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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Update on All The Weekly Developments in Iraq, Afghanistan And The War on Terror
Aired September 9, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Melissa Long with a look at what's happening now in the news. The shuttle "Atlantis" is soaring in space at this hour, after blasting off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning. About four minutes after liftoff debris was spotted falling off the shuttle, but NASA says nothing to be worried about. The six member crew is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station on Monday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the Middle East trying to tackle the root causes of violence there. Sources tell CNN he has new ideas on how to bring lasting peace to the region. Today he met with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, tomorrow he travels on to Lebanon and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
Iraq's prime minister is packing his bags for a trip Monday, destination, neighboring Iran. And topping the agenda, security and bilateral relations. It's a trip that may not sit well with the White House, which accuses Iran of supporting Iraqi insurgents. Once again I'm Melissa Long and up next THIS WEEK AT WAR, CNN correspondents will discuss whether the U.S. is safer five years after 9/11. The Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and a war of words between Congress and President Bush.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Five years after the 9/11 attacks, are we any safer or have we just gotten lucky? And is Iraq really the central front on the war in terror, or is Afghanistan in danger of becoming a terrorist state once again. I'm John Roberts with THIS WEEK AT WAR. Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day this week. On Monday Congressional Democrats blast President Bush on Iraq, calling for troop withdrawals by the end of the year.
Tuesday President Bush compares bin Laden and his terrorist allies to Linen and Hitler, calling them evil men, a threat to civilization. Wednesday President Bush announced the transfer of suspected terrorists from secret overseas prisons and admitted the U.S. had engaged in quote, tough interrogation methods to quote save innocent lives.
Thursday a Baghdad ceremony celebrates the start of Iraq taking control of its military forces from the U.S. led coalition. And Friday, a huge car bomb explosion near Kabul near the U.S. embassy kills more than a dozen people, including two U.S. soldiers. THIS WEEK AT WAR.
The five-year mark of the 9/11 terror attacks. Since then the war on terror, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq all still running very hot. Terrorism fears running high. Are we safer and where is Osama bin Laden? Joining me now is chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour in London. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, he's in Kabul, Afghanistan. And justice correspondent Kelli Arena is with me here in Washington.
President Bush spent the week talking about terrorism and al Qaeda's leaders, on Tuesday he gave this new warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Linen and Hitler before them. The question is, will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: President Bush outlining a continuing and grave threat there. Let's start domestically. Kelli Arena, five years after 9/11, are we any safer or have things just gone our way?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Probably a combination of both. If you talk to U.S. government officials, they'll say that because they have moved aggressively on groups here that were plotting, before they acted like in Torrance, California or in Miami, Florida, that they disrupted plots. That they had to be aggressive. On the other hand, you have some people that say, look, you know these weren't the real thing, these were terrorist wannabes. The government is trying to make more out of this than there actually is.
ROBERTS: Of course one of the times when a terror plot was actually disrupted was recently in London, where they got the airliner plot uncovered before anything happened. Let's go to London with Christiane Amanpour. And Christiane, the war on terror on a global level, how is it perceived?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On the one hand as you mentioned this latest plot, the airline plot in mid August that was disrupted is a success. So on those, if you like small picture issues, there have been successes, but on the big picture issue, the idea of how is the U.S. perceived, is it safer abroad, is it doing the kind of policies that make it safer, that is very much open to speculation and the jury is out on that.
For instance, even some of the U.S. natural allies and the press here, in the various political constituencies, have been very critical as you know about the whole issue of torture and rendition as one of those aspects of so-called war on terror. The latest admission now that there have been these secret locations around Europe has been spectacularly unpopular both here in Europe and as you know in the United States as well.
And one of the leading newspapers here, the "Financial Times," which is not known as a softhearted liberal rag has said that this torture has really undermined America's moral authority abroad. And not only that, it has been a spectacular, quote, failure in the very crucial battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East. So this is a big problem.
ROBERTS: And of course now there is the debate going on in Congress over whether or not these detainees should have access to all of the evidence being presented against them. Peter Bergen, when you look at the London train bombings, when you look at the airliner plot, when you look at what happened in Madrid, it would seem to indicate that not all terror emanates from terror camps in rogue states as we saw in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. What does that say about addressing the threat going forward?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well the 9/11 plot itself, the lead plotters in that and the lead pilots are radicalized in Germany, the cell in Hamburg were really critical to the whole thing. So the fact that we're seeing attacks in Madrid, attacks in London, indicates that there is a large group of disaffected Muslims, some of who may be inclined to violence. And unlike in the United States which is -- and Canada, countries which have been somewhat immune to these kinds of plots.
