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This Week at War

Aired September 16, 2006 - 18:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A blood-drenched week in Iraq with a new surge in deadly attacks against Americans and civilians. Is Iraq lost politically? The Taliban in Afghanistan a greater threat than al Qaeda? And what is the U.S. doing to get Osama bin Laden? Some experts say nothing.
And can an academy award winner help end the genocide in Darfur? I'm John Roberts with THIS WEEK AT WAR. Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day. Monday, President Bush marks five years since the 9/11 terror attacks and warns Osama bin Laden, no matter how long it takes, America will find you. Tuesday, Syrian forces fight off gunmen storming the U.S. embassy in Damascus. Three attackers killed, one captured. Wednesday, a bloody day in the battle for Baghdad, a car bomb kills 14 Iraqis four other bodies were dumped in the capital, in addition to 60 found the day before. Thursday, top Republican senators defy the White House on how suspected terrorists could be interrogated and put on trial. Friday, President Bush holds a news conference keeping the pressure on Congress to provide what he calls the tools necessary to protect the American people. THIS WEEK AT WAR.

Is the U.S. military out in front of the White House with warnings about defeat in the Iraq war? Joining me now from Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with us from the Pentagon and CNN military analyst Major General Don Shepperd, U.S. Air Force Retired joins us from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The big news of the week in Iraq a secret Pentagon report suggested the U.S. was losing the war in the huge western Anbar Province. Michael Ware spent time in that area in and around the city of Ramadi with U.S. troops and filed this report.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American soldiers in al Qaeda's heartland in Iraq and a gaping black hole in Washington's global war on terror.

COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The folks that we are fighting are the same kind of folks that took down the World Trade Center and drove an airplane into the Pentagon. And these people here want to turn al Anbar into what one smart guy called al Qaedastan.


ROBERTS: There you hear it, al Qaedastan. And Michael Ware a little earlier this week a report came out, a marine intelligence officer said that unless there are more troops and aids sent into al Anbar Province, the outlook there is grim. From what you saw with your own eyes, how grim is it there right now?

WARE: Well, John, the thing about al Anbar Province, I've been going there for three years now and to be honest there's absolutely nothing revelatory or new in this marine intelligence report. Anyone who has spent enough time on the ground in al Anbar has known this for well over a year. Al Qaeda has taken over the fight out there on the insurgent side and there's simply not enough U.S. troops to combat them. This week in the wake of that report, we saw the marine commanding general responsible for al Anbar admit as much. He said I have enough troops for my mission but my mission is just to train the Iraqis. Should I be told I need to win against this al Qaeda led insurgency, then my metrics, my troop levels would have to change. Al Qaeda is definitely on the front foot out there. John?

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr is there any chance that the Pentagon may send in more troops to al Anbar Province or are they sticking with the plan as it is right now? Train up the Iraqi forces, let them handle security?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, officially for the record what the generals say is if they need more troops they will ask for more troops and they feel they will get more troops. But make no mistake, there is simply no indication at this point that there is going to be any substantial new influx of additional troops to Iraq. What the U.S. military is saying it is not Anbar Province it is Baghdad that is the front burner for them. That is where all their forces are weighted to, trying to get a handle on the security situation in the capital.

ROBERTS: General Shepperd, we hear the president say again and again Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, we have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here. We have to destroy terror where it lives in Iraq. If al Anbar Province is in danger of failing is the policy as written now and as pursued now adequate?

MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): No it's not adequate, there's no question about it. We need more troops to do the things that we are now doing in Iraq, which is, as Barbara says, securing peace and security in Baghdad. That's the most important thing. But you can't do that and you can't defeat the insurgency in al Anbar Province and you can't train the Iraqis to take over all at the same time with the number of troops we have in the country right now John.

ROBERTS: So more troops needed you think Don?

SHEPPERD: I think more troops are needed if indeed you're going to do all of the things that are on our plate right now and make progress in this war. We're not making progress right now in Iraq.

ROBERTS: All right, there was a new reminder on Thursday of how death and mutilation stalked both Americans and Iraqis in Baghdad these days. Cal Perry was at the 10th combat support hospital in Baghdad when the wounded were brought in from a truck bomb attack on an American position.


CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It had been a truck bomb attack on a 4th infantry division fixed position in Baghdad. The U.S. soldiers had apparently been caught off guard. Some of the wounded arrived wearing sneakers, rather than their usual combat gear. Even as the casualties were still coming, Major General James Thurman slips in. He's the commander of the 4th infantry division here to comfort and console his men.


