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Setting Troop Levels for Afghanistan; Speech Today by President Obama; President to Speak at West Point Tomorrow; Flight 370 Satellite Data Released; Supreme Court Justified Use of Deadly Force by Police in Car Chase in Arkansas; Other Last Decisions of Supreme Court; "Hard Choices" Book by Hillary Clinton Shows Her as Wife, Mother and Woman

Aired May 27, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, President Obama is getting ready to make an important announcement about the number of U.S. troops that will stay in Afghanistan after this year. We'll talk about what this means for Afghanistan's future, what it means for U.S.-Afghan relations and the U.S. troops who will remain in that area.

Also right now, we're sorting through 47 pages of newly released data on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The data includes communication logs between the plane and satellites but leaves most of the big questions very much unanswered.

Also right now, another sneak peek inside Hillary Clinton's memoir. We're going to hear some of her thoughts on President Obama, on marriage and on the times in her life where she's, quote, "followed her heart."

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We start with President Obama ready to set troop levels for Afghanistan. The president was in the country over the weekend talking with American troops. Today, in just over 90 minutes or so, he'll announce a major step.

Joining us from the Pentagon is our Correspondent Barbara Starr, from the White House, our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, let's go to you first. Are you getting an indication of precisely what the president will announce?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONT: Well, we won't have an advance preview of his remarks, Wolf, but we do expect, from hearing from a senior administration official, that the president will lay out, basically, the plan for U.S. forces in Afghanistan post-2014. The president is going to come out and say that the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan is coming to an end by the close of 2014. We've heard him say that before. He said that over the weekend and on Memorial Day that he wants to bring that war to a reasonable end.

But what happens after 2014, the administration, frankly, has been very reluctant to say exactly how many troops they want to keep in that country. But now, the president is going to lay that out, 9,800 U.S. forces, armed forces personnel, in Afghanistan for 2015. That number would be reduced by half by the end of 2015. And then, in 2016, by the end of that year, the plan, according to an administration official, is to have the U.S. force presence in Afghanistan reduced to embassy personnel, security personnel only at the embassy in Kabul. A very similar situation, a very similar drawdown to what took place in Iraq.

And what the administration is saying, at this point, Wolf, is that those forces who will remain in Afghanistan -- and Barbara will be able to lay this out better than me, but that those forces will be there for counterterrorism operations and to train the Afghan security forces. And all of this hinges on the next Afghan president.

Hamid Karzai is getting ready to leave. The next Afghan who comes in, signing the bilateral security agreement, the BSA as they call it over here at the White House, absent that signature from the next incoming Afghan president, the U.S. has said there will be no U.S. forces at the end of 2014. That has been a threat hanging over the situation in Afghanistan.

But the two likely next presidents or the two men who would be the next president of Afghanistan have both said publicly that they're willing to sign that security agreement just as soon as they take office. The administration is taking some comfort in that. And that is giving the president the ability to come out today and lay out this plan that we're going to hear at about 2:45 in Rose Garden here at the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by, because I have some other questions for you, Jim. But let's bring Barbara into this conversation. The military mission for these nearly 10,000 U.S. troops, 9,800 U.S. troops, they'll be, I assume, backed up by a few thousand NATO forces as well. It -- there will still be a very dangerous environment there. The combat mission may be over but these U.S. troops will be in a combat zone, presumably very endangered at the same time, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Nobody thinks peace is coming to Afghanistan any time soon. When you have 10,000 troops there. Plus, as you just point out, a few thousand additional NATO troops. One of the big jobs is how to keep them safe.

So, some number of those troops are going to be devoted simply to security. The forces will be on just a couple of bases in Afghanistan. Those will have to be kept secure from the Taliban which still have plenty of capability to fire shoulder fired weapons, grenades, lay IEDs out on the road, that sort of thing.

The U.S. troops, it remains to be seen how much they will go out and about. Their job will be to train, assist, advise Afghan forces. But you'll recall in the final months of Iraq, U.S. forces went out less and less. They stayed in their bases, stayed inside the wire, so to speak, in an increasing amount.

And at the end, simply packed up and went. This proposal may begin to follow some of those lines, some of that precedent. Here at the Pentagon, no one is really surprised by what's been laid out. This is the option that U.S. military commanders tell us they wanted -- Wolf. BLITZER: And, Barbara, just to be precise, the reason the U.S. -- the administration says the reason the U.S. troops all evacuated from Iraq was because the Iraqi government refused to provide immunity to those U.S. troops as part of some sort of continued military presence in Iraq. This bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan, I assume, gives U.S. troops immunity from Afghan prosecution, if you will. I think that was the major sticking point with Iraq.

