AC: "What may emerge is less of a vision of democracy..."
ANDERSON COOPER: Well, Michael Ware joins us now from Baghdad. And here in New York, CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen.
Peter, you know, we heard these statements from insurgents and from their supporters. Obviously it is propaganda, but do you think they really believe that this -- Rumsfeld stepping down, the election results in the United States are a victory for them?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I mean, if they believe it, I think they're going to be wrong. I mean, I don't think Robert Gates is going to be very different than Donald Rumsfeld. You have the Baker-Hamilton commission, will make some adjustments to what's happening in Iraq, talk to Iran, talk to Syria. But I mean, there's not going to be a total withdrawal. They're not the sort of things that the insurgents would really regard as a real victory.
COOPER: Michael, in Iraq, you know, there's been a lot of talk over here about dropping support for democracy or dropping the emphasis on democracy in Iraq, trying to focus more on stability, supporting a strong man to try to bring some kind of order. Is that being discussed among, you know, people you are talking to in Iraq, in Baghdad?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually been something that has bubbled away under the surface as a notion here for almost two years now that the alternatives for Iraq are a slide into some distinctly Iraqi kind of neo-Islamic state with the western deserts of Anbar home to a desert al Qaeda training camp. Or the alternative, what some have argued, particularly from British and to a lesser degree Australian allies, is that what may emerge is less of a vision of democracy than had originally been put in place, that perhaps the best case scenario for American or international interests was the emergence of a strong man, akin to President Musharraf in Pakistan, where there's a strong leader with quasi-democratic trappings and a parliament of some sort, be it powerless or not. But certainly that's been a proposal that's been floating around and there's a lot more talk about it now, Anderson.
COOPER: What ability though, Michael, does the U.S. really have to effect that kind of government change on the ground? I mean, we put so much on these Iraqi elections, letting Iraqi people decide who they want to lead. They have this leader al-Maliki now. Can the U.S. just get rid of him?
WARE: Well, it wouldn't be quite as simple as that. It would certainly require something dramatic to turn the ship around, so to speak, that we see plowing forward in the moment. Certainly, the U.S. politically has invested all its eggs in the Maliki basket. And be aware that this prime minister in Iraq is relatively powerless. The powerful militia factions that actually comprise his government, you know, he needs to work against. And the only thing he's got going for him is American support. Alternatively, he's had the sponsorship or the political support from the Madhi Army militia. So it's either America or one of the most powerful militias. That's very difficult to change overnight, Anderson.
COOPER: Peter, do you expect some sort of tape from Osama bin Laden or his right-hand man talking about the results of the U.S. election?
BERGEN: Actually, that's a very interesting question. I would expect that Ayman al-Zawahiri might be preparing a tape now. We've had 14 videotapes from him this year. He's been speaking on almost every news event, trying to remain relevant.
Strangely, we haven't heard anything from bin Laden for some period of time. You would have thought that he'd want to comment on the Lebanon experience with the Israeli incursion there or the fifth anniversary of 9/11. And so far there's been silence. What to make of that, I don't know.
COOPER: But they are still trying to say relevant? I mean, that is a concern of theirs?
BERGEN: Yes, I think so. I mean, at this point, Ayman al- Zawahiri's releasing so many tapes that they're almost not newsworthy. You know, if bin Laden released something, that would be a big news event.
COOPER: You know, Michael, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, said that he had been assured by Democratic leaders they will continue support the Iraqi government. Have you spoken to any Iraqis who worry about a U.S. pullout?
I mean, Aneesh Raman was reporting, you know, a lot of people in Iraqis seem to sort of theoretically want the U.S. -- what they call the occupation to end. But at the same time they don't want the U.S. to pull out right away and all hell to break loose even more than it already has.
WARE: Yes. I find by and large that Iraqi popular thought is torn between emotion and between pragmatism. I mean, what we see is at their essence, Iraqis want Iraq for Iraqis. They want to see an end to the occupation. They want to see an end to foreign control of any kind.
So yes, at first blush, the instinct is for American troops to leave. Nonetheless, they remain so apprehensive, so concerned about what may follow an American withdrawal, particularly a rapid American withdrawal, that that curbs that sense of wanting to oust the Americans immediately. It's a great conflict. And within the Iraqi government, they're trying to thread a fine line between maintaining independence in the eyes of their people and maintaining a good relationship with the U.S. Indeed, one of the members of the parliament here yesterday was just saying that it is very difficult -- "We're worried about Iranian penetration becoming such a problem that it alters the support of the U.S."
COOPER: Peter, you have been watching -- we traveled together in Afghanistan and the eastern part of Afghanistan. What's been happening there in the last couple weeks and month or so? I mean, is the battle still as brutal as it was a month ago?
BERGEN: I think it's sort of arguably worse. I mean, we've had now 83 suicide attacks in Afghanistan.
BERGEN: And when we were there, I think number was something like 65. So, you know, it has gone through the roof. It is exponentially rising, the problem in Afghanistan. You may remember there was a peace agreement in the tribal areas that Pakistan did with some of the militants. That turned out to be a disaster, there've been more attacks from that area...
COOPER: Has Pakistan acknowledged that it is not working?
BERGEN: Well, they just had this big attack where, you know, the suicide attack, where 42 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Obviously, it is not working right in that area.
So -- and also an interesting poll came out today, Anderson, 44 percent of Afghans now think the country is going in the right direction. That's down from 75 percent about a year ago. So a lot of discontent. The suicide attacks are up. The Taliban remains resurgent.
Peter, appreciate it.
Michael Ware, appreciate it as well. Thank you.