'Frontline's' winning Afghanistan 'War' effort

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "Obama's War," the "Frontline" season premiere

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 9 on WNET/13

REASON TO WATCHDeep dive into the war in Afghanistan.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT"Make no mistake," says Lt. Col. Christian Cabaniss, in the opening seconds of tonight's "Frontline." "We're experts in the application of violence."

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Producer Martin Smith and freelance photojournalist Danfung Dennis are embedded with his Echo Company of the Second Battalion, 8th Marines, and before their eyes, said violence is swiftly applied. But against whom? The enemy - Taliban fighters - lurk unseen beyond the dust, mirages, muddy rivers and spartan greenbelts of Helmand province in south central Afghanistan. Bullets pelt the dirt, IEDs explode. Yet the world, save for this company of Marines, seems eerily empty. And that's your introduction to "Obama's War," which explores in great detail the war and its objectives. Included are interviews with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO forces in the country, who made a stir in London recently when he spoke for the need for more troops.

Tonight, many of these interviews feel equally candid - from other generals, boots on the ground, U.S. and Afghan officials, and many observers. This is a sprawling documentary that explores many issues, including McChrystal's initiative to get troops to interact with average citizens - a sort of Oprahization of their effort that he calls "a war of personal relationships."

U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke also admits their effort is "nation building." In the context of this documentary, those are loaded words because the rebuilding of this nation may be impossible, according to "Frontline."

BOTTOM LINE Last week, "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" devoted a week of segments to Afghanistan - a laudatory and well-executed effort - but viewers probably need to sit down and absorb the enormity of this problem and war in one solid stretch. They need to shut out all noises and just listen, watch and think. There will be other shows Tuesday night. TiVo them. This spectacular piece of explanatory reporting is the place to be.

@Newsday

GRADE A+

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