we need to conduct, we can do so relatively safely. there's still risks involved, but force protection, the ability of our embassies to operate effectively, those things all factor in. and so we've got to constantly review these approaches. the important thing i want to emphasize, though, is that the nature of the mission has not changed, and the cessation of our combat role has not changed. now, the 25 military and civilians who were killed last
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year, that always weighs on my mind, and 25 deaths are 25 too many, particularly for the families of the fallen. but understand relative to what was involved when we were in an active combat role and actively engaged in war in afghanistan was a very different scenario. so here you have a situation where we have clarity about what our mission is. we've got a partner who wants to work with us. we're going to continually make adjustments to ensure that we give the best possibilities for success, and i suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president. and as conditions improve, we'll be in a position to make further adjustments. but i'm absolutely confident this is the right thing to do, and i'm not disappointed because my view has always been how do we achieve our goals while
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minimizing the strain and exposure on our men and women in uniform and make sure that we are constantly encouraging and sending a message to the afghan people, this is their country, and they've got to defend it. but we're going to be a steady partner for them. okay? thank you, everybody. >> and that concludes the president's remarks. as we were saying the nation's longest war is getting longer still. the president who campaigned on ending the nation's dual wars was able to do so, by and large, in iraq, afghanistan. though our combat role is changing and has changed already is proving a bit trickier. let's go to the pentagon. our chief pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski. jim, how will this go down where you are? >> reporter: well, according to defense and senior military officials, this number of 5,500 american forces that will now remain in afghanistan beyond the
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president's original withdrawal date of almost all forces by the end of next year was exactly the opposite -- the one option that the top u.s. commander there in afghanistan, general john campbell, had selected. general campbell himself thought that this was the best option not only militarily but even politically. and it's clear that this was a difficult decision for the president to make when he reminded us that he's not in favor of committing the u.s. to endless wars, but at the same time recognizes he has committed the u.s. military to a long-term presence in afghanistan. but he warned the taliban that, look, there's going to be no full withdrawal of american forces until the taliban reaches reconciliation at the peace table. so there's a little bit of conflict there, but so far what we're hearing from senior military officials is this is exactly the compromise, if you will, that the u.s. military had
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sought, brian. >> and jim, think about where we've been, when our troop levels were at 100,000 and even just below that, the daily patrols in different parts of the nation, going out to, in military parlance, make contact, and a lot of times that meant get shot at and shoot back. these roving armored mechanized patrols, and now in part because you can do more with less, in part because it has been our nation's role and fulfilling -- trying to fulfill the promise to draw it all down, we're in such a different stance, and yet we still have a lot of real estate there to protect. >> reporter: that's right. and we're not going to see the kind of big footprint -- military footprint that you were talking about there in afghanistan. and there are special operations forces conducting regular military combat operations in terms of the counterterrorism field that we often don't hear
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about. the one thing he talked about is, look. the military forces are going to train and insiassist the afghan military, conduct these counterterrorism operations, but what he didn't talk about is what the military considers option three. and that's if the afghan military finds itself in such dire straits, as they did recently in kunduz, the u.s. military, as of now, still has the ability to conduct military operations to support the afghan military. we're not going to see the kind of direct, again, big footprint combat that we've seen for 14 years, but make no mistake about it, american forces are still in harm's way there in afghanistan. >> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon, thanks. richard engel is with us from istanbul, turkey. richard, give us a kind of tour of the region as you see it, and
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what the president announced today will impact what you see as the problem there. >> reporter: well, the president said he does not want endless wars, doesn't support endless wars, but america's longest war has just gotten longer. the plan was to start quite soon off-ramping soldiers, to start drawing down from 10,000. instead, we're going to keep 10,000 troops there almost through the end of 2016. and then only go down to 5,500 troops after that. a significant change in policy. and i think when you listened to the president speak today, you really need to think about iraq because what happened in iraq was the u.s. drew down to that what they like to call embassy-level security, and quickly the iraqi government collapsed. the iraqi security forces collapsed, in some cases