ROBERTS: Of course American forces, Iraqi civilians all being targeted by both terrorists and the insurgency. Michael Ware, an aide to Cleric Muqtada al Sadr who heads up the powerful Mehdi Militia said he expects that when U.S. forces eventually withdraw from Iraq that there was going to be a civil war. Is that the prevailing wisdom there?

WARE: Oh there's absolutely no doubt. I mean the forces are already aligned. And there's much debate about whether there's a civil war now in technical terms or not. When we're having between 1,500 and 3,000 deaths per month here in this country from sectarian violence, it doesn't leave much doubt in the minds of people on the ground. The forces are ready and are aligned. One side being drawn to the extreme by al Qaeda, the other side being drawn to the extreme by Iran and Iranian proxies, many within this U.S.-backed government. John?

ROBERTS: Is there anything Barbara Starr that the Pentagon can do to avoid this civil war? What about the militias? There still doesn't seem to be any plan to disarm them and is that even the U.S. military's job?

STARR: At this point, it's hard to say that that's really the U.S. military's job. What they are doing behind the scenes is trying to pressure the new Iraqi government to get a handle on it, to move ahead with their own security plans. The Iraqi government says it is going to introduce a law to try and control the militias. But, look, as Michael says, what's going on in Baghdad, hundreds of people killed every month. The violence goes down in Baghdad when there are neighborhoods where U.S. and Iraqi troops are patrolling the streets. That brings the violence down, it gets back to the question, would it help them to have more troops?

ROBERTS: And General Shepperd, if Iraq is as this aide to Muqtada al Sadr says and as Michael Ware seems to agree, headed toward civil war, regardless of whether American forces stay there longer or not. It raises two questions. What was this all about, first of all? And secondly, if it's destined to disintegrate into civil war, why not pull out U.S. troops now?

SHEPPERD: Those are good questions, and I'm sure they're being debated at many levels. It's very clear we're not going to pull the troops out in any rapid fashion. We clearly need to help the Iraqis succeed. We clearly need to get them on their feet. That means that the solution is not military, it's training the Iraqis to take over, to provide their own security and to get these two major militias, the Mehdi army and the Badr brigades to lay down their arms, to stop the killing in the death squads and to join the political process and then get the Sunnis to rejoin the political process. Those are all very tall orders and we're trying to do it while we're trying to prevent a civil war. This is a tall, tall order for everything that we've taken on in Iraq, John.

ROBERTS: And difficult to find any good news at all in Iraq this week. General Shepperd, thanks very much, as well to Michael Ware in Baghdad and Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

From Iraq to the war that is pushing itself back onto the U.S. radar, Afghanistan, can NATO forces handle the Taliban? That's ahead on THIS WEEK AT WAR.


ROBERTS: New focus this week on the military challenge in Afghanistan. Did the United States and its allies fritter away time and resources there over the past five years? And can NATO forces now defeat the Taliban in the south? Joining me now former NATO Commander General George Joulwan who was in Afghanistan earlier this year as the U.S. handed over responsibility to NATO forces. And in New York, Gary Berntsen, former CIA field commander of the Jawbreaker Operation in Tora Bora that tried to nab Osama bin Laden. He of course wrote the famous book about that whole operation called "Jawbreaker." This week we all saw a striking eye in the sky image of a Taliban gathering, vulnerable to U.S. attack but ultimately given a pass. Here's part of Jamie McIntyre's report on that from Wednesday.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The military said the picture shows a July gathering of Taliban insurgents that it first considered a tactically viable enemy target. But then decided not to strike because the group was on the grounds of a cemetery and were likely conducting a funeral for Taliban insurgents killed earlier in the day.


ROBERTS: Gary Berntsen should the U.S. have taken the shot?

GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR, "JAWBREAKER": Yes, I think that we should not provide any sanctuary at all, so long as they're not at a schoolhouse surrounded by children. If they're burying their dead and they're al Qaeda fighters or Taliban fighters, we should attack them, yes, provide no sanctuary.

ROBERTS: General Joulwan, what do you think? The rules of engagement do permit that.

GENERAL GEORGE JOULWAN, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Absolutely and I think it's clear here. If they were surrounded by children and by the way in Afghanistan the Taliban does move in between school houses when they see a drone or something overhead. But in this case, clearly I think we should have taken the shot.

ROBERTS: Right, so, you don't think there would have been any down side?