STARR: Absolutely. And this, clearly, if they get this agreement signed in the Afghanistan case, they hope it will solve that problem and that they can keep some troops. Perhaps the bigger picture to look at at the same time, as you've pointed out, Wolf, what difference will it make? In Iraq, U.S. troops left and the country has fallen into a good deal of violence in Iraq.

In Afghanistan, if you have 10,000 U.S. troops stay for maybe the next two years, what happens after that? Are the Taliban just going to wait for everybody to go? It's going to be a real question whether Afghan military forces can maintain security around the country and, perhaps even more important, Afghan police forces.

The Afghan police that are in individual towns and cities across that country, they have huge issues with corruption. There is no question about it. That is the basis for security on a local level in many remote areas where the Taliban would very much like to get back in -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me bring Jim Acosta back into this. Jim, will the president go into specifics in terms of funding, keeping 10,000 U.S. troops next year and let's say 5,000 the year after? That's not cheap. It's going to cost several billion dollars. Is the president going to explain to the American public when he goes out there and makes this announcement how much taxpayers will have to shell out to keep those troops in Afghanistan? Do we have any clue on that?

ACOSTA: I don't think we're going to hear dollar figures from the president at 2:45 this afternoon. I think he wants to lay out this case that the U.S. needs to continue this presence in Afghanistan.

And, keep in mind, this is a presence that the president is reluctant to have there. I mean, he campaigned for president back in 2008 that he wanted to bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to conclusion. And what he is doing here, if you look at this plan, Wolf, is that this war in Afghanistan is coming to a full stop by the end of his administration. Because the next president will have already been elected by the end of 2016 and will be taking the oath of office in 2017.

President Obama's plan ends the war in Afghanistan at the end of 2016. And, I mean, if you want to talk about dollar figures, we do know from independent studies, Congressional budget office, that it spent about $200 billion over the last couple of years in Afghanistan, albeit at larger force levels.

So, you're right, Wolf, this is not going to come cheap. And you could do the math. There are about 30,000 now. You know, you can sort of, you know, divide by three and get to a dollar figure, perhaps. But certainly this is going to cost some money.

And the other thing we should point out, Wolf, is that this announcement from the president comes one day before his big foreign policy speech at West Point. He was supposed to address a lot of these issues in his foreign policy speech at West Point. By getting this out today, getting this news out today, it does give him some more space to talk about some of these other issues.

He's come under a lot of criticism, as you know, Wolf, for -- as his critics say, for being too soft on Syria, for not going far enough in dealing with the Russians and Ukraine. And so, by moving this off the table somewhat, he'll talk about Afghanistan somewhat tomorrow, he'll have more space to talk about those other big items on the foreign policy agenda -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the President will have a major foreign policy address at the commencement ceremonies at West Point tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. We'll, of course, have special coverage of that.

Also, stay with us later today, 2:45 p.m. Eastern for at President's announcement on troops staying in Afghanistan. 2:45 p.m. Eastern. I'll anchor our special coverage around that.

Other news we're following, it's the reason searchers have been focusing in on the Indian Ocean, the southern part of the Indian Ocean, looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Today, the Malaysian government released data from communications between the missing plane and the private satellite company, Inmarsat. Critics say the 47-page document is missing some key elements needed to verify Inmarsat conclusions.

So, what do the numbers really show? What don't they show? Tom Foreman has been studying the data for us. Is it accurate to say, Tom, that the information includes a lot of technical information but leaves out plenty of stuff?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. Here's the one thing you have to remember about this set of documents released today from Inmarsat more than anything else. Remember the number 14 because out of these 47 pages, the only numbers you really care about are 14 of them. And those are these, right here and right here. It's what people have wanted to see all along.

And they don't really tell us a whole lot. These are the readings of the frequency of this exchange between the ground station, the satellite and the missing plane and then back down to the ground station. These are the numbers that were recorded in this critical period of time when the plane seemed to be gone. And there are only a few of them. The frequency numbers here which help give them some idea of whether it was going north or south. That's where they got the direction and the burst time offset.

I'm not going to explain all about what this is because that would take a half hour. It's in -- it's really difficult to get through all of this. But look at the numbers themselves, 11500, 11740, 12780. You see the pattern. This, as you went through time, was all getting greater until you have this final tiny little burst at the end which is much bigger. That is what convinced them that this plane was steadily moving away from the satellite. So, the satellite's somewhere over in here. And with every one of those bursts, they knew that it was moving further along these rings out here.