As Kelli was indicating, many of these plots amounting to sort of wannabes. In London, in Holland, in Spain, we're seeing, you know, people taking very serious terrorist actions. And I think that over time this is a problem because you know, there is increasing Muslim immigration in Europe. There were 1 million Muslims in Europe in 1945. Something like 20 million today. Many of them not being integrated into their whole societies. Britain being a very clear example of that, where, you know Pakistani Muslims disaffected.
Channel 4, the British television network had an astonishing poll. It polled Muslims and a quarter of them said that the London attacks of July 7, 2005, which killed 56, were actually justifiable. You couldn't have that kind of polling numbers in the United States, it's just a very different mind-set.
ROBERTS: While the terrorism threat may be decentralized globally, al Qaeda central still wants to let us know that it's around. On Thursday al Qaeda put out a new videotape, its actually old tape, wanted to do it I guess in time for the 9/11 anniversary. And here is how Kelli Arena reported on that on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARENA (voice-over): It's as if the 9/11 hijackers have come back to taunt us from the grave. An al Qaeda videotape allegedly showing the planning of the September 11th attacks just released on the Arab network Al Jazeera. Osama bin Laden asks supporters to pray for the hijackers and their deadly mission.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Kelli Arena, what are officials here in the United States saying about the message that al Qaeda is trying to get across with this tape?
ARENA: Well they see it as largely as a recruiting vehicle, al Qaeda doesn't have anything to boast about at least on U.S. soil since September 11th, which, yes, was a very successful attack. So in order to reach out to supporters, to potential recruits, this is what they have to show. I mean that was their big glorious moment.
ROBERTS: Peter Bergen, you've said in an article that you wrote earlier this year, that these are some of the most widely circulated political tapes any where in the world. Are they still effective when it comes to recruiting, trying to sort of bolster support for the organization?
BERGEN: Well I think these statements from Ayman al Zawihiri, Osama bin Laden, you know hundreds of millions of people read about them, hear about them or see them when they come out. You know a stallion in his wildest dreams couldn't communicate with a billion people as soon as he's released a tape.
Unfortunately the leaders of al Qaeda can do that and a limited group of people will be inspired by these messages, kill Jews, kill Westerners, kill Americans. And sometimes they have specific instructions. I mean bin Laden has called for attacks on members of the coalition in Iraq. I think that's one of the reasons we had attacks in Madrid and London. Ayman al Zawihiri, the number two of al Qaeda has called for attacks on President Musharraf, I think that's one of the reasons the Musharraf has only narrowly survived a couple of serious assassination attempts. So these statements have affects.
ROBERTS: Christiane Amanpour, you and Peter Bergen reported this terrific documentary, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden", which is airing again tonight. When you look at that documentary and when you take this whole issue of bin Laden in total, what is it important for people to keep in mind on this 9/11 anniversary and as we look at the global war on terror going forward?
AMANPOUR: Well I think what's important is obviously some of what you've already discussed, that this threat is clearly still very much alive and not over yet. But I think also, we should think on this five-year anniversary about the state of Afghanistan, which in its purest sense, was the first battle in the war on terror and was the pure battle in the war on terror. Because that is where it emanated from, Afghanistan. And look at it today, five years later, Afghanistan is less stable than it was after the Taliban were defeated and because of the lack of commitment from the west, because of not enough troops.
Right now the head of NATO is calling for at least 1,000 more western troops to go and stabilize the situation. Who would have believed that the Taliban would be resurgent in the way they are now and really battling much, much harder than the British troops there or others could ever have imagined. And that I think is very important to keep in mind.
ROBERTS: It's really remarkable the way that you attack terrorism in one area, it pops up somewhere else, you try to get it there and it pops up somewhere else. Christiane Amanpour and Kelli Arena, thanks very much, appreciate it. Peter stay with us, we want to come back to you a little bit later on in the program to talk about that resurgent Taliban. And a reminder, again, CNN PRESENTS a special report on the world's most wanted man, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden," it airs tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern.
Straight ahead, President Bush reveals a secret about CIA prisons and 14 terror suspects. Why he did it and what's next on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world, the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values, I have not authorized it and I will not authorize it.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: President Bush on Wednesday, acknowledging the existence of secret CIA prisons but denying illegal techniques were used to interrogate detainees. President Bush also announced 14 terror suspects would leave these secret detention sites and head to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to face military trials.