JOULWAN: There's always risk, but you've got to balance the risk with the target that you have, and these are fleeting targets. Commander made a decision on the ground that wasn't in his rules of engagement and he passed. Personally, I think he should have taken the shot.

ROBERTS: Gary Berntsen, you know that the military came out and said, well, you know, we're not like the enemy, the Taliban attacked a funeral just a few days ago but we hold ourselves to a higher moral standard. Are they running scared now because of bad publicity?

BERNTSEN: I think it's difficult for the military, of course. And they want to sort of, you know, you want to win hearts and minds at the same time. But, again, the enemy is not in uniform, which makes it more difficult for us. And when they are together and if we have whether it signals intelligence or human intelligence or overhead, that it's a Taliban group, you have to attack them.

ROBERTS: As we mentioned, General Joulwan headed up NATO forces and it's NATO forces that are in the thick of the fight against the Taliban now in the south of the country and increasingly to the south and east as well. Here's Barbara Starr's report on that, an excerpt from it from Wednesday.


STARR: Afghanistan's southern Kandahar Province is just one place where fierce fighting has erupted in recent weeks between Taliban fighters and NATO troops. And it's all beginning to sound like Iraq. Dozens of British and Canadian troops have been killed in the last five weeks.


ROBERTS: NATO commanders General Joulwan have asked for more troops, another 2,500. Earlier this week they went to the NATO countries, everybody sat on their hands. Poland came through and said well we'll contribute 1,000, but not until February. Are you surprised at the lack of commitment here?

JOULWAN: It is very difficult. Eighty-five percent of the force generation process has been met by the nations. Critical items that are missing, a clear reserve force, helicopters, enablers as we call them to be able to move about this very vast country. I'm not surprised, it's very difficult to get all the forces you need. But again, the United States, I think, can play a leadership role here in the administerials that are coming up to insist that countries meet their pledges for this fight.

ROBERTS: I mean it seems like this whole area is radioactive and they just don't want to have anything to do with it. JOULWAN: But I think, first of all, NATO is committed and they have provided command and control, they are there in sizable force. I think what we need to do is boost that up so that the commanders on the ground could have the wherewithal to cover this vast territory. Remember, it has been -- much of this has been left dormant or vacant until NATO has moved in with the troops.

ROBERTS: Gary Berntsen, did you think that this gap in security may give the Taliban an opening to strengthen even more than it is right now?

BERNTSEN: Well they've had five years in Pakistan on the Pakistani side of the border to reconstitute their forces. And if we think it's difficult to cover the U.S. border with Mexico, covering the Pak/Afghan border is much more difficult.

ROBERTS: You know, there was a leader in the region who said, forget about al Qaeda, they're not really the top priority, the Taliban is the top priority now. That was the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Here's how he put it on Tuesday.


PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: The center gravity of terrorism has shifted from al Qaeda to Taliban. This is a new element which has emerged, a more dangerous element because it has roots in the people.


ROBERTS: Now, here's an interesting thing that we see with Musharraf because there are many analysts who say it's Pakistan's fault that the Taliban is resurgent and that it's in Pakistan's interest to keep Afghanistan destabilized. Do you believe that General Joulwan?

JOULWAN: No, I don't agree with that. But I do agree that the Taliban is the key issue. We've allowed them to resurface now. What you do in the first six months of a fight, whether it's Afghanistan, whether it's Iraq or whether it's Bosnia is absolutely essential. You have to really go in and impose your will and settle some things within the country. We did not do that to the degree we needed to in Afghanistan. We're now trying to reassert some of that it makes it very, very difficult. The Taliban is getting stronger, that's why NATO's job is going to get more difficult.

ROBERTS: Yeah, it's always more difficult to do it after the fact.

JOULWAN: After the fact I truly think that you have now 27 nations involved in Afghanistan. There's some political will being developed. We, the United States, need to encourage that and really we need to make sure NATO is successful in Afghanistan. I think it's going to be very important.

ROBERTS: A tough fight ahead. General Joulwan thanks very much. And Gary Berntsen stay with us because we want to come back to you a little bit later on.

If you think that war is always a young person's game, think again, on age and gender, it's not just men. One of the fallen in the car bomb attack in Kabul last week was 52-year-old Merideth Howard, the sergeant first class assigned to the 364th civil affairs brigade was the oldest U.S. female casualty of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In her own words, she was helping the Afghan community.


SGT. MERIDETH HOWARD: It's wonderful. I mean, that's the whole idea of being here in Afghanistan because it's a people that we can help and hopefully that they'll be able to enjoy the peace and the fruits of our labor while we're here.


