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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Senate Grills General Petraeus Over Iraq Progress; The Hunt For bin Laden

Aired September 11, 2007 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.
We're coming to you again tonight from Camp victory, a sprawling U.S. military base near the Baghdad airport. Insurgents mortared the base a few hours ago. One soldier -- not an American -- was killed.

I wish I could tell you it was a rare occurrence, but it is not. It's the kind of thing that happens here regularly. In this war, in this place, insurgents are never all that far away.

Tonight, we will take you to the so-called Triangle of Death, where Sunnis who once targeted Americans are now targeting al Qaeda.

And, on this, the sixth anniversary of 9/11, we will also take to you Afghanistan to show you why the hunt for Osama bin Laden is not the top priority for most U.S. troops.

But, first, back in Washington, the top American commander, General David Petraeus, under tough Senate grilling today, dropping several bombshells about Iraq.

When asked by Senator Robert Byrd, the senior Democrat from West Virginia, whether there was an Iraqi connection to the attacks on 9/11, the general said no. When GOP Senator John Warner of Virginia asked if the Iraq war is making Americans safer, General Petraeus said -- quote -- "I don't know."

He later said it was a question above his pay grade. But, after some additional thought, the answer was actually yes.

Meantime, we learned that President Bush will go on national TV on Thursday to announce a drawdown by next summer to pre-surge troop levels, more a case of raw necessity, however, than operational choice. General Petraeus recommended it yesterday in his testimony to House members, which, as you will see, was a lot gentler than what he faced today.

CNN's Tom Foreman tonight "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the most important issue of the election on the line, and six senators running for president, General Petraeus is getting plenty of advice and criticism about the war.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we cannot choose to lose in Iraq.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time to turn the corner, in my view, gentlemen.

FOREMAN: But, "Keeping Them Honest," we examined some of the general's statements. And, of course, it turns out that facts are one thing, and interpreting them can be another.

First, the general says Al Anbar Province, the heart of the Sunni insurgency, has grown much safer.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDING GENERAL OF THE MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Monthly attack levels in Anbar have declined from some 1,350 in October 2006 to a bit over 200 in August of this year.

FOREMAN: But analysts say, while military leaders took advantage of an opportunity, al Qaeda should also get credit, because al Qaeda brought so much violence down on Sunni leaders, those sheiks decided an alliance with the Americans was a smarter deal.

Many still oppose a national government, still want the Americans out.

Second, Petraeus says the surge is suppressing ethnic violence. Again, that appears true, according to analysts. But, they say, many Sunnis have fled Shia areas, and vice versa, creating de facto segregation of Iraq. And millions of Iraqis have left the country. So, opportunities for attacks between rival groups have also declined.

NIR ROSEN, FELLOW, THE NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: The Shias have actually expelled most of the Sunnis from Baghdad. It went from being a majority Sunni city. Now it's a majority Shia city.

FOREMAN: Third, the Iraqis are getting closer to taking over security for their own country.

PETRAEUS: A number of Iraqi units across Iraq now operate with minimal coalition assistance.

FOREMAN (on camera): Maybe, but a recent study by the Independent Commission on Security Forces says, that minimal assistance includes critical support from American airplanes, helicopters, and tanks.

(voice-over): And, despite continued progress, that report also says, the Iraqi military will not be ready to independently fulfill its security role within the next 12 to 15 months.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me now from CNN headquarters in Baghdad, CNN's Michael Ware, and John King in Washington.

Michael, General Petraeus talked about bringing 30,000 troops home by next summer. The president is expected to formally announce the plan Thursday night in a speech. Everyone seems to be acting like this is some sort of strategy.

Correct me if I'm wrong. This is really nothing new.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you're -- you're correct entirely, Anderson.

In no way is this a new direction or a policy shift by the U.S. Essentially, this was going to happen anyway. The surge was comprised of 30,000 extra troops sent as shock forces to Iraq. A surge, by definition, implies something temporary, a short-term impulse.

Well, we now know that that was an escalation for one year, borrowing troops from here and there to send them to, principally, Baghdad. Well, the end of that year is up by the summer of next year anyway. The money starts running out in the beginning of next year, and the Army has already said, it can't continue to keep sending these 30,000 troops. They can't maintain those forces.

So, no, this is no new direction. This is not a grand policy announcement that America is drawing down. It's just the end of the surge, Anderson.

