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THIS WEEK AT WAR
Afghanistan and Iraq Update
Aired April 22, 2007 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN HOST: Thanks, Wolf.
This week, the U.S. military said it will no longer use the term `the long war' to describe the struggle against al Qaeda and other extremists. But, as car bombs took a terrible toll in Baghdad, and day-long battles erupted in Afghanistan, it sure doesn't look any shorter, no matter what it is called. We'll look at THIS WEEK AT WAR right after what's happening in the news right now.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CENTER, ATLANTA: Thanks, Tom. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN center in Atlanta.
"Now in the News:" no word yet on what caused the crash that killed a Blue Angels pilot during an air show in Beaufort, South Carolina.
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CAPT. SARAH KANSTEINER, MARINE CORPS PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFC: The mishap occurred approximately three miles outside the air station in the vicinity of Pine Grove Road and White Pine Road. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation. Emergency officials, both military and civilian, remain on-scene at the site of the crash at this time.
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WHITFIELD: The online auction site, eBay, is now a focus of the investigation into the massacre at Virginia Tech. CNN has learned that an account, possibly used by the killer, was used last month to buy empty magazine clips. EBay prohibits the sale of ammunition.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go, Hokies.
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WHITFIELD: The editor of the student newspaper at Virginia Tech was a guest of honor at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. She led the audience in a `Let's go, Hokies' chant. The Correspondents Association is giving her newspaper $5,000 to help it cover -- recover in the aftermath of the massacre. French voters are going to the polls today to decide who will succeed President Jacques Chirac. Socialist Segolene Royal has a chance of becoming the first female French president. A run-off will likely be necessary two weeks from now.
More news coming up in 30 minutes. Now back to THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: A bomb turned the central market into a scene of carnage: more than 100 killed. And death squads tortured and murdered 19 people, leaving their bodies on the streets. That was Baghdad on February 3, 2007, only days before the beginning of the new security plan, the so-called surge.
On Wednesday, an enormous bomb hit the Sedriyah (ph) market again. Again, over 100 dead, and after weeks of lower numbers, 25 bodies were found tortured, murdered, and dumped on the streets of the capital. Progress in Iraq seems very hard to find.
I'm Tom Foreman with THIS WEEK AT WAR.
Let's take a look at what our correspondents reported day by day.
Monday, rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr ordered six ministers to quit the Iraqi cabinet because there was no timetable for American troops to withdraw. Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs claims that Iran is sending arms to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Wednesday, over 200 dead, as a car bomb rips through Baghdad, many bombs around the town. Thursday, Secretary of Defense Gates arrives in Baghdad, saying he will warn Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment to a troop surge is not open-ended. And Friday, a roadside bomb in Afghanistan kills a 21-year-old corporal, the first Dutch soldier to die in combat there.
This week's key questions: is violence in Iraq returning to a pre-surge level? Arwa Damon is on the streets of Baghdad. Has the war of words over military funding gone too far? Andrea Koppel is on Capitol Hill with that. And how bad is the fighting in Afghanistan? Nic Robertson reports from Jalalabad -- THIS WEEK AT WAR.
Is the U.S. gaining any ground in Baghdad? Are this week's attacks just setbacks and challenges, as ground commander General David Petraeus described them? CNN's Arwa Damon is in our Baghdad bureau joining us, in San Diego, Vali Nasr, a professor at the Naval Post Graduate School, the author of "The Shia Revival," and at the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for the paper and the author of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City."
On Wednesday, Arwa Damon reported on the deadliest bombings in the Iraqi capital, since the 4-year-old war began, with almost 200 dead.
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ARWA DAMON, BAGHDAD: The day's worst attacks happened in areas that were under Mehi militia control, the militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, that agreed to temporarily lay down its arms, saying they would give the security plan a chance.
Violence of this magnitude, mainly targeting Iraq's Shia population, has in the past infuriated the Shia and fueled militia violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So, Arwa, joining us now -- your first impression: is this working at this point, the surge -- the uptick of troops is not complete -- is it working or not?