Joining us to talk more about the situation and what it means for the country and for the war on terror, from New York Gary Berntsen, he's the president of The Berntsen Group, an investigative and security firm. Also author of the great book, "Jawbreaker" the attack on bin Laden and al Qaeda. A personal account by the CIA's key field commander. Also in New York CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and with me here in Washington, senior pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.
Gary Berntsen, you sent the first 130 detainees to Guantanamo. What was your reaction when you heard that President Bush had transferred these 14 so-called high value detainees there?
GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA FIELD COMMANDER: Well the first 130 were driven out of Torah Bora where we were conducting attacks, went into the hands of the Pakistanis and then were turned over to U.S. forces. I agreed with the president's decision to send them to and include them in Guantanamo. The majority of those people there, all of the people out of Torah Bora were enemy combatants. They didn't conduct themselves in accordance with the rule of law.
They didn't have uniforms, they tortured people, they mutilated people. You know this is the most dangerous group of people on the planet that are in Guantanamo. So, you know adding this 14 is just normal for the course. And hopefully the president will be able to bring these people to justice using some sort of mechanism after it's worked out with Congress.
ROBERTS: Well on that point Jeff Toobin, the president also, the day that he talked about the 14 going to Guantanamo, asked Congress to give him legislation to set up military commissions through which to try them. These would be similar to the commissions that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional earlier this summer, with the power of Congressional law they should be constitutional. But there's a real argument here between the president, the White House and three very powerful members of Congress over one specific issue, what's all that about?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: The real issue here is actually very simple. The president's proposal says that these individuals can be tried and it will be somewhat similar to a military court-martial but with one major exception. According to the president's proposal in certain cases the trials will be conducted with evidence that the defendants will not be able to see. And as Lindsay Graham, one of those three senators you mentioned said yesterday, what American court is going to let you execute someone on evidence he didn't see.
That's a big fight between these Republican senators and the president over how these commissions are going to go forward. And the one thing we know under the Supreme Court's ruling of earlier this year, there are going to be no commissions until Congress passes a law that says what the rules are.
ROBERTS: And Jamie McIntyre, some of the most vocal opponents of that idea withholding evidence from the accused, not just members of Congress but the jag people at the Pentagon. Are they worried about how this would play in the world, how the Pentagon would be perceived?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I mean this really illustrates the internal tug of war that went on at the Pentagon over this whole thing. And once again you saw the jags, the judge advocate generals, the top military attorneys saying no, it's not right to convict people on evidence that they can't see. Splitting with the administration right as the administration spokesman from the Justice Department standing next to them, saying if that's the price to pay, then maybe you need to let the people go.
ROBERTS: On the same day that the president came out with all of this, the Pentagon also came out with a modified field manual talking about interrogation techniques. And here is some of what they banned. And these were very controversial techniques that we heard a lot about post September 11th. They banned forced nudity or sexual acts, that would cover what happened at Abu Ghraib Prison. The use of hoods or duct tape on eyes, also Abu Ghraib. Beatings, electric shock or infliction of pain, again a nod to Abu Ghraib.
Also waterboarding which has been described as a very effective technique on occasion. Hypothermia or heat distress, causing somebody to be continually cold or warm. Mock executions, withholding of food or water or medicine. And the use of dogs except for security. We've seen the use of dogs in many of these pictures as well from some of the detainee camps.
Gary Berntsen, the president at the same time though said that the CIA would not be covered by these guidelines. Why not?
BERNTSEN: Well, I think that the president here is wise to be careful because in the future we may wind up in a situation where we find someone with weapon's grade plutonium or a bio weapon. And we may not want to read that person their Miranda Rights right away, because the threat, there may be an existential threat to the U.S. or a threat of the death of 10 million people from a nuclear device. Al Qaeda has stated its willingness to use WMD against the United States. So and I think that the president has less confidence probably in a larger system to sort of deal with that sort of issue very rapidly.
ROBERTS: Did those techniques work, Gary?
BERNTSEN: Well, as I went through a SEAR course once, survival evasion and resistance, I had -- I was exposed to many of those. In training people are exposed to many of those things, of cold, sleep deprivation, a lot of these things and they do work, they're very, very effective in breaking people down.
ROBERTS: Jeffrey Toobin, legally in terms of the Geneva Convention, if you have one set of rules for the military and then another set of rules for the CIA, where does that leave the United States?