COOPER: John, the White House, some in the media in the last couple months acted like this Petraeus report was really going to be a watershed event, after which there would be serious discussions about what to do next. In truth, isn't this largely political theater? I mean, has the White House known all along what they planned to do?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the Democrats certainly hoped it would be a watershed event, and they hoped it would be a watershed event that got them more votes to force the president to change his hand.

The White House, all along, has wanted one thing. Beyond any specific day-to-day tactical or strategic decision, they want control over this war. And that means no timeline forcing a troop withdrawal, no strings attached on the money for the war.

Will the president get all that? It appears at this moment the Democrats are still short the votes to force a timeline. That skepticism in the Senate today, though, does tell you that many Republicans still want to do some things to restrict the president's ability to keep the troops there past next summer in the numbers the president wants to do that.

But, certainly, the White House still has the commander in chief. And the attitude, the political climate, was not as foul yesterday and today that many thought it would be when they were awaiting this day back in, say, July or even early August -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker talked today that -- you know, admitting that there -- there hasn't been much progress on national reconciliation in Iraq from the central government since the so-called surge. But they said there were signs of improvement across the country that bode well for the future.

Do you see those signs on the ground out in various provinces?

WARE: To be perfectly honest, I would have to say, by and large, the answer to that is no.

Are the elements for real reconciliation present here in Iraq? I'm afraid to report that I certainly can't see them. I mean, it's one thing to have a pasty shop. Iraqi politicians do a photo opportunity and say we're ready to work towards reconciliation. That's just so cosmetic.

I mean, even if this government managed to introduce a de- Baathification law, for example, a key sticking point, I mean, there's no Sunni who's going to be able to go and work for a ministry controlled by the Badr militia or by the Jaish al Mahdi militia, like the Ministry of Interior or the Ministry of Health.

And we heard that -- the ambassador and the general talk about already there's, like, forced de-Baathification. Well, yes, it's being forced as America is imposing these tribes upon the Iraqi government. And the Iraqi government essentially has a political gun to its head, being forced to absorb these people.

And, finally, when you talk to these tribal forces that are now the bedrock of America's strategic policy, like we have, they make it very clear, they hate this government, and they have no intentions of sharing power with this government. And the power brokers of this government never intend to share power with what they call terrorists. And, by that, they mean Sunni.

So, no, there's no real sign of reconciliation forthcoming.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: It's interesting, Michael, because I was down in -- in -- in south Baghdad today, talking to -- to Sunni tribal leaders there, who -- who are trying to get their concerned citizens, the volunteers, who they have now armed and are working in conjunction with the U.S. -- they want them to become part of the Iraqi police. They say they want to work with the central Iraqi government.

A, do you believe them? And, B, is the problem with the central Iraqi government not wanting to work with them?

WARE: It is, in fact, both.

And we have to be careful about what we hear Iraqis say when we're surrounded by American soldiers. If we're on an embed and we're dealing with these Iraqi forces, they're going to be very careful in what they say, because their American paymasters essentially are standing around. We need to talk to these groups in their undiluted state. We were with those groups, not with Americans. And, to be honest, I have known many of these organizations for years. They hate al Qaeda, no problem. That's a shared American agenda.

They are vehemently anti-Iranian, which also makes them vehemently anti-Maliki government. They believe this is essentially Iranian influence. So, no, they don't want to work with this central government. And this central government is working with them under great sufferance, being forced by the U.S. -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting.

John King, I want to play you something that Senator Barack Obama said today in the hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12, because I think it perpetuates this notion that, somehow, the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Who was responsible for -- for the timing of this, the fact there's testimony about Iraq on the anniversary of 9/11?

KING: Well, Anderson, if Senator Obama is frustrated, he has only his own Democratic leadership to blame.

The September 15th deadline for a report from the administration was actually recommended by a Republican, but that -- Senator John Warner -- but that was passed, of course, with the blessing of the Democrats.

Now, September 15 is this coming weekend, so they wanted to have the testimony in advance of that deadline. But the latter half of this week is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and the House and the Senate will not be in session. So, they were left with September 10 and September 11 to have this testimony.

So, it is the Democrats, by not paying close enough to the calendar a few months ago, who put themselves in this position. But Senator Obama, in that hearing, bringing back the constant criticism of this administration. There are many -- especially Democrats -- who believe the president has always tried to make this war about more than toppling Saddam Hussein and about more than those weapons of mass destruction, that, of course, were never found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): After 9/11, the mood in the country was, simply put, payback. And, to this day, the president can make it all sound pretty straightforward. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th, and that's why what happens in Iraq matters to the security here at home.