DAMON: Tom, it really depends on how you look at it and whose perspective you're looking at it from. The U.S. military will point to things like a certain decrease in sectarian violence, and that is calculated by the number of unidentified bodies that show up in the capital on a daily basis, and say that the surge, this increase, is showing initial signs of success.
But when you speak with Iraqis, they will say that the murders, the assassinations, the kidnappings, appear to have dropped down, but they still remain utterly petrified of these massive bombings, just like the ones that we saw happening that left at least 198 Iraqis dead. They will say that the overall situation, from their perspective, is not getting better.
FOREMAN: Rajiv, one of the arguments from the military, all along, has been that, when you push, your enemy will push back, and there will initially be an increase in violence. Is there any sense, from what you've covered and looked at, that that could be true in this case?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I certainly do think so. When the United States tried earlier attempts to move against the Sunni insurgents, you see large, spectacular attacks like we've seen in this past week. I think Baghdad, right now, is at a very, very fragile state. What Arwa is reporting, I think, is very accurate, that the Shiite militias are not engaging in outright retribution roght now, they are holding back.
But I think, with large scale attacks like this, it's hard to see them continuing to keep in their corner, as this is happening. I think we're in a very tenuous state.
FOREMAN: Let's take a look at the map right now, because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates went to the region, and he visited some neighbors of Iraq, addressing some of the very issues that you just raised there, Rajiv. He went to Egypt, he went to Jordan, he went to Israel. Two of those places have strongholds of Sunnis.
One of the reasons he's reaching out to them is because he would like them, in turn, to reach out to the Sunnis, who largely control this part of Iraq, and get them more involved with the process there. Also he wants to send a message to the entire region that the U.S. commitment here is not open-ended. Let's listen to that sound for a moment very quickly.
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ROBERT GATED, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Our commitment to Iraq is long term. But it is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Vali Nasr, what do you make of this? First of all, will this diplomatic effort to get other Sunnis involved work? And secondly, what do you make of the message that it's not open-ended? That's a timetable, in effect.
VALI NASR, NAVAL POST GRADUATE SCHOOL: We have threatened the Arab governments in the region, as well as the Iraqis, for a long time, that we may leave and, therefore, stop our security patrolling of Iraq. But I think it's a very good sign that at least the United States is getting serious in talking to some of Iraq's neighbors, to get them to use their assets, positive and negative, in Iraq, in a way that would encourage the Sunnis to become serious about negotiations within Iraq.
I think everything that was said before suggests that, technically, this security plan may be working, but politically it's been a failure. We thought that the security plan was supposed to create an environment for political dialogue and peace, and the opposite is happening. So I think Secretary Gates is trying to salvage some of that by talking to people around the region.
FOREMAN: Arwa, there's some suggestion one of the things that the insurgents may push back against the most and are pushing back against, is this effort to bring people into the political fold, that they are becoming much more aggressive in saying, Do not cooperat cooperate. Do you see that on the ground there?
DAMON: Tom, you see it in the sense -- and this has been ongoing for quite some time, actually -- is that politicians, people that are shifting towards the government, towards the Iraqi security forces, are being a constant target. The insurgency naturally is going to try to deter that process from happening.
And if we go back to even last week, the attack that we saw taking place in parliament, that sent a very strong message to people who, as the military calls them, are on the fence -- and that is the fence between joining the current political process on one hand, and on the other hand, the insurgency.
I think what a lot of Iraqis really want to see right now is change truly coming from within their government. For the longest time imaginable right now, many Iraqis will tell you that the only thing that they're really hearing from their government is rhetoric, and what they truly want to see right now is that turned into action. And I think that, if that should eventually turn into action, you would see more people on that fence line perhaps shifting towards the government. But the government first has to prove itself and has to reinstall faith amongst the people.
FOREMAN: Rajiv, you watch this sort of thing closely. Is that government ready to take those steps, real steps?
CHANDRASEKARAN: They certainly have had time to do so, and they haven't moved very quickly with it. Efforts to try to get them to roll back some of the deBaathfication provisions seem to be stalled because of Shiite objections, and the efforts to push through a new oil law also seem to be stalled in parliament, and despite the administration's claims that the oil law is sort of done, it's only one part of a broader package that the Iraqis need to get through with regard to the sharing of oil revenue.