TOOBIN: It leaves us outside the Geneva Conventions, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. And you know of course this ticking time bomb, hypothetical that Gary is mentioning, that is being allowed to drive this whole policy. In the first place, there as far as I've been aware, never been a circumstance where you have a ticking time bomb where you need to torture someone to get the evidence.
Second, that torture doesn't work. Third, having a policy that allows torture by the CIA, has real diplomatic costs to the United States, in Europe, in the rest of the world. The idea that America tortures people is prevalent and anything that allows that, really hurts us diplomatically and I think allowing that to drive the policy is really, you know it has costs as well as benefits.
ROBERTS: Jamie McIntyre, the president said he's going to keep Guantanamo open for the foreseeable future, he's going to reserve the right to use the CIA secret prisons again, though they're now empty. Is it worth the cost in public relations?
MCINTYRE: Well that's the problem. Of course, if the idea was to blunt the international criticism, the fact that some techniques are secret, even though the president insists they're safe and humane, that just invites a lot of suspicion about what the U.S. is doing. And as for Guantanamo, the dirty little secret there is there's no prospect of that closing anytime soon in the foreseeable future. Because even if they try some of these suspects, they still have other dangerous suspects for which they don't have this kind of evidence, and they have to keep them somewhere, Guantanamo's not going away.
ROBERTS: Yeah and on the political front, one Republican strategist said to me, now that we've got these 14 guys there, let the Democrats cry about trying to close down Guantanamo. All right.
BERNTSEN: Mr. Roberts, the Constitution of the United States is not a suicide pact. One day we may be faced with a situation where we have such a grave risk and I can understand the president's desire for that. No one is supporting using torture. There are coercive and non-coercive. Non coercive means are sleep deprivation, cold, those sorts of things. No one is talking about wanting to torture people. But we may need to put significant pressure to save millions of Americans at some point, and we need to be planning and thinking about that now, not later.
ROBERTS: All right, we'll keep that in mind. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much. Appreciate your being with us and Gary Berntsen and Jamie McIntyre stay with us because we want to come back to you.
Coming up, the debate over detainees' rights became part of the war of words between President Bush and Congress this week as we eluded to. We're keeping score, straight ahead, stay with us.
ROBERTS: What is the political fallout of another 9/11 anniversary and the presidential push on his Iraq and terrorism policies. Joining me now in our war of words segment on Capitol Hill, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash and with me here in the studio, "Time" magazine White House correspondent, Mike Allen and CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry. After President Bush announced terror suspects would be moved from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for military trials, partisan fire erupted on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: I want to know what took him so long. He's had years to bring these murderers to justice, and he's waited until now, two months before the election. It is a cynical but typical move from the campaigner in chief.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Mike Allen, many people say there are political overtones to at the very least the timing of what President Bush is doing. Is it an effective campaign tool for the president? Some Republicans have said, well, it may not hurt, but will it help?
MIKE ALLEN, TIME MAGAZINE: Well John what we saw this week was the wait and heft to the presidential podium, we don't yet know if it's going to work. But Harry Reid can say what he wants. But you had the incredible weight of the president out there playing to his strength, talking about national security issues and Ed can tell you, you don't hear the word momentum around this White House lately, but this week they really started to feel that.
They said this was their best week since Zarqawi was caught, which gives you some idea of where their mindset is. But what they're hoping they'll pick up is the married women with children, the security moms that were a key part of the president's victory in 2004. When consultants started doing their focus groups this summer, those women all had this sort of sour feeling about Iraq. They said things like will this go on forever. And you had to convince them that it was part of something bigger by doing something subtle like showing them video of a flaming World Trade Center to remind them why they once were with the president.
ROBERTS: Ed Henry, the security moms from 2004, and I remember them well, are they still around, I thought that there was some idea that they were being replaced by these mortgage moms.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well there are so many different kinds of moms that both parties are trying to reach, but I think security moms are still there. And Mike's right that if nothing else, the president has started succeeding at least in shifting the conversation, reframing the debate if you will, from an unpopular war in Iraq, which is still there, it's not disappearing.
Still will be a key issue in the mid terms, but rather than focusing on that with this series of speeches, the president has refocused a bit to the broader war, that the security moms and other voters of course see the president in a more popular light. And finally that megaphone you're talking about, he's going to need an even bigger one on Monday night when he does an oval office address on the 9/11 fifth anniversary. That's the kind of address where you really grab the nation by the lapels, Ronald Reagan used it very effectively, Bill Clinton on the Democratic side, he'll try to do the same.