KING: But it's not that simple. The organization al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist on or before 9/11. And its main recruiting tool is fighting the U.S. invasion there.

JON ALTERMAN, MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The Iraq war has helped terrorists network. So, on the one hand, after 9/11, we have made a lot of progress understanding al Qaeda 1.1. Al Qaeda 2.0 has been given birth on the ashes of our initial efforts in Iraq.

KING: It's hardly the first time the administration has suggested a link between Iraq and the 9/11. More often than not, it's what you might call the guilt-by-association strategy. This was making the case for the Iraq war nearly five years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 7, 2002)

BUSH: We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy, the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And this was in the now infamous speech declaring major combat in Iraq over more than four years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We have removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off -- cut off a source of terrorist funding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The vice president has repeatedly suggested more direct links. Just three months after the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Cheney appeared on "Meet the Press" and suggested hijacker Mohamed Atta met with a top Saddam Hussein deputy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague, and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But administration and other government sources say the intelligence was never conclusive and has since been discredited.

ALTERMAN: Intelligence is never as good as you want it to be. And there are still a lot of people in the administration who said, well, I can't prove it, but I still know it's true.

And there was a lot more of that right after 9/11.

KING: Two years later, the vice president again stirred controversy by framing the stakes in Iraq this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")

CHENEY: Now, we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the -- the -- the base, if you will, the geographic base, of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Days later, the president bristled when asked about his critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 17, 2003)

KING: Your critics say that this is some effort, deliberate effort, to blur the line...

BUSH: Yes.

KING: ... or to confuse people. How would you answer that?

BUSH: No, we have had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the -- September the 11th. No, what the vice president said was, is that he has been involved with al Qaeda and Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda operative, in Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In Iraq, yes. But, again, "Keeping Them Honest," the al Qaeda in the Iraq organization did not exist on 9/11, and U.S. intelligence officials concede, they have no evidence that Zarqawi received any support from the Saddam Hussein regime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: But, looking back, the administration continues to insist that Saddam Hussein did have firm links with al Qaeda.

And, Anderson, they continue to insist now that Iraq is central to winning the global war on terrorism, including the battle against al Qaeda, an argument you will hear the president make later this week, when he also does embrace General Petraeus' plan to bring home most of the surge -- the troops involved in the surge by next summer -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, no surprise there.

John King, thanks for the reporting.

Though it had nothing to do with 9/11, al Qaeda in Iraq, the organization, is still a very real threat here. But they are suffering some sustained, serious defeats. Through one act of brutality after another, they have made enemies of Sunni sheiks who have now decided to work with the Americans against their former allies.

We have been talking about this with Michael Ware just a few moments ago. As you know, it started in al Anbar Province. But, as I saw today, the so-called Sunni awakening is spreading. And, for American forces, it is more than welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLONEL MICHAEL KERSHAW, 2ND BRIGADE, 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION: Salaam alaikum. Good to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alaikum salaam.

COOPER (voice-over): What you're seeing is extraordinary.

KERSHAW: Salaam alaikum. Good to see you.

COOPER: Colonel Michael Kershaw, commander of 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, is being greeted by Sunni tribal leaders, men who, until very recently, fiercely opposed the U.S.

Now he hears their grievances, spends time in their homes. He even shares meals with them.

(on camera): A year ago, would you have ever known that you would be able to walk around in a place like this...

KERSHAW: No.

COOPER: ... break bread with these guys?

KERSHAW: No. We really hoped to -- we had really hoped a year ago to establish very basic inroads down here. That was our assessment of the security situation. We thought the insurgency was embedded far too deep for us to be able to effectively root it out and develop the relationship with the locals.

COOPER (voice-over): What changed? As happened in Al Anbar Province, here, in south Baghdad, several months ago, local Sunni leaders turned on the al Qaeda extremists in their midst.

(on camera): What was it that -- that al Qaeda did that made people here turn against them?

SHEIK HAMID KARBOULI, SUNNI LEADER (through translator): Killing people, stealing goods, everything. You name it.

COOPER (voice-over): Sheik Hamid Karbouli recruited some 150 volunteers, who now man checkpoints and carry guns. The U.S. military likes to call them concerned local citizens.

KERSHAW: I have had one IED destroy a vehicle in an area where concerned citizens were located in the past two months.

COOPER (on camera): Just one?

KERSHAW: One.

COOPER: That's remarkable.