So what the surge is supposed to do to create space for political leaders to take steps aimed at national reconciliation, well that part of this hasn't happened yet, and it doesn't look like there are going to be meaningful steps happening anytime soon.
FOREMAN: Vali, very briefly, whether or not people want to put a timetable on this, with all of those things considered, is there a natural timetable at work here where people just give up?
NASR: Yes, I think so. And I think even the current strategy of the surge, in the long run, is not going to work because the U.S. military can keep trying to pull the two sides away from the fight, but if there's no deal on the table, if there's no grand bargain, the U.S. military cannot keep them apart forever. The fighting ultimately will continue because there is a reason to fight without a deal on the table.
FOREMAN: Very much thanks to you, Vali Nasr, also to you, Rajiv, and Arwa, thanks for joining us.
In just a moment: U.S. troops sens a message to the Taliban on the Afghan border. And Congress and the president talk about funding the war effort, but when will troops see the money? We'll get the latest.
But first, a THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Sergeant Mario De Leon, of Sonoma County, California, was killed by small arms fire in Baghdad on Monday. A member of the Army's First Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Sergeant De Leon was sent to Iraq earlier this year. This week, childhood friends gathered outside his home to comfort one another.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was devastating. It's hard to stand here right now and hold back tears. I love that guy to death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll be missed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe he's gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Mario De Leon leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old son. He would have celebrated his 27th birthday next month.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The clock is ticking for our troops. Congress' failure to fund our troops would mean that the readiness of our forces will suffer.
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TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR, THIS WEEK AT WAR: You could be excused for thinking that there was a bit of cynicism in the fight over military funding. The president counts the days. Although it too longer to pass a supplemental budget when the GOP was in charge. The Democrat are preparing a bill they know the president will veto and both sides sat down at the White House on Wednesday to at least looked like they were negotiating.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: We came here in a spirit of hope recognizing that this is an historic opportunity for the executive branch, for the president and the Congress, to work together, to wind down this war.
SEN. HARRY REID (D) MAJORITY LEADER: We believe he must search his soul, his conscience and find out what is the right thing for the American people. I believe signing this bill will do that.
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FOREMAN: Suzanne Malveaux joins me from the White House now and Andrea Koppel is just blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue on Capitol Hill. Let's start with you, Andrea. Does anybody in the Congress right now have a solution to this or do they just not like the president's solution?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fact is, Tom, they believe that they came in to power in the 110th Congress with a mandate from the American people to change the course of the war. So even though they recognize that they are not going to win this fight in the short term that is, to get a hard deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw and get the president to sign off on that, they feel that it is a battle that they must fight and it's a step-by-step process.
FOREMAN: One of the things the Democrats have always worried about is looking weak on defense. Listen to what was said by Harry Reid this week.
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REID: As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course. And we must change course. DANA PERINO, DEP. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY: His comments about the war being lost are in direct conflict with what commanders on the ground are saying.
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FOREMAN: Suzanne, I was surprised that the White House didn't jump harder on that because in effect, they could say, here's a Democrat surrendering. Why didn't they jump harder than they did?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, I think what the strategy here at the White House is all about kind of the, I dare you factor. We heard from Dana Perino as well, responding to Harry Reid's comments about the war is lost, simply saying if you have the courage of your convictions, if you believe that it's truly lost, then I dare you here to defund this war, because you'll pay the consequences. What the White House is counting on, what they're hoping on is that somehow the Democrats are going to pay for this, that the American people are eventually not going to support this and not tolerate not funding the troops here. And they set up this debate as one painting Democrats against either the generals or the Democrats versus the troops, when all reality, it is going to be the president who's going to veto that bill that requires the funding.
FOREMAN: Is the White House absolutely unyielding on this question of a timetable? A lot of times politicians say this then quietly in the back rooms, they start working it out?
MALVEAUX: The White House I don't think is going to compromise on this point. They're pretty straight on that. What they also believe is that they believe they've got some wiggle room here with the Democrats. They have heard different sides from the Democrats. We've heard something from Senator Carl Levin. We've heard something from Senator Barack Obama different than what we've heard from Senator Harry Reid. So they are counting on banking on the fact that they don't believe the Democrats are united in this front.