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abandoning their weapons, and we saw isis take over iraq and syria. and i think by doing this, the president is trying to prevent afghanistan from becoming a failure like iraq. >> richard engel in istanbul. john sults is with us as well, a former iraq combat veteran. john, what is it about united states training of foreign forces? you did this. you witnessed this in iraq. we witnessed it in afghanistan. more than once we went out to a place called camp moorehead and watched the iraqi chan dough ct the president mentioned getting trained up. and yet you stand back and wait for the results, and so many times it's been disappointing. so many times it's been one of those places where critics point to as a waste of money. >> i think if the president's strategy solely lies on training the afghan military, there's going to be a long-term problem there. i don't think anyone who served in iraq or afghanistan
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specifically those of us that were embedded think that training the afghan forces is a viable exit strategy. i was certainly happy to hear the president talk about diplomacy, talk about negotiation with the taliban. that's hard to do with a time line. but when we're embedded with the iraqis, for instance, there has to be unity of cause and purpose. there's challenges that we don't understand. to give you an example, only 10% of the afghan military is even litera literate. you're talking about a country with valleys, canyons, limited road networks, the ability for them to sustain themselves logistically, the ability of them to use intelligence systems. it's very limited. and corruption's always an issue. for instance, if i can't control the flow of equipment from baghdad to mosul, how is the afghan military going to do that out through a valley 200 miles away? so there's tremendous challenges here. if the president solely relies on that, you know, this in the end is just going to delay the inevitable. >> jack jacobs, recipient of the medal of honor is also listening to our coverage. he is with us. jack, no one's going to be
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satisfied. there were statements issued by mccain and graham on the senate side before the president started saying good start but not enough. it is tough, too -- i mean, bagram, the size of bagram air base, just that, could justify a force of 5,500. back to this question of real estate, these 5,500, when the 10,000 drawdown is completed, are going to have their hands full. >> yeah, they certainly are. and i think it's interesting that the number is 9,800. so it looks like it's just below 10,000 when in actual fact "a," we need to have more people there, and there are already more people there, they're just in areas in countries that are not far away so that we can support what we need to on the ground. i think the president said something very interesting in at the end. and my ears really perked them
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up. he said, this isn't going to be the last time that we take another look at this and we may change things in the future, or words to that effect. i think we're going to discover, in fact, whatever number it is, 5,500 or 9,800, that's not going to be enough to accomplish the missions that he has just articulated that are required of american troops. the second thing is, if anybody thinks that just another year is going to get you where you're going, you've got another thing coming. i'm always fond of the principle of -- the first principle of war that makes sense to me, and that is the principle of the objective. articulate what it is you're trying to accomplish, and then work your way backwards from there. i think if you do that, if you say what you really want is an afghanistan that can more or less protect itself with minimum american involvement, i think
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you're talking about something a heck of a lot longer than just through 2016 and lots more than 9,800 troops. and that's why i think the president is talking about readjusting as time goes forward. i don't think anybody should be under the illusion that a year from now we're going to be down to 5500 or 1,000. training troops on the ground takes a lot of people. it's labor intensive, and it's time intensive. and just a year just isn't going to do it, brian. >> jack, as jim miklaszewski correctly points out, special forces are at work every day around the clock. their job is for us not to know what they're doing every day around the clock in order to be effective. and that -- just that aspect of this operation is enormous. >> yeah. the interesting thing is that we focus our attention on what takes place in the air.
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we're heavily invested in precision-guided munitions. we can decide where exactly we're going to put an exploding projectile. and we've become inured to the kind of technology that we think really inwithes wars. but those who have spent time in combat know that wars are won on the ground by troops who are attacking other troops, seize and most importantly to hold terrain and to hold it for a long period of time. and just airstrikes just isn't going to do it. and secondly, the only way you're going to get airstrikes onto the target is to have good intelligence, to have it accurately targeted and controlled. and we're not going to leave that to the afghans. we've got special forces, special operations forces, and an increasing number of those people are going to have to be on the ground in order just to contain, just to control the munitions we use to support the afghan troops.