KERSHAW: It's incredible. It's incredible.

COOPER: That's a big change?

KERSHAW: Big change. Big change.

In the three months since this has started, we have gathered more insurgents up, more terrorists, than we did in the preceding nine months. And it's because they have pointed these people out to us within their own ranks.

COOPER: What began as a Sunni awakening in Al Anbar Province against al Qaeda has now spread to other parts of Iraq. To encourage local tribesmen to turn against al Qaeda, the U.S. military is now paying local sheiks to provide security in their areas. A gunman like this can earn up to $10 a day for his services.

The next step is to have young men like this join the Iraqi police. But, for that, the U.S. military needs the cooperation of the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.

(voice-over): That cooperation, however, is slow in coming. The government is concerned these gunmen might turn into armed militias if the U.S. pulls out, and civil war erupts.

Colonel Kershaw is registering as many of the local volunteers as possible, taking photographs and retinal scans, hoping leaders in Baghdad will agree to hire them as Iraqi police.

KERSHAW: It's all a roll of the dice. It's people and politics all intertwined down here.

What we see as being the end state down here is these tribes being fully brought back into the governmental process.

COOPER: Second Brigade has lost 53 men in Iraq. Their photos are proudly displayed in the brigade's headquarters. Some of the U.S. soldiers here have a hard time forgiving the Sunnis for what they might have done in the insurgency.

KERSHAW: Were some of these people part of the insurgency prior to this? Sure, they were. Our job over here isn't to do what's comfortable for us, and it isn't to do what we feel like doing.

Our job is to do our nation's bidding. And the job is to do our duty. And, if this gets our nation closer to a solution for this country and our own country's issues over here, then that's what we're going to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I want to thank Colonel Kershaw and everyone of the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd Brigade, for taking us around in their area of operation today.

When we come back: Gary Tuchman's exclusive reporting with American forces on their thoughts and feelings on the front lines.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In country, under pressure.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This huge transport plane is packed with soldiers going into the war zone. We just crossed the border into Iraq. And, for many of these troops, it's the first time they have ever been here.

COOPER: New troops coming in, vets coming out, what they think of the country, the war, and their chances.

Also tonight: the hunt for bin Laden. American troops in Afghanistan, they say finding bin Laden is not part of the mission. See what is and why they say it may do more to end terror than finding one man -- exclusive access, exclusive insight, only on 360.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peter Allen Nelson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oscar Francis Nesbitt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peter Allen Nelson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gerard Terence Nevins,

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Renee Lucille Newell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christopher Newton-Carter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nancy Yuen Ngo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jody Nichilo,

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Six years later, remembering the victims of 9/11, family members at ground zero today reflecting, remembering the nearly 3,000 who lost their lives on that day.

Of course, not one to miss an opportunity today, we heard from Osama bin Laden, a new tape reportedly from him. It showed a photo of bin Laden. And we heard an audio track reportedly from him praising the 9/11 hijackers.

The war in Afghanistan, of course, continues on. Last year, in fact, at this time, we were in Afghanistan, embedded with the 10th Mountain Division there, watching their operations.

If you think that the hunt for Osama bin Laden is the number-one mission, the number-one priority, for most U.S. forces in Afghanistan, you would be wrong.

CNN's Nic Robertson is there, reporting on what the real mission is all about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Driving along the front line in the war on terror, these troops are heading towards a strategic bridge used by the Taliban to smuggle weapons.

(on camera): What makes these mountain roads all the more dangerous is, this is where the Afghans fought the Soviets. They know where the best ambush points are. And the soldiers here have already had to adjust the mounts on their weapons, so they can fire up the very, very steep mountainsides.

CAPTAIN NATHAN SPRINGER, U.S. ARMY: We're looking for a possible IED.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Captain Nathan Springer keeping his men safe from the Taliban and their allies.

SPRINGER: I believe local fighters and Taliban are -- are in these hills now. Whether or not they were part of the September 11, I -- I'm not sure.

ROBERTSON: He is fighting the war against Osama bin Laden and his allies. But U.S. intelligence believes the top leadership may be beyond his reach in Pakistan.

So, his mission is different now. He and his men aren't hunting Osama bin Laden. They're trying to win Afghan support, build a strong central government, do what President Bush once thought unnecessary.

SPRINGER: We're really focusing on -- on nation-building things. We're trying to build roads and micro hydropower plant and pipe schemes, really trying to help the people of Afghanistan.