KOPPEL: Actually, Tom, can I jump in on that point?
KOPPEL: OK. When Harry Reid said that he believes the war is lost this week, he did not say that, even though he wears the cap of majority leader. He wasn't speaking as the majority leader. He was speaking as the senator from Nevada, and in point of fact, I spoke to one of his aides. He said that Harry Reid has reached a point in his own mind where the war is lost and this is a very personal moment for him. He just went to Walter Reed a few weeks back, saw the troops, and it was from that point on that he felt that there was nothing more that throwing more troops at this war was not going to resolve it, and that he had to come out and make a very public stand which is why he said that this week, which is why he signed on to a very unpopular bill by Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin saying U.S. troops need to be out by March 31st of next year and there will only be funds left for a very narrow mission in Iraq. FOREMAN: But that must be terrifying to other Democrats, because they may not be willing to have their name connected to the phrase lost war.
KOPPEL: Absolutely. And in fact, I spoke with a number of Democratic aides who said you're not going to hear my boss coming out publicly and criticizing Harry Reid, by the same token, you're not going to hear them signing onto what he said, but he believes in his soul right now, Tom, that the president is facing a very similar situation to the one that Lyndon Johnson faced in 1965 when he, along with then Secretary of Defense Bob McNamara knew that they were not going to win the Vietnam war and yet they sent tens of thousands of troops in. That's what Harry Reid told President Bush this week in their closed door meeting as the White House. He said, Mr. President, this is going to be a repeat of what happened with Lyndon Johnson and apparently the president's back stiffened and Harry Reid reached out and put his hand on him in a comforting manner.
FOREMAN: Suzanne was the president comforted?
MALVEAUX: I don't think the president was really comforted in that meeting. It sounded like it was a lot of frustration in terms of what actually happened. Whether or not there was anything of great significance that was going to come from that meeting, a lot of frustration, particularly from the Democrats who saw this as well as first going in to it saying, look, we're going to tell him how we feel, but how do we come out of this on top? What we see the president doing here is a new kind of strategy, but it's the same old one. And that is taking this message directly to the American people. That's why we've seen him this week traveling to Ohio, to Michigan, having these town hall forums, basically trying to pitch the war directly to the people and he's also using this kind of illustrations in graphics. He used a map to actually show, here's where the troops are. Here's where we're seeing the problems. He showed a photo from the outcome of this horrific, horrific bombing that happened, that happened on Wednesday, that, with the Iraqi people, nearly 200 killed, showed a photo of that, which was extremely unique to show people, or at least to convince them, look I get it. I see what's happening here. I see how badly things are going.
FOREMAN: Suzanne, we'll see how that settles with the American people. You, too, Andrea. Thank you for your time and your help.
Coming up, are U.S. troops high in the mountains of Afghanistan following in the footsteps of Osama bin Laden? And, is the long, tough war in Iraq wearing out the old volunteer military? That, straight ahead on THIS WEEK AT WAR.
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BUSH: I want to assure parents whose loved one may be in the military, we're not going to put your son or daughter over there unless they're ready.
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FOREMAN: The fact that the president felt he had to reassure parents reflects how much debate there is over how the increased tempo of deployment is stressing the American military. Is it too much for the all-volunteer force and if so, is a draft the answer? To help me break all this down, CNN military analyst Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, U.S. Army retired and former Defense Department official Lawrence Korb, now with the Center for American Progress. Let's start with you, Lawrence. What do you think? Have we reached a breaking point because of this war?
LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: There's no doubt in my mind that the army is broken. The question is, how bad and how long will it take to get it back where it needs to be.
GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET): I don't think the army's broken. I think what is happening is there are levels within the army that are broken and I would say at the very top level we just don't have enough -- the short answer, there aren't enough troops in order to sustain this type of combat for an indeterminate amount of time.
FOREMAN: How do we determine this at a time like this when such things are happening in Iraq and when even this surge of troops over there, the so-called surge, is still in progress? Listen to what General Petraeus said on Monday about the level we're at right now with that surge.