ROBERTS: Back at home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, family friend Tony Bartolotta said age never held her back.


TONY BARTOLOTTA, FRIEND OF SGT. HOWARD: I never heard her say that she felt too old to do the job or anything. She was prepared. She was as prepared as a 21-year-old to go over there and probably in the mind set, too. She felt she needed to be there. This was part of her life. She's been a reservist for a long time and she served her country proudly and she died proudly.


ROBERTS: Sergeant first class Merideth Howard's family says she wanted her ashes scattered with fireworks over the water of both San Francisco and Corpus Christi bay.

Coming up this week's war of words, the political fallout to Afghanistan, the 9/11 anniversary and the war in Iraq. But first, some of the others who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.



BUSH: I believe it is vital that our folks on the front line have the tools necessary to protect the American people. There are two vital pieces of legislation in congress now that I think are necessary to help us win the war on terror.


ROBERTS: President Bush in a rose garden press conference on Friday renewing his call for Congress to pass new laws spelling out how the United States can detain, question and put on trial terrorism suspects. Why is President Bush working so hard and having such a hard time winning support on this issue, even from his political allies. Joining me, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux from Capitol Hill, CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel and here in our studio "New York Times" White House reporter David Sanger. David you're the new guy so first question to you. This is really incredible to watch that Republicans in the Senate at loggerheads with the White House and the issues are America's reputation in the world and the safety of U.S. troops abroad.

DAVID SANGER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well it is remarkable, John, but it's also a replay of something that happened late last year. You remember when there was this big argument about the wording in what became known as the McCain torture amendment that had to deal with how the United States would treat prisoners. It's fundamentally the same issues. What our standards are going to be and how those are going to be viewed elsewhere in the world and if you listen to Senator McCain and his allies, the question of how our own people would be treated. What's different here, of course, is that you have Senator Warner in the middle of all this. Somebody who in addition to being the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has really stayed pretty close to the White House along the way.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I mean you expect McCain to be at odds with the White House but not Warner.

SANGER: So this has the White House worried and when you add into the mix Colin Powell, what you have is a very different wing of the Republican Party that they've had a very hard time managing.

ROBERTS: Andrea Koppel, when President Bush first came out with this idea about legislation for these commissions he was hoping to put Democrats on the defensive. But now we have the Senate at the White House's throat, we have the House and the Senate at each other's throats. I mean if you're a Democrat, it doesn't get any better than this.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely doesn't and you only have to read a statement that was put out on Friday by Senator Chuck Schumer who heads up the Senate's campaign for this November and he laid it out there saying, when you have military men like John Warner, John McCain, Lindsay Graham who are saying this is a bad idea, you got to listen. Democrats couldn't be happier. They obviously oppose this legislation as well John. But the fact is, they can sit back and let these three very highly regarded Republicans take the heat from the White House.

ROBERTS: Right. And, of course, this whole war of words really blew up after the president's 9/11 address. Here's what Senate Minority Leader Henry Reid had to say in response to that.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: Sadly it was a missed opportunity for President Bush who obviously was more consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election year partisan politics than changing direction for this wonderful country.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Ok, so after that happened then the House Majority Leader John Beaner came out and said that the Democrats, "I listened to my Democrat friends and I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorist than protecting the American people." Suzanne Malveaux, even Tony Snow at the White House had to say he didn't agree with that. But let's take a look at these issues. Did the president go too far in linking Iraq with 9/11 on Monday? Did the Democrats go too far in responding and did Boehner overstep?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well you know what John, this certainly was a political speech. I mean publicly the White House said look, this wasn't partisan, it wasn't politics. But the White House has been really looking for that bullhorn moment since five years ago after September 11th ever since. And while he didn't use the word Democrat or Republican or even call for legislation, he went to the heart of the political debate and that is, of course, the justification of the Iraq war. There was no way that this White House and officials will say privately, no way that he was not going to actually use that in his speech to make the case before the American people that it was justified as part of the larger, broader war on terror.

ROBERTS: David, you had an interesting analysis following the president's speech who said, "He, President Bush, has expanded the cast of terror groups and nations that America must defeat to regain its sense of security - not only a diminished al Qaeda and a resurgent Taliban, also Iranian mullahs and their Syrian neighbors, regional threats like Hezbollah and Hamas, and the Sunni extremists and the Shia militias that are battling for control of Iraq." In five years we've gone from al Qaeda is the enemy to it looks like everybody is the enemy now. How is that playing politically for him?