ROBERTS: A speech that we'll be airing by the way here on CNN at 9:00 eastern. Dana Bash, in addition to grabbing this megaphone and trying to focus the election on terrorism and tying Iraq to terror, the president has also ignited another fight between republicans with this idea of commissions, military commissions for these Guantanamo detainees, that would not allow them access to certain pieces of evidence. Can the Democrats now just kind of sit back and watch the Republicans duke it out?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right, John, that is what Democrats are doing. They don't have to fight the Republicans, the White House. They don't have to put themselves in a position to be painted as an obstructionist on this issue, because Republicans here are doing it for them. And that is part of what the Democrat's strategy is going into the next four weeks or so, when Republicans are going to have port security, they're going to have the military commission issue, they're going to have border security on the floor of the Senate and the House.
That is trying not to make the same mistakes they made in the last couple of elections, which is to say we don't like it so we're going to block it, instead they're going to do what they can to actually vote for these things.
ROBERTS: And Mike Allen, on this issue of trying to link Iraq with the war on terror because the president's numbers on the war on terror are better than they are in Iraq, even though they're not as good as what they used to be, a recent CNN poll found 53 percent of respondents say the Iraq war has nothing to do with the war on terror. So, can he effectively make this link, particularly now since Afghanistan is starting to blow up again?
ALLEN: Yeah and someone just said to me today, if Iraq fails, we'll have another Afghanistan, so that's a reminder of the tough box that they're in. But what everybody tells us is that if the election is about Iraq, that's obviously a huge benefit for Democrats. And interestingly, you'll remember in '02 and '04, Democrats hesitated to talk about national security. This time they think it can be their friend and they're bringing up that issue. Someone said to me very bluntly and this indicates to you how boldly people talk about this.
People said, a Democrat said to me today, the more it's about Iraq, the more it benefits us. Whereas if the president can talk about this global war on terror, and this is why again and again, you'll hear him talk about it as focal point on the global war on terror. That's why you saw him putting out these biographies of these scary terrorists, so it's basically a Myspace for terrorists that they put out with their little bios to remind people what it is that could happen that if Iraq were to become a haven --
HENRY: Let's not forget this week, the president escalated the rhetoric by comparing Osama bin Laden to Hitler. That was also an effort to shift it from Iraq to the broader war on terror. And what Dana was talking about, the White House strategy in part is to start getting Democrats on the defensive on this issue by bringing up these votes on the Hill on all of these various tools in the war on terror and get Democrats on record against wiretapping, get them on record against the military tribunals. And turn what's been a political negative, the president being slapped by the Supreme Court on the tribunals for example, into saying Democrats don't want to prosecute these terrorists.
ROBERTS: Dana Bash, how is that whole focus on terror and the war in Iraq playing out there in the districts. Last weekend you spent some time in Illinois' sixth congressional district where Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran is running. What are they saying out there?
BASH: Yes, no it's very interesting. I mean, she is really, she doesn't want to be called this, but she really is the poster child for what Democrats are trying to do this year, which is what Ed was talking about, really try to fight back harder, like they have not done in the past two election cycles on national security. So certainly she represents that. She symbolizes that.
But one thing you mentioned, I was out in Illinois' sixth district. That is a Republican stronghold. It has been Republican for the past thirty years. You were talking about soccer moms, security moms, I was a football game talking to some of those moms, the classic voters, registered Republican voters that they need and many of them, most of them said, look, bottom line is we are just fed up. We know the president wants to make us safe but we're ready for change and that's the problem Republicans know they have this year.
ROBERTS: All right, well thanks very much folks. It's going to be a very interesting election. Dana Bash, Mike Allen, Ed Henry, appreciate it.
The war in Iraq may be the issue with the most political punch this fall. It depends on how the war is going. We're Baghdad bound coming up on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Melissa Long with a quick check of what is happening now in the news. The Chicago Tribune reports that its correspondent Paul Salopek has been released from a Sudanese jail. He was detained August 6th on spying charges. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson helped to win the correspondent's release.
The search continues in Colorado for a missing U.S. marine but now instead of rescuing him, authorities want to lock him up. Lance Corporal Lance Herring is wanted for a probation violation and for allegedly staging his own disappearance. Police suspect Herring is trying to avoid duty.
Iraq's prime minister is heading on a diplomatic mission to neighboring Iran. He is expected to discuss politics, security, and strengthening ties during his two day stop in Tehran. It begins on Monday.