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GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: We've got about three of our five surge army combat brigades on the ground and now in to the mix and the other two will be completely here and in their operational areas by mid-June. The Iraqis see that. I think that's of huge importance to the overall effort and it's also hugely important to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Easy to look at things going badly this week in Iraq, and say, that's a measure of the military. Is that fair? Is that accurate?
KORB: Look, this is not the first surge. This is the third surge within the last year that we've had. Each time it goes down a little bit. Then it comes back up. Look, I was just in Iraq. You're not even safe in the green zone. They were shelling the green zone. The parliament building is being blown up. What's happened is, we don't have enough troops, even when General Petraeus gets it to get all of the city of six million under control, they're just going to move to other areas. The Iraqi forces are not up to the job of picking up after we leave. And I think I can quote somebody that General Marks knows very well, General McCaffrey when we testified this week, he called it a fool's error (ph). FOREMAN: Let's listen to what General McCaffrey said. This was testifying before the Senate Arms Services Committee on Tuesday. This is what he said about the current level of recruits.
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GEN. BARRY McCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET): My own gut feeling is that 10 percent of army recruits are of poor caliber and should not be in uniform. They're in there under waivers for non-high school graduates, moral turpitude, felony arrest, drug use. The notion that we're going to use 42-year-old first-term soldiers is simply laughable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: That's quite an indictment, Spider. Is that fair, in your eyes?
MARKS: Well, it's a fair statement, absolutely. I don't think General McCaffrey is making this stuff up. But again, bear in mind that the 10 percent or below, that average of 10 percent is on the margins. You look at the 90 percent goodness of the quality of the young men and women that are coming in. So the debate becomes are you fielding the right force to go in to combat today? The short answer is yes. Are you giving them the right kit and capabilities and training? The short answer is yes. Do you have enough of them? The answer's no, emphatically and I agree with Dr. Korb.
KORB: The shorter answer is no, they're not ready. We're taking people right out of basic training who missed the unit training at Fort Irwin, sending them over with a 10-day course. That's not what you do. Army doctrine says you should have two years at home for every year you're deployed. They're lucky if they get one year. They don't have the right equipment here, because it's over there and it's being burned out. We did not plan to do it. So when the president says that these people are ready, marginally at best.
FOREMAN: Is that because of Iraq or is that because of the overall move of the Pentagon towards having a leaner, quicker moving military first?
MARKS: You can't isolate the two. The two are forever mixed. The issue is the size of the military is not large enough to sustain this level of combat.
FOREMAN: Don't we have to be ready for that? Isn't that the point of having a military?
MARKS: Of course. Of course, that's my point is the requirements and demands of what's going on in Iraq right now would lead you to the conclusion that this 21st century threat that we are now facing has to be addressed with a 21st century army and fundamentally it needs to be bigger. We have challenges across the board. Right now we are focused exclusively on southwest Asia, counterinsurgency type operations, full spectrum ops we cannot address and that's exactly right. KORB: People were telling this administration right after September 11th, let's expand the army. People in Congress tried to do it. We tried to do it in the think tank world and Rumsfeld had this idea that you could fight wars with three men and a small boy. You didn't need a lot of ground troops.
FOREMAN: How are you going to expand the army now?
KORB: That's the problem. They waited too long to do it. They finally agreed to do it. It's absolutely the worst time. General Marks was talking about only 10 percent of the people get these waivers. But that doesn't include the other 90 percent where you've dropped the standards, 8,126 people --
MARKS: We have not dropped the standards on the other 90 percent.
KORB: No, no. Even with dropping the standard you still give the waivers. These are waivers over and above, the fact, 81 percent are not high school graduates. The fact if you're not a high school graduate and then you also have a felony conviction, there were 900 felony convictions last year, that's the waiver. You don't have to get a waiver if you're a non-high school graduate.
MARKS: I'm not going to debate those statistics, but the issue becomes, we're looking in the mirror, what are we doing today to move it forward? What we're doing today to move it forward is we're not tapping into enough of the resources that we have. We haven't talked about a draft. I would tell you that's not a --
FOREMAN: Well how do we do this, politically that's dead. You may say we need it, but everybody politically says it's not going to happen. Look, so how do you do it without a draft?