ROBERTSON: Springer and his soldiers believe this broader mission may have a better chance of success than just hunting down bin Laden.

Specialist Eric Darling was only in the seventh grade the day the World Trade Center was attacked.

ERIC DARLING, U.S. ARMY: Osama bin Laden, he's more the big picture. We're still -- we get attacked all the time. So, we go after anyone who attacks us. We try and make the people feel safe.

ROBERTSON: The hope for quick results has given way to caution, looking for long-term gains.

SERGEANT CEASAR TUASON, U.S. ARMY: I'm in charge of some people, some soldiers where I'm more protective of them coming back than me worrying so much about Osama bin Laden being out here.

ROBERTSON: It's not that Springer's troops aren't engaging their enemy. They are -- this barrage of mortar fire triggered when fighters seemed ready to attack them from the high ground. Their outpost is just feet across the river from Pakistan.

SPRINGER: In the macro scheme of things, it is a completely open border with no fences and very few checkpoints.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So, what's the solution to sealing the border?

SPRINGER: I don't think you can seal the border.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But they have taken control of this road, the only road in this corner of Afghanistan, and built this checkpoint, controlling access to that bridge into Pakistan, interrupting the Taliban's flow of weapons and other supplies.

(on camera): A recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report recently concluded that, since September the 11th, and al Qaeda being forced out of Afghanistan, they have been able to regroup across the border inside Pakistan. And closing down bridges like this one is a help to putting stop to them moving back into Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been both food and ammunition from Pakistan. And it was coming right along the trails behind me, down to the bridge. And, by placing the checkpoint where we did, right here on the boundary, it's -- it's made this bridge irrelevant.

ROBERTSON: Six years after 9/11, tactics have changed. Bombing bin Laden out of his cave has given way to something far more sophisticated and potentially harder to pull off: winning the hearts and minds here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Nic Robertson is on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have had some audio problems with him. As you can understand, it's a difficult thing to try to reach him, so we're -- we're not going to go back to him right now.

But it is important to point out, last year, when I was embedded with the 10th Mountain Division along that -- that same border, a lot of the soldiers told me something that really has stuck in my mind.

They said that, when they -- often, when they get back to the United States, people would say to them, well, where did you serve? And they would say, well, Afghanistan. And people's reaction was, well, oh, at least you weren't in Iraq, implying that somehow the service in Afghanistan wasn't all that dangerous.

It is extraordinarily dangerous, the mission there. It is extraordinarily difficult. And they are doing truly heroic work there, and should certainly be recognized for that.

When we come back, just how popular Osama bin Laden still is in some parts of the world, even in some places that claim to be America's ally.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It is sometimes hard to believe it has been six years. A day of remembrance today at Ground Zero. One woman there whose father died in the attacks said it does not get any easier. It certainly does not as the years go by.

So much attention is being paid, of course, to Iraq and to Afghanistan. But one of the next great places where potential threats is Pakistan. There was a suicide attack there today.

And a new poll out shows just how popular Osama bin Laden is in some parts of Pakistan, a country which is, in many ways, an ally of the United States in this so-called war on terror.

CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST (voice-over): Six years on the run, six years taunting the west, inspiring, if not executing, terrorism. The working assumption of U.S. intelligence is that Osama bin Laden is here, in the wild and lawless borderlands of Pakistan.

We know that Pakistan, and especially its president, Pervez Musharraf, is one of the most important allies the United States has in the war on terror.

And we also know the U.S. gives the Pakistani military hundreds of millions of dollars a year to go after terrorists.

So why has al Qaeda managed to regroup in Pakistan? The answer is that al Qaeda's safe haven is built on a solid foundation of favorable Pakistani public opinion.

KEN BALLEN, TERROR FREE TOMORROW: I would say this poll was the most disturbing of one that we've ever done. The reason this one was so disturbing was that in the one Muslim nation that already has nuclear weapons, people who are intent on using them against us, such as al Qaeda and bin Laden, enjoy more popular support than the people we are trusting such as president Musharraf to safeguard those nuclear weapons.

BERGEN: Ken Ballen runs the organization Terror Free Tomorrow. These polling numbers, based on more than 1,000 face-to-face interviews across Pakistan in recent weeks, are brand new.

Take the approval ratings. President Musharraf, 38 percent. Osama bin Laden, 46 percent. That's right. Nearly half of Pakistanis on the front line of the war on terror favor Osama bin Laden over their own president.

And in the northwest frontier province, where bin Laden is likely hiding, he enjoys a 70 percent approval rating.