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now, this longest war, i think, is going to go on quite a bit longer, brian. >> jack jacobs, recipient of the medal of honor. over to the white house, chris jansing, our senior white house correspondent. chris, at the end of a president's two terms in office, it's always difficult to look back and say, well, this -- this one issue was in the background or the foreground the entire time, and this is going to be one of these. when we say america's longest war, it takes another turn this late in the game. >> reporter: it does indeed, brian. and remember, this is a president who got elected on a promise that he wanted to get out of war. he acknowledged that, right? he acknowledged that at the end of -- the answer to the one shouted question when he said, you know, i've never been for an open-ended war, but i think jack picked up on exactly the right thing, which is that he said there were going to be this series of adjustments. other people might call it a
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significant strategic shift. having said that, i think it's worthwhile to look back that when he was running for re-election in 2012, brian, he said we're going to withdraw troops by the end of 2014. and then, of course, that didn't happen. and as recently as march, he said we're going to do this by the end of next year. and that was when he launched this review. and they've been looking at this since then. he had a range of options on his desk after the folks who were charged with this consulted with his national security team, with the military commanders on the ground, with the folks on the ground in afghanistan, but also under pressure from many of our allies who are concerned about that threat that richard talked about from both the taliban and isis and other threats. and they came up with a whole range of proposals. it could have stated 1,000 which would have meant just those folks who were going to guard the embassy in kabul. it could have gone up to 10,000 or more. but here we have sort of a
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middle ground, but beyond kabul, those four different locations. and even though the president said clearly he said i'm not disappointed in answer to that question, there certainly will be those among his supporters who are definitely disappointed in this, although as i said, members of congress, his national security team and the military have been looking at this, and many of them pushing him very hard not t withdraw, brian. >> chris jansing from the white house, thanks. and summing up, the president said after these current 10,000 or so troops stay there through calendar 2016, the force will be reduced to approximately 5,500. though as you've heard in our coverage, doubts are being expressed that we'll be able to keep it to that small a number. it's important for us to repeat one aspect of this that was important to the president in his remarks, and that is what this means to the u.s. military and their families. we call this the nation's
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longest war, and think of the impact this has had, repeated deployments, all of their dependents. it is a team effort. when a family member wears the uniform of the united states. so we shouldn't forget that. as i turn over this time slot to its rightful owner, tamron hall, a woman who grew up in a military family, knowing it all too well. tamron, another day, another milestone in this nation's longest war. >> absolutely it is. and you are right to point out those facts regarding the families that we've spoken with so many times here. it is not just an individual. it affects everyone. and we'll continue to follow the latest developments. i know you're standing by with all the breaking details on that. meanwhile, thank you, brian, other developments out of israel. police in jerusalem have put up concrete barriers around arab neighborhoods to try to stop a recent wave of violence with fears running high, many israelis are avoiding buses which have been at the center of several attacks.
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yesterday two palestinians were killed by israeli police. one after police say he stabbed and wounded a 72-year-old woman as she boarded a bus. the other was shot after unarung through a checkpoint according to police with a knife. palestinians say the violence is the result of years of occupation and failed peace efforts. they blame the israeli government of a double standard, cracking down on palestinians while going easy on israeli extremists. they also point to this viral video. this one showing a 13-year-old palestinian boy bleeding on the ground. today the israeli government released a video of the same boy receiving treatment at a jerusalem hospital. they say the video contradicts claims that the boy accused of a stabbing attack monday was executed by police. meanwhile, eight israelis have been killed in the latest violence while 31 palestinians were killed by israeli fire. msnbc's ayman mohyeldin is in jerusalem with the latest.
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ayman, describe the tenor of the day. as i pointed out, you thousand have an escalated situation and even more security. >> reporter: yeah. i mean, the sun is setting here on the old city. we've moved our camera position a little further off from the damascus gate to give you a different perspective of the scene where that shooting happened yesterday. this was at the checkpoint right here. and you can see the israeli police have set up barricades limiting the access into the old city. they've stopped occasionally young palestinian men that are going in and out of it to check them, check their i.d.s. but at the same time, it seems to be for today -- for now today a relatively quiet scene. there haven't been any major incidents so far. there was earlier, though, in tel aviv a large manhunt after israeli security forces were tipped off, it seems, about a possible attack. and as a result of that, israeli security forces deployed helicopters, large -- launched a large manhunt looking for those suspects. ultimately two individuals were taken into custody and released. the country really is on edge
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following this wave of attacks. you mentioned some of the measures that the israeli security forces have been taking, stepping up patrols, deploying additional members of the forces, the military forces, and also putting up some of those closures in and around some of the arab neighborhoods. overnight they've also announced they were going to be demolishing the homes of two of those attackers, something that's drawn already strong condemnation from the palestinian side. tamron? >> ayman mohyeldin, thank you. we also have breaking news. former house speaker denny hastert will plead guilty in connection with a so-called hush-money case. nbc's pete williams is next with the new details coming in on that story. also ahead -- >> this socialist/communist, okay, nobody wants to say it. >> donald trump ups his attacks on senator bernie sanders while trump dominates new polls. two polls out in early voting states. our political panel is up next. and this -- >> they need to hurry please
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that's where at&t can help. at at&t we monitor our network traffic so we can see things others can't. mitigating risks across your business. leaving you free to focus on what matters most. we are back with more breaking news. attorneys for former house speaker dennis hastert told a federal judge he will plead guilty to charges in connection with his so-called hush-money case. nbc's justice correspondent pete williams joins me now with more details on what we've learned. pete, good morning. >> good morning, tamron. the judge has set a hearing for october 28th in which it appears that dennis hastert will plead guilty. that, frankly, is about all we know. we don't know which of the two charges or both he'll plead guilty to. he's accused of structuring withdrawals of money from his own bank account.