SANGER: Well what the president was looking for, I think, was a return to those moments of clarity right after 9/11. At that time, you'll remember, he was able to identify al Qaeda and he was able to identify the Taliban. At this point, though, the whole combat has spread and to some degree he has had to try to link all of these disparate groups, many of which don't like each other.

ROBERTS: Yeah, I mean we try to connect the dots here.

SANGER: Right. And so what he's trying to do is put them all within one category. Some people who I have spoken to have made the very good point that if you define the enemy that broadly, you end up with a war that's got no end and it's very hard to even define when you have achieved a victory. So, in some ways, he has encompassed all of his agenda, but in other ways he's made the conflict more diffuse.

ROBERTS: Andrea Koppel let's take a look at the poll numbers. The president does seem to be getting a bit of a bump talking about terror. Which party would better handle Iraq in an ABC news poll? Republicans have the democrats by one percentage point. And they have them by seven points on the issue of terrorism. These numbers coming up for Republicans spell trouble for the democrats?

KOPPEL: I think what they would say is, boy, what a difference from two years ago or four years ago when the gap was within tens of points and not in the single digits. Democrats, since they came back after their August recess, have launched a counteroffensive on national security to try to wrench that out of the hands of the Republicans and, so far, they feel they have had some traction.

ROBERTS: And Suzanne Malveaux, is the White House happy to see these numbers starting to pop, is the strategy working?

MALVEAUX: Well John they're very excited about what they see, according to one senior GOP strategist. Every day you talk about national war on terror, national security and you're not talking about the Iraq war, is a good day for this White House and that is what they've been doing, a two pronged strategy of course.

One, the series of speeches the president has been giving on, we're getting tough here, of course, national security. And the other is these anti-terrorism measures that he's been throwing at Congress, pushing for them to pass these.

And they see this split within the Republican party as just a bump here. It may be a legislative, not a victory, a lose in that sense, but certainly a political victory when you look at the elections just weeks ago. They're counting on the American people, voters to bump them on this.

ROBERTS: Yes, a bump perhaps, but not one that tears out the transmission of the car. Susan Malveaux and Andrea Koppel, thanks very much.

David Sanger, good to see you.


ROBERTS: Welcome to the program.

SANGER: Thanks.

ROBERTS: One question still hanging over the political debate, where is Osama bin Laden? That's up next.

And, later on THIS WEEK AT WAR --


GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: If you see it yourself, it takes your breath away, that kind of cruelty. I've never seen anything like it.


ROBERTS: Star power at the United Nations. Actor and activist George Clooney asks for international intervention to stop the killing in Dae.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin, more of THIS WEEK AT WAR straight ahead. But first, a look at what's happening right now in the news. And it's a double dose of severe weather in the Pacific. Some 90 minutes ago, Tropical Storm Miriam formed off Baja, California. And just hours ago, Hurricane Lane slammed ashore on Mexico's resort coast near the town of El Dorado.

And one person is dead, almost 100 others ill in an e. coli scare that now spans at least 19 states. Government investigators linked prepackaged spinach distributed by a California company to the outbreak. Officials say they're also looking at other spinach producers.

Former President Clinton, among those paying their respects to one of the Lone Star State's leading ladies, Ann Richards. The casket of the former governor is lying in state for the next two days in Austin. Richards, known for her sharp wit, died Wednesday from esophogeal cancer.

Coming up tonight at 10:00 Eastern, more on the desperate search in Missouri for a missing newborn. But right now, back to THIS WEEK AT WAR.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear. No matter how long it takes, America will find you and we will bring you to justice.


ROBERTS: President Bush on Monday during his 9/11 address to the nation. For a couple of years the president barely mentioned Osama bin Laden. Now, in this election year, bin Laden has taken on new prominence.

Why is the leader in the symbol of al Qaeda so hard to track down and capture? Gary Bernsten wrote the book on part of that question, "Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and al Qaeda", a personal account by the CIA's key field commander.

And Richard Miniter is with me here in Washington. He is the author of "Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror". CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson was in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent days, checking on the search for bin Laden. Here's part of Nic's report from Monday.


NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Most recent intelligence reports have him located towards northern Pakistan, the Chitral region, possibly slipping northwards across the remote, lawless border into Afghanistan, and possibly north again, into the equally remote and lawless Tajikistan.

The reason we don't know, Pakistan's former intelligence chief tells me, is simple. People like bin Laden better than they like the West, or they wouldn't rat him out, even for the $25 million reward.


