Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - America's commander in Afghanistan directly addressed those who will carry out President Obama's strategy for the war there.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal focused on goals and the mission during Wednesday's videoconference for headquarters staff of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and commanders of American troops.
"It is very important that we are clear about what we are doing," McChrystal said. "The whole world is watching. The whole world is listening. We must make sure we are of one mind."
London, England (CNN)–The non-U.S. members of NATO intend to commit at least 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan along with the American buildup just announced, the alliance's top civilian leader said Wednesday.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 5,000 figure is "based on what we know now," adding, "I would expect a few thousand on top of that."
"Based on my talks with a big number of political leaders, I feel confident that we will see significant increases in the troop contributions," Rasmussen said on CNN's "Amanpour" program.
The additional units would bring NATO's contribution to the Afghan war to about 47,000 troops. That figure comes on top of the nearly 100,000 Americans expected to be in the fight once the additional deployments U.S. President Barack Obama announced Tuesday night are in place.
Washington (CNN) - Tennessee Democratic Rep. John Tanner, a leading centrist voice in the House, will retire at the close of the 111th Congress.
Tanner is a founding member of the so-called "Blue Dogs," a group of House Democrats who promote centrist policies.
See full statement after the jump
Washington (CNN) – Newt Gingrich kicks off a series of town halls on jobs Wednesday, one day before President Obama holds a jobs forum at the White House.
The former House speaker will hold what his American Solutions organization calls a "real jobs summit" in Cincinnati, Ohio. The group says a second event will be held Thursday in Jackson, Mississippi. That's the same day Obama holds his forum in Washington, which the White House says will include representatives from business, organized labor, and academia, among other sectors.
"Our 'real jobs summit' in Cincinnati will be a town hall format and is free and open to the public. We expect over 500 people comprised of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and community leaders in the Cincinnati area," says American Solutions spokesman Dan Kotman. "Speaker Gingrich will give opening remarks followed by an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, share stories about what has worked for their business, and provide input on our 'Jobs Here, Jobs Now, Jobs First' plan."
Kotman says additional town halls will be announced next year.
The president heads to Allentown, Pennsylvania on Friday, to kick off a listening tour on the economy. The administration says the event in Allentown, known for its industrial struggles.
(CNN) - Echoing major points in President Obama's prime speech Tuesday, Vice President Biden emphasized that the biggest threat to the U.S. remains Al Qaeda, and called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to "step up to the ball."
"The existential threat to the United States remains in the mountains in Pakistan," Biden said during an interview with the CBS 'Early Show.' "That's where we have to keep our focus."
Biden also charged that "Karzai and his government … up until now has been unwilling to step up to the ball.
"Fellas, you've got to step up to the ball," Biden said of the Afghan president and government.
The vice president added: "Number one priority: Al Qaeda. Number two: Pakistan. Number three: [G]iving the Karzai government a fighting chance to be able to sustain itself."
Biden appeared on all three of the major networks Wednesday morning.
– CNN's Emily Sherman contributed to this report.
"If you say there's a date certain for withdrawal, your friends and enemies who will be in the region make accommodations accordingly," McCain said.
During Tuesday night's prime time address laying out his Afghanistan troop buildup, President Obama said that a troop withdrawal could begin as early as July 2011.
McCain said Wednesday in an interview on CNN's American Morning that Obama "gave an excellent speech and I think the policy, although it's very extended period of deliberation which is now behind us, is a good one, and I'm confident the president will do exactly as he says."
But the Republican senator from Arizona criticized the president's comments regarding an exit strategy, adding that "it's contradictory to say you're going to have your withdrawal dictated by the situation on the ground, and at the same time say that there's going to about date certain for withdrawal."
McCain challenged the president hours before Obama addressed the nation on his new Afghanistan strategy. The president and members of his war council spent about an hour briefing senior members of Congress at a White House meeting that multiple sources described as businesslike and sobering. Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who attended the meeting, said Obama laid out his plans to escalate the military mission before several lawmakers asked questions.
Three GOP sources told CNN that Sen. John McCain used the meeting to directly challenge the president on his exit strategy. The sources said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deferred to McCain, who questioned the concept of announcing now plans to begin withdrawing in July, 2011. These sources said the president responded to McCain by promising that the withdrawal would be based on conditions on the ground.
McCain also says he has problems with the administration's civilian strategy in Afghanistan.
"Another concern I have has to do with the civilian side of our counterinsurgency strategy," said McCain in his opening statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday morning on Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among the witnesses at the hearing.
Washington (CNN) – An ally of Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele claimed Tuesday that the so-called "purity test" being circulated by some RNC members is a publicity stunt designed to "stick it" to Steele after he defeated other candidates for the chairmanship in last January's election.
"You've got a few backbenchers who are unhappy," said Shawn Steel, an RNC member from California and one of the chairman's top supporters on the committee. "They don't have the power they once had under the previous chairman, and that's what motivating this. This is an attempt to stick it to Chairman Steele by the losers."
The resolution, still in draft form when it was leaked to reporters late last month, would prohibit party funds from going to GOP candidates who disagree with elements of a proposed 10-point ideological platform. The proposal has sparked a pointed debate between conservatives who want candidates to adhere to strict principles and moderate Republicans who want to broaden the party's appeal.
Citing e-mail exchanges with his fellow committee members, Steel estimated that almost 80 percent of the RNC opposes the purity test. "This resolution will fail," Steel told CNN. "It will absolutely fall on its face. The resolution was just to stir the pot. It's for reporters."
Steel made similar assertions in a Politico op-ed Tuesday about the resolution and alleged that the resolution's chief sponsor, Indiana committeeman Jim Bopp, Jr., is frustrated because he lost a legal contract with the RNC once Steele became chairman.
Contacted by CNN, Bopp called that claim a "flat out lie" and said he is still representing the RNC. Bopp said he isn't sure why Steel is targeting him with "personal attacks," but suggested that his fellow committee member "feels he is losing the argument and the only recourse he has is personal attacks."