MARKS: There are affinity groups in this nation, an affinity towards forms of service. You go tap into those and I don't think we're doing an effective enough job, we're not pouring the money into that.
FOREMAN: Is that going to work?
KORB: No, no, the problem is that this war is so unpopular, the American people have turned against it. That normally young men and women who would go into the army, not the other services, the army, their mothers, their ministers, their priests, their rabbis and coaches are discouraging them from doing and that's your problem.
FOREMAN: We're going to take a look at a quick graphic as we go away here. Just look at this, out of the Americans on active military duty, 1.45 million, U.S. population, 301 million. That means one in every 208 Americans are on active duty. There are certainly a lot more people out there who could serve. Thank you very much, Spider Marks for being here, Lawrence Korb, appreciate your time.
Coming up next, CNN's Michael Ware is just back from an embed on the front lines in Iraq. We'll debrief him. And in just a moment, Nic Robertson on the evolving situation high in the mountains of Afghanistan, where the roads end and the bad guys begin. THIS WEEK AT WAR.
COL. DAVID SUTHERLAND: In Diyala we're seeing an increase in attacks against coalition forces and across the battle space.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is this the new cutting edge of the front line against al Qaeda?
SUTHERLAND: I think the fight right now is in Diyala.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: A year ago the coalition forces in Iraq declared Baquba and the surrounding Diyala Province a relatively pacified area. Let's go the map and take a look at where this is. Its a little bit north and east of Baghdad. That's Diyala, a fairly large area and a lot of Sunnis in this area, and there's Baquba right in the middle of it. Now however, it's one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, as trained insurgents, perhaps some of them pushed out of Baghdad down here where they're fighting with U.S. troops, have moved up there. CNN's Michael Ware has just returned from an embed with the 25th infantry division in Diyala Province, he's in Baghdad now. Michael, give us a sense of what's happening there?
WARE: Well Tom what I've seen in Diyala Province is the fight of the new front line against al Qaeda here in Iraq. Where indeed the old become new again. Al Qaeda's always had a strong presence in Diyala, yet with the pressure applied to their organization, while U.S. forces unleashing Baathist insurgents and Sunni tribes against them in al Anbar Province with the focus of the surge in the capital of Baghdad, we've been seeing for some time now a migration of al Qaeda operations to Diyala Province. At the same time we've seen a new American brigade rotate in and apply aggressive new strategies. We're now seeing the levels of violence double what they were one year ago, and in just five months, since this brigade arrived in that province, already 44 U.S. soldiers have been killed. It's one of the most intense battle fronts of the war at the moment. Tom?
FOREMAN: There are plenty of groups there, Michael that clearly don't like the Americans being there, but a lot these are groups that don't actually like each other much either. How much is that coming to play?
WARE: Well, that's always been the state of this war here. I mean, this is not been one homogonous enemy that has (INAUDIBLE) America or indeed the Iraqi government. There are many wars within wars and it has been this way from the beginning. What the U.S. has failed to do however, is capitalize on those divisions and fractures. That is until recently. We're now starting to see the results of a shift in U.S. strategy that began at least six months ago, that's now trying to separate more than ever the home-grown nationalist insurgent from the al Qaeda extremist. None the less, the sectarian -- well you know, al Anbar Province, it certainly is. I mean it's been an unhappy marriage from the beginning. From the outset of this war, when the professional Iraqi army was sent home in relative disgrace with dishonor by the then coalition administration, they returned to the places they know best, and it's from where they rose up as the insurgency, when al Qaeda came to join the fight it was the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They never shared the same agenda. So there's been so many fractures and it's only now we're starting to see them really, really come apart at the seams.
FOREMAN: Michael Ware, always interesting reporting. Thank you so much for joining us after your difficult trip up there. We look forward to more reporting.
Straight ahead, we'll go inside Afghanistan and look at how the Taliban is using all too familiar tactics to fight coalition forces. Stick with us.