Again, I'm Melissa Long. More news at the top of the hour. Now back to THIS WEEK AT WAR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The al Qaeda in Iraq is not a distracts from their war on America. It is the central battlefield where the outcome of the struggle will be decided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: President Bush on Tuesday stressing his belief that the war in Iraq is the frontline in the war on terror. Why is President Bush making this case again and again? What is the evidence? And is there a potential down side in Iraq over it all?
Joining us from Baghdad, CNN correspondent Michael Holmes. Michael, the president says repeatedly we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here on our home turf. How do statements like that go over in Iraq?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is good timing to ask that question. Over the last couple of days I've spent a lot of time with many ordinary Iraqi student engineers, women's activists and other, acting precisely these questions, and I put that question to them, when the president says that, and they say why do you want to fight them over here and take our lives. Our lives are being lost so that American lives are more secure.
Their attitude is when the president says that Iraq is now a haven for terrorists, the answer that came back very quickly was, well it wasn't until you invaded us and brought this war to us. So there's a lot of bitterness and anger when they hear the president say things like that. They don't want to be the central battleground in the war against terror, because they don't feel that they were terrorists to start with, and they feel that American security more important than their own on the streets of Baghdad.
ROBERTS: Wow, it all depends on your perspective, doesn't it. On Thursday there was quite a significant event, when the coalition, the United States, turned over the command structure of the Iraqi military to the Iraqi authorities. What is the practical impact of that?
HOLMES: Practically, not very much. It is certainly a significant, in fact General Casey called it a gigantic act of importance. But the reality on the ground is this John, one army division is going to go under that central command structure that was handed over to the Iraqis. One, there are ten televisions in Iraq.
So you can say that 90 percent of Iraq's army is not ready to go under Iraqi control. The only other areas of the military that were handed over to Iraqi control was the Air Force and the Navy. Well, that's about 1,500 people, to be honest. So while it is interesting in a symbolic sense and the process is underway. What does it mean today on the ground, not much.
ROBERTS: And of course we had that al Qaeda tape that was delivered to Al Jazeera on Thursday, showing the 9/11 plotters, before 9/11, trying to put together, perhaps, the plan to knock down the Twin Towers. But the same day you also got an audiotape there in Iraq from Amu Hajr, who is the new al Qaeda chief in Iraq. What did that have to say?
HOLMES: That was interesting, chilling, really. Yes, his name is, real name is Abu Ayub al Masri. The other name is his pseudonym, like his nomme de guerre. He's an Egyptian, a militant, believe to be an expert at making car bombs, according to U.S. officials and he took over the command in of al Qaeda in Iraq. What he said, and I can read you a quote, he said do not let your souls or your enemies rest until each one of you kills at least one American within a period that does not exceed 15 days, with snipers gun shot, incendiary devices, Molotov cocktail or suicide car bomb. Whatever the battle may require. Very specific, and as I said, very chilling.
ROBERTS: You're right, that's a great way to describe it. Michael Holmes in Baghdad, thanks for the update, appreciate it. Now to our remembrance this week. An error takes the life of a Canadian soldier and former Olympian serving in Afghanistan. Private Mark Anthony Graham was killed by NATO warplanes on Monday in what NATO military officials are calling a friendly fire incident in southern Afghanistan. Before joining the military, Graham was a sprinter and a member of Canada's four by four hundred meter relay team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was remembered by a former team mate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK JACKSON, 1992 OLYMPIC TEAMMATE: Any time I raced with him and any time I was around him, Mark was the type of person that he commanded respect and he brought attention to wherever he was and what he was doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: In addition to his parents, Graham leaves behind a young daughter and a fiance.
Just ahead the Afghan front, NATO's top commander says troops need resources to battle the Taliban. Why has the fighting escalated? CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is inside that country with a report. But first, a look at some of the others who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.
ROBERTS: A car bomb explosion Friday near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, targeted a coalition convoy of armored humvees. Among the dead at least two U.S. service members and eleven civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility. How can the Taliban still be up and fighting in Afghanistan after years of war with United States and its allies. And could NATO lose the war in Afghanistan?
Joining me now Gary Berntsen. He's a former CIA field commander. He led the search for bin Laden in Tora Bora Afghanistan. He's back with us. Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is here with me. And CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is back with us from Kabul, Afghanistan. However this time, because of some technical problems, on the phone. Peter Bergen, lead us off here, how serious is this Taliban resurgence becoming?
