Michael Ware


AC: "...no matter how ugly the reality is."

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Length: 4:45

ANDERSON COOPER: More trouble tonight for the White House on Iraq. Britain's top general quoted in a London tabloid saying that his troops should leave Iraq soon, because their presence is only making the situation worse.

He's now edging away from those precise words, but really not from behind the sentiment.


GEN. RICHARD DANNATT, BRITISH ARMY CHIEF: We don't want to be there forever. We have been there for three and a half years. Three and a half years ago, we had some 27,000-30,000 soldiers there. We're now down to 7,500.

And indeed, in southeast Iraq, which the British are responsible for, there are four provinces. We've also handed two of those provinces over to Iraqi control, and the third province we're well on the way to. So we are going in the right direction.


COOPER: Obviously, a little bit of a different tune. CNN's Michael Ware has been spending time lately with British forces. He joins us tonight live from Basra.

Michael, the British general that we just saw, Richard Dannatt, said that foreign troop presence in Iraq is basically exacerbating the security situation.

Is that a common perception among British commanders on the ground?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's certainly clear from here in southern Iraq with the British forces that General Dannatt is not alone in his concerns.

There is a belief among some officers that the mere presence of British forces here in southern Iraq is inciting attacks. In Maysan province, where much British blood has been spilled, and where six royal military police officers were executed by a Shia militia in 2003, a battle group was garrisoned in the main town.

Now, in five months that camp was hit by 281 mortars, prompting the battle group commander to empty the garrison and disburse his forces into the desert.

Now, speaking days before General Dannatt went public with his concerns, the battle group commander said that one of the major reasons for his decision to empty the camp was that the base had become a magnet for attacks.


LT. COL. DAVID LABOUCHERE, QUEENS ROYAL HUSSARS: We were a constant reminder of everything that the locals had decided was bad about the British, and, therefore, there were lots of people queuing up -- in their lack of a job, et cetera, they were always available -- to have a go at the British.


WARE: So it seems that on the ground here General Dannatt is reflecting the concerns of some of his officers. Indeed, a senior British diplomat this evening highlighted to me that political factions here in southern Iraq gain traction and credibility on the street from their strikes against British forces.

Now, while there's no suggestion that the troops should leave now from military and diplomatic officers, there are indications that that time for departure may be coming sooner than many people think -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, you've also spent, probably, more time with U.S. troops on the ground than just about any reporter I know. What about U.S. commanders? Do they believe -- I mean, the ones you talked to on the record, off the record -- believe that their presence is making this situation worse?

WARE: By and large, American commanders that I speak to find that their presence here is a necessity, that there's simply no way around it, no matter how ugly the reality is.

However, that concern that the presence of American troops is, in fact, inflaming violence, has been echoed by some of these commanders. So they're not ignorant to the fact that the presence of American troops also helps to contribute to the cycle of violence, Anderson.

COOPER: You're embedded with British forces in Basra right now, and people used to point to Basra as a success story, a place of relative calm. What's it like now?

WARE: Well, right now this is an extremely hostile environment for the British troops. In just 24 hours that we spent over the past several days, there was seven attacks on British bases in the city itself.

That's from small arms fire, from an IED roadside explosion on a passing vehicle, to mortar and 107mm rocket attacks, the Katyushas, on the British bases and their compound. The Brits have to go out heavily armed, armored, whenever they leave their perimeters. Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, stay safe. Michael in Basra tonight.