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according to a federal indictment to pay money to someone identified only as individual "a" to conceal and compensate for past misconduct. the government has never said what that is, but law enforcement officials have said it involves conduct of a sexual nature with a student when he was a teacher and coach in illinois. he's also accused of lying to the fbi about the payments. so you might ask yourself, well, what do the both sides get out of it? he would obviously, though, it would be embarrassing to plead guilty to federal charges in court, he would avoid a trial in which the details of the misconduct might come out. the government, on the other hand, will avoid having to put individual "a" on the stand and spare that person's embarrassment and public humiliation. what we don't know is much else about what the government will ask for, whether it will seek prison time or not. those details still have to be worked out. tamron? >> pete, thank you very much. and turning to politics now, as donald trump rises even more in key states, it appears he's found a new target. >> i watched hillary last night with we're going to give this,
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we're going to give that. the poor woman, she's got to give everything away because this maniac that was standing on her right is giving everything away, so she's following! that's what's happening! this socialist/communist, okay? nobody wants to say it. no. >> trump was speaking to supporters at a rally in virginia yesterday. his focus on the democratic candidate comes as a new poll shows he's trouncing his opponents in two key early voting states. according to the new cnn/orc poll in south carolina, trump is at 36%, an 18-point lead, doubling his nearest competitor, ben carson. and in nevada trump has a 16-point lead, 38% to carson's 22%. meanwhile, the democratic front runner, hillary clinton, is spending the day in texas, picking up a key endorsement from former san antonio mayor,
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now housing secretary, julian castro. let me bring in political panel for you this morning. "washington post" columnist e.j. dionne who is also an msnbc contributor and gop communications strategist lee carter. lee, what is the strategy donald trump taking on bernie sanders? >> well, i think he's trying to pivot away from picking on all the other republican candidates right now, and he's certainly speaking his mind. and i think that's something that's been working for him so far. i'm not going to say that i understand it as a strategist, a communications strategist, it's not something i would advise my clients to do, but i think there's so much frustration that he's able to do it. in some way if you remember that honey badger interview where he doesn't give a hoot. he'll go to places, he just keeps going, he keeps going and he's not afraid of anything. and some people are saying you know what? that's a leader. and it's what it is. >> well, it's interesting, though, he's going after bernie sanders but not attacking ben carson. his rationale or reasoning to katy tur was ben carson hasn't
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attacked me, but if he does, then i will go after him which in itself, i don't know how you explain that theory, but ben carson is his immediate threat, not bernie sanders. >> i think what he does is he finds weak points. he finds a place where he can go in and just get people activated around certain things that he just -- he has a sixth sense for knowing what people are upset about for disrupting. i don't think he's found that weak spot in carson, or he would go after it. i don't think he has any punches held. >> e.j., you had a column yesterday, "clinton wins, sanders scores." what do you make of donald trump's focus and such aggressive language after saying to katy tur he was going to try a more politically correct approach if that's a fair characterization of what he said? >> well, first of all, i think it should be said trump's saying that nobody says that bernie sanders is a communist. nobody's saying it because it's a lie.
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historically democratic socialists are actually among the most severe critics of communists because they were democratic, because they thought communism was a murderous distortion of what they believed, and they were often very much in line with the united states against the soviet union. so there's that. i think there may be some competition between trump and bernie sanders for disaffected working-class voters. trump's own constituency tilts fairly -- you know, tilts a great deal toward the working class, and also any attacks on democrats help him with, you know, real hardcore republicans. i think on the carson question, he may not be attacking him because it's not clear that if carson's vote went down, carson folks would go to donald trump. i think that vote could well go to other contenders including certainly ted cruz, possibly marco rubio. so i don't think it's necessarily in his interest to
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attack ben carson at the moment. >> okay, moving on to the democratic side, yesterday john podesta, clinton's campaign manager, was on with andrea mitchell and said if vice president biden wants to enter and compete for the presidency, then it's time to make the decision. kristen welker reporting a source has told her that right now the vice president, e.j., is in the final stages of making a decision. would that seem obvious at this point? whatever the decision is? >> yeah, i mean, first of all, if he did campaign, he's facing some early deadlines for getting into the race. and on this one, i think the conventional wisdom is right, that if he actually did want to get in, he should have gotten in for this debate because the whole contour of that debate would have been different if he had been there. one of the central reasons why a lot of democrats were looking at joe biden other than the fact that there's enormous affection for him in the party is that they were worried about whether
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hillary clinton would be strong enough to win this race. and i think in that debate, she showed she was pretty strong. i think she reassured, if nothing else, and this was important to her, all of her own supporters that she had fight in her. so the longer it goes, i the lo likely it is that joe biden doesn't run. >> thank you both very much. greatly appreciate it. developing now, former nba star and reality tv personality lamar odom reportedly remains in a coma with the entire kardashian and jenner family at his side. next, new details on his condition after being discovered unconscious inside a nevada brothel. surprise!!!!! we heard you got a job as a developer! its official, i work for ge!! what? wow... yeah! okay... guys, i'll be writing a new language for machines so planes, trains, even hospitals can work better. oh! sorry, i was trying to put it away... got it on the cake. so you're going to work on a train?
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♪ sleep train ♪ your ticket to a better night's sleep ♪ developing now, new details about nba and reality tv star lamar odom's condition. sources close to odom tell our sister network e, doctors are treating him for a drug overdose. he is in a coma hooked up to a ventilator suffering brain damage and has had at least one
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stroke. odom was found unresponsive at the love ranch brothel in nevada tuesday. he is now surrounded by members of the kardashian family. many seen arriving at the las vegas hospital yesterday. joining me, pop culture journalist alicia quarrels. you were just with the kardashians. earlier, the day before this happened. what has his relationship been like with that family? >> despite khloe and lamar filing for divorce, the family still loves him. in fact, she says she will always love him. she just couldn't battle his demons anymore. in an episode that airs this sunday, kim ridicules her for keeping in touch with lamar but the family come together. i was with them all monday night. they were jovial and happy. to land from l.a. to new york and see this happen tuesday was shocking. >> you said khloe mentioned lamar battling his demons. sounds as if they openly talked about his alleged substance abuse. nchgs. >> they did. for years, she tried to hide it and not talk about it but it came out. he was arrested for dui, left
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rehab after one day. his very best friend passed away from a drug related illness, another od'ed the same week. >> everyone saw it and right now cameras capturing the family arriving there. there were allegations online that the car dash kardashians w filming this for their show. that's untrue but it speaks to the level of reaction when you mention the kardashians. some say this was part of the pressure he was feeling. >> you can't stop addiction no matter what. this is a man that won two nba titles, has an olympic medal. i think no matter what was going to happen it was going to happen regardless of the car dakardash. he was in the brothel for four days. brothel workers say he admitted to using cocaine before getting there. the owner says he took viagra. tox reports won't be in for a few weeks. we don't know what he was on. >> he was reportedly paying hundreds of dollars to be there? >> six figures to be there.
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he told brothel workers he didn't want to be bothered or didn't want people to know he was there. he was very much secluded in the room. he drank a third of a bottle of cognac while he was there. >> thanks for joining us with these very sad details. we will keep following the developments. that does it for this hour of "msnbc live." i'm tamron hall. up next, "andrea mitchell reports." on prescriptions. we found lower co-pays... ...and a free wellness visit. new plan...same doctor. i'm happy. it's medicare open enrollment. have you compared plans yet? it's easy at medicare.gov. or you can call 1-800-medicare. medicare open enrollment. you'll never know unless you go. i did it. you can too. ♪ ♪ everything kids touch during cold and flu season sticks with them. make sure the germs they bring home don't stick around. use clorox disinfecting products. because no one kills germs
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right now on "andrea mitchell reports" backtrack. the president reverses course on his plan to pull most american troops out of afghanistan by the end of next year. >> i have decided that instead of going down to a normal embassy presence in kabul by the end of 2016, we will maintain 5500 troops at a small number of bases. truth squad? hillary clinton's closest aide gets ready to testify before the benghazi committee as her presidential campaign pounces on these new comments from a
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republican congressman. >> i think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, hillary clinton. >> coming up, we speak to one of the republican members of the benghazi committee. and the waiting game. after clinton's command performance in the debate, sources close to the vice president says a decision is likely coming soon. >> vice president biden wants to enter and compete for the presidency, then it's time he make that decision. >> there has to be a consensus within the democratic party that she can't win a general election in order for biden to enter the race comfortably. >> i'm very confident that if he decides to get in, it will be the money and staff needed to compete in the early states.

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