BERGEN: Well, you know, John, in 2002 and 2003 the Taliban were really just merely a nuisance. Now they're a tactical threat to U.S. and NATO forces. I don't think they're a strategic threat as yet, but certainly they're doing better than expected. They're not only in the south and the east and but now, according to U.S. military officials here, in Ghazni province, which is in the central part of Afghanistan, only 100 miles south of Kabul.
So, you know, two suicide attacks in Kabul this week. We were able to see the aftermath of one, the one you referred to in the lead in, a pretty devastating attacks, blowing up this humvee convoy, killing American soldiers, killing a lot of Afghan civilians right next to the U.S. embassy, right in the heart of Kabul. They're sending a message that we can really hit anywhere with impunity when we choose.
ROBERTS: Gary Berntsen, how did the Taliban go from defeated to resurgent? What went wrong?
GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR, "JAWBREAKER": Well of course they were using Pakistan as a sanctuary to rebuild, to rearm, to conduct ideological training for a new generation of members of the Taliban. I'm sure there's a lot of old commanders are still there with them, but with a lot of new recruits. And they are reestablishing themselves. They have, you know, intimidated a lot of local populations along the border and apparently are having their way in large areas.
ROBERTS: Right, and causing tremendous problems for international forces in the areas where the Taliban is resurgent. On Thursday Jamie McIntyre filed a report on how NATO and the United States are taking a new look at the Afghan fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): NATO's top general says his troops in Afghanistan are being tested by a stubborn Taliban resistance, which is showing a surprising willingness to stand and fight, instead of taking pot shots and running away as NATO expected.
GEN. JAMES JONES, SUPREME NATO COMMANDER: Certainly, the tenacity of the resistance is a little bit of a surprise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Are NATO troops in danger of being overwhelmed here?
MCINTYRE: Well according to the U.S. commander, NATO commander, no, but, you know, I was surprised that he said he was surprised, because I traveled with him and he warned me earlier this year this is what they were going to face. But they're increasingly seeing that the Taliban is very well funded, very well armed and, as you said, standing and fighting. The good part about that from the commander's perspective is the more they stand and fight, the more they stand and die. They're killing large numbers of Taliban, but they are very well funded and they are conducting increasingly tactics like we see in Iraq with suicide bombers and road side bombs.
ROBERTS: Gary Berntsen, are NATO troops as capable of fighting the Taliban as U.S. forces were?
BERNTSEN: I think that, of course, the NATO troops are, but you have to remember there's a lot of other countries out there that are not with NATO and so, you know, if they're engaged, they'll have a bit of risk. The Brits are fabulous. A lot of Germans in the country. You know, so I think that they are capable there, but, you know, there is going to have to be good intel and there's going to have to be pursuit back into Pakistan and the Pakistanis are going to have to help with hot pursuit if these guys are going to be truly defeated in the end and not just pushed back out of Afghanistan temporarily.
ROBERTS: Peter Bergen, you said a moment ago that you believe that the Taliban currently is a tactical but not a strategic threat, but if the Taliban were to become even a bit stronger, could they possibly represent a threat to the Afghanistan government?
BERGEN: I think that's a long way off, but, of course, you know, if we had this conversation a couple of years back, we would be surprised by the strength that they're showing now, the resilience. Of course some of that is built, you know, they're profiting from the drug trade. As Gary points out the top leadership of the Taliban are in Pakistan. They have regrouped and they have rearmed there. They are also benefiting from a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the Karzai government, a certain dissatisfaction with the international community. Afghans know that a lot of money has been appropriated for rebuilding of Afghanistan but there's not much to show for it, except one major road, which is now, by the way, so dangerous, the Kabul to Kandahar road, that if you're a foreigner, you can't really travel on it. So, what it the good of a road that you have rebuilt that you can't actually travel down?
ROBERTS: And, of course, that was one of the big successes that was touted by the United States, the building of the Kabul to Kandahar road. With Pakistan, Jamie, now signing this peace treaty with militants in the tribal areas along the borders, is the Pentagon worried that Taliban commanders may be given more free rein to operate and are they concerned that they could lose the country?
MCINTYRE: Well, they've always been concerned about this ungoverned area in Pakistan where the Taliban and al Qaeda elements can go back and forth. But when they look at this in the long-term, they really think that the real destabilizing influence in Afghanistan is this bumper crop of Opium that is fueling the drug trade there and the effort of eradicating that has clearly failed and even if they beat back the Taliban, and they're not a military force anymore, the warlords, funded by this drug money, is really has the potential to destabilize Afghanistan and have it slide right back to where it was.