ROBERTS: Nobody seems to quite know where he is. Richard Miniter, in your opinion, how is the search for Osama bin Laden going?

RICHARD MINITER, AUTHOR: Well, what search for Osama bin Laden? I know special forces who are deployed to the unit in Afghanistan, the special units hunting bin Laden, who after a few months begged to be reassigned, deployed elsewhere because they really were doing nothing but training exercises. There was no new intelligence coming in that might lead them in the direction of bin Laden.

Yes, there are other high-value targets out there that they've been getting. They got very close I think to the Taliban war minister recently. But bin Laden himself, or Zawahiri, his number two, basically no leads.

ROBERTS: Has the trail gone stone cold?

MINITER: Well I think there's no doubt about that.

ROBERTS: Gary Bernsten, does the United States need a new strategy for going after Osama bin Laden, and it is it important to wrap him up soon?

GARY BERNSTEN, AUTHOR: Well of course it is important to wrap him up soon. What I would say is that the CIA needs sort of to break its normal bureaucratic mold where you have a senior officer as the chief, slightly less senior as the second and then many more junior officer there.

They need to ram in a large number of Persian-speaking officers out there. They are woefully short of qualified linguists in that area out there. This is all about people, the human intelligence business. It's not about systems, it's about people.

It's about running the sources, it's about penetrating groups that are hostile to us. And if you don't have the first team out there and if you don't have everybody you need on the ground out there pushing forward, you're not going to get it, and you're going to develop the intel you need.

ROBERTS: And, of course, al Qaeda's leaders are still out there taunting. The day before the September 11 anniversary Ayman al- Zawahiri, the number two in al Qaeda, released a videotape message. Here's a part of that from this past Sunday.


AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: We tell you not to concern yourselves with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are doomed. You should worry about your presence in the Gulf and the second place they should worry about is in Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Richard Miniter, you should worry about your presence in the Gulf. What do you think that means for the future?

MINITER: Well, I think that suggests that, at least rhetorically, al Qaeda and Iran have become linked in some way. If you look at the position from Iran's viewpoint, they're surrounded by U.S. and allied forces. One neighbor in Iraq, 130,000 U.S. troops, virtually 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and then along the southern coast, in Bahrain, UAE, their new naval facilities and U.S. Air Force facilities. They look at themselves surrounded and would like to see the United States gone. Maybe al Qaeda's saber rattling, they hope, will push in that direction.

ROBERTS: Gary Bernsten, do you think this might mean more attacks against Gulf states like Bahrain, like Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, like Kuwait?

BERNSTEN: Clearly both Iran first, early in the eighties did recruiting all the way through those Shia areas of the Gulf, including eastern Saudi Arabia. But al Qaeda itself has a lot of supporters in Saudi Arabia. It's done a lot of recruiting and it's done a lot of training of people in those areas and it will be a place they come after us. It is important to us economically. We have military bases there and no sooner does the conflict end in Iraq, if it does end in Iraq, it will begin immediately then where likely we'll be fighting in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf simultaneously in the years to come.

ROBERTS: Wow. That's not something to look forward to.

You know of course, a lightning rod in all of this has been Donald Rumsfeld. Richard Miniter, what do you think of his handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

MINITER: Well let's go back and look at the record. His whole argument about transformation seems to be correct. We took most of the country, Afghanistan, in about 4 1/2, 5 weeks. The Soviets put almost 100,000 men in ten years of conflict and got no where. Iraq, we destroyed the fourth largest army in the world in a matter of weeks.

So the transformation side of the argument seems to work. Working with allies is a major problem. Supplying European soldiers in the field, who are not as effective and as well equipped as U.S. troops. They tend to be draftees, not professional soldiers. They're much more expensive to maintain.

ROBERTS: So, you think he's been effective?

MINITER: I think on balance, yes.

ROBERTS: Gary Bernsten, you agree?

BERNTSEN: Well, the failure to maintain security in Iraq has cost us dearly. You know, of course, the execution of an invasion is one thing. That's just stage one. You have got to maintain security afterwards and those policies failed. We are paying dearly for that right now.

ROBERTS: Well we're certainly going to hear a lot more about this over the coming weeks as we head towards the election. Richard Miniter, thanks very much. Gary Berntsen, as always, good to see you again, my friend.

From terrorism to the crisis in Darfur, what Hollywood movie star George Clooney told the United Nations and me on THIS WEEK AT WAR.