FOREMAN: IEDs, suicide bomb attacks, identifying and killing informers, all tactics terribly familiar in Iraq and emerging more and more in Afghanistan. Is the Taliban being schooled by insurgents trained in Baghdad? Joining me for analysis are two experts in the region just back from the front lines in Nuristan, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is now in Jalalabad, he spent the past two months embedded with British and American forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And here with me, Michael Scheuer, he was the chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, he's now a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. Let me start with you Nic, how is the Taliban feeling right now about their war in Afghanistan?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From their own perspective, they think that they're gaining ground. They say, for example, in large provinces in the south like Alman(ph) and Kandahar, that they say they have about 80 percent support of the population. They're using tactics that, similar tactics that are being used in Iraq. They're using suicide bombings. They're using roadside bombings. It's pretty safe to say that the way that they're using these tactics is not as effective as insurgents in Iraq, but they're beginning to mold themselves on an Iraqi style insurgency. The attacks so far this year, March and February of this year, are double the attacks on the same time last year. Tom?
FOREMAN: Let me ask you about this Nic, you've spent a lot of time down, we go to the map here, down in the southern part of the country and in the northern part. Nuristan is where you've been most recently. We've talked a lot about the south how they're strong down there. But up in these places like Kala Gush where you've been, are they getting stronger there as well?
ROBERTSON: What's happening, the U.S. military is expending its influence into Nuristan, which is a very, very mountainous area, it's the Hindu Kush Mountains, very steeply sided valleys. The roads that we over flew in helicopters today are absolutely impossible because of rock slides. Seven avalanches we saw in just a few short kilometers of road. In Kala Gush itself, which is at the bottom end of Nuristan that has become relatively stable. They aren't seeing a lot of Taliban-type attacks in that area. Further north this is an area that has traditionally been a holdout, an area of resistance against the government, it's where the resistance, against the Russian occupation in the 1980s began. The Russians never conquered Nuristan, they were never able to defeat it because of the terrain. And in that area, coalition forces here are seeing some small numbers of foreign fighters come in, some Taliban-type potentially fighters moving up from the south as well as sort of the indigenous resistance in that area holding out. Coalition says that they're making gains in those areas. It is very difficult. They're using counterinsurgency techniques but there's no doubt that the potential for violence there is increasing, because the number of fighters is increasing in that area, and they're seeing them crossing over the border, coming in from Pakistan, they're hearing people speaking Arabic on the radios that they're picking up. A clear indication they say that foreign fighters are moving in there. They do say not big numbers, though, Tom.
FOREMAN: Michael Scheuer, you were nodding your head during all of this. How much of what is happening in Afghanistan is imported tactics, imported war and how much of it is indigenous with the Taliban?
MICHAEL SCHEUER, FMR. CIA BIN LADEN UNIT CHIEF: I think a lot of it is indigenous, but clear what we're seeing is an exchange of talents across the two theatres of war, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraqis for example are becoming proficient in downing our helicopters with small arms, which is an Afghan specialty. And as Mr. Robertson said, the use of IEDs and suicide bombers in Afghanistan was almost unheard of until the last 18 months or so. And as he also said, they're on a learning curve but they'll get much better at it.
FOREMAN: You say they're very good at the media war as well. I've seen packages coming out of the people in that area, very well produced.
SCHEUER: Yes sir, it's an astounding development. The Taliban before our invasion in 2001 really didn't give a hoot about international opinion or media coverage. The sophisticated packages we're seeing coming out of Afghanistan now I think is a direct reflection of the maturing of the Taliban as an organization, but also the very powerful influence of al Qaeda's al Sahab media organization, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
FOREMAN: And you see characters like Mullah Dadullah in the south who seems to be a very forward-thinking member of the Taliban in terms of embracing this media.
SCHEUER: Yeah, Dadullah is a very interesting character, he has a very good touch with the western world. He's much more Middle Eastern in ways regarding Islam and the way the war is fought than we think of when we think of the one eye Mullah Omar, kind of a recluse. FOREMAN: Speaking of the idea of international influence, other countries getting involved, listen to what was said by Defense Secretary Robert Gates Wednesday in Cairo about Iran's possible role in Afghanistan.
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ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, we have, as General Pace indicated, found Iranian weapons and Iranian explosives in Afghanistan. We don't know the magnitude of the assistance. It's obviously troubling.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Nic Robertson, I'm sure many Americans are troubled, too when they hear talk about other countries having weapons. What weapons are they? People are worried about what the truth may be. What do you know about this from the Taliban?