ROBERTS: And Gary Berntsen, if the Taliban or these warlords were even to take over just a small part of Afghanistan, could we be headed back to the battle days pre-November of 2001.
BERNTSEN: I don't think we're going to be heading back to the battle days pre-2001, but we're going to be bled on this and so will NATO. It will require staying power to continue to work against these guys. The drug trade though, the money from the drug trade has replaced the money they used to get from the Saudis and Emeries. So. this drug thing is going to have to be dealt with very rapidly and in concert with the counter insurgency efforts against the Taliban together.
ROBERTS: Really remarkable that they're experiencing these problems again in Afghanistan. Though if you take a look at overall history, it should be expected. Gary Berntsen, Jamie McIntyre, Peter Bergen, thanks very much.
Up next, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, we'll take a look at how some community leaders are trying to mend the fractured relationship between Americans and Muslims. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: Five years after the 9/11 attacks, there is a stormy relationship between Americans and Muslims. A Pew Center Poll, conducted in May, shows just over 50 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Muslims. Similarly, largely Muslim country have an unfavorable view of the United States. This weekend, journalists, scholars and former diplomats from the United States and Muslim world's are holding a summit in Washington to foster dialogue to try and mend relations. But can the relationship be repaired? Here with me M.J. Akbar. He is a speaker at the summit and editor in chief of India's newspaper, the "Asian Age." He's over from Delhi.
Good day to you, M.J. Good to see you.
M.J. AKBAR, INDIAN JOURNALIST: Hi John.
ROBERTS: What are the state of U.S./Muslim relations these days? According to this Pew Center poll, not very good.
AKBAR: Yes, and I think after five years, when they should have been very much better, because, I think at one point, at least, we have a common problem, which is terrorism. Instead of fighting terrorism, I'm afraid what President Bush is doing is fighting a war of words, rather than fighting a war of substance.
ROBERTS: So, what are the problems in this war of words?
AKBAR: Some of the problems are very clear. The use, for example, of Islamic Fascism. It is not a phrase which Muslims understand. What is Islamic about Fascism. Fascism is, you know, a 20th Century European phenomenon. Islam is 1,400 years old. Does anyone confuse Hitler with Christianity. Does anyone believe the Vatican from Mussolini? Why blame Islam for the sins of a few Muslims. Sure there are a few Fascist among Muslims. I could name a few.
ROBERTS: On that point, let's play the sound in question. You were talking about President Bush. This is him reacting to the August 10th interception of the airline bombing plot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This nation is at war with Islamic Fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: If not the word Fascist what words would you use to describe those people?
AKBAR: I'm quite happy calling Osama a Fascist. What I object to is using Islamist. Just say he's a Muslim Fascist. You know, you've taken your eye off Osama for five years.
ROBERTS: Not me.
AKBAR: Your government. We are all wondering why. For five years we have heard that you can't find him. But when Osama wants to find Al Jazeera, he used to find it very often and very regularly. I mean, have you ever wondered how these tapes reach Al Jazeera? On Aladin's magic carpet?
ROBERTS: Well, there's a certain trail.
AKBAR: There is a certain trail, and you think you don't have human intel to --
ROBERTS: So what can be done to improve relations? What do you hope comes out of this conference?
AKBAR: First, I think, unless you get the war right, you won't get the rhetoric of war right. The epicenter of the fight against terrorism is where Osama is. And your energies are being drained completely elsewhere while Osama is getting a free, almost. I mean, as I said, he's hearing a war of words, not a war of substance.
ROBERTS: So you're saying focus on where Osama is?
AKBAR: Focus on Afghanistan, where he is. Do you in this agreement, which is signed between Pakistan and the North Waziristan tribals, you know, one of the clauses of the agreement is that Pakistan will not interfere with the right of foreigners to live in Waziristan.
ROBERTS: But they said that did not apply to Osama bin Laden. M.J. Akbar, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck this weekend. I hope you come up with, at least, some ideas, if not solutions.
AKBAR: We'll try. Thank you John.
ROBERTS: Appreciate it, sir. Straight ahead how Homeland Security and North Korean missiles will be on the calendar here in Washington next week. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: Looking ahead to next week, on Monday the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, special ceremonies in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Tuesday, the Senate Homeland Security Committee hears from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the next five years and the war on terror.
And Thursday, nuclear weapons and North Korean missiles will be on the agenda when President Bush meets with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun at the White House.
Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm John Roberts. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines and CNN PRESENTS: In the Footsteps of bin Laden.
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