Thirty-eight percent of Pakistanis support the Taliban and a third support al Qaeda. No surprise, then, that when the pollsters asked whether U.S. troops should go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, three-quarters of Pakistanis said no.

And what do Pakistanis think of President George W. Bush? He gets 9 percent approval.

After the American relief effort in Pakistan following the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, 46 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of the United States. That's now down to 19 percent.

BALLEN: We failed in winning hearts and minds, at least in Pakistan.

BERGEN: But as bad as the poll numbers are, public opinion matters less in Pakistan than the opinion of the military, and the army still supports President Musharraf.

DANIEL MARKEY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The institutions of Pakistan that matter the most are, first of all, the army, and secondary very much so, the elite civilians. And in both of those camps, there's more of an interest in reigning in extremism and bringing down al Qaeda.

BERGEN: The majority of Pakistanis said their opinion of the United States would improve if American educational, medical aid and business investment increased. And the U.S. granted more visas for Pakistanis to work in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Peter joins us now from Washington.

Peter, was there any good news in this poll?

BERGEN: There was some good news, Anderson, for the United States in this poll, even though there was obviously quite a bit of sympathy for al Qaeda and the Taliban and Pakistan. When you ask the question to Pakistanis, would you vote for a coalition of anti- American religious parties, only 3 to 4 percent said yes. So in the coming election, these militant religious parties, which are quite anti-American, are not going to do particularly well, Anderson.

COOPER: It's still shocking to hear how popular bin Laden and al Qaeda is in so many parts of Pakistan.

Peter Bergen, appreciate the report. Thanks.

Let's get a quick check of the day's other top headlines in a "360 Bulletin" with Randi Kaye -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Anderson.

New developments tonight in a search for a British girl missing for more than four months now. A Portuguese prosecutor today gave the files on the case of Madeleine McCann to a judge. That could lead to more search warrants or action against the girl's parents.

Right now, they are facing a lot of scrutiny. They were named suspects after the girl's blood was apparently found in a car they'd rented. The McCanns say they are innocent.

A claim of responsibility in a foiled terror plot against American western targets in Germany. The German interior ministry says a little known Uzbek group with alleged ties to al Qaeda announced its deadly intentions through its web site.

The plot was disrupted earlier this month when German authorities arrested three men they say were creating explosives.

And at the North Pole the ice is thawing at an alarming rate. Ice cover in the Arctic has shattered an all-time low record by shrinking down to 1.63 million square miles, roughly half the size of the United States.

Scientists have said the ice cap could be gone by 2070, causing a rise in sea level and putting low-lying areas like lower Manhattan and Miami in danger. Now they believe that could happen even earlier, perhaps less than 25 years from now.

Anderson, back to you in Iraq.

COOPER: Wow, surprising news there. Randi, appreciate that.

Let's check in with Kiran Chetry to find out what's coming up on "AMERICAN MORNING" tomorrow.

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KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Anderson.

Tomorrow we bring you the most news in the morning, including a new warning for anyone who loves the open road on a motorcycle. The death rate for motorcycle riders is approaching a record high. Why is that? And what can be done to better protect drivers and others on the road? We're going to find out tomorrow morning.

It all begins at 6 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Anderson, back to you.

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COOPER: Kiran, thanks.

Coming up next on 360, your view of what's happening here in Iraq.

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COOPER (voice-over): What do you think of the war? What do you think of the candidates?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have big goals for America.

COOPER: What will you think when you hear how this alleged fugitive fraudster Clinton pal was nabbed in his sleep on the train? Questions, answers and more. "Raw Politics" tonight.

Plus, in country under pressure.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This used transport plane is packed with soldiers going into the war zone. We just crossed the border into Iraq. And for many of these troops, this is the first time they've ever been here.

COOPER: New troops coming in, vets coming out. What they think of the country, the war, and their chances.

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: So you're saying to the Congress that you know that at least 60 soldiers, airmen and Marines, are likely to be killed every month from now to July, that we're going to spend $9 billion a month of American taxpayer dollars? And when it's all said and done, we'll still have 100,000 people there.

Do you believe it's worth it in terms of our national security interests to pay that price?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: Sir, I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't have made the recommendations that I have made if I did not believe that.

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COOPER: General Petraeus' second day of testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington.