Now, how did they know that it was headed this way, which is what they believe in, instead of up this way or out this way? Because you could make the times work elsewhere. That's when you have that second set of numbers I was talking about, Wolf. The first one's over here. That indicates which direction it's going.

But yes, Wolf, what this is is some raw data that people have very much wanted. What it is not, from Inmarsat, is a clear explanation of how they worked that raw data. The Australian government released another packet of information which helps explain it in greater detail but still not to a point where independent analysts can simply pull all the numbers in themselves and say, do we reach the same conclusion? And until they get those numbers, all of that information, and free access to the algorithms they used to create that arc, I think you're still going to have critics out there who are unsatisfied -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an important step. They released this information, but they -- the families of those aboard that Malaysia airliner, they want more information released so outside third party experts can take a closer look.

Tom, we're going to have more analysis on this later this hour. Thanks very much.

The U.S. Supreme Court was busy today. We're going to tell you about a couple of new rulings, including one that involved a high-speed police chase.

And she formed an unexpected partnership with President Obama. Now, Hillary Clinton talking about that. A new sneak peek of her book, "Hard Choices." That's coming up.


BLITZER: We're following some new developments out of the U.S. Supreme Court today. There are new rulings on a few different case. The first has to do with this high-speed chase that ended with a police shooting and killing both the driver and the passenger of the car they were chasing. The family of the driver wanted to sue the police over the death. With us now is our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns who's heard the argument. So, what did the court have to say about the use of deadly force in this speed chase?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a case that is essentially closely watched. Because it was expected to clarify the rights of police officers making snap judgment involving force when there's a high-speed chase and a passenger in the car. There's video of the tragic circumstances that put this case in the courts. West Memphis, Arkansas, 2004. The court ruled unanimously that officers in Arkansas were within their rights when they fired 15 shots at point blank range into a car on a rampage, killing both the driver and the passenger. It's a victory for law enforcement because the court ruled that the officers acted reasonably, Wolf.

BLITZER: It was a good day for U.S. Secret Service as well. The Supreme Court siding with the Secret Service in a separate law enforcement case involving the president's detail.

JOHNS: Absolutely. Another interesting case. Another unanimous decision for law enforcement here. This is a First Amendment, freedom of expression case dating back to the administration of President George W. Bush. He was on a re-election campaign stop in Oregon and went to dinner where there were protesters on one side of the street and supporters of the president on the other side of the street. The Secret Service moved the protesters out, but let the supporters stay put. And the question was whether they did it to keep the protester's viewpoints from being expressed to the president. The court held that the Secret Service officials had qualified immunity from being sued because there did appear to be a potential security risk to the president.

BLITZER: There was another major decision on I.Q.s being a factor in executions. As far as intellectually disabled people are concerned.

JOHNS: Right, a very tough case here. The court's been struggling with how to measure the point when a person is so intellectually disabled they don't know what they're doing when they murder someone. And this was a tough case for the court. A five to four decision that says it's not OK to apply a rigid I.Q. cutoff in determining who gets the death penalty and who doesn't. The law in Florida took a person's 70 I.Q. score as conclusive evidence of the defendant's intellectual capacity, and the court essentially said there needs to be some room there.

BLITZER: Giving them some flexibility on that. Joe Johns, watching the Supreme Court for us, thanks very much.

There's more fallout from the outing of the CIA top intelligence chief in Afghanistan. The mistake could put the life of the spy and the family members at least potentially in danger. It's also raising the question of whether he can even continue working in Afghanistan. A White House media report sent to about 6,000 journalists inadvertently included the intelligence officer's name. So far the White House and CIA officials have declined to comment publicly on the story. We'll have a lot more on this story coming up later today in "The Situation Room."

Still ahead, though she says she didn't write her book for the followers of Washington's long-running soap opera. So why did Hillary Clinton write her new book, "What's It All About," we'll talk about that. Two of our political experts on the subject, they are both standing by.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton says when she made decisions, she, quote, listened to both her heart and her head. The former secretary of state reflecting on her long life in politics in her brand-new book that's soon to be released, "Hard Choices." That's the title. Some excerpts of her upcoming memoir were released today.


VOICE OF HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: These years were also a personal journey for me. Both literally, I ended up visiting 112 countries and traveling nearly 1 million miles, and figuratively. From the painful end of the 2008 campaign to an unexpected partnership and friendship with my former rival Barack Obama. I've served our country in one way or another for decades. Yet during my years as Secretary of State, I learned even more about our exceptional strengths and what it will take for us to compete and thrive at home and abroad.