ROBERTS: Can international pressure halt the violence in Darfur, the region of Sudan where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million forced to flee? Organizers of rallies around the world this weekend are calling for the United Nations to intervene. And on Thursday, in a rare moment, activist/actor George Clooney addressed the United Nations Security Council, pleading with them to stop the killing.

Clooney and his father, Nick, traveled to Sudan earlier this year and they sat down with me following the Security Council meeting.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Can you, as a well- known figure worldwide, really do anything?


ROBERTS: Can you really make a difference?

G. CLOONEY: Well, here's the difference. And, no, I can't make a difference, because I'm not a policy-maker, and I have been elected to no office, and I'm not in -- I'm not a politician.

What I can do is -- you know, Kofi Annan got up and gave a great speech, and nobody saw it. And, if I stand next to him, the cameras follow. So, if that's what I can do to help move that along, I will do it as often as possible.

ROBERTS: Nick, are we reaching crunch time here with the situation in Darfur?



We're down to the 30th of September. That's when the A.U. goes. You know, that's when the African Union gets out of there, or at least are scheduled to do so far. And, if that happens, they are twisting in the wind on a gossamer thread, and they're -- Jan Egeland has said they will lose 100,000 people a month if the non-governmental organizations get out of there because of lack of security, which, of course, they would do.

ROBERTS: Mmm-hmm. Has President Bush done enough on this, George?

G. CLOONEY: Here's what I feel like with President Bush. He has certainly taken the lead on this, and he has -- much more so than most members of the Security Council done that.

There is a lot more you can do. You can start by naming an envoy, a big one, and go get Colin Powell or -- I don't know -- Al Gore, whoever it is, that can go in there and have some real heft to sit down with Bashir and have the conversation.

ROBERTS: How was your first experience at the Security Council?

G. CLOONEY: Really fun.


G. CLOONEY: I say do it every day.

ROBERTS: Is it frustrating when you sit down in that room and it kind of keeps going around and around in circles?

G. CLOONEY: It is, because we have stood in -- we have stood on the border of Darfur, and we have stood in Oure Cassoni and Abeche and in south Sudan in towns like Jacques (ph), and seen people laying there dead, and seen absolutely no reason at all for it to happen.

And then to have a bunch of people sitting in a room saying, we understand it's bad, but we will get back to you, and you go, no, getting back to us isn't an option.

ROBERTS: George, you have said before -- you said when you came back that you were kind of late coming to this particular issue.


ROBERTS: But, when you reflect back on your -- on the trip that you made to Sudan and to Chad to see the refugee camps, how were you struck by what you saw?

G. CLOONEY: I think everybody gets the idea of us saying, it's the most horrific thing that a human being could do to another human being, for very -- for absolutely no reason at all.

Having said that, if you see it yourself, it is -- it's -- I mean, it takes your breath away, that kind of cruelty. I have never seen anything like it.

ROBERTS: What were you struck most by, Nick?

N. CLOONEY: They are the loneliest people I ever saw, John. They are all alone. They got no government, got no money, got no property, got no cattle, got no goats, got no donkeys -- got no children, in some cases. They are the loneliest folks. They're all by themselves.

All they got is us.

ROBERTS: Not particularly speaking to this issue, but why do you take up causes? Angelina Jolie told us in a recent interview -- she said that, I get paid a silly amount of money for what I do.


ROBERTS: I would like to give something back.

What is it for you?

G. CLOONEY: I like getting paid a lot of money, as well.

No, you know, I -- you do it because you are part of the human race and because, you know, if you had the opportunity -- I think anyone who has the opportunity would do it. So, I'm in the position to do it. And I think I don't know would be -- I think I would be a real failure as a human being if I don't. You know, I'm terrified of not actually contributing, when I'm in the position to contribute.

ROBERTS: And you contribute not only through charities, but also in some of the work that you have done on pieces like "Syriana," "Good Night, and Good Luck." What give you more satisfaction, doing a film that or -- or doing, you know, the "Ocean's" films, other stuff like that?

G. CLOONEY: The "Ocean's" films pay me. I got paid $1 for the other films. So, the "Ocean" films pay very nicely. And, then, those make you feel good. So, you know, you sort of -- although I -- I like doing the "Ocean's" films a lot, too.

But, you know, what makes you feel good is that all of them make -- put me in the position that I can somehow, for some reason, get in front of the National Security Council and ask them to do whatever they can to help people.

ROBERTS: Good luck with your work, gentlemen. Good to talk with you.