As I said on the blog yesterday, the 360 blog, it's sort of surreal watching these hearings 6,000 miles away when you're in Iraq. The politics of Washington seem very far removed from the day-to-day reality of life for most of the sailors and soldiers and airmen and Marines who are here just doing their job. And that's what they're doing every day: doing their job, watching out for their buddies, just trying to get home back to their families.

We want to tell you some of their stories. We want you to hear from some of them, some of the heroes on their way to battle, just arriving here, and some of the heroes on their way home.

CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.

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TUCHMAN (voice-over): At an air base in a country we cannot disclose for security reasons, Army soldiers board an Air Force C-130. They are part of the surge. They are on their way to Iraq.

(on camera) This huge transport plane is packed with soldiers going into the war zone. Some seem relaxed and are able to sleep. But many others are too nervous to do so.

We just crossed the border into Iraq, and for many of these troops, this is the first time they've ever been here, and they're all aware of how indiscriminate the loss of life has been.

(voice-over) You look at their faces and wonder what they're thinking. Specialist Kevin Duong of California has been deployed for the first time and says he's ready.

SPC. KEVIN DUONG, U.S. ARMY: Pretty cool. I might reenlist after my four years.

TUCHMAN: But ask the new soldier if he would change anything about the length and number of deployments in this war, and he says...

DUONG: Maybe we should, you know, like send some soldiers home who's been here for probably, like, longer than two years. Give them a break.

TUCHMAN: What about those soldiers who keep coming back? Sergeant Juan Rivera of Florida is here for the third time.

(on camera) Is it hard to keep the same enthusiasm?

SGT. JUAN RIVERA, U.S. ARMY: I think it is hard, yes.

TUCHMAN: Are you coming back again?

RIVERA: Most likely, yes.

TUCHMAN: And how does that make you feel? Honestly.

RIVERA: It's just hard.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): They fly in a stark, windowless cabin, many of them not aware of the challenges happening in the cockpit one level above.

The Air Force flight crew has to keep an eye out for insurgent attacks, particularly as they take off and land.

MAJOR PHILLIP CLINTON, U.S. AIR FORCE: What we're looking for is either, like, a shoulder-launch rocket, an anti-aircraft artillery, or even small arms.

TUCHMAN: They fly several flights across Iraq a day, more than eight hours of flying. Also taking soldiers out of the war zone to go back home.

Specialist Travis Pierce has been here a year.

(on camera) Is it hard to keep morale up when you're here so long?

SPC. TRAVIS PIERCE, U.S. ARMY: It comes and goes. It's like a roller coaster. Sometimes it's hard to keep morale. Other times it's easy to come by. It just depends on the people you hang around, your friends, other soldiers.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sergeant Linda Perry is also going home. She has four small children but says if the war goes on, she'll probably be back.

(on camera) How does this war end?

SGT. LINDA PERRY, U.S. ARMY: Us winning.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): When this war started, many troops felt victory would come when Saddam Hussein was caught. Now three-quarters of a year after his execution, it's hard for many troops to answer what signifies a win.

PERRY: I don't know, but just sticking together and doing what we have to do and doing what we're told to do.

TUCHMAN: This war has now been going on for four and a half years. The youngest soldiers on this plane were in junior high school when it began.

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COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins us now from Balad, Iraq.

Gary, I don't think -- I know you spent a lot of time with troops. I don't think enough people back home realize or appreciate the amount of sacrifice that the soldiers and the Marines and everyone over here and their families have to endure. I mean, 15-month tours. It is extremely difficult, not only on the folks who are here serving, but on the families who are waiting for them back home. TUCHMAN: Yes, there's no question about it. And it's a very interesting what has changed over the last four and a half years.

When I was here in 2003, you had the same intense patriotic fervor now as you did then, but back then, people said you catch Saddam Hussein, we win the war, we go home, it will happen quickly. And it was very inspirational.

And now Saddam Hussein is out of the picture. For many, the finish line is out of the picture. They don't know if there is a finish line. And it makes attitudes tough for some people, knowing that they don't know when this war is going to end and what will make it end.

COOPER: And yet, they do the jobs every day, day in and day out. Gary, appreciate the reporting.

We'll hear more from Gary later on this week. We're going to be here all week, reporting from Iraq throughout the country and also throughout Afghanistan.

When we come back, what Americans really think of the war. So new poll numbers are out that are pretty interesting.

And also, "Raw Politics". Fred Thompson, about a week after he jumps into the race, in a new poll, he's already just about dead even with Rudy Giuliani. We'll be right back.