ROBERTSON: Well I certainly know from talking to a source here who is deeply involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations to try and bring a settlement here based on talking rather than fighting, and his analysis, and it does seem to be deeply nuanced analysis, is that Iran sees an advantage here in Afghanistan of keeping the fight going, of helping whoever it is to attack U.S. troops, to send a message to the United States. This was his analysis to send a message to the United States that they shouldn't go interfering in these countries and clearly a country that's on the border with Iran. Iran is plagued -- has had an involvement in the fights and battles of Afghanistan over several decades, they are intimately familiar with the players, with the country, with the terrain and how to effectively use forces inside here. So the analysis I've been given by somebody very close to this is, yes, Iran is involved, yes it is aimed at destabilizing what the United States is trying to achieve here, Tom.
FOREMAN: Michael Scheuer, it keeps coming back to Iran time and time again. Is Iran ultimately going to have to be dealt with by the world community?
SCHEUER: Certainly not on Afghanistan. The Iranians if there are Iranian weapons in Afghanistan they're very marginal. I think General Pace and Mr. Gates should be very careful about what they're talking about, suggesting Iranian influence. The Iranians are very eager to keep the Afghans at arm's length, and don't really want to get involved in Afghanistan, except for protecting the Shias. And we're kind of in the same position we were when people said that the Americans, if it wasn't for the Americans the Afghans wouldn't keep fighting. The Afghans are going to fight us until we leave, which probably won't be very much longer and they don't need Iranian guns. The Saudis are running guns in there, the Kuwaitis. All of the Sunni nations in the Middle East are supporting the Taliban. It's a mistake. I'm very wary of this Iranian claim simply because it looks to me like they're trying to create a cause (INAUDIBLE) for a war with the United States.
FOREMAN: All right, thanks much, Michael Scheuer for coming in. Nic Robertson, always great insights, we appreciate your help.
When we come back, the story of a soldier whose proudest moment came when he helped his comrades survive. THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: A THIS WEEK AT WAR remembrance. Sergeant Joshua Schmit was just 10 days from the end of a year-long tour in Iraq when his humvee was struck by a roadside bomb in Fallujah. Schmit was assigned to the 1451st transportation company, 13th support command. This week neighbors in his hometown of Willmar, Minnesota lined their driveways with American flags to show support for his grieving family.
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ANDREA SCHMIT, WIFE: When I came here and opened up the doors, I see my mom crying and said that it was true that he was dead. That he was gone.
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FOREMAN: Josh's father said his son's proudest moment was when he played the enemy in live action drills and trained his fellow soldiers to survive. He was 26 years old.
When we come back, we will explore the controversy over anti- missile systems in Eastern Europe, but first a look at some of those who fell in THIS WEEK AT WAR.
FOREMAN: It's good to keep things in perspective. After the most devastating war in American history, the Civil War, there was great national concern about rebuilding farms, factories, businesses, schools, all needed educated, skilled hands for the work ahead. So under a program launched by Abraham Lincoln during the war, the government sold off land it owned in every state and used that money to fund institutions of higher learning. In one rural stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 132 young men showed up for the first day of class at one of those schools. They had no idea what would follow. For 125 years that school has produced some of the nation's best scientists, inventors, engineers, writers, scholars and soldiers. Three Medal of Honor winners among them. That school, Virginia Tech. The university that has always been defined by its fine traditions of success and service and will soon, no doubt, be back to that great work as it has always done. Our thoughts are with you all there. Turning now to some of the stories that we'll be following in the next WEEK AT WAR.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates goes to Moscow to meet with the Kremlin furious about a U.S. proposal to put missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. On Thursday, the commander of the ground forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is expected to meet with legislators in Washington. Also on Thursday, the cost of fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan will be high on the agenda as NATO foreign ministers meet in Oslo. Thank you for joining us on THIS WEEK AT WAR, I'm Tom Foreman. Straight ahead a check of the headlines, then CNN's SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT, "Massacre at Virginia Tech."
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