G. CLOONEY: We really appreciate it.


ROBERTS: George and Nick Clooney on the situation in Darfur. If you would like to donate food, money or contribute in any other way to the humanitarian efforts in Sudan, contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Their website

Coming up on THIS WEEK AT WAR, ever wonder how those al Qaeda video messages are secretly delivered to Al Jazeera? We'll show you, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Last week we talked about the mystery of how Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants manage today get their messages out to the world, even highly polished production videos. Why are they so difficult to trace back to their source? Nic Robertson took a look at that question and filed this report on Tuesday.


ROBERTSON: It's Osama bin Laden in a now all too familiar al Qaeda message, but look at the logo at the bottom of your screen, As Sahab, Arabic for "the clouds".


It screams al Qaeda, just as the roaring lion heralds an MGM movie.

Check out these other al Qaeda releases. This time Ayman al- Zawahiri. Again, As Sahab is in the corner.

Same here with one of the London subway bombers. Al Qaeda has corporate P.R., even using English subtitles.

AZZAM THE AMERICAN, AL QAEDA: We haven't talked about American and British atrocities in the two Iraq wars.

ROBERTSON: And sometimes an American to get their message across.

The question is just how and where on earth are they getting away with it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The where, they probably do it close to where they are. The As Sahab logo used to have the location Pakistan on it. The how, now that's the easy bit. All we need is a little camera, a laptop computer, after all, that's how we put our reports together, Throw in fancy graphics, then all you've got to do is print off the cd or tape.

ROBERTSON: Then al Qaeda hands off the tape to someone it can trust to get the message out. Ahmed Zaidan was working for Arabic language broadcaster Al-Jazeera in its Pakistan office when someone called, offering a new story and set up a meeting.

AHMED ZAIDAN, AL-JAZEERA: Somebody called us to a very busy market, you know, and he gave us a tape and I never, ever thought it was -- I never, ever expected that it would be Osama bin Laden tape. But that man who delivered this tape, he was half covered face and told me, look, this is Osama tape.

ROBERTSON: In its relentless drive to self-promote, al Qaeda had suddenly, for a moment, made itself vulnerable, starting a trail that could lead to bin Laden.

But finding that trail has not been so easy. ROBERTSON (on camera): And even if they had been here, intelligence officials say it would have been nearly impossible to track the person handing off the tape. They could have disappeared into the crowds and gone into a tiny alleyway.


ROBERTS: Nic Robertson reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan on just how difficult the hunt for bin Laden really is.

Just ahead, on THIS WEEK AT WAR, President Bush plans a trip to New York and a meeting with an important ally on the war on terror. But first, a look at another of the fallen.

Army Specialist Alexander Jordan was deployed from Ft. Richardson, Alaska. Part of the military's mobile Striker Brigade Combat Team. Just after getting married, he went to Iraq last July, expecting a one-year tour but then came a four-month extension and a move from Mosul to the Iraqi capital. Jordan was killed in the battle for Baghdad on the eve of the fifth year anniversary of the terror attacks his mother said motivated him to join up.


CANDACE JORDAN, MOTHER OF SPC. JORDAN: September 11 was devastating to him, that people would do that to our country. And he has always said that he wanted to make a difference in the world, that he had the power to make a difference, the power of one. And I believe that about him. That what he did over there was a beautiful thing.


Specialist Jordan, 31 years old, died when his patrol was hit by enemy small arms fire in Baghdad.


ROBERTS: We passed a difficult milepost this week. Five years on from the attacks on America. The scenes of death and destruction in some ways seem far off, yet, at the same time, still very fresh. Watching replays of those planes hit the World Trade Center was as shocking in 2006 as it was in 2001.

And it appears the farther away from the attacks we get, in terms of time, the more we believe they have changed us as a nation. According to CNN polls, a year after the attacks, a little more than half of Americans thought the country would never be the same. Now that number has increased to 70 percent.

And despite all the security measures that have been taken, the wars that have been fought, the lives that have been lost, 57 percent of Americans think terrorists will find a way to hit the United States no matter what the government does, a number virtually unchanged from a year after 9/11. Here's a look now at what we'll be watching in the week ahead. Monday, the future of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur will be debated in New York when the African Union's Peace and Security Council meets just before the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Tuesday, President Bush goes to the United Nations to address the General Assembly. And on Friday, Mr. Bush will meet his ally in the war on terror, the president of Pakistan Pervez, Musharraf.

Thanks for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR. I'm John Roberts. Straight ahead, a check of the headlines, then a CNN special, "Welcome to the Future".



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