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COOPER: Looking at live pictures at the Pentagon and also live pictures of the scene at Ground Zero on this evening. The first time the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has fallen on a Tuesday which is, of course, the same day the towers fell.

It's hard to believe, as I said, that six years have passed. And as I mentioned, a woman whose father died in the attacks said that, with each passing year, it just doesn't get any easier.

Tonight a presidential race is looming, Osama bin Laden is still at large, as we've talked about, still at large as we've talked about. And there's plenty of "Raw Politics" in all of that.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amid all this talk about Iraq and terrorism, we have some serious new poll numbers.

(on camera) Six years into the war on terror with billions of your tax dollars spent, our latest poll shows 61 percent of you are dissatisfied with how it's going. Half of all Americans think neither side is winning the war on terror.

And are we any safer? A fat third of the public says yes. A skinny third says no, and the final third says it's all about the same.

The pole vault is cranking for the candidates, too. No surprise on the Dems' side. Hillary Clinton remains way out front.

But among Republicans, Fred Thompson's official entry into the race has put him into an immediate dead heat nationally with Rudy Giuliani for the lead. Although it is worth noting, if we voted right now, our numbers say neither man would beat the Hill.

That said, she must be squirming over the odd details emerging about the arrest of Norman Hsu, that Democratic fund-raiser wanted for fraud. Reports say when he was nabbed on a train last week, he was shirtless and curled up in a fetal position, after apparently having fallen out of a bed in his sleeping berth.

(on camera) One witness says he apparently had a lot of medication with him and could not walk.

Clinton says she is giving back more than $800,000 he raised.

No shirt. That's certainly "Raw Politics".

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COOPER: Raw Politics and just rawly (sic) bizarre.

Coming up, a new al Qaeda video and these stories.

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COOPER (voice-over): Generally grilled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans want to see light at the end of the tunnel.

COOPER: Democrats and Republicans put America's top two guys in Iraq on the hot seat. And there were surprises. Details next.

Also tonight, the hunt for bin Laden.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, LEADER OF IRAQ: (speaking foreign language)

COOPER: American troops in Afghanistan. They say finding bin Laden is not part of the mission. See what is and why they say it may do more to end terror than finding one man.

Exclusive access, exclusive insight, only on 360.

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(MUSIC: "God Bless America")

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COOPER: Just ahead, six years later, marking a loss that has changed so many lives. A special tribute is our "Shot" of the day.

But first, Randi Kaye joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

KAYE: Hello again, Anderson.

White House officials say President Bush is prepared to announce plans to withdraw as many as 30,000 troops from Iraq by next July. That's what his top commander, General David Petraeus, has recommended. The announcement will likely come Thursday during a nationally televised address just after 9 p.m. Eastern.

As Americans mark the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a new video purportedly featuring an introduction by Osama bin Laden, was released. The bulk of the 47-minute tape shows one of the 9/11 hijackers reading his will. There is no indication that any part of that video was recorded recently.

And after two tough sessions, stocks rallied today. The Dow rose 180 points to 13,308. The S&P 500 gained 19 points to close at 1,471, and the NASDAQ was up 38 points -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Randi, "The Shot" tonight is actually a live picture from New York on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The tribute in light is back again this year, those two giant beams symbolizing, of course, the former World Trade Center towers and all the lives lost when they fell.

The tribute began at sunset and is going to last until dawn tomorrow. There is still no permanent memorial at Ground Zero. The rebuilding at the site has begun.

We want to thank Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton (ph) and Lieutenant Colonel Rudy Burwell (ph) and everyone here at Camp Victory for making our broadcast here possible and also, of course, thank them for their service.

We're going to have more 360 coming up after the break.

General Petraeus said today there is no connection between 9/11 and Iraq, so why are we here? We'll look at his testimony, "Keeping Them Honest".

Also, six years after the attacks, Osama bin Laden is still out there. So why isn't the hunt for him the top priority for U.S. troops in Afghanistan? A report from the Afghan-Pakistan border is ahead on this special edition of 360 live from Baghdad.

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COOPER: Good evening. We're coming to you again from Camp Victory, a sprawling U.S. military base near the Baghdad airport.

Insurgents mortared the base a few hours ago. One soldier, not an American, was killed; 11 others were wounded. I wish I could tell you it was a rare occurrence, but it is not. It's the kind of thing that happens here regularly in this war, in this place. Insurgents are never all that far away.

Tonight we'll take you to the so-called Triangle of Death where Sunnis who once targeted Americans are now targeting al Qaeda.

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