Green on Blue Attacks in Afghanistan and Action on the Jobs Front - Today's Q's for O - 8/20-2012
TAPPER: Mr. President, a couple questions. One, I'm wondering if you could comment on the recent state of green-on-blue incidents on Afghanistan: what is being done about it; why. Your commanders tell you they think that there has been an uptick in this kind of violence.
And second, with the economy and unemployment still the focus of so many Americans, what they can expect in the next couple months out of Washington, if anything, when it comes to any attempt to bring some more economic growth to the country.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On Afghanistan, obviously we've been watching with deep concern these so-called green-on-blue attacks, where you have Afghan individuals, some of whom are actually enrolled in the Afghan military, some - in some cases dressing up as Afghan military or police, attacking coalition forces, including our own - our own troops.
I just spoke today to Marty Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who happens to be in Afghanistan. He is having intensive consultations, not only with our commander, John Allen, on the ground, but also with Afghan counterparts. And I'll be reaching out to President Karzai as well because we've got to make sure that we're on top of this.
We are already doing a range of things, and we're seeing some success when it comes to better counterintelligence, making sure that the vetting process for Afghan troops is stronger. And you know, we've got what's called the Guardian Angel program to make sure that our troops aren't in isolated situations that might make them more vulnerable. But obviously we're going to have to do more because there has been an - an up-tick over the last - over the last 12 months on this. Part of what's taking place is we are transitioning to Afghan security. And for us to train them effectively, we are in much closer contact - our troops are in much closer contact with Afghan troops on an ongoing basis. And you know, part of what we've got to do is to make sure that this model works but it doesn't make our guys more vulnerable. In the long term, we will see fewer U.S. casualties and coalition casualties by sticking to our transition plan and making sure that we've got the most effective Afghan security force possible. But we've got to do it in a way that doesn't leave our guys vulnerable.
So we are deeply concerned about this from top to bottom. And hopefully over the next several weeks we'll start seeing better progress on this front.
In terms of the economy, you know, I - I would love to say that when Congress comes back - they've got a week or 10 days before they go out and start campaigning again - that we're going to see a flurry of action. I can't guarantee that. I do think that there are some specific things they could do that would make a big difference. I - I'll give you a couple of examples: first of all, just making sure that we've got a - what's called a - a continuing resolution so that we don't have any disruptions and government shutdowns over the next couple months.
That's important. It appears that there's an agreement on that. But we want to make sure that that gets done.
Number two, you know, we have put forward an idea that, you know, I think a lot of Americans think makes sense, which is we've got historically low interest rates now, and the housing market is beginning to tick back up, but it's still not at all where it needs to be. There are a lot of families out there whose homes are underwater; they owe more than the house is worth because housing values dropped so precipitously. And they're having trouble refinancing. We're going to be pushing Congress to see if they can pass a refinancing bill that puts $3,000 into the pockets of the average family who hasn't yet refinanced their mortgage.
That's a big deal. That $3,000 can be used to strengthen the equity in that person's home, which would raise home values. Alternatively, that's $3,000 in people's pockets that they can spend on a new computer for their kid going back to school or, you know, new school clothes for their kids. And so that would strengthen the economy as well.
Obviously, the biggest thing that Congress could do would be to come up with a sensible approach to reducing our deficit in ways that we had agreed to and talked about last year. And I continue to be open to seeing Congress approach this with a balanced plan that has tough spending cuts, building on the trillion dollars' worth of spending cuts that we've already made, but also asks for additional revenue from folks like me, from folks in the top 1 (percent) or 2 percent, to make sure that folks who can least afford it aren't suddenly bearing the burden and we're providing some additional certainty to small businesses and families going forward.
And we're providing some additional certainty to small businesses and families going forward.
Alternatively, they could go ahead and vote for a bill that we've said would definitely strengthen the economy, and that is giving everybody who's making $250,000 a year or less certainty that their taxes aren't going to go down (sic) next year. That would make a big difference. Now, obviously, the Republicans have voted that down already once. It's not likely, realistically, that they're going to bring it back up again before Election Day. But my hope is after the election, people will step back and recognize that that's a sensible way to bring down our deficit and allow us to still invest in things like education that are going to help the economy grow.