BLITZER: All right, our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here at the same time. Some are already suggesting this book, for all practical purposes, politically speaking, is an introduction of her 2016 campaign.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and certainly I think one -- coming at it from that perspective, it's sort of an opportunity for her to cleanse in a way, right, because the last a lot people aren't terribly familiar with her State Department tenure. We've not really heard her point of view on that, we heard Republicans saying a lot about it. Her 2008 campaign went terribly. And so, this is kind of her highlighting her State Department years so that she can kind of slough off some of the bad stuff from 2008.

BLITZER: I want to also play another audio clip. They've released this, the book publishers and Hillary Clinton, talking about her life not so much as a diplomat, but as a wife and a mother. Listen to this.


VOICE OF HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: All of us face hard choices in our lives. Some face more than their share. We have to decide how to balance the demands of work and family, caring for a sick child or an aging parent. Figuring out how to pay for college. Finding a good job. And what to do if you lose it. Whether to get married or stay married. How to give our kids the opportunities they dream about and deserve. Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.


BLITZER: You know, everybody's going to focus on the words whether to get married or stay married.


KEILAR: You think? BLITZER: Yeah. BORGER: That's Hillary Clinton's bow to the Lewinsky mess. She knows everybody is going to talk about it, Republicans have already talked about it. But in a larger sense, Wolf, that paragraph was about women. It's about women voters. Women take care of their parents. Women take care of their children. Women make decisions like she made about staying married, in her particular case, to the president of the United States. And I think it's her way of saying I understand what women go through. It's very clear when she runs this time, she is going to talk about the hard choices women face. When she ran in 2008, she didn't campaign as much as a woman. She talked about her experience. Clearly, as Brianna says, this book is about her experience as Secretary of State, but she's also going to talk an awful lot about women because they're going to make the difference in the election.

BLITZER: It's fascinating how the publisher and Hillary Clinton, they're rolling out -- the book isn't even out yet. But I don't remember a time where a publisher has released audio excerpts of a book before the book is out there to get advance sales. I assume that this is going to be a huge best-seller. And this is something pretty extraordinary. This new technique that they're using to get sales of this book.

KEILAR: Yeah, and this isn't -- this is done obviously very closely in coordination with Hillary Clinton and those very close to her. This isn't even the first excerpt that we've heard. There was one that "Vanity Fair" had around Mother's Day, and it was about Hillary Clinton's mother, talking about that. So, these are really sort of I think friendly topics. They are very soft. They paint her in a more humanizing light, which has been something that she has struggled with. So I think that's part of it. But I also think that soon we'll be reading the excerpts from the book, which frequently do define a book. But then we're going to see her going on a book tour where she's going to be talking about what she wants to talk about and not just Benghazi, which so many reports will focus on.

BLITZER: But she'll do a whole bunch of news interviews.


BLITZER: And she'll be asked a lot of those serious questions as well.

BORGER: But I think when you do this rollout, don't forget, she's making money here. This is not a not for profit enterprise.


BORGER: This a presidential rollout. They know what they're doing, OK? So, even the way they're rolling out the book, I would argue, is in concert with a presidential campaign. And by the way, as Brianna says, this is kind of the rollout that gets people to say, oh, maybe we'll learn more about Hillary Clinton, the person. What I guarantee will be in this book also is a very full-throated and a hard-nose defense of policy and things like Benghazi. I mean that to me ... BLITZER: The book is about her four years at the State - She's already made a ton of money in speaking engagements and this book. She's made many millions.

BORGER: But we haven't heard a lot about Benghazi at this point.

KEILAR: No, and when I said tons of interviews, I really meant tons of speeches. She'll be given those, she has made a lot of money. She left the State Department and really sort of took a break, but also has gone very much on the speaking circuit, as so many folks do when they leave a position like that. The estimation we think for a speech, for her speaking fee, is about $200,000. That's been reported. And those in the no say yeah, that's about right to CNN. So, when you look at - yeah, but he's done many more speeches. But when you look at how many she's done probably since leaving, she's made several million dollars on the speaking circuit. Remember, her advance for "Living History" was $8 million. I suspect this is more. So, she's not really hurting for that, sure.

BORGER: She'll probably do pretty well.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Up next, Malaysia releases data from satellite communications with the missing jetliner. Critics say it's not enough. We're going to speak with our experts about what the Inmarsat data means for the investigation going forward.

And later, the next step in the Donald Sterling saga, with the deadline day. Here today, today is the deadline, Shelly Sterling is now moving ahead with her own plans for the team. We'll update you on what we know.