I picked up the phone and the caller asked for me.
I identified myself and the caller said "Hi Adrienne, it's Katie Couric."
OK, so I was expecting the call. The CBS News anchor was calling to discuss "Afghanistan: The Road Ahead," a three-day examination the network is doing on the war in Afghanistan. From today through Wednesday, the 6:30 evening broadcast will break form, using more than half of its half-hour to feature reporting on the complexities of the war.
There will also be coverage on "The Early Show," CBS Radio News and CBS.com.
Wednesday is the eighth anniversary of U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.
So, I asked Katie a few questions.
Happiness: Was it the anniversary that inspired this programming or is this something you just wanted to do?
Katie: Well, Sean McManus, who is the president of the CBS new division, has for a while now been interested in the subject. It's pretty obvious that now it's becoming a bigger and bigger story. And I thought it was a public service to explain what's going on, especially in the context of the tough decisions the Administration is making as we speak.
We have a big presence there anyway, with Lara Logan and David Martin and others, so we might as well take advantage; the coverage it has gotten has been fairly unsteady. It's a war that's been largely forgotten.
Happiness: Do you think people are as interested in the subject as you all are?
Katie: That's hard for me to judge. I hope so. American lives are at risk there and being lost there. It's a hugely critical part of the world. All we can do is provide interesting stories that will make it possible for people to re-engage.
Happiness: This is a really difficult issue to understand. Not that we know everything, but I don't think even a lot of journalists get all the issues. How much are you going to break it down?
Katie: That's true. I think too often we make the assumption that people are reading about foreign affairs. We are starting from the beginning. There's a clip that shows President Bush after 9/11 and we explain what happened from there. Laura Logan is explaining the difference between the Taliban and Al-Qaida. We explain how that relationship evolved.
We also explain Afghanistan as a country. It's about the size of Texas. We look at how challenging the terrain is for the troops because of where it's situated. I don't want to say it's Afghanistan for Dummies, even though I don't mean that in a condescending way, but we are taking it piece by piece. There are a lot of explainers. I hope after three days people will really understand and be informed.
Happiness: Did you learn some things you didn't know?
Katie: I feel I got a real education in May when I traveled with Secretary [Robert] Gates to Afghanistan. I wanted to go out and get around more, but it was a pretty precarious time. And I wasn't embedded with a unit. But I met a lot of soldiers. I learned about the challenges in Southern Afghanistan, how they're trying to get the farmers to move from growing poppies to pomegranates. That's the engine of the Taliban (the heroin trade). But I can't wait to see the reports, there's always more to learn.
Indeed. After our interview, I got two clips from the special reporting. From Lara Logan's piece, I learned that there is an old and a new Taliban; the old Taliban was borne out of the chaos after the Russians left the country. The new Taliban was created out of hatred of America.
National Security Correspondent David Martin has a piece telling the story of a platoon embedded deep in enemy territory, a position that left them vulnerable and outgunned.
Tune in